I had $200 sitting around and I figured, “What the heck, let’s see if paid ads are as good as they seem.” So I hopped on to Twitter’s ad backend (which is amazingly user-friendly, by the way!) and set up some Tweets. I created four Tweets for Overture, a game whose sales were slowing down, and made sure to include a link to the store page, a picture and a nice tagline.

Here’s a picture summing up the Tweets and the results that we got:

Screenshot 2015-09-06 12.57.53

$200 wasted can either look like tears at a Vegas slot machine, or this Twitter paid ad campaign summary page

Basically, we spent $200 on 4 different ads during a 5 day period for Overture. We got around 132,000 impressions, and 58 clicks.

According to Steam, during the period 9/2-9/6, we sold 33 units of Overture and 1 of the Overture 4-pack–a total of $169 in sales.

“Okay Raghav, so you lost like thirty-one bucks–that’s just a little bit of money. What’s so bad about that?”

During the 5 days before the 5 days I ran the ads for, we sold 47 total units–$220–which is 22% more than what we sold with the ads! Somehow, spending on ads decreased our sales. I suspect a lot of those 34 sales were just from Steam or somewhere else we were promoting Overture organically.

To put things in perspective, 132,000 impressions (around 26,400 per day) cost me $200. Our Twitter network of 140,000+ combined followers nets 8 million monthly impressions (over 260,000 per day.) And I don’t pay a cent for it!

Let’s suppose paid ads were the be-all-end-all to marketing. For me to break even on these Twitter ads, 40 out of those 58 clicks would have had to buy the game for $5. That represents around a 70% conversion rate. In most industries for e-commerce, if your conversion rate is around 2-5% you are running a successful marketing campaign. How crazy would a 70% conversion rate be?

So…yeah. Don’t buy paid ads for your indie game. Twitter has a superb advertisement system, though, and I heartily recommend it for everything…except your indie game!