The Enlightened Path to Virtual Popularity
I’ve seen many great looking games or great ideas just languish on Kickstarter and they really did a good job with their campaign page. So what went wrong? In almost all these cases the project creators came out of the woodwork as an unknown until the day they posted their project. Crowd Funding sites (including the big mall of a site: Kickstarter) cannot promote your project on their own enough to get funded. It is certainly not a case of posting it and they will come!
Much of your success on a crowd funding site depends on your social network / reach. You need to begin working on this weeks before you plan to launch your campaign. You need to have several hundred likes on Facebook and hundreds of followers on Twitter as well as a presence on many other social sites, forums and blogs. You will also need to start working on creating a direct mailing list. These sources can account for 25-50% of your funding!
First, a couple general notes from the marketing guru Alexi Vandenberg of Rabid Fanboy…
- Your website isn’t as important as your mailing list and social networking. People don’t “find” your website on their own – they find it from marketing. The back your project on Kickstarter not your website. So it’s your marketing that needs the most exposure, and you usually want to point them to Kickstarter, not your website. Sure your website is still important but don’t waste a disproportional amount of time and money on it.
- As a creator your project is important, do not take anything personal. If a donor asks a question it is probably because he doesn’t understand the project and is honestly curious. I have seen many creators get very short if someone asks a question regarding the product. That is more detrimental than they realize because that person has friends. It only takes one example of obnoxiousness or rudeness for someone to change their mind about buying your product and, on the internet, such examples can travel widely, especially in fandom circles.
- Don’t panic with the doldrums. Sales and fund-raising has ebbs and flows. If funding has stopped completely then there is a problem; but if it slows or is moving in fits and starts but is still going towards your goal, do not suddenly change your entire marketing strategy to make it more “sexy”. Marketing is sometimes not so much flashy as it is steady messaging. Changing suddenly smacks of something going wrong and undermines confidence in your product.
Now onto the meat…
GETTING LIKES, FOLLOWS & MAILING LISTS?
On Any Site
- Follow / Friend others and they will do the same back
- Make sure your fans are part of the conversation. Ask questions or seek feedback. Engagement is key.
- Be a part of the community, ask questions and engage conversations
- Post regular, informative, and helpful posts and replies
- Always include pictures and/or links in everything you post.
- Reply to other people’s posts and tweets, don’t just like them.
- Get others to share your posts and retweet your messages.
- Leave relevant comments on other people’s blogs and leave your FB page URL
- Reach out to bloggers, podcasters, news sites and more to at least mention your product page.
- Attempt to reach outside the industry/gamer sites to find people who may be interested in the theme/topic of your game. Try comic book sites for example.
- Encourage posts to Reddit about your project.
- Join Meetup.com groups and attend Events in your area playing games
- Post/tweet/share pictures of people actually playing your game
- Run a Contest or a Fan of the Month promotion
- Create a group for your game or company. Then run a contest to give something away to people who join it. Groups are much better than a page because when you post to them everyone gets a notice, whereas with a page only 5% or less do (sometimes even when promoting the post in the page).
- Share other Facebook posts of similar products
- Link to your Facebook page in your signature on forum posts
- Join other groups on Facebook
- Post interesting stuff to OTHER groups/pages besides your own or your own feed
- Install a LIKE button or Widget or Feed on your website or blog – https://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/like/
- Create/share things that are interesting or inspiring or funny to gamer geeks
- Use Interactive YouTube annotations to drive likes from your videos
- Link to your Facebook page from your Linked-in profile
- Create a poll for people to vote on.
- Pay to promote a post with a great picture on your page.
- Promote LIKES as a stretch goal in your campaign
- Use a “LIKE-Gate” tab on your page for exclusive content reveal, such as game rules or some PnP content. http://ustandout.com/facebook/how-to-promote-your-facebook-pages-like-gate-tab-to-get-more-likes
- Use status tagging – Status tagging is a cool and fairly new feature of Facebook This feature allows you to tag any page or person by entering the @ sign and then typing the name of the page or person you want to tag.
- Connect your Facebook page to Twitter and allow it to tweet your posts. https://www.facebook.com/twitter/
- Find yourself more friends – http://www.facebook.com/find-friends/
- Take small fliers (with QR codes pointing to your FB page) to events & conventions you attend
- Run a demo at your local gaming stores and give participants your flier
- If you can find a way to highly target the audience for a FB add and you have a budget, you can get some likes for 10-25 cents each.
- Obviously, invite your friends to your page 🙂
- FACEBOOK ADS: The key to ads on FB is the narrowing of your target audience. Make sure you only target the US, Canda, and EU and try to only target people who also like popular games in our market. Also, if you have a mailing list, upload it and let it parse it up – then run a campaign that reaches 1 or 2% look-alike accounts. In short, FB ads work and quite well when done well. But you need to highly target your audience and have multiple images / add copy being used to grab attention. Then put more money into the ones that seem to be resonating. You’ll need to spend $50 or more. These things are done through the Ads Manager. Don’t just promote a post, make an ad.
