As the Content Marketing Specialist here at Black Shell Media, whenever I’m not helping indie developers with their marketing schedules and plans, I’m creating content that can help them on their journey, from articles and whitepapers to graphic design, social media management, and more.
This means I get to teach a lot of developers on the inner workings of marketing, which surprisingly, I’ve realized many know little about. It’s easy to believe that a few tweets and the spontaneous blog post will make a difference, but unfortunately, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. There is a lot of noise out there that threatens to drown you out unless you stay persistent.
One of the most common misconceptions I see is the belief that post-launch marketing is unnecessary. The video game is already available to purchase. It’s getting some feedback and sales, surely that’s enough . . . right?
Well, not really. What works for one game doesn’t always work for another, but one rule that does stay the same is the fact that developers should be marketing before, during, and after launch. There are always people out there who haven’t heard of your game, and it’s not like your game is a carton of milk with an expiration date.
Here are 7 channels to consider using:
1) Your Official Blog
In case you don’t already know, websites with blogs rank higher on SEO than those without. The reason being that Google loves fresh content and websites that are updated regularly. That means once or twice a week, you and your team should be writing a brand new post or two that keeps things ranking high while also promoting community engagement. After all, that’s the point of marketing: to engage with your audience, make connections, and really drive a product that people love.
A tip to keep in mind is that blogging doesn’t just involve writing. While it certainly helps to communicate with your audience, it’s not the only approach. Adding in videos and images helps with SEO (alt descriptions in images should contain keywords), but also helps to keep the reader’s attention. It’s a nice break from all the walls of text.
Don’t be afraid to make it personal either. Professional doesn’t have to be dry and lifeless. Add some personal touches like a vibrant color scheme or images of your team working on game updates. Maybe a YouTube video of what goes on behind the scenes, or even a funny social media post that leads into a story about what game development means to you.
Of course, don’t forget the usual patch announcements, as well as the posts aimed to get feedback, with polls for your audience to vote on a subject. Feedback and engagement should be your ultimate goals here.
Everyone knows influencer marketing has picked up significantly, predominantly because of Let’s Play videos, where YouTubers will play a game, record it on video, and then post it on YouTube for any interested viewers to watch. This phenomenon has led to a new type of brand building and marketing that is now revolutionizing how businesses reach their audience.
When you stop to consider the amount of competition that developers have to battle against, influencer marketing makes sense. Just last year, 4,207 games launched on Steam, and with the changes to the platform’s publishing process, it’s become even easier to launch a game. There are hundreds of free-to-play games and digital downloads to compete with, which means there’s an ever-growing selection and audience fragmentation across platforms, outlets, and devices. With influencer marketing, you have the potential to reach out to thousands, if not millions of more people, simply by getting someone else to play your game and talk about it.
If you’re struggling with contacting influencers, try using the Xsolla Network, which is designed to acquire new players for online games through their network of partnerships worldwide. Assuming the game is an exclusive partner of Xsolla, the company also places the game on CPA networks, which allows marketers to pick it up and create advertising and promotional activities for a percentage of the total sale (Revenue Share Model, A.K.A. commission).
Through what’s known as the Xsolla Publishing Suite. Xsolla works with influencers from both video and blogging platforms, including Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and Snapchat. It also connects to video platforms, like YouTube, Twitch, Youku, AfreecaTV, TunePK, GoodGameRu, and PandaTV.
What makes this option particularly nice is the tracking and analytics, which focuses on user acquisition and brand building. With Xsolla Tracking you can see every transition from a blogger’s channel to your game’s landing page and view reports that are filtered by country, region, channel, type, and source while identifying possible causes in organic flow.
Apart from influencer marketing, another approach to try is to use YouTube to provide your own branded content, in your own channel. Create videos of your team and your process and post them on YouTube. The Barlet Jones Supernatural Detective Agency, the game studio run by David Jaffe, best known for his work on the Twisted Metal Series, is a prime example of this. They make video announcements regarding patches and updates, but they also discuss their projects as well as industry news and opinions.
Facebook is the ideal platform for long-form and video content. The news feed algorithms prioritize content that is detailed and lengthy, so creating a Facebook page in which you provide relevant content to your player base is highly encouraged.
It’s easy to just post a screenshot of your game, with a mini paragraph telling people your game is now available for purchase, but there are plenty of other ways to use Facebook to your advantage. Developer diaries, consisting of posts that detail the ongoing process of being a developer, are common and tend to have high engagement. Behind-the-scenes videos from your team, interviews, gameplay footage, write-ups about features and challenges, and even humorous content are also acceptable ways to use Facebook. Just make sure to keep things professional!
Facebook’s 2012 acquisition of Instagram is the best $1 billion it’s ever spent. Instagram has about 700 million monthly active users making it more important and valuable for marketing day by day. At this point, it surpasses Tumblr, Pinterest, Reddit, and Twitter by more than double the amount of users.
