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16 Sep 2013

Using Social Media to Generate Buzz for Your Indie Game

Sure, it’s fantastic whenever a publication provides your indie game with occasional coverage. It’s an awesome feeling to be certain, in that the possibilities of a reader seeing your game and thinking to themselves, “I have to play that,” is certainly there. Yet, while having a publication write about your game is great, knowing how to use social media to promote your game is just as important.

I discussed how to pitch your game to the media earlier this month, and both Trey and I discussed the importance of having a PR company at your side on the first episode of Game Academy Radio (and if you’re not listening, you’re definitely missing out on some seriously amazing discussions). Yet with that being said, a familiarity with social media is a must, as it is crucial that you promote your game to followers every chance you get. You will be surprised as to how many people will freely promote your game, share links of your game with their friends, and from there, the chances of the information concerning your game going viral only increased from there. As I discussed in an interview with FlippFly’s Aaron San Filippo of Race the Sun last week, when people are excited about your game, they feel compelled to tell others, thus providing you with free, pure publicity that will work wonders for your game.

 

But, first thing’s first: Build a website/webpage for your game (a must), create a forum (optional, but highly suggested).

 

If you do not have a website or even a webpage detailing bits and pieces of your game, then you need to build one now. This cannot be stated enough. Your studio likely has a website, and if it doesn’t? Stop what you’re doing and begin the process of building a website today. You need a place on the Web that people can go to in order to learn more about your game, and a website is the best place to do this. Think of it as a hub concerning everything about your game and studio as a whole: every piece of media and written info about your game can reside here, making it simple for people to learn more about said game and studio overall.

While it may seem as if Facebook pages (we’ll get to this in a moment) are all you need, reconsider. Believe it or not, most people still plug a game’s title into Google instead of Facebook, meaning you want the first result to pop up in a search query to be your website (and from there, you can link to your Facebook page from your site anyway, so this is a win win). In addition, relying solely on a Facebook page could be a recipe for disaster. I’ll give you an example later on, so stay tuned.

A forum is also a solid idea because it provides people another avenue for reaching out to you. Often (and especially when the game has been released for a while), people will post a message on your forum wanting customer service or are asking for help from others for the game. As stated above, a forum isn’t necessary, but it’s nice to have when you want to give people an easy way to reach out to you.

 

Facebook

Whether you love or hate Facebook, one thing is certain: nearly everyone is on Facebook whether they too love it or hate it. Thus, you need to have some sort of game plan for promoting your game via a created Facebook page, as the potential to attract a strong following is always there. Sure, getting people to actually ‘Like’ your page is the hardest part, which is why having a website that links back to your Facebook page is so beneficial. Add to the fact that you can also “sponsor” certain posts, and you can quickly grow a small following if you take the time to do so.

So how should you post new information to Facebook? There are actually a few rules to keep in mind to ensure you get as much feedback from your fans as possible:

  1. As much as possible, post images with short, to-the-point sentences. For example, post new in-game content of your game and ask your fans to, “caption this.” It’ll prove to be a lot of fun, and will provide your followers with a sense of involvement.
  1. Post pictures of your team. This reminds followers that just like them, you and your team are real people.
  1. Ask questions. Any question, it doesn’t matter. “What’s your favorite game?” “What are you looking forward to in our new game” “Any questions? Ask us now!” Again, any question can be asked as you are involving fans in your page, and that is what matters.
  1. Reply back to your followers as much as possible. Does one of them have a question? Answer it in a timely manner. Did someone leave a snarky comment on one of your posts? Reply to it in a witty, fun manner.
  1. See a trend? Always aim to humanize your Facebook posts and always interact with your audience. Talk with them like you would a friend; people appreciate this approach.

Yet, never rely on your Facebook page solely to create buzz and generate buzz back to your studio’s main website and/or the webpage designated for your game. I told you I would give you an example of what can happen when you do this, so without further ado, here you go:

I manage several gaming websites for an overseas web design firm. They use these websites to flow some extra income into their company as sort of a fun side gig on their part, and the bulk of their income was coming from their Watch_Dogs website due to the Facebook page dedicated to the website practically blowing up overnight. Seriously: the page went from only a few dozen people to thousands overnight – it was insane to watch people sharing and joining in such a short span of time. The page kept growing and a community actually developed, yet within a few months the page was suddenly deleted without any warning from Facebook.

And just like that, these guys lost a steady stream of income for a website that was on its way to becoming massive, all because Facebook had the power to delete it. Why did they? We don’t know – in fact, we’ll probably never know. The same thing happened to Matt Kruse, the creator of an awesome Google Chrome extension known as Social Fixer. Earlier this month, Facebook deleted Kruses’ Facebook page dedicated to Social Fixer without any sort of warning, and just like that, a page that had 338,050 Likes, a Support Group consisting of 13,360 members, and an Interest List that had 1.47 million followers was gone forever. The moral of the story? Creating a Facebook page can be a great way to generate buzz, but do not solely rely on it.

