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Listening Is Your First Step: An Online Game Marketing Audit Primer

Want to embark on social media marketing for your game? This article from game marketer Duane Brown delves into how to audit your and your competitors' online presence, and presents logical steps to follow to begin the process of meaningful social marketing.

[Want to embark on social media marketing for your game? This article from game marketer Duane Brown delves into how to audit your and your competitors' online presence, and presents logical steps to follow to begin the process of meaningful social marketing.]

An online marketing audit is a key first step when marketing your game company or next video game, and when entering the online and digital space. You should want to know where your customers and potential consumers are, and what they are doing online. In this article, I want to look at the whys and hows of an online marketing audit, and what I go through for many clients.

I want to talk about listening, and why it's your first step before jumping into that digital and online space for what may be your first time. However, before we get to that, let's take a brief step back and make sure you've set up business objectives and goals.

Business Objectives

This is where social media starts, and this is where it ends. Your business objectives are what you want to achieve.

Your goals are how you are going to measure yourself and your video games as you immerse yourself in the world of online marketing. The tools (Facebook, Twitter, Last.fm, LinkedIn) and technology come after you've looked at your business objectives and goals.

Maybe you want to help augment your customer service department, or increase awareness of your new product launch. Or better yet, you want to connect with your enthusiastic fans and see how you can improve some of your current products.

Regardless of what your objectives are, they usually fall into one of four areas:

  1. Marketing of the company's brand
  2. Advertising a new product/service
  3. Customer services
  4. Research & development

Once you've established some objectives, you need to start looking at how you are going to measure those objectives in six to 12 months. Setting goals isn't complicated, but they do need to be done.

Goals are going to vary across each organization but I try to get clients to setup S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals when we talk about getting into the online and digital space.

The reason you want to have measurable goals is to prove that your efforts in online marketing and the digital space are having a tangible effect on your business in a positive way. I can't tell you how many times I've come across organizations and people who want to get into online marketing and have not done any objective or goal setting.

If you plan to hire an external person or firm to handle your online marketing then please make sure they have objectives and goals set up as well. Don't let them sell you on the tools, or use some of that fancy sizzle without worrying about the steak, because you won't be happy with the outcome.

Now that this is out of the way, let's get on to why you would want to do a online marketing audit.


So, Why Would You Want to Do an Online Marketing Audit?

You want to do an online marketing audit to get a better understanding of where you sit in the online space and how your brand is doing overall. I tell clients to look at the three Cs in the video game space.

Company.

  • How is your company (whether developer, publisher, or something else) being talked about?
  • What is your brand and products' credibility and position?
  • Who (consumers, customer and or competitors) is saying all the items about your company?

Consumers.

  • Where are your consumers playing your games online?
  • Are they talking on forums, blogs, or niche community sites?
  • Is what they are saying positive or negative, and is it true?

Competitors.

  • Who are your direct and indirect competitors in the game space?
  • What are they doing online right now?
  • What are consumers and customers saying about them?
  • Is what they are saying positive or negative, and is it true?
  • Are your competitors listening when their customers ask for help or have a question?

When looking at the three Cs, I try and look for opportunities in the data that I'm pulling. Because as you start to assemble all this data on your consumers, company and competitors you may start to have a little déjà vu.

For one client I had in a niche business, there were a high number of consumers asking for the same product and information over and over again. This was a great opportunity for my client to go after a new market, as well as take market share away from the competition. Plus they had a cool new article to write to help educate their community. This gave them genuine reasons to reach out to new potential customers and help educate them.

Outside the game market, Gillette did a great job of this recently, as the company created a new series of videos around shaving. However, the videos were focused on not just shaving your face but on other areas of your body that you might want to shave. Gillette was able to see this need for videos as they did an online marketing audit of their company and brand and looked at what their consumers were talking about.

What makes this more interesting is that Gillette is an older brand and company that has been around for decades, and watching them shift in this space and embrace what their consumers are talking about is great. You don't always know what an online marketing audit is going to tell you, but you've got to be ready to embrace the information and help your company move forward. Gillette had some learning to do -- and this didn't happen overnight -- but they are better for it.

How Do You Do an Online Marketing Audit?

Now that you've learned why you want to do an online marketing audit let's get into how you could perform one for your company. This isn't a strict science, but more of a blend of art and science. 

