Written by Victoria Tran, Communications Director at Kitfox Games. Currently working on Boyfriend Dungeon, Lucifer Within Us, Dwarf Fortress, and Mondo Museum. We just released Six Ages! This was originally posted on our Medium blog.
Every indie community person I know has dealt with the same problem. You need new, constant, content for your studio’s social media channels but:
- All the artists are busy and can’t help you create new content
- You can’t use any new in-game content because it’ll be a spoiler/we can’t show it yet/it’s not ready/it might change/life is suffering
- You’ve already used up all the images/videos available
- There is no new news about your game
When Kitfox first started in 2013, the team described the studio as being “scrappy”. While we’ve moved past that description for the most part (WOO!), I find it to be the perfect word to describe a *part* of my community style.
What Does “Scrappy” Mean?
For my purposes, I see scrappy to mean doing a lot with little resources — whether that’s time, content, or ability.
Scrappiness requires a lot of different things, but more than anything it’ll require this:
- Creativity: Not just in the general sense of being able to come up with new/fun ideas, but being able to see how content can be repurposed.
- Being okay with not being perfect: It’s a totally valid and good marketing strategy to have picture perfect content to share, every time. Finely crafted messages. The highest quality GIFs. But being scrappy means you’re going to sometimes need to be okay with a bit of grittiness and a lack of polish.
- Flexibility: Not only will you have to be on your feet to handle new things, but you’ll also need a broad-ish skillset, in wherever that may lie. (Or at least, be willing to learn!) Image editing, basic video editing, drawing skills, GIF making, extremely good pun-sense — it can be any range of things, but it will HAVE to be a range.
- Determination: Look, I’m not gonna lie. It can SUCK when you think about all the pretty resources everyone else has. Stick with me here though. There are benefits to being scrappy.
Let’s be clear about quality versus quantity though. While scrappiness means things won’t be “perfect”, it doesn’t mean you should be posting low quality content either. Laggy GIFs/videos, uninteresting screenshots, extremely-hashtagged tweets… this is not what scrappy is.
Why Be Scrappy?
So… other than the fact that you can do stuff with little resources, what’s the benefit of being scrappy?
- DO IT. JUST. DOOO IT. Haha ok old Shia Labeouf memes aside, I’ve seen A LOT of people fall under a trap of trying so hard to be perfect that they never actually do the thing. It’s always easier to sit back and read endless articles about marketing. To know the best tips, tricks, and strategies. You can learn A LOT from reading articles, don’t get me wrong, but nothing beats being down in the trenches and actually doing the thing. Make that IMGUR post and completely fail at it! Run a contest only to have no entries! Try to do the thing! And then learn from it!
- Being Agile. Being strapped for time means you’re going to really good about where you spend your energy. Agile is all about reiterating and learning from the process, and it’s something that can be applied to marketing too. The speed of scrappy marketing means you’ll get fast feedback on what your community latches onto the most — whether that’s an aspect of your game, or a particular social media channel. And once you get that sort of feedback, you can hunker down and work towards improving the thing that works, rather than spreading yourself thin in an effort to catch every marketing channel.
- Oh, the humanity. If it’s one thing indies get, it’s the human-aspect of running a game studio. We aren’t a studio of 200, anonymously working on our next project. We get to be a little more casual. We get to send emails that are entirely meows. We get to be more vulnerable and known to the people that enjoy our games, and our marketing should reflect that. Building a connection means people will be more receptive to who we are, and in turn, our games.
How To Be Scrappy
Now that you know the what/why, it’s time to get into the harder part of how you’ll be scrappy. Often, this falls on reusing and repurposing content — which is when you take an asset and make it into new assets in different formats. Every studio has their own unique limitations, so everything won’t necessarily apply to you, but hopefully it’ll help!
Break Down Your Trailer
Trailers are my FAVORITE material. They don’t come around often, but when you do release one, you can bet it’ll be material for the next while. Trailers often have “chunks” to them — an exciting action portion, a more informative part, some cinematic, etc. Break these up into separate GIFs to not only have content for ages to come, but to also see which ones do best when you post them.
For example, below are two different “mood sections” from the Mondo Museum trailer that could become separate posts. They highlight different things: the left focuses on “building”, while the right is more about “look at these cool, personal exhibits” aspect of the game.
If you watch the trailer, here’s how I would split it up to become individual GIFs for content:
- 0:01–0:04 | Build your own ____ museum
- 0:04–0:06 | Panning scenic shot
- 0:06–0:09 | Build
- 0:09–0:12 | Manage
- 0:13–0:16 | Grow (optionally add the “Profit” part at 0:17)
- 0:19–0:22 | Ending screen
Often these GIFs can be a good indication of seeing what people latch onto about your game, or be a signal that they don’t necessarily understand what’s going on with it. (For example, Lucifer Within Us is a complicated game to explain, so I try to REALLY break it up in order to allow people to focus on what I’m trying to get across.)
And if there’s a still screenshot you can grab from the trailer that looks cool, even better!
So when I’m making scrappy social content, here are the very basics I need:
- As many character portraits as possible
- At least one background (could be from the key art)
- If possible, props/flourishes. (Such as in-game items, mood indicators, or weapons.)
I’m not an artist, so my ability to create new assets is quite weak, but I am proficient enough at Photoshop that I can often find creative workarounds when I need a quick image to throw up on social.
Many think good content often has shiny new images associated with it, but that’s not necessarily true. I’ve often reused images or tweaked them slightly in order to create new posts, relying more heavily on the caption of the image to make it seem exciting. Remember, social media moves at a breakneck pace, so more often than not you can assume people haven’t seen your image before OR have already forgotten about it.
For instance, in the case of Boyfriend Dungeon, I was stuck with only some sword portraits and a background.
As a base for many social posts, I’ve used the image above and just changed up the caption, or added different things.
It became three different posts (which rely heavily on text):
Again, this involves a certain level of creativity and timing when it comes to repurposing art into new content. It’s difficult to give tips on exactly what you can do since it depends on the voice/tone of your studio and what you have available, but for the day-to-day of your social media, you don’t need bombastic posts every time. Unless that’s your thing!
After a big announcement or reveal, you’ll hopefully have at least a few articles about your game that you can use. Often you can retweet them, but after awhile you can also pull quotes you want people to pay attention to (and don’t forget to link to the article again of course.)
Let’s be real here, not everyone will click or read an article in its entirety, so this will help direct their attention.
One of the things to keep in mind when you reuse content is to not share it TOO frequently, lest people get too used to seeing that one image and automatically scroll right past it. I tend to put at least a few months in between reusing content, depending on what it is.
You can also plan your content for different holidays! Hubspot has a good calendar filled with all of the silly/serious holidays, if you need one.
Social media is very good at making it look like we all have our best foot forward at all times, which is not always the case.
Especially among community developer circles, I think we can get A LOT of imposter syndrome thinking that everyone has their stuff together, while in reality we’re all scrambling to find SOMETHING. At least in my case, you can rest easy knowing that I too am struggling to find things to say about our games when I’m not allowed to. But that’s okay.
It’s actually kinda fun being scrappy.
See ya online.