The thing about Instagram, however, is that it isn’t for everyone. It is photo-and-video-centered, which means it works if you have a pretty game with eye-catching visuals. Also, it isn’t great for promotion since you can’t click on URLs—but it is good for awareness.
There are some exceptional ways to use Instagram. Take Naughty Dog for example. They have 184k followers on the platform and link their YouTube channel to the bio. Their posts are all about their games and consist of concept art, announcements (graphic design skills required), game screenshots, team meeting pictures, game videos (like trailers, but shorter), pictures of the events they attend, behind-the-scenes acting (for animation), and giveaways.
Another game studio that excels at Instagram is Ubisoft with 2.5 million followers. They kept their bio simple, welcoming people to the Instagram page, and then linked to their official website. Their feed consists of game screenshots and videos, exceptional cosplay of their characters, the events they attend, announcements (graphic design skills required), and more.
Twitter has over 300 million monthly active users and is super easy to maintain. Due to the simplicity of profiles and the 140 character count limit, posting on Twitter should only take a few minutes a day.
What makes Twitter work well is their open discovery model, which makes it simple for your message to be seen by previously-unreached masses. This is in large part because Twitter is homogeneous, rather than community-driven.
A tip to keep in mind is the use of hashtags, which helps align your content with other similar-minded people (hint: #gamedev, #indiedev). The lifetime of a single tweet is roughly 8-12 minutes, which means you can post between 3-5 times a day and remain relevant. Post screenshots (#screenshotsaturday) and developer blogs. Just make sure it’s not all about you! Twitter encourages engagement, so retweet others, tweet directly at other users, and make sure to reply if anyone says something nice about your game.
If this sounds like too much effort, remember, Twitter keeps things short and simple. Each post won’t take you that long to create. However, there are some resources at your disposal, such as Hootsuite, which lets you schedule your tweets and other social media posts. Other similar tools include Buffer, Sprout Social, Tweetdeck (free, but Twitter only), and Sprinklr.
If you’re looking for a way to connect Twitter to a monetary incentive, things can get a little more elaborate. Some game stores offer an exchange of following them on social media for an added character or coin system in the game. This works exceptionally well with mobile. However, this oftentimes requires you to have a game store set up on your official website that connects to Twitter, and that generally means you have to be partnered up with a game service provider that sets up the system for you. One such company, again, is Xsolla. They give you the option of setting up offers, then creates a designated page for them on the game store. Each offer has an icon, an award, and a description of the player required action to receive the award.
Reddit is a forum that’s all about tight-knit communities that focus on specific content niches. For instance, indie developers have Indie Gaming and Indie Developer. You can research different sub-forms (subreddits) and find the ones most applicable to your game, so for instance, /rpg might be a good place to start if your game is an RPG.
Word of warning, however: although engagement and connecting with others is the name of the game on Reddit, too much promotion of your game can violate Reddit regulations, which state that no more than 10% of your posts can be self-promotional. This is attributed to the fact that Reddit users tend to dislike advertising, and have been known to not be so kind once they figure out you’re being promotional.
Instead, keep things to a minimum and opt for meaningful discussions, debates and relevant articles and tutorials. You can also host an AMA (Ask Me Anything) and answer questions anyone might have regarding your game.
Here’s a fun fact: marketing and community engagement go hand-in-hand. Telling people to go buy your game doesn’t work unless you actually try to be personable and give back to the community. Hence why Discord has gotten so popular over a span of two years. It has 8.9 million daily active users, with over 6 billion messages sent monthly. As described by Adam Rosenberg, writer for Mashable:
“If Reddit is the ‘front page of the internet’ then Discord is its unofficial chat app for the many gamers and gaming communities that dwell there.”
Twitch streamers use it to connect with their viewers, but also developers are using it as a Kickstarter exclusive, where those who donate get access to exclusive channels where they can speak directly to the developers, or be the first to get any announcement details.
The way you can use Discord is to genuinely talk about your game. There is no limit on how much you can do it, and because it’s coming directly from you, the developer, players get a close circle of interaction with you and other players of the game. It’s great to build up a community, break news, and show your personality. In this way, your studio gets more of a personality and your game becomes that much more special for the players.
Marketing, Community & You
To reiterate, one of the most common misconceptions I see in my line of work is the assumption that marketing only applies before a game launch. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, marketing should be done before, during, and after a launch to increase sales and promote a healthy, engaging community. The goal is to connect with your players and create an environment where they can get to know you or your game studio. It helps with brand building, and gives you a chance to develop a loyal fan base.
So remember, these seven channels are available to you do help with ongoing marketing, even post-launch. Use them with relevant hashtags, if relevant, add images and video, and post regularly. And if you need help, there are always resources that can lend a helpful hand.
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