In the long run, when your game company is ready to make the investment in online marketing, you'll want to go with one of the leading monitoring tools like Radian6, Sysomos, or Nielsen's BuzzMetrics.

However, I think there are a few free tools you can use to do an online marketing audit and help figure out where your company stands. The audit will help tell you which tools (like Twitter or Facebook) are used most by your consumers and give you key questions to ask different monitoring tools.

You'll want to know how these monitoring tools pull data from Twitter and Facebook and how they present that data to you. Having demoed close to a dozen tools in the last year, I can tell you that they honestly all do it differently, and you'll really want to get a demo from a few tools. However, in the meantime you can use a couple free tools to get you started:


- knowEm is a great tool that allows you to see if a certain username you want is free on over 350 sites across the internet at once. Most companies, of course, try to get the same username across the internet, so I use the tool to quickly find out where my competition is playing online.

Are they focused on two or three websites? Or are they going after quantity, and trying to be everywhere at once? This is not something I recommend any company do. You'll end up spreading yourself to thin and have a challenge of being effective at what you're doing.

- Social Mention is a free monitoring tool. It's not as robust as Radian6, Sysomos, or Nielsen's BuzzMetrics, but it's a great tool to give you a quick overview of where you stand in the marketplace for free. I use Social Mention to primarily see what consumers and customers are saying about my company, and the competition.


Now let's look at the seven steps I go through to actually do an online marketing audit for a client. As I said before, this isn't a strict science. The key at the end of this process is to turn your data into information that leads to genuine insight for your game company. You may not always like what you find out, but you have a great opportunity to turn that insight into information that will help make your company better.

Step 1. Establish how far back in time you're going to look. Depending on how active your niche is, you may only want to look at three or six months. You could go as far back as 12 months, but anything more than that and you'll begin to get overwhelmed with all this data, which you may not be able to make sense of.

Step 2. Write down the names of three of your competitors and use KnowEm to see where they have profiles online. Check each of the profiles and see which ones are the most active, both from users and the company itself.

You'll be surprised at how many orphaned profiles are out there for a company. Start to try to understand why your competitors chose the profiles that they did. Is there logic in the chaos?

Step 3. Look at how long your competitor has been using the different profiles. Make a note of when they started, how much they use them, and whether the use pattern is the same across all their profiles -- or whether it's different for each one.

Knowing when they started using different profiles will give you an idea of the larger opportunities, and if there is a clean leader in your space.

Step 4. Now that you've looked at competitors' profiles, and their activity level, spend some time looking at what consumers are saying. This is where I use Social Mention.

The beauty of Social Mention is that you can try and break down information to just blogs, microblogs, forums, video, events, and comments. Take the information from KnowEm and where your competitors are focusing their time; you can use that information to narrow your search on Social Mention to just those sites, to start.

Try to see if the company is connecting with consumers who are talking about them. What are consumers saying, and is the competition getting back to them? Often times I find that the competition set up a profile and then abandon it for various reasons. Usually they don't realize the time and money required to get into online marketing. This is not a onetime campaign, but a process which you refine over the long run.

Step 5. After doing a narrow search, you can let Social Mention crawl all of the internet and return everything for you. Look at what consumers are saying, and the kinds of conversations that are going on.

Do you see trends? Is everyone complaining or giving praise to your competitor? Start to mark down some of the positive and/or negative comments you see, and where you saw them online. This information will help you construct an audience research section for your online marketing audit, by telling your management team what consumers are saying about our competitors.

Step 6. Repeat the above process for your own company, and learn more about your consumers. You might be surprised at some of the information that you find. Try and be as unbiased as possible.

Step 7. Assemble all the information you've gathered about your company, competitors and consumers. I break my reports down by each company separately, and have an overview section at the start -- a summary of the report. This format allows for different people to read the report, and give it the best attention they can with the time they have. Not everyone is going to read your report, and you've got to make it as digestible as possible.

That's it, in the end. Depending on the size of your game firm and products and how active your consumers are will determine how much data you are going to have to search through. However, doing this work up front will help you sell online marketing to your organization as you show management what is going on with your competitors and consumers.

There is something powerful in this day and age about what your consumers think. Take advantage of it.

[Title photo by Dean Shareski, used under Creative Commons license.]

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