It’s often suggested that social media is the secret key to marketing success in the indie game sector. It’s free, it requires relatively little technical knowledge, and it has the ability to reach a nearly endless amount of your target audience. Or so the theory goes.
As with most things in life, the reality of the situation doesn’t quite align with this assumption. I’m glad to say it’s not far off, though: after all, it is free, it doesn’t require a huge amount of technical know-how, and you can reach some of your target audience by following some core principal rules for social media interactions.
So, if you’re part of a development team and have just drawn the short straw of marketing, or PR and marketing for an indie is your full-time job, we’ve put together a top 5 list of our social media best practices for you to peruse.
1. Be natural and authentic – you don’t want to sound corporate or stiff
There’s somewhat of a fine balance to social media interactions – the aim is always to sound human, after all. One of the benefits of being an indie is that you don’t have to be shackled to corporate publicity speak. You want your communications to have personality and relate to your target audience. With this in mind, there are a few fundamental tenets you can follow to make sure you don’t come off as a bot.
First and foremost, don’t be spammy. Nothing will get you unfollowed faster than constantly posting similar content day in day out. Take your time to hone your posts and seek out genuine conversations based on original materials. Reposting the same article about your game every other day is not going to get it more exposure; instead, try to build a rapport with your audience by starting related discussions
This has a lot to do with establishing a tone for your communications, which is not something that’s easy to do, but could help create a unified appeal for your game that the audience can trust.
2. Stick to a schedule
One thing that is often noticeable on social media accounts with little experience is the way in which they post their content. Sporadic posts at 3 am and the odd Monday morning update may fit your development cycle, yet may struggle to reach their intended audience. Setting out a clear and concise schedule for your social media interactions can combat this and help give your audience a sense of consistency.
No doubt, what you’re thinking now is ‘how am I supposed to make the time for that?’ but not to worry, modern technology has you covered. There are plenty of relatively cheap or even free social network management tools out there that can help you schedule a month’s worth of activity in a day. Platforms such as HootSuite, Buffer, and Tweetdeck are great examples of this and most come at a modest price to unlock all the features, as well as offering free packages alongside that. Just don’t forget to schedule your posts at the most optimal times – typically between 9 am and 3 pm in your target time zone – and you should take different time zones into consideration as well.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should rely exclusively on pre-scheduled posts. Direct interaction with your audience is key to successful social media marketing, so the reality is you will need to invest a little time every day to make this work. More on this further down the post.
3. Use hashtags in a way that fits your brand
The use of hashtags is somewhat synonymous with social media these days with even Facebook eventually adopting the trend. Yet, there are still teams out there who are not taking full advantage of the added reach certain hashtags can bring you. Essentially, this is all about helping people find your content by grouping it under the same umbrella of a specific hashtag.
There are plenty of hashtags out there for you to take advantage of, but what we see the most is people failing to leverage the community based, time-sensitive hashtags that can help create the types of two-way conversations you’re looking for. Weekly events such as #indiedevhour, for instance, can be a great way to get your game in front of the right audience and get that all important feedback you need to take your project to the next level. There are also other hashtag events to consider such as #screenshotsaturday and more general gatherings like #mondaymotivation.
4. Push for engagement and try to respond to everything within 24 hours
Community is king when it comes to indie games, but building an engaged and active audience is challenging, even for the triple-A market. Employing some of the other tips on this list, such as adopting authentic communications can help, but ultimately your hard work is going to amount to nothing if you can’t engage your followers.
This is an area where a lot of developers fall short, often posting quality content on a tight schedule only to not answer questions promptly and never engage in the conversation. The key is, don’t be afraid to chime in, this is your game after all and you want people to see your passion and enthusiasm surrounding the project. Understandably, this is not easy when time isn’t exactly on your side, especially if you’re doing this yourself and being an indie dev isn’t your full-time job. In terms of PR, though, engagement is the Holy Grail and this is something every project should strive to obtain. Put yourself out there, talk about your game on community-based forums like Reddit and show people why they should care about your work.
5. Make your posts visual
This should go without saying, but video games are a truly visual medium and benefit from being marketed as such. This isn’t just a theory either: research has proven that posts that contain visual content receive up to 94% more page visits and engagement than those without.
The brain processes visual information at a much faster rate than text, which in today’s society of reportedly shorter attention spans, can only be an advantage. An animated GIF, for instance, can get the primary premise, tone and style of your game over to your target audience in as little as 3 seconds. Text-based posts certainly have their place in a social media campaign, but it’s the visual content that’s going to help you get shares, likes and favourites. Share great looking screenshots, create GIFs and make sure your launch trailer is highly polished, as quality visual content is always going to be a lot more attractive than a text-based post describing how good your game is.
So! There are our top 5 tips to help indie devs master social media and get the most out of their interactions online. There is, of course, a lot more to running a successful campaign than simply the tips posted above – but they should prove as a great launch pad.