What you need to know
Every beginning is difficult. I am a contact shy game developer. I can't deny that I am not eager to dive into a huge crowd of people. My favorite spot is in front of my PC solving problems for my current game. But the game industry is in a spot in which we can't hide from social media anymore. We are well aware that we need to generate a hype around our game as soon as possible and maybe even maintain it after the release of our game.
I view social media as a monster that has to be tamed. It's not fun, but if I ignore it it might burn down my house. Don’t need a house? Well a tamed monster is pretty cool, or so I heard. So how do we start taming the beast?
If you are anything like me, then your first idea is probably to just find someone else to do it for you. There was a time when I found social media annoying and just a waste of time. Part of me still thinks this way, but there are clear benefits to being able to navigate through the social space - apart from generating hype for your game.
The first realization you need to have is: You can't tame the monster, because you can't control people. But you can live alongside it and try to benefit from it as much as you can.
Disregarding if you are a contact-shy game developer who has never used social media or if you are not even into gaming. This template is here to help you check all the marks you need to hit in 2019 for the basics of social media marketing.
Before we start I want to add that this template is created with the goal in mind to generate you loyal and more importantly real social media following. There are a lot of social media bots roaming around the internet and if you spent a lot of time on a certain platform you will be easily able to spot them. If you want to truly grow you will want to stay away from these types of practices as far as you possibly can. They will discredit you in the long run. And we are not here for the sprint but for the marathon.
With this being said you now need to be aware of the fact that when starting your social media existence you as a person become your own brand. Everything you say or not say will be documented on social media for future generations to come. You have to ask yourself before starting out as what you or your team wants to be known for and how you want to interact with others. There is a certain “cancel-culture” out there that can be difficult for even celebrities to survive. You do not want to run into the problem of having to go back on your tweets from ten years ago. So if you already have a presence on any social media platform, either give them a clean swipe or delete anything off, that could potentially be damaging for you when brought to daylight.
When naming your accounts, disregarding if you are a small indie studio, company or single developer: brand yourself consistently across all platforms. Visually as well as thematically. Try to use the same name for as many social platforms as possible. This will help your audience to follow you and makes you more recognizable.
In general it is a good rule of thumb to not just post for the sake of it, but to share engaging content that relates to you as a person or your team. Show who you (and your company/dev team) are and tell a story with your actions. People love a good story but they also love value. Always ask yourself what type of value are you generating and for what type of audience? Is your twitch channel a drama channel? Then your value is the drama itself. Is your social media presence about education? Then the quality of your educational content is key. Make sure to understand who you want to reach with your entrepreneurial voice and why. People can smell a mile away if your only motivation is fast money. You will gain more loyal followers by being your true-self. So don't be shy to ask for help or highlight your mistakes and what effect they had on you. Vulnerability makes us human and allows people to trust you as a person. People are way more likely to stick with you if you are genuinely interested in them and their story. Also, following is not a one-way road and it is also free. So don't hesitate to follow early followers back or people that are loyal to you or your company.
Now that you learned, that you are not able to tame the social media monster you need to learn how to live with it. Your potential customers are active on social media so you will need to establish a presence as well. There are a few basics that I want to teach you that I learned from a conference talk of the community manager of CD Projekt Red.
You need to be where gamers are, but in a non-intrusive way. The skill you want to develop the most is empathy, the ability to just listen and understand what your followers are saying and care for what they need. If you build a game you mostly want to build a community, but the same goes for any other brand. You want to build a group of loyal fans to your product. It's wise to listen, disregarding of how it is voiced. Negative feedback is positive, be happy about the fact that people take time out of their day to provide you with it - as long as it remains constructive of course. You will also need to moderate your community. Harassment should not be tolerated, trash talk is something you can live with. Be the source of positivity and find allies inside of your community. Accept the responsibility you have and lead by example. Be respectful. Be reactive. Have empathy. Put fan-made content in the spotlight. You do not have to swamp your social media with fan-made content, but give it a highlight every now and then. The most important part is to never, ever be rude to your own community and to stay positive even in bad situations - people talk and you do not want to be seen as something you are not. Don’t be an invader. If you publish patch notes, listen. If you pitch in you might be losing valuable feedback, because people go silent. Reward positivity inside of your community, but this does not have to be something tangible.
