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What One Startup Got Out of Starring in Webisodes

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You may have noticed that television is no longer just on your television anymore. More companies are discovering the power of online video to engage customers, and are putting up their own Web-based shows. For instance, Dell just aired a six-part Webisode miniseries on the winner of its America's Favorite Small Business contest, wood-frame eyewear maker Shwood of Portland, Ore.

While it may not offer as much marketing muscle as having a national TV show revolve around your business -- as the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop does with Pawn Stars -- starring in Web videos can still be a useful marketing tool.

The process is not without cost, though. Shwood CEO Ryan Kirkpatrick says the two-year-old business lost 20 percent of its production capacity for a week. The business had to squeeze a 12-person film crew into its 3,500-square-foot headquarters to shoot the Webisodes, which are each about five minutes long. On the plus side, because Dell was footing the bill, they didn't pay film production costs.

Was it all worth it? Kirkpatrick says yes.

Here are the benefits Kirkpatrick says Shwood got from being an Internet-TV star:

  • Exposure. More than 300,000 people watched the first episode of the series alone, and hundreds watched the whole series.

  • Media mentions. Dell promoted Shwood's Webisodes to other media outlets, and many picked up on the story. An article in The Oregonian brought the company to the forefront in the local community, as well as leading to additional media coverage. 

  • Government help. The Oregonian piece brought Shwood to the attention of local business-development agencies in several cities. When a planned move to a larger facility fell through, Kirkpatrick says these agencies stepped up with offers of financial assistance with tenant improvements, if Shwood would relocate to their town.

  • New business connections. While Shwood has done well marketing to the fashion press, they haven't gotten their startup-success story out to other businesses as much. Kirkpatrick says, "Now, people in the business world are paying attention. They want us to talk about our business." The result may be new corporate clients down the line.

Kirkpatrick's tip: Don't expect to get a lot of regular work done while you're shooting. "It was a great experience, but it is a lot of work," he says.

Would your company do a Web-based TV show? Leave a comment and tell us why -- or why not.

Carol Tice

Written By

Longtime Seattle business writer Carol Tice has written for Entrepreneur, Forbes, Delta Sky and many more. She writes the award-winning Make a Living Writing blog. Her new ebook for Oberlo is Crowdfunding for Entrepreneurs.