How can a comedian brand himself or herself, in order to win new fans and build a following that will get comedy club owners to book them?
I was asked that question recently by Jennifer Bianchi, a former lawyer turned comedian, who was wondering what she could do to win the attention of more fans.
(Asking for assistance from needy, attention-seeking writers in an eyes-batting-looking-up-at-them-like-they’re-your-only-hope is step 1.)
Personal branding online
So I’m doing a little strategy on Jennifer and what she, and many other comedians, can do to improve their online presence.
1. Do Twitter
Twitter is one of the best channels for comedians. For one thing, as you learn to write your own jokes, learning to write for Twitter is going to help you. Punchlines need to be short and, well, punchy. If you can write a setup and punchline in 140 characters, you’re golden. Some of my tweets end up in my humor columns, and that’s where I develop the right wording.
But more importantly, this is one of the fastest ways to build an audience. Start connecting and communicating with people in the cities where you’re going to tour using Twellowhood, connect with people from your audience (ask them to connect with you), and connect with club owners and other comics using Twellow.
As Shari Vanderwerf (@ShariV67) put it, Step 1: Tweet jokes. Step 2: Accumulate thousands of followers. Step 3: ??? Step 4: PROFIT!
2. Put videos of your set on YouTube
Back 100 years ago, when the victrola first came out, symphony managers worried that people would no longer want to come to the symphony once they started listening to those scratchy wax cylinders. Turns out they came anyway, and actually came more often when they were familiar with the music. But that same type of thinking continued on with radios and concerts in the 1930s, TV and movies in the 1950s, VCRs and movies in the 1980s, and radios and records in the 60s and 70s. For the most part, entertainment executives have stopped thinking that way, with a few exceptions, like the NFL and theatrical productions.
A lot of comedians are embracing YouTube as a way to share their work with fans, and to showcase their talents to club owners. Get someone to record your sets, and put the best segments on YouTube. If you need to show a bigger set to a club owner, push the video to YouTube, but use a private URL so the video can be seen only by the people who have the link. (You can also use YouTube’s analytics to see if that link has actually been used.)
3. Start a blog
Your blog should be the center of your social media campaign. Write posts about what you’ve been doing, preview and then review your shows, publish your YouTube videos, and write about other comedians, and lessons you’ve been learning.
Be sure to include pages about the type of comedy you do, include an electronic press kit for club owners to download, and a list of places where you’ve worked. Also include testimonials from other comics you’ve worked with and clubs you performed at.
4. Network with other comics
These will be the people who can give you advice, tell you which clubs to go after and which ones to avoid, and maybe even sell some jokes to while you’re still building your own career. Be sure to promote their stuff to your network, and they’ll (hopefully) do the same thing for you. (And ignore the ones who don’t.)
Reach out to comics who are ahead of you on the career path, and meet with them face-to-face. I once heard a famous comic say that he was surprised he and many of his fellow veteran comics were never asked for advice by younger comics. They’re more than willing to share, but they have to be asked. So, ask. And be sure to do the same for younger comics as you make your own way up the comedy ladder.
Those are the basic four steps every comic should follow as they look to build their own personal brand and work their way up the comedic ladder. Some of the intervening steps will vary, as will some of the finer details. But this is a good beginning structure. What you do with it after you build it is up to you.
Break a leg.
Erik Deckers is the owner of Professional Blog Service, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself. His new book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing, which he wrote with Jason Falls, is in bookstores and on Amazon now.