- Use # tags, like #boardgames, to alert people of your topic
- Use @username to get the attention of key people (don’t use more than 2 or 3 per tweet or you’ll get flagged for spamming)
- Follow the “smores” (social media whores) – All the board game or RPG people you can find, many will follow you back.
- Re-tweet others who tweet things of interest to you
- Asking for follows and retweets on Twitter is acceptable.
- Use SurveyMonkey.com where you can get input from 100 people for free… so why not ask questions about what people want out of your game or campaign? When they fill out your short (3-4 questions) survey you can ask for their email address
- Collect emails from your contests
- When running demos collect people’s email addresses
- Get emails from previous campaigns you’ve run
- Use a subscribe form on your website
- Don’t waste your time on Fiverr.com or other paid likes sites.
- Avoid outright asking everyone for likes/follows (friends are OK)
- In general don’t pay for broad FB ads to get likes (they will cost you too much and are not quality likes)
- Don’t plan your success around getting staff picks, they are not as integral to success as you might think.
- Don’t spam groups or pages that are for discussions, instead ask for feedback about your product or campaign on them.
- Avoid using Social Networking only as an advertising platform to push product. See it as a place to have a conversation and gather feedback about your product. Posting product info isn’t bad, but it can quickly wear thin.
- The number-one rule for success within a community or social platform is to engage in the relevant conversations that are taking place and add value when doing so.
- Tell users how the feedback you get from them is impacting your business and what you’re doing with the feedback. Few people will give suggestions or feedback if they know the company ignores it.
- Use the follow friends on Kickstarter to share purchases
- The comments on your project should be considered social networking as well and you should remain engaged (especially in the first and final days).
Facebook (1-5 times a week)
- Make a company and/or product page on Facebook
- Create an easy-to-remember URL – https://www.facebook.com/username
- Create a good-looking page with nice header and fill out the ABOUT section.
- Remember, each posting to your page only reaches a small percentage of your follower’s news feeds.
- Promoting posts for $5 or $10 works (if you want to reach outside the country you live in you need to setup an ad manually)
- Targeted Ads – if you do spend money on ads on FB make sure they are highly targeted. Make sure you target just a couple countries (USA, Canada, UK, Australia, and German are the big ones)
- Create a launch party event and invite people to it so they feel a part of the event
- Say something with context, not just – HEY BACK MY CAMPAIGN!
- LIKE the comments left about your posts.
- Post to promotion pages like: https://www.facebook.com/KickstarterGamesFan
Google+ (1-3 times a week)
- There are two types of accounts on G+ — a personal account, and a business page. Create a business page: http://www.google.com/+/business
- Being search engine driven, make sure you include Keywords and Relevant Links on your about page
- The things that separates Google+ from Facebook is that brands can appear at the top of Google search results as well as status updates.
- Google Events feature allows Google+ users to send out customized invitations to anyone regardless of whether they are Google+ users. It syncs with Google Calendar and shows up automatically when a user confirms for an event.
- Join the many game groups found on Google+
- With Circles, you can segment their followers. They can sort by different customer types, new customers, old customers, prospective customers, etc
- You can take advantage of Circles by sending coupons to just prospective customers or having specials for current customers
- Hangouts (chat/video rooms) can be used during the final hours of your event to help drive the hype and backing frenzy. Give it sort of a party feel. I’ve personally seen hundreds of dollars added by existing backers in attempts to meet the next stretch goals.
- Google is YouTube, and integration of videos is a key factor in Google+
Twitter (3+ times daily)
- Get a Twitter account and plan to keep up the tweeting, it’s not hard
- Re-tweet the other people who tweet about your product or things similar
- Thank people for re-tweeting you.
- Judiciously include # hashtags like #boardgames or #gencon when you post
- Follow everyone who follows you
- Small talk on Twitter goes a long way toward building brand loyalty.
- Share interesting things and topics not just your own spam. Be kind and click other people’s TWEET buttons on their blogs and sites.
- Tweet whenever you back someone else’s project.
- Tweet during USA peak times such the evening.
- Keep your posts short enough to retweet. Remember it adds text when you do.
LinkedIn (Once a week)
- Join and make some posts to game groups
- Follow others active in the gaming groups.
- Make profile updates when you have some big news like launch or updates.
Pinterest (as needed)
- Your game should look cool, right? Some bits look especially cool! Post them here for people to share and look at.
YouTube (as needed)
- Post all your videos to YouTube as well as Kickstarter (or whichever) as YouTube has its own social aspects.
- Use annotations to point to your product & pages.
- Don’t forget you can share video on most social networks as well as pictures, so share your videos!
