Social Media Marketing 101

How to build a social media strategy to sell more from your store.

Social Media Marketing 101

Your server, and your PlayerLands store are an online business, and being an entrepreneur, no matter on what scale, means letting people know about what you’re doing.

The very easiest way to do that is to speak to your players and those who haven’t yet discovered you, wherever they hang out. Social media messaging is cheap - often free - and is an excellent way of improving discoverability and helping people find your games.

Using social media as a marketing tool does require focus though. It’s very easy to get distracted - in fact it’s one of the things social media is best at - and this guide will help you understand how best to structure your time to get the best results for your game.

It will also help you concentrate your efforts where they will have most effect, ignoring channels that aren’t as effective. These will of course vary by game and by individual server, but gaining an understanding of who your players are, what they like, and where they socialise online, can give your marketing the edge it needs for sustained success.

What do you need from social?

The very first job in working out where to spend your time and effort, is clarifying what you’re actually trying to achieve. Winning new players is always a good starting point, but there’s bound to be more than that going on. Are you an established game with an existing user base, or newly launched and still making a name for your server?

The first step in any marketing initiative is to keep your eyes on the prize, by working out what exactly you need to do.

These are some of the jobs that social media does very well. Work out which of these you want your campaign to achieve:

  • Create awareness of your server or game - in the old days gaining publicity for a product or service meant spending money on advertising and public relations. Now you can let large swathes of your audience know about your game relatively cheaply, or indeed completely free of charge depending on the channels you’re using
  • Find new players - very simply, this is about finding new humans who share your current players’ likes and dislikes, the people who are most likely to enjoy playing on your server
  • Drive sales in your store - sometimes encouraging people to buy your products is as straightforward as keeping those products front-of-mind. A gentle reminder can be all that’s needed to convert a new customer or get an old one back into your shop
  • Build the community around your game - it’s great to share an interest with other people, and ensuring your game has a welcoming and engaged community helps drive people back to the server and gives them reasons to remain there. It also helps you, because you can see problems or elements that aren’t working as they should, often before they become a problem
  • Make your server Google-friendly - there’s no doubt that people are more comfortable with brands they’ve heard of, and making sure there’s a diversity of information online about your server or game, gives new players a sense of its brand and reputation, both of which are reassuring in choosing a new place to play

To help define how you’ll achieve those aims, the next steps are to look at:

  • Target audience(s) - working out who your gamers are is the first part of the puzzle. They may not be a single group, but discovering more about who they are, how old, and what they do outside games will give you a bunch of useful information to build your campaign
  • Social channels - Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, Discord, Reddit, and dozens of other more niche services make it easy to find where your niche spends most of its time. Finding out where your players chat will give you a focus for which channels to concentrate on and which to leave out
  • Post planning - creating compelling, conversation-starting content is a skill in itself. Part of designing a social media campaign is defining the interests of your audience, and what gets them excited

Who’s your target audience?

It’s not always easy to know who plays your game. Have you done any user surveys? Or is there registration data from your forum or community area you can look at to see who your most active players are? These are questions that in our normal day-to-day may not come up very often, but when you’re planning a social media campaign, it’s the foundation of many of your decisions.

It will also be the basis for targeting on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, especially if you plan to undertake paid activities. Facebook stores up to 300 data points for each of its users, but it takes far fewer than that to get a pinpoint accurate read on who’s most likely to play your game.

You can also discover a lot about your audience by spending time with them. If you have a sub-Reddit, that’s an excellent place to lurk to get a feel not only for what players are saying, but also for what motivates them and what kind of people they are.

Paying attention to the kinds of discussion that take place, and to what makes people happy/sad/enraged, will give you a great deal of insight into what makes them tick, and how you can appeal exactly that sort of player in other places.

Once you’ve collected information and observed your target audience, you can begin to create a sketch of your target players.

