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The Real Cost Of Marketing Your Game With Social Media

Leveraging social media to engage gamers and respond to events as they arise can be a difficult task to do effectively -- but in the second part of his social media marketing series, Duane Brown tackles the methodology.

[Leveraging social media to engage gamers and respond to events as they arise can be a difficult task to do effectively -- but in the second part of his social media marketing series, Duane Brown tackles the methodology.]

In our last article, we talked about doing a marketing audit for your video game. This was an important first step to understand who is writing about your game. However, it was also important to understand how your competitors are leveraging social media in their companies.

Today's article looks at listening throughout the entire social media journey, not just at the start. I also touch on building out your social engagement organically and help you figure out the real cost of doing this. Remember, social media is never free -- regardless of what people within your organization may think or say during meetings.

Real-Time Listening in Social Media

Electronic Arts is always an easy target in our industry, being the 800-pound gorilla that it is. Activision Blizzard is taking over that role, of course. However, EA has been learning and doing about social media better than many within the video game industry as far back as 2008.

Listening throughout your social media endeavors is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week process, and not 9 to 5 in any way. You need to set up your processes to alert you to any spikes in relation to your company and video game. This is even more important when you launch your new video game, or a marketing campaign related to the game.

We all know how some marketing campaigns can cause an uproar in the video game community. A lot of listening platforms, which we talk about later in this article, have the ability to let you know when there is an increase in chatter about your video game or company.

You may remember a video called Tiger Woods Jesus Shot, which was uploaded to YouTube by a player of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08. If you look at a few different search results, you'll see that this video spread across the video game community and even onto some non-industry publications. People are even still commenting on the original video to this day.

If EA wasn't watching its brand and video games, the company's response video might not have happened in the first place. It's hard for any company to get social media right, right out of the gate, but EA is trying. I'm sure EA has learned a lot since this incident took place. Its response video has now even surpassed the original and become the number one spot when you do a search on the video.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that it took EA over a year to respond to this video. However, the company's use of creativity and understanding the subculture that exists on YouTube allowed it to respond and in true gamer style. EA didn't just want to send out a press release -- it wanted to own the number one spot on search results and leave gamers cheering.

Some commenters are saying that Bryan Levi, creator of the "Jesus shot" video, got "owned" by EA's rebuttal; I'll leave that for you to decide. Though the original wasn't an emergency for EA, many times consumer response in social media can be. That said, I'll give you some tips for when you do respond, emergency or not:

  • Respond to issues within a timely manner. It only takes hours for an issue to blow up online. You've less than that to have your response in place.
  • Respond using the same medium as your consumer.
  • Have an action and disaster plan in place for how to response to consumers before you jump into social media. The Air Force has a great protocol response chart.
  • Bring your video game and company's personality to forefront when responding.
  • Monitor the issues long after you respond. Your response may not be as well-received as you think.

If that Tiger Woods example is not enough to make your management understand the importance of listening throughout your social media endeavors, I have two more examples to help throw some weight behind your arguments.

Last year Toyota decided to run a pitch with five agencies, giving them each $15,000 to create a video for the Yaris. The idea of running a social media pitch seems harmless enough. However, things didn't end how Toyota imagined. There was a growing backlash from the winning video that spread beyond Australia last December.

It took a while before Toyota responded, because this backlash took place over a weekend and Toyota had not set itself up for responding during non-office hours. It was a critical mistake that many make when getting into the social media space, and one that we shouldn't take lightly. You must be listening beyond office hours.

Then you've the case of Tim Hortons -- a beloved Canadian brand -- and one U.S. franchisee that wanted to sponsor an event. That's how the story started, anyway. In reality, the regional office of Tim Hortons in the U.S. had given permission for a franchisee to sponsor an anti-gay event that fell outside of the normal initiatives that Tim Hortons is known for.

The company usually sponsors family and child-related initiatives within the community. The Tim Hortons Children's Foundation's largest single fundraiser is Camp Day, in which store owners donate proceeds to the foundation -- this is something that many people support each year.

This is a great example showing how one department or even a single employee can cause an issue that requires the attention of the head office. It wasn't an easy issue for Tim Hortons to smooth over, because the way the story was being sent around was that company itself, not a regional office, was sponsoring this event.

The difference in messaging caused issues Tim Hortons was not prepared for. If the company had only been listening to its brand online, it could have taken care of this issue a lot sooner than the Monday after an entire weekend of bad PR had gone by.

Both these cases point to the importance of listing online and understanding that you'll need to react to public response to your brand and video games outside of office hours. We're increasingly living a 24/7 culture, and you need to setup your systems to react in a timely manner.


Building out Your Social Engagement Organically

Despite what some people think, social media is not free, and you have to pay for people's time and the technology that will support them... and let's not forget any creative and research costs. It may seem like a lot of money up front, and it can be, but much like buying a good quality TV or washing machine today, all these upfront costs will pay for themselves as the process is used.

