Online video and social media marketing seem to be obvious choices for those tasked with marketing new video game titles, but I'm consistently surprised at how those strategies are misused, underused or used not at all.
Following are ways that video game marketing directors, brand managers and social media managers can help launch titles using video and social media marketing:
1. Keep your balls in the air. Just because a new title demands your attention, don't let go of titles that are still being actively discussed. In fact, the social media presence you spark on one title could be fertile ground for seeding your next title. Stay engaged and involved with fans rather than moving on. Rather than thinking with a one-and-done mentality, focus on making each video and social media marketing initiative build upon the next.
2. Seek co-branding for video and social initiatives. What other brands and products appeal to your game's demographics? Consider launching video and social media marketing initiatives that highlight both in a creative and engaging way. Co-branding helps your game reach new audiences and effectively requires less budget participation per partner, since two or more brands/products are involved in sharing the costs.
3. Involve celebrities who carry built-in audiences. Actors, musicians and other celebrities, either mainstream or on YouTube, are often highly connected in the social networking space and can bring an audience to the table. Beyond simple endorsements, allow them to be part of the project -- and in turn, share their work, along with your marketing message, with their audiences across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. On the PR side, you might work in a mainstream media mention to reach even more people.
4. Go beyond the video game trailer. There are lots of ways to use video and social beyond posting an obligatory game trailer on video game blogs, publications and review sites. One creative concept and shoot can yield not only a game trailer but also a Web series, branded entertainment videos, videos with multiple or choose-your-own-endings, TV spots, "banned for TV" or "red band" trailers, Web-only TV spots, contest announcement videos and videos to be used by your PR team or agency. These can all be strategically released to create a swarm of activity and awareness across social media and video-sharing sites as well as crossing over to a mainstream audience. Going beyond a basic game trailer can also help your title reach people who don't buy video games -- but should.
5. Practice reactive engagement: act, interact, react and repeat. Engage reactively. Too many game publishers (and other industries, for that matter) launch video and social media initiatives but fail to act, interact and react effectively. Whether you've launched a multiple-video initiative backed by a contest across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, or simply launched an engaging game trailer, you will have stirred up conversation. Make sure someone is joining that conversation, answering questions, posting comments, responding to comments, interacting with YouTube messages, emails and tweets! If there is no reactive engagement, then you're just broadcasting and hoping people talk about your video(s), but your brand and game title aren't represented in the conversation.
6. Allocate a creative and production budget. If you work with a creative, marketing or ad agency, creative and production fees can vary from flat-fee, hourly and even incentive-based systems, depending on the project and the agency. Beyond that, plan on budgeting for the type of production you need. Live action can add new elements to the game trailer formula and can be either very expensive or not so expensive as dictated by the creative. A man-on-the-street gag, "talking head" or "faux amateur" YouTube video will not necessarily price out the same as five actors on a stage or location set with a big crew, special effects, post production, motion graphics and digital effects. That said, many brand videos that appear to be consumer-generated (UGC), actually required considerable planning and production budget. The best bet is to share your requirements and budget and let your creative agency offer you ideas.
7. Allocate a social video marketing budget. Unless you are simply pitching a game trailer to gaming blogs and publications, plan to allocate budget for video seeding, which involves paid banner, blog and social game video placements, social networking and blog and publication outreach, all designed to take video content from "paid" views and engagement to "earned" views and engagement. Earned views are the "free" views that happen once videos are being shared organically. Video seeding will return infinitely more bang for your buck, so if you need more bang, go get more bucks!
8. Integrate video and social with other advertising, sales and PR initiatives. Video and social media marketing shouldn't exist in a bubble. Ideally, there should be a larger strategy at play. Integrating video and social media campaigns with your TV, print, radio, outdoor and PR initiatives will help you reach a much larger audience across multiple channels. Identify which internal teams and departments you should be working closely with on the launch and follow-through of your campaigns. Share the creative, production, viral marketing and social media strategy costs with these departments and create content that can be used for multiple purposes -- including TV and video banner ads, social networking, trailers, sales videos, promos, outdoor and PR outreach.
9. Educate yourself! Familiarize yourself with the strengths and weaknesses of video, viral and social media marketing, including what's possible, what's working, what hasn't worked -- and why. Study what the competition is doing and follow video, viral and social media marketing blogs, publications and thought leaders.10. Don't be afraid to experiment -- and remember the basics. Take chances! Rather than copy what's out there now, think in terms of what can be the next big buzz-generating campaign and encourage your team and colleagues to think that way as well. Video and social are all about generating conversation and converting that conversation into action. Surround yourself with people who think this way and push the limits, while continuing to pursue traditional marketing and PR initiatives. If you're worried about jumping too far outside your comfort zone, just remember that video and social media are tools in your marketing toolbox, and don't represent a complete paradigm shift. Marketing is, and always has been, about influencing behavior and selling more stuff!