Let’s say you’ve started a webcomic. You’ve got a few weeks of strips posted, and you’ve managed to get a little attention via some news outlets, and maybe you’ve even splurged for a few banner ads. You don’t have enough material yet to publish a book, nor have you established a following that might want to buy t-shirts or plushies. But here’s the question: how do you tell people you’ve got a new strip up?
See, even if you make a point of splattering your update schedule all over your site, and it’s noted in your ads, and the news outlets even were so kind as to mention it, that probably isn’t enough for most readers. That’s because you’re demanding readers—already strapped for time and attention—to continually seek out your content on an ongoing basis. While there might be a few devoted fans that are so passionate about your work that they would be happy to do that, odds are that most readers wouldn’t continue doing that.
The advertising and news items mentioned are what might be called a form of pull technology. That is, they’re designed to catch the attention of people already seeking something akin to what you’re offering. People who are willing to pull your comic into their view, if even for only a short trial. It’s the reader who initiates the action of putting your webcomic in front of their eyes.
Which is great, but it’s not reliable for long-term readership. For an initial discovery, it works well enough because you only need to capture their interest and attention long enough to introduce them to your comic. Their interest only needs to piqued slightly. Trying to pique that interest every time a new installment of your comic comes out is much harder. Readers might not be in the mood when they see your ad, or they get caught up in something else and, before you know it, a month has slipped by since they’ve sought out your sight. “Maybe the strip wasn’t that good, after all,” they shrug.
Which is why establishing several forms of push technology is key. A push technology is one where the creator pushes the content out to an audience who has already expressed interest in the comic. How that’s done can take any number of forms. It could be a mailing list, it might be through social media, it could be an RSS feed. (Technologicially, RSS is actually a pull technology, but to the end user, it appears to be and has the impact of a push technology.) This makes things easier for the reader since they only have to initiate the interest once—to provide an email address, to follow you on Twitter, to copy your RSS feed. After that, your webcomic is delivered to them without any additional effort. They get it an email, or see a link on Facebook, or have the strip appear in Feed Reader.
The point is that you want to make it as easy as possible for readers who’ve already expressed some interest in your webcomic to return every time you post an update. You can’t rely on their enthusiasm for long, nor can you rely on their memory to check your site every time you’re supposed to have an update. But by pushing the comic in front of them, you limit their need to decide to read your webcomic to essentially once and, from there, you can make it easy for them to keep coming back. Because when they keep coming back, they keep getting more likely to buy your t-shirts and plushies!
Of course, that still leaves open the question of which outlets to use. Does it make more sense to post to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest..? But that’s something to address in a future column!