Social media has brought the eyes and ears of the world to our doorsteps. At the click of a button, you can potentially reach millions of people sharing your thoughts, feelings and messages. The potential opportunities this has presented for creatives, such as indie game developers, is vast. In addition to the usual press coverage and marketing approach, game developers can now bolster their efforts by engaging with their fans and building communities around their games. This offers invaluable insight into how your audience thinks and feels as well as further exposing your game to potential fans. The difficulty, of course, is finding a strategy that works for smaller endeavours that allows you to transition an engaged audience into paying customers.
Generally speaking, indie games aren’t going to get the biggest followings in the world, bar a few notable examples. The important thing to remember is that just having a large number of followers isn’t important, having an engaged community is what you’re trying to achieve. Ultimately you want people to buy and enjoy your game, so that’s the first thing to keep in mind.
You might be aiming for a few thousand followers in the long run, which is reasonable, but remember that when you start out you’ll probably only have a handful. It’s important that you don’t let that change the way you interact on your social channels, as consistency is going to be one of your most important tools for creating a community who follow your game.
Artificial Vs. Organic
No doubt you’ve seen social media accounts online that have thousands of followers for no outwardly apparent reason. You’ve probably sat there scratching your head thinking how have they got so big so fast and how do I do the same? Well, the answer is simple, these kinds of accounts have almost always gained followings artificially and that’s exactly what you don’t want to do.
Sure, you can buy followers and use bots to mass follow making it appear like you have a strong community but ultimately those pumped up numbers aren’t going to translate into sales or even interested community members for what it’s worth. What you really want to foster is an organic following built over time through interaction and thoughtful content. Yes, it will take longer and require more work, but if you want to turn a social media audience into a meaningful community you have to be sure you’re attracting the right audience.
Bear in mind that organic growth does take quite a bit longer and can present a number of challenges to folks inexperienced in social media management. There’s a certain kind of understanding that can make initial growth easier, but that is something that can be learnt over time. Either way, an organic following is your best bet at attracting an engaged and meaningful community.
What does it mean to be engaged?
One of the things you have to bear in mind when trying to create a community around your game is your perception of engagement. On platforms such as Twitter, understanding your engagement rate is simple, as they calculate it for you. Great, you’re probably thinking, but what do those numbers mean?
According to research conducted by scrunch.com ‘an engagement rate anywhere between 0.02% and 0.09%’ would be considered good and above that great. This means you would expect around an average of 2 to 9 reactions per 1000 followers you have. It’s also worth noting that as your community grows and you get more followers your engagement rate is likely to drop. This is why it was mentioned early on that just aiming to get a lot of followers isn’t going to help you.
Create interesting content that will inspire people to interact with your posts and share your content around the web. Getting your engagement rate to a high enough level is going to be crucial in turning your following into a truly active community. Remember, timing is important, there’s no point directing your social media following to links in a call to action if you have a low engagement rate. Focus on getting your audience invested in your channel first.
You’re engaged now get married
So, you’ve begun to get a bit of an organic following and your engagement rates are picking up, what’s the next move to turn this into something meaningful? First, give people a reason to follow you and communicate that in a consistent way. Post often and answer any questions posed to you no matter how trivial they might seem, you want people to know your social media is an active place. Don’t get to business orientated, you want people to feel like there is a real person behind your account and someone they can engage with on a human level.
Your next step is about analysing your objectives, where do you want this to go? This means looking at why you started the account and what your ultimate goals are including how close you are to achieving them. At this point, it’s time to start thinking about how you can take the community you’ve created and engage it further with your vision.
Give people a direction, signpost your most important links in a clear and concise way. If someone clicks on your social media let them see instantly that they can click straight through to your website with all the details of your game. Make this transition as easy as possible in every post you publish so no matter where in the game’s journey they intersect they can find their way to the most important information. For instance, if you make a screenshot Saturday post don’t forget to put the name of your game in there and links to the steam page so people can Wishlist.
To turn your following into a community you have to give them a call to action they follow in the simplest manner. Make sure your game name is clear on your accounts, make sure all revenant links are on the landing page and your bio straightforwardly states what your game is about. If the end goal is to get people excited and engaged with your game then drive them in the right direction.
It’s the journey not the destination
The most important thing about creating an engaged community is making people feel invested and you need to do this from the beginning. The aim is to take people on a journey with you as you build your way towards launch or a new announcement for your game. Find your community champions, the most passionate members of your following and promote them front and centre so new people entering the channel can see the level of devotion among your fanbase. And, finally, make it as easy as possible for people to join you on that journey and guide them to the final point of action, whether that be to Wishlist, pre-order or purchase your game.