Reddit (Once per forum)
- Posts to just promote your product are frowned on and won’t get you much of anywhere
- Post a topic/subject that’s engaging
- Reply to other posts in your categories
- Schedule a Reddit IAMA – Ask Me Anything event
- Forums: /r/boardgames, /r/boardgamedesign, /r/kickstarter, /r/rpg, /r/tabletop, /r/Pathfinder_RPG
You don’t want to pollute forums and such you’ve never been to before, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start building connections to those sites now. Find forums that are for similar interests, join their conversations, ask questions, be friendly, and when your campaign does launch you can more naturally invite them to check it out.
- Create a Database entry on BGG and upload some pictures
- Post a designer blog at BGG during the campaign
- Post to the forums as regular as you can
- Post your game to the Kickstarter pages:
- Add to the kickstarter forum
- Become a part of the community and help others
- To any valid Geek Lists your game fits, such as this one: Kickstarter Boardgame Projects
- Post major updates to BGG as well
RPG.net (Role-playing Games)
- Become a part of the community and help others
- Post major updates to RPG.NET as well
News Sites & Blogs
Crowd Funding Friendly Reviewers
Before the launch of your campaign, you need to have arranged a third party review of your game or at least an interview.
- UndeadViking Video Reviews
- Drive Thru Review
- The Dice Tower
- Dice Hate Me.com/
- Penny Arcade Report
- The Gaming Gang
- The Spiel
- Geek Dad
- Father Geek
- G*M*S Magazine
- Rahdo Runs Through
- Crits Happen.net/
- Watch It Played
- Opinionated Gamers
- Drake’s Flames
- Board to Death TV
- On Board Games
- I Slay the Dragon
- The Cardboard Jungle
- GreyElephant Gaming
- Something Awful Game Forums
- Try to get some exposure with popular video and podcasts
- Do an interview or give them your game to try out
- Have them link to your Facebook page before the campaign
Mailing List (weekly)
- Include call to actions or discounts
- Be brief and to the point, people don’t read long emails
- Make sure you use HTML and include pictures and formatting
- Track your source and clicks using special URLs from BIT.ly – see my blog post “Myth Busters – Kickstarter Referrer Page?”
Your own Website / Blog (weekly)
- Write about your ideas, your game, and path to production
- You could help educate your followers about crowd funding by providing them with these links on your pages and tweets to get them prepped.
- GTS – Trade show to get exposure to retailers.
- Origins – Decent board and war game exposure.
- GenCon – Huge audience of all kinds. Best vendor exposure.
- BGG.CON – Great exposure to alpha card and board gamers.
- Essen ‘Spiel – European market exposure from casual to hardcore gamers.
- Gamerati Network Banners – Reaches mainly RPG fans
- RPG.NET Banners – Great for RPG games
- BGG Banners – Expensive but good exposure for card & board games.
- Google ad-words – Can get expensive and poor quality clicks.
- Facebook promote – Good cheap buys on a great graphic post work.
- Fortress AT – Cheap exposure to some Ameritrash gamers
- Tabletop Gaming News – Cheap exposure to most game groups.
- The Dice Tower – Reasonable priced exposure to a large group of gamers
- KickTraq – Effective direct promotions to Kickstarter backers.
- CasualGameRevolution.com – Magazine
- Woobox – allows you to run contests that require LIKE or FOLLOW
- Contest Domination – allows free contests for LIKEs
- BGG Contest – Expensive for the amount of backers, but gets you traffic and hot list exposure.
- Kickin’ It Games – They offer mailing list and social blasts to gamers for a reasonable price.
MARKETING YOUR CAMPAIGN
- Reach out to other campaigns that might share a similar customer base and work out a deal to promote each other
- Create a custom avatar for the campaign so others can use it to show support
- Share your updates to other pages and groups on all the social networks
- When your campaign is live direct people to the kickstarter page, not the Facebook or your publisher pages. Each click a potential customer has to make you lose 20% more ROI.
- Add your campaign to Stumble Upon – http://www.stumbleupon.com/submit
- Do an E-mail blast at start of campaign and again a week before it ends.
- Do a Reddit IAMA (Ask Me Anything) event during your campaign.
- An update is an excuse to market and a call to action. Make sure you use it as such with images and encourage people to come pledge or raise their pledge.
- Spread out your updates. Don’t post more then one a day and 3 a week.
- After the initial buzz dies down about your campaign, start to post review links, videos, and your designer blog. One a day at most, spread them out. These give you a great reason to get mentioned in site news and other blogs and promote your campaign.
- On the last day of the campaign make sure the front page of your Kickstarter has a link to point back to your website. Once the campaign ends, you will not be able to update your Kickstarter front page.
MARKETING YOUR GAME
UPDATE 2018: I posted a poll on a game industry forum where retailers, publishers, and distributors could reply and got this great feedback when asking what they feel has influanced their sales/purchasing the most:
REFERENCE & MORE READING
Building an audience and mailing list for your tabletop game
Hacking Kickstarter’s “Popular” Algorithm
http://crowdbooster.com/ – Facebook / Twitter Analytics