 

Twitter

People are addicted to Twitter. I’m amazed as to how many Tweets some people post within an hour – ‘nay, 30 minutes! Twitter is great in that it allows you to see what’s going on in the world in real-time while only receiving updates from those you follow. With that being said, it’s also a great way to promote your game while getting into conversations with others about your game. Add to the fact that people can retweet your post when they’re excited about it, and you have another avenue of gaining exposure for your studio and game as a whole.

Gaining followers can be tricky. Sure, you can follow certain people and hope that others follow you back, but it all comes down to one thing: Tweet quality content. By participating in various conversations with those you follow (and it helps to follow those in the gaming industry), you will meet new people, become involved in a ton of conversations, and in the process, people will be more willing to follow you. This makes Twitter a powerful professional networking tool as well, and it is in your best interest to treat it as such.

When Tweeting, feel free to ask your followers to retweet the post: just be sure to not overdo it. Nobody likes being told to retweet Tweets 30 times a day – in fact, you’re asking to be unfollowed if you do that, as your messages come across as ‘spammy.’ Instead, politely ask your followers to retweet any new updates concerning your game that you may have, or any news you think people would be interested in about said game.

In short, be fun, get into great conversations, and never be afraid to voice your opinion spolitely. People love discussing topics on Twitter, and if they know you can provide great discussions and post good content? People will gladly follow you.

 

Reddit

Although Reddit is an awesome place to generate a ton of buzz, never treat it as a newsfeed. You cannot remotely post content onto Reddit in the same way you do on Facebook and Twitter, simply because the community with ‘downvote’ your post into oblivion. You will also be seen as a spammer, and with many subreddits (communities devoted to a certain topic) being close-knit, you obviously do not want to do this. You’ll be setting yourself up to be blacklisted by these users, and it’s a chance you shouldn’t take.

So what can you do? For starters, it helps if you become an active member of a few subreddits. Here are a few good ones to help you get started:

  • r/IndieGaming
  • r/gamedev
  • r/TrueGaming
  • Many subreddits devoted to certain genres!

As for posting content, always post a proper headline to your post, regardless of whether you are writing an article written on your website, posting a new trailer for your game, or something else. Great headlines are essential to generating buzz. Moreover, tailor your posts to certain subreddits as well. For example, if you wrote a post detailing part of the development process for your game in the gamedev subreddit, you would want to write a headline such as: My Indie Game: How development time was cut in half with a few simple tricks.

However, the community over at the TrueGaming subreddit would probably be interested in this as well, to which you would want to write the following headline for posting over there:

Indie developers have to solve multiple problems every day – Here’s how the developers over at My Indie Game solved one of their problems in a smart, calculated way.

Both headlines are enticing, yet they are tailored for specific audiences. Post interesting, captivating content often in a non-spam manner, and people will look at your content.

And the more upvotes your posts get? The more buzz that is going to be generated about your game. Reddit is one of the most powerful forces in generating buzz today, simply because the audience of each subreddit is passionate about the subreddit’s topic.

 

Other Social Networks?

This list could keep going on and on regarding how to use other social networks to generate buzz about your game. YouTube is ideal to use, as is Google +, Tumblr, IndieDB, and even DeviantArt if you your artist is popular on DA. In the end, always use the golden rule of social networking: Post captivating, interesting content while dialoguing back and forth with your audience. By following this rule, you are going to obtain more followers, which will generate more buzz for your game and future games that will be released down the road. In a sense, you are future-proofing yourself by attracting buzz for your game today, and down the line, generating buzz for future games will be a bit easier. You are not going to get the results you want overnight – far from it – but by following a few simple rules from the get-go, you are certain to generate a bit of buzz that will be positive for your game’s sales and your studio as a whole.

3 Responses

  1. Hi Dusty!
    First I have to say that I’m very thankful for the existence of your blog! It helps enormously to us indie developers!

    Now specifically about the “generating buzz” article. We are a small indie dev game studio and we do have a game in the works that is supposed to be released in March 2014. We believe that it is important to create buzz around our upcoming game much before it’s released (just as you pointed out).

    However, our case is a little different. Our game idea is very original (or so we think) and we do not want to reveal it before it gets released as we are afraid that the copycats might steal it.

    How do we generate buzz around something like that ?

    1. Dusty Wright

      Hi Strahil, I’m glad you enjoy the blog, but you should give thanks to Trey Smith as he is the founder and brain here at Game Academy. I’m glad you enjoy my posts though, so thanks for that :).

      Regarding your situation, I understand the feeling of wanting to keep your game secret so nobody steals the idea. Yet consider this: if you keep it secret, it doesn’t matter how good the game actually is, if nobody knows about it nobody is going to play it. Sure, your game’s idea will not be stolen, but it will be due to nobody knowing about it and to me that’s worse than a copycat clone.

      Honestly, I would start developing buzz now regardless of your fear of copycats hitting the marketplace. The copycats are going to start appearing only if your game starts to sell well. Think about it: you could have the best concept in the history of gaming, yet if it isn’t proven to sell well, do you think anybody is going to copy it? Worry about the copycats later. For now, market your game aggressively in preparation for that March, 2014 window while polishing your game and ensuring it’s at its best. Besides, if your game is truly awesome and original, customers are going to flock to your game and ignore the copycats.

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