If you are an indie developer and you are reading this because you want to generate hype for your game then this might sound a little weird to you, but manage expectations. You want to lower the hype, while you still hype. A famous example of this going wrong was No Man’s Sky. The game was gigantically hyped before it’s release, just for people to find out they received a product they are unhappy with. Enrich your community, don't be too proud and never lie to them. Make yourself a valuable asset and if you are not the sole developer of your product, get answers for your community. If they ask questions don’t say: “This is not my job.” People appreciate the effort. You will find that you will need to know your communities memes and current trends on social media in order to translate between players and game developer. Humanize yourself and your development team to forge strong bonds. If you encounter trolls ignore them or kill them with kindness.
If your follower numbers are increasing, you are on a good way. If not there are a few things you want to do. Start with genuinely caring for the people in your space. Find yourself hashtags your audience uses and interact with them. This is one of the easiest way to get people to care for you. Care for them. If you give some you will be surprised how much you will receive back. Just because someone follows you on one platform, that does not mean the person will follow you on other platforms or become a customer and buy your game. It is great to be successful on social media for brand awareness, but it will not get you far if it is not leading to you selling your game.
Reasons why users follow brands on social media are because they are interested in your product or service. They may be interested in a specific promotion, find something entertaining or they're being offered an incentive. They might also be in the same space and are just interested in the industry or want to communicate with your brand. Lastly they might follow you because their friends follow your brand or like your content. If you already have existing customers, tell them about your profiles, ask them to follow you. If you have mailing lists, make use of them and be sure to send out messages with incentives to follow you. It is also important to cross-reference your social media platforms on other platforms, so people can follow over. Place the links to your other social media accounts somewhere at the beginning of your social platform. Or get a website which links to all other platforms, which you can use as some sort of landing page. It is up to you how you want to view your following. If you come from a marketing perspective you may want to target an audience and a customer persona. These are tools to understand the thoughts of your audience, but if you are not careful might feel disingenuous. You definitely want to figure out the perception of your company through the eyes of a potential follower. Creating an accurate customer persona may help you accomplish this feat. I am not going to dive into conversion rates, but you need to be aware of the marketing aspects when setting up your social media appearance.
Quality and Quantity
A while ago cross-posting to multiple social media platforms might have been a good timesaver. It still is, don't get me wrong. But if we want to build a loyal following we should not take these shortcuts but create content for each specific platform. Each platform draws in a different audience. Make sure to understand what type of audience frequents which types of social media platform and content. If we do not create the posts specifically for the platform we want to post it to, then we risk losing followers because there is no reason to follow you on multiple platforms if the message you are sending is always the same.
But how do we achieve this feat of having a huge amount of content?
The answer is to document your entire process. Ideally you would get a person to go through everything you filmed, wrote, said or coded and have the material be sighted and edited into the specific format of the trending content on the platform you post to. You also want to look into the type of your content that does well and offer people more of it. If you do not have a person for this job,you will have to do it on your own. The golden rule is to try to be consistent with your posts, make a schedule and stick to it. Last but not least: Quality is more important than quantity. If you start posting mediocre content people will assume your entire content is mediocre even if it is not.
Places to be
You will not have to have a social media presence on all the platforms. Find out which platforms fit your purpose. You can also try out less frequented ones. They have the benefit of not many people using them, therefore you might be easier to find.
Stream on Twitch or YouTube, or both. Twitch is the go-to platform for streaming and you can't go wrong with starting on there. If you decide to stream, get Streamlabs OBS and download yourself a free overlay and widgets. It will make your stream look and feel more professional without much work to set it up. Pay attention to audio quality and, if you choose to play background music, make sure you do not run into trouble for any licensing. This is important to generate clips with audio from your stream afterwards. The moment you have a good quantity of viewers you should also look out for any required broadcasting licenses for your country. You do not want to risk any high fees. Also write all your other social media tags into the description of your stream.