Gender - although there’s a long-lasting stereotype of online gamers being young and male, statistics don’t always bear that out. Yes, online Call of Duty players may feeds that chiché, but many games both on- and off-line have considerably more varied demographics. Approach this with an open mind and find out who your players are

Age - this will always be a range, but within that there’s a sweet spot of your most prolific and highest spending players. It may not be easy to acquire this data, but if you can get it, this is an excellent way of refining both your messaging and targeting

Other games played - what else do they like? That will give you an insight into their personalities, and also give you fresh places to target offers to new players, and those who may only have heard of your server in passing

Other interests - man cannot live on video games alone. Do they like board games? D&D? Cookery? Reading forums will give you good leads as to what else your players like to get up to. This can also help inspire content for your posts

Social media - finding out where your players like to hangout makes it easier to speak to them in the channels they find most comfortable

Other websites - where else do they go? What videos do they watch on YouTube? Which content creators make them happy? What other sites do they frequent?

Likes - as with other games they play, understanding a bit about what they enjoy will help you structure messaging and subjects so that they’re as interesting as possible, and attract the broadest range of potential players

Dislikes - knowing what they generally hate is useful not just for social media, but also potentially for your tech roadmap. No point adding new features that large parts of your audience actively dislike

It’s important to say that you may well not discover a single, homogeneous target. Many games and real world products have multiple ages and interest groups they appeal to, and this process is designed to give you an impression of who your most likely players are.

If that results in two or three groups rather than one, that’s a useful insight, and one you can use to tailor your channel strategy and messaging.

Social Channels

At its most basic, knowing which media your players prefer gives you a clue as to where they’re likely to be so you can engage with them. Beyond that, though, each channel has its own preferences and priorities.

Instagram is clearly a visual medium that demands an eye for artistry (or at least a nice picture!) whereas appealing to Redditors can require anything from a meme to a well constructed question for r/patientgamers.

Scratch the surface though, and there’s a lot more going on. Each social channel has both written and un-written rules and codes of conduct. There are also preferences, loves, hates and in-jokes, all of which move far too quickly to be written about usefully in a guide.

The best and only way to make yourself proficient in any channel you’re planning to employ to talk to your players: immerse yourself in it. Read lots, make some test posts with a neutral account, and generally live the life of a member of that group.

That will also help you avoid re-posting, and bringing up topics that have either been done to death, or that the community has already made up its mind on. From the outside all social media look like minefields. A few days’ play and the fog quickly starts to clear.

Post Planning

Now that you’ve got a set of defined goals, an audience, and a shortlist of channels they use, it’s time to work out what to say. Inevitably this will not be a single type of content. Inventing a succession of memes isn’t only exhausting, it’s also hard to stay constantly funny and on-message. The key in most social channels is to create a natural mix.

It’s also useful to let the world feed you topics:

  • Use upcoming fixed events - a big game launch, Easter, festivals, a solar eclipse - there are so many of these each year, and they’re a great spur for themed content
  • Mix it up - videos, questions, polls, stories, competitions, announcements, memes, sales alerts. There’s a lot you can put out there, and the most effective social users lean on a broad repertoire of content styles
  • It’s not all sell, sell, sell - your social campaign has a job to do, but if that’s your only focus, there’s a risk your messages could become tedious or one-note. It’s okay to be commercial, but it’s best to sprinkle in the odd overtly sales-focused post amongst others whose only job is to entertain
  • Stay flexible - One of the beauties of social is its responsiveness. Don’t be afraid to react to news stories and current events. Having a plan is useful, but don’t forget to keep some slack for important stories as they happen
  • Solicit content from players - give yourself a break. It’s also a nice way of creating engagement with your players while getting some genuine grass roots views
  • Keep it authentic - there’s nothing worse than marketers pretending to be ‘down with the kids’. It’s okay to have fun, but learning to avoid cringe is a key skill

Social Media Tools

There are lots online tools you can use to curate and create content, and to streamline its distribution. Some of them cost money, but many of them are completely free, and it’s useful to gain an overview of what’s out there to help get your message across.

Here’s a good starter list of currently available services available to help you get the most from social channels.