To engage with people you need to talk to them. Sounds obvious, but it really is something that many companies in our field fail to do effectively. Engage with the public at a ground-roots level and try and involve them in the process of open development.
Blazing Griffin, and my role as communities manager, is set to redress some of this balance, try and get out there, respond to queries, manage the social media feeds and generally be approachable and friendly – whilst also ensuring that we’re keeping people updated about our projects and other news; such as discounts, beta tests and more.
Budget restrictions are usually the reason that social media and communities management is maligned in some way. Down the list from the game’s main production; it is not developing the art, sound, programming or design of the game, but talks about all of them; engaging the community and seeking feedback. However, in a world where talk is no longer cheap and each word you say hangs in the balance, shouldn’t you take some time to think about a strategy beyond just leaping in at a game’s launch?
The fact is, you should; and Blazing Griffin, though small, have the forethought to hire me for a couple of days a week to do the job. Not as much as either they or I would like: Because I’m personally excited about everything we’re working on – both what you know and what you don’t – but enough to give you all someone to talk to. A voice in midst of the many others out there which gently reminds you that we’re up to great things.
Other things to consider, when your company is entering the social media fray, is what you feel comfortable using. Twitter is fleeting and timing often doesn’t fit with a global gaming audience – often being at work themselves, or asleep, when you’re in the office with time to Tweet. Facebook requires people to spread the word, like and share your thoughts (and often changes its set up, rules and regulations without warning), Google+ has become a medium for the more technical minded and Reddit and Stumble Upon are great if your story is picked up and you “catch the wave”, but restrict the amount you can talk about any one subject or company – you need to spend time posting about other things as well.
Finally there are forums which need a degree of dedication to maintain engagement. If you’re setting one up for your own company then you should ensure you’re visiting it to talk. If you post on others then make sure you have the time to check for responses. The last thing people want to see is someone who isn’t willing to respond.
If you’re going to set things to post at a time when you’re unavailable, via automatic scheduling, it is worth noting that no-one can predict the future; so try to be as certain as possible that, by no fault of your own, it will happen. Some of the biggest social media faux-pas, by companies who should know better, have been due to a lack of foresight.
A big, unrelated, news story can change the tone of a great idea or joke so scheduled posts should always remain inoffensive and clear.
Of utmost importance is to ensure that you don’t drive your message down peoples throats. The last thing you want is for them to stop following, mark down your posts or worst of all start commenting against you – that includes trolling.
It’s about balance and respect of your followers and the benefits are clear to be seen. With a easy going open development strategy there’s a lot of your company you can “share around” and, with all honesty, there are a lot of people out there who will be interested in what you’re doing, from AAA production to smaller indie studios.
Go out there, have fun and talk to them.