For Instagram you will want to focus heavily on the first impression of your profile page. It has to be on point or people will not follow. The profile should clearly show at one glance who you are and what you are doing. There should not be any room left for questions. Again, post content on a regular basis. You want to be active and interact with as many people as you can, but you do not want to flood users' timelines. Comment on other peoples posts, as long as you do not overdo it. You do not want to be perceived as annoying. One post per day with decent hashtags (yes, multiple) will get you very far. Content that does not fit with the look of your Instagram profile goes into your stories. There you can share everything and try out different voices. If you are taking pictures and are a beginner, use the same filters for each picture, it will look more consistent. Try to use location tags and do not be afraid to sometimes post your face.
Post pictures with your tweets and do not forget the hashtags. Your content has to be of some sort of value. Otherwise,it falls flat. If you only promote content about you or your business people might find you too self-promoting. Try tweeting about things that are not related to you or your business before you share your own content. About four tweets per day is fine, but twitter is very forgiving it that regard, so you can tweet even more.
Upload snippets from your documentation. They do not have to be too long. But specific to a certain topic, which is maybe interesting in your process. Make it simple and highlight what is so interesting about it.
If you post to Facebook, always add a picture. I personally do not think Facebook is the place to be for PC-Game Developer. It is a great place to market your game to an audience and to infiltrate private Facebook groups of your game, if there are any, to get valuable feedback. You will need to figure out if this platform can help you and how.
Itch.io is a great place for indie developer. You can share early demos of your game and gather a small fan base. You have the ability to make a free site, which you can use as a homepage. This is great if you do not have the money to host a professional website. It also has a forum in which you can ask for feedback.
Make a discord server for your game. Ask your friend, family and dog to join. The more people that can share the hype for your game the better off you are. Share patch notes or be personal. It is up to you how you want to use it.
There are many more social platforms. A few interesting ones for you might be:
Linkedin, Deviantart, Pinterest, Tumblr, Snapchat, Patreon, Reddit and Tiktok.
You do not have to be on either of the big platforms, if you are able to obtain a huge following through a different platform. What matters at the end of the day will be how and if you can rally people behind you.
This is a list of questions I copied from the post guidelines of the r/gamedev reddit. If you are running out of ideas. Try answering some of these questions. Make a video about it and dissect it into posts.
- Tell us about you and your studio
- How did you (and your team members) get started making games?
- What is your studio's history? (e.g., founding, growth, etc)
- What are some of the games your studio members worked on before?
- What is your working methodology like? You can talk about your management approach or more specific things like your asset workflow.
- What is your recruitment process like?
- Tell us about your game's development process
- Do you have an elevator pitch for the game? How did you arrive at that pitch?
- Can you explain the game's design, and how it evolved throughout development?
- What are the "hooks" of your game? What did you see in the prototype that made you say "we HAVE to make this!"?
- What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you overcome them?
- Budget-wise, even if you don't mention numbers, how did expectations compare to reality?
- Technology -- how and why did you select your engines/frameworks/tools/platforms?
- Marketing -- how did you market the game before, during and after launch? What was successful, and what was inconclusive?
- PR -- What's your influencer strategy? How do you interact with players?
- Show us some content
- Screenshots and videos: Adding pretty moving images to an article increases its reach by 2,000,000%.
- Devblog articles: Any article that describes your process could be of interest to other developers.
- Stats and graphs: Are you collecting analytics? Are you using them? Show us.
- Post that gource video (that we know you have). If you don't know what gource is, google it.
- Other Ideas
- Promote your services
- Printable Freebie
- Ask a question
- Case studies
- Answer FAQ
- Behind the scenes
- Favorite Hack + Tools you use in your process
- Educational content about anything you use in your workflow
- Holiday Specials
- Weekly Roundup
- Repost old popular content
- Be Inspirational
- Cut out of your Devblog
- Quick tip of the day
- Industry relevant news
You will want to come up with your own strategy after analyzing what works for you. Test, test and then test some more. Social networks change over time and so should your content. As a last word of advice: Be careful which types of words you use. Certain words or phrases will impact your reach differently. Hah. See what I did there?