That being said, if your company can only pay for one touch point once you've factored in all the costs, how do you decide where to put your resources? You can't afford to fail; in fact, you want to make sure you're achieving success. That success can then hopefully turn into more resources to help you build out your social engagement organically.

This isn't the only way, but this is how I go about building out a company's social engagement organically when resources are limited.

Business Objectives

This is where social media starts and this is where it ends. Your business objectives are your goals and what you are looking to achieve as you get yourself into the world of social media. The tools (Facebook, Twitter, Last.fm, LinkedIn) and technology come after you've looked at your business objectives.

Maybe you want to increase brand awareness of your new video game. Or better yet, you want to connect with your die-hard fans and see how you can improve some of your current titles with downloadable content.

Once you have some objectives, you need to start looking at how you are going to measure those objectives in eight to 12 months. If you know -- and you should -- that your video game averages about one new article a month, then your goals should be to increase the number of posts your game gets and increase the brand's awareness across the board.

The reason you want to have measurable goals is to prove that your efforts in social media are having a tangible effect on your business in a positive way. Let's say, for sake of argument, you want to go from one post a month to 15 a month over the next 12 months.

The Ideal Customers, Research & Listening Platform

If you've figured out your measurable business objectives, then you need to start looking at your consumers. Most companies know who their target consumer is and what kind of video games he or she wants to play. Maybe you have a demographic profile of your consumers; sometimes you might even have a physiographic profile.

If you can only get a demographic profile, this is a great starting point and will force you to do some research and possibly look at various listening platforms for more consumer data. You can use the listening platforms to find out where the majority of the activity related to your video game is occurring online. All of this data will give your company a better profile on your customers and where you may want to start to engage with them.

Another option if you only have a demographic profile of your consumer is to look at comScore and/or Nielsen data to give you an idea of your audience's media consumption habits. All of this will tell you where you should be spending your time within social media (blogs vs. social networks vs. video). The more you know about your consumers, the more you can connect with them in a meaningful way.

Touch Points

I'm a big fan of touch points; you can read about them here. You are going to use your newfound consumer data to build out different touch point(s) for your video game. For example, if you are going after moms, then you'll know that they trust information found on blogs more than social networks (see eMarketer and About.com).

You'll want to pick a touch point that connects with your audience and allows you to achieve the business objectives that you set out when you started on this social media journey. If this goes as smoothly as possible, you'll achieve your objective and get more resources in the long run.


Content & Creative

Now I won't touch on this area very much. If you've picked your business objective, looked at your customer's profile, and have actually picked a touch point to connect with your audience, only then you can look at building content and creative that is going to connect with your audience.

Continuing with our example, moms are going to prefer something very different than what you'd consider using to connect with teens and 20-somethings. Going with your gut and common sense will help you build something great.

One thing I like to do here is always recheck the data I found when I did my research. I want to make sure I didn't miss anything important, and verify that everything is in order. If all is good, I have a green light.

I launch after talking with management one more time. You want to make sure you've set realistic expectations about how this will help you raise the awareness of your video game. This is going to be a long journey, and take an investment of time, money and people to make happen.

The Cost of Social Media

I don't think tracking your time in social media is really just about the time you spend in the space. I feel that the costs associated with that endeavor are also an important factor.

As we know, social media is not free, and when you add in the real costs and the time factor, you are looking at an investment -- whether you are Sony or an independent developer like Get Set Games.

Tracking your time in social media is only one side to the equation. There are a few different applications you can use to track your time:

Tracking your time is going to be important on a few levels. Of course you want to make sure you are using your time effectively throughout the day. However, the real reason is that you want to compare how your time is being used currently to how your company used to do things in the past.

Management is going to want to see how these two different methods differ. The more you can show that things are being solved faster, or you're able to create more awareness for your video game, the more resources they are going to put behind your initiative.

If you are spending twice as long to reach goals in the social space and it's been six to eight months since you started, then you may need to rethink things. It could mean that you are not on the right course for reaching your business goals. Tracking your time is key to make sure you're using company resources effectively.

Once you've tracked your time, you can start to analyze the cost associated with that time. The simplest way to do this is to look at the rate, measured in hours, which each employee is spending in the space.

"Employees" will include those in your digital marketing team, any outside agencies you might be using, and resources in other company departments that you might need to leverage.

Don't forget to include the cost of any technology you're paying for. Then look at what those employees would cost vs. how you use to raise the awareness level for your new video game. It's not going to be a perfect science and there still is lots of work we need to do in this space, in regards to analytics. However, just knowing what it's costing you is a great starting point.

Conclusion

I admit that social media requires a new way of thinking. However, you still need to track your time and make sure you are making a profit at the end of the day. Otherwise, you may find yourself out of business before you know it.

The management team is going to care about metrics, cost, and how company resources are being used. You need to be prepared to answer those questions and take everything up a notch to impress them. In the end, you just need to think things through and play some scenarios over to make sure you're not missing anything important.

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