Using Social Media

Using Social Media

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The following was originally posted on the Guerilla Tea developer blog.

Since we started Guerilla Tea in 2011, the use of social media has been hugely important to us. I’ve wanted to share some of my thoughts on our approach for a while, so this week’s blog seems like a good opportunity.

One thing we have learned (the hard way, actually) is that simply making games as an indie studio is not enough. You must also have individuals on the team who are more outward facing, and handle business aspects, finance, and marketing & selling. Of course, we make no secret of our heavy focus on contract work, and we have a producer who handles business, finance and any similar issues.

My role within the company as Chief Design Officer involves traditional game design where I’m holding the vision of our projects, creating the game mechanics, balancing, etc. Although another vital hat I wear is that of marketing and selling. By this I mean my job is try to get our games and our business as well recognised as possible.

The problems facing every indie developer are visibility and reach. The two are closely related. This is something we all battle with. Without the massive marketing budget available to large organisations, how can we get our games and our company name out there? How can we become a recognised company and how can our games be seen through the masses which clutter the app store?

From my experiences so far, there is no secret formula to it as such. Generally ‘putting yourself out there’ through attending events, establishing contacts, completing projects, and being active in the communities certainly puts you on the right track… And social media plays a heavy part assisting with this.

Get Connected!
Our first port of call is Facebook. Likewise for many businesses with a company page. However I do things a little differently with Guerilla Tea in that as well as a company page, I also manage a standard personal profile page.

Although I can share topics when using Facebook as my company page, I can’t ‘like’ other people’s comments, I can’t myself comment on other topics or post into groups or on walls. Having Guerilla Tea as a person on Facebook allows me to do all of the above.

When we have something to share, I tend to cross post it from our personal profile onto our company profile. These are the standard items that companies tend to share; posts relating to our activity such game projects, careers, or events we have attended, etc.

On top of this, I post other information relating to not only our company, but also our industry in general (usually via twitter) and possibly Scotland as well (more on that later…). Using a personal profile, I can put things onto the Scottish Games Network Facebook group. This is invaluable as the SGN is effectively the voice of the Scottish games industry.

Thanks to this strategy, I have connected with other extremely active users who support their business with social media. I post on other groups, as well as comment and click the ‘like’ button on posts from other people. Very important as this helps create more of a personality for our company. We have always promoted ourselves as a studio with a strong spirit, and people will relate more to a personality, rather than a soulless commercial entity.

I suppose I’m trying to work a type of synergy between promoting the business through social media, and creating a personality for the company. There is also the very correct school of thought that sheer volume of content and communication boosts company promotion. Basically, the more times you have your logo and name popping up on a social media network, the more noticed you’ll eventually become!

Facebook assists us in essentially trying to build a small community around the company, which is closely tied to the Scottish games industry community. Information from the personal profile and company page appear in activity feeds, but we find that not everyone wants to add us as a friend, so they have the option to ‘like’ the company or befriend us, or both! The options are open.

I feel that a trap some fall into is treating social media communication too formally, almost in the same vein as a professional blog. It very much isn’t. Social media allows us to be a lot more colloquial in our communication, basically.

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Everybody’s heard about the bird!
Twitter is a great service for the creative industries. We use twitter constantly, and of course tweet about company activity, in a similar vein to our Facebook use. We have our Twitter account linked to Facebook so these tweets appear on our FB wall also.

There is no strict rule to our tweeting, but in general I tweet very often.

In addition to the regular tweets about releases, etc. I try to tweet random, amusing things relating to work, and possibly just about game development life in general, even very indirectly. I also tweet about games education such as tips for graduates trying to break into the industry.

Attaching images whenever relevant is also very effective, cohering to the adage “A picture says a thousand words”. Screenshots will be the first thing that comes to mind for a games company, but I try to put other photos up there too.

I’ll tweet a good number of links to interesting articles, which adds to the idea I discussed above about trying to create a personality for our company. It’s important to tweet links to your games often after release. However, it’s important not to overdo tweeting links. You run the risk of constantly appearing to be selling something, and you want to allow people to be interested in you, rather than wonder what you are trying to provide them.

In addition to this I’ll regularly retweet from other people, and always use recognisable hashtags. I almost always tweet a short ‘thanks for the follow’ to people who follow Guerilla Tea, and on Fridays I’ll do 2 to 3Follow Friday tweets, usually listing new and interesting followers, and likely one relevant to game developers, review sites, etc.

Last point on Twitter, I’d fully recommend downloading TweetDeck. It’ll allow you to organise and filter columns regarding tweets, activity, etc. and will generally make your life a whole lot easier.

There’s A System in Place!
We have the following rules in place for marketing and promotion through social media. These are guidelines, and of course it fluctuates either up or down (slightly) depending on our projects:

– Tweet 5 times a day minimum.

– Put up one Facebook post a day, even if it’s very short.

– Write one developer blog post a week, which is then shared on social media. (Writing a blog post is a greater time investment that most people think!)

What about subject matter? Well we have three points when judging whether something is relevant.

– It relates to the company.

– It relates to the wider games industry.

– It relates to Scotland.

So these are my thoughts on using social media. I have no doubt that there will be many differing opinions, just as there are with game design theories. The only thing I can say is that you really need to find what works for you and then stick with it. Effectively using social media doesn’t happen overnight, and it will take the combination of this, and generally building up the status of your company to ultimately get the most out of it.

Images courtesy of Stock Free Images.

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