About a year ago, I wrote 10 Video and Social Media Marketing Tips for Video Game Executives. Video games present unique marketing challenges and opportunities, so with E3 wrapping up last week, here are seven more digital marketing tips I’d like to add.
1. Make your video game fans into rock stars. Your fans are both your customers and your biggest marketing asset, so promote them! Create situations in which your fans can share their talents and passion for your video games. Run contests where fans are encouraged to create videos, art, photos and even essays. But don’t stop there. Promote not only the winners, but the entries along the way. This does two things. It promotes your fans by making them into rock stars, and it promotes the contest, the game and your overall brand.
Identify who your biggest fans are, and make sure they’re recognized as such. Others will follow, seeking a well-deserved place in the limelight.
2. Match the video game’s personality with its social media voice. Social media is the outlet that gives your games a voice. You decide whether that voice will be the voice of the game or the voice of the publisher. The game itself lives in a fantasy land, where zombies get shot in the face and pimps and hookers get run over with trucks. Publishers live in the real world, where companies get sued for saying the wrong things and people get fired. The disconnect happens when fans hop on Facebook or Twitter expecting to talk to that badass game they’re looking forward to, but are greeted with vanilla updates that were obviously written weeks in advance and double, triple, quadruple approved.
Even the reactive engagement fans receive is from timid agency or internal social media teams that are hoping to get in and out without saying anything too inflammatory. What if you got in there, as the game, and really shook things up? Wrote in the voice of the game? Started a flame war or two? One bit of advice would be to get buy-in from your digital marketing team so you can share the responsibility when it blows up. But my best guess is that after the explosion clears, you’re going to see some happy new fans.
3. Promote your social media campaign with paid advertising. What? Social media isn’t free? If we build it, they won’t just come? No and maybe. Even if you’re starting a new campaign with millions of likes, followers and subscribers, you still have to reach new audiences. Existing fans can’t be trusted to do that kind of heavy lifting. Say for instance you’re running a contest. Why would fans want to let everyone else know they’re entering a contest in which they’ll likely be competing against the people they’re letting know? They wouldn’t. That’s up to you. Paid banners, Facebook ads, video seeding and blog and publication outreach are all very important, especially at the start of a campaign, to raise awareness and get people involved.
4. Remember that you sell video games. This may seem obvious, but developing and launching digital marketing campaigns that involve videos, contests, interactive Facebook tabs, mobile games and apps can easily distract from the end, which is selling games. We’re creating digital playgrounds and amazing events for fans to interact with, leading up to the launch of the game. Looking at metrics like numbers of likes, followers, subscribers, it’s easy to forget that a certain percentage of these fans have to eventually buy something, or this was all a waste of time. I mentioned in my last article that building a fan base for future releases is important -- but at some point, people still have to buy stuff.
We’ve been indoctrinated that social media is all about soft goals like raising awareness and building relationships with our customers. That’s a load of crap, and you can take all that feel-good hippie talk back to Yasgur’s Farm, because if games don’t get sold, we’re all looking for new jobs. The only relationship customers are interested in is the one that includes you being responsive to their needs, listening to them, responding to them and selling them a product worth buying. Do that and they’ll be loyal until you don’t do that, at which point they’ll leave and tell their friends you suck, until you do it again.
5. Don’t get hung up on which social media platforms to use. To make your video game title ubiquitous, develop digital marketing strategies, creative and tactics that engage fans everywhere. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube aren’t the only games in town. Truly innovative digital campaigns are integrating social media platforms, mobile, outdoor, broadcast and newer tactics like augmented reality to create cross-media marketing experiences for their fans. Think in terms of digital marketing campaigns that take fans all over the Internet, simultaneously jumping back and forth between traditional and digital, between the real world and online.
6. Roll around in the mud with your fans. We recently wrapped a social media campaign for a fighting game that included a reality show where fans competed for a spot in the house and then competed against each other. The senior product manager for the game participated as the Dana White-esque host -- and it was awesome! Make videos, do interviews, let your fans know how committed you are, and they will be too.
7. Don’t f#@k with video gamers. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being on the front lines of video game social media communications, it’s that video gamers do not like to be f#@ked with. They will reward you with their loyalty as long as you do what you say you’ll do, and be authentic and transparent with them. They’re suspending their disbelief to enter the video game world you create, but that suspension of disbelief only goes so far. Test their loyalty, and they’ll digitally tear you apart and leave bite marks that can last a long time.