We’ve mentioned web series several times over the past few weeks – there are a lot of people who are doing it right. In the name of research, hours have been spent carefully, methodically watching marathons of series to extrapolate trends and categorize each species of video. These series are entertaining, but they’re also a fresh way to keep audiences coming back to your brand week in and week out. This blog post is dedicated to crafting online web series, with 11 ideas to get your own video series going.

1. Audience Participation

A web series is another opportunity to start a conversation with your audience. Let your audience shape your series. Ask subscribers to email or comment on ideas for new videos. Ask them to share creative ways to use your product. ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ style videos are another option – viewers vote to determine how the series plot will unfold. Involving your audience is an incredible opportunity to actively engage viewers by making them part of your creative process. It’s also a way to learn about your customers, and to show that you’re listening to their feedback.

2. Weekly How-To’s

How-to videos have quickly become some of the most watched online videos. From oil changes to techniques for piping French Macaroons, these videos can be a great way to exhibit the different ways a customer can use your product or service. Make weekly videos showing how a service works. Create tutorials and put together product demonstrations. Get creative by highlighting more inventive uses.

3. Serial Storytelling

Storytelling is one of the most effective marketing strategies out there, and with online series like ‘Orange Is the New Black’ becoming just as popular as network shows, these web series are an even bigger opportunity than ever before. Companies like Denny’s, Ford, and Subway have successfully experimented with branded web series. Softbank, one of the leading cellular providers in Japan, is an exceptional case study in the power of the branded series. For years the company’s commercials followed the lives of an unusual family, fathered by a dog. The commercials neatly fit together to make one strange story arc each year — communities all over the world have embraced them. This type of series does take a bit of creative thought, but the payoff can be big. And, luckily, we’ve written about script writing and editing, which should help you reach your storytelling glory.

4. Product Reviews

Like “how-to” series, a product review series is an effective way to introduce consumers to your products or services. These videos can be product demonstrations or critical reviews of current events in your industry or new products. Product reviews are great because they really focus on the details of a service or product. Reviews let audiences interact with a product, allowing them to all but touch it — an especially effective tool for online retailers. In fact, consumers that have access to reviews and demonstrations are 85% more likely to make a purchase.

5. Interviews

We love interviews! In fact, we love interviews so much, we posted about how to perfect your interviewing skills. Review our post, embrace your inner James Lipton, and create an interview series. Interview industry experts, customers, contributors, or members of your staff. Interviewing members of your team will make your brand seem more tangible by introducing potential customers to the faces behind your company. Testimonials adapted from interviews are also a great way to give your product more merit. Coming up with new questions week to week can be challenging. Remember Lipton. Although he personalizes most of his questions for each guest, the streamlined, identical questionnaire that he asks each guest at the end of the interview is one of the most entertaining parts of his show. And, remember audience participation. Let your audience help you generate interview questions.

6. Guest Videos

Producing a web series can require a great deal of energy. Let friends, colleagues, artists, and even customers do some of the work. Invite guest directors to contribute to your video mix. Abstractly, this idea is similar to the successes of retailers like Target and H&M that have collaborated with outside designers to create temporary collections. Challenge guest videographers to use your brand as inspiration. You’ll foster a collection of videos, each from a different perspective and style that highlight to your brand in a unique way. Your subscribers will keep coming back to see who new contributors are and how they’ve reimagined your brand.

7. Reenactments

Washington crossing the Delaware, Romeo’s balcony-side speech to Juliet, Michael J. Fox and his DeLorean: all iconic images in their own right. Take scenes from your favorite books, movies, shows, and historical events, and reenact them to make your product or service the hero. Few people know that Romeo consulted your contracting company prior to climbing the latticework to Juliet’s balcony, but thanks to your expertise he made it. Kind of… Branded reenactments are clever and creative. Plus, you’ll have plenty of material for future videos.

8. Weekly Q&A

Question and Answer sessions are another way to engage your audience through participation. Reddit’s AMA’s (Ask Me Anything), including celebrity and political AMA’s, are terrific examples of this format. Ask customers or visitors to your site to submit questions, and then devote time each week or month to filming your answers. Not only does this format ask your audience to interact with your product and search for information, but it also can provide you will valuable feedback and an opportunity for exemplary customer service.

9. Roundtables and Panels

Hours and hours of television are devoted to people talking, debating, arguing, yelling, and, every once in a great while, laughing around a table. Panels and roundtables are a television fixture and a great idea for a web series. Create your own panels: invite new guests for installment, coming up with new topics to discuss. Keep panels related to your brand by inviting industry experts, product developers, and staff members to participate. Panels don’t have to be dry. The BBC series QI is a good example of a hilarious (read: the show will make you cry from laughter) roundtable show. Think about your brand, product, or service and what kind of panel would be the right fit for you. You can also blend elements of a Q&A, encouraging audience submitted questions or discussion topics.

10. Themes

Sunday Funday. Wacky Wednesday. Throwback Thursday. Finding a unifying, weekly theme is a solid premise for a web series. Throwback Thursday? Each week you can share business stories or lessons that you’ve learned over the years. This particular theme is a good way to connect with your customers and colleagues by featuring old videos and photos. Get creative: develop themes that work for your brand or product. Are you the force behind a catering company? Make a weekly cooking show to drum up new business, illustrate your services, and establish your expertise.

11. Documentaries

A documentary web series might seem like a huge undertaking; documentaries require a significant amount of pre-filming research and post-production editing. But, creating a documentary series could be as simple as taking your camera to work with you. Document a day in your life or what it’s like to be part of your team. Show customers how products come together, from the birth of an idea to the finished, packaged version ready to be shipped. Web documentaries are especially well-suited for non-profits. Show the impact of your organization, the need for your services, and the power of donations.

We just scratched the surface when it comes to creating your own web series. Do some research and get creative. Let us know below in the Comments section, on Facebook, and on Twitter @sproutvideo what you come up with.

Written by Laci Texter

SproutVideo blog contributor. You can follow her on Twitter and Google+.

Posted September 9, 2013

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