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Individual metrics and cohort analysis seems to be the next big thing for analytics programs, but what about community targeting? This article will examine the burgeoning field of community targeting, and ways to address communities as a whole.

Dmitri Williams, Blogger

July 27, 2015

10 Min Read

It’s hard to talk about games without mentioning their communities. From MUD, to CS, to WOW, to LOL, and even to rising mobile games like Clan of Clash and Hay Day, online communities for games have always been key since the beginning of the Internet.


Although there are probably a thousand benefits of maintaining a loyal community, the most economically important one is that your community members are like (free) moving billboards that constantly promote your games to help you expand the customer base. If you have a friend who plays LOL, you would probably feel this fan power every couple of days, if not everyday. LOL has such a vibrant community that its members are almost like 24/7 rolling ads for the game, frequently posting on social media platforms to talk about their in-game experiences.


Having a loyal community like LOL’s is good (or dreamy) for a game developer, but this community doesn’t come from nowhere. If you are a beginning game developer launching a new title, the first thing you should consider is probably not how to refine your in-game monetization mechanism, but how to develop, nurture and manage your own community.


The rest of this article will go deeper into this topic to talk about how to develop your own community, as well as how to leverage metrics to manage this community and increase members’ LTV.


Summoners Unite….. From Where?


If you are considering building a community, the very first question that comes to your mind might be: where should I find these people that have a potential interest to my game and will probably pay for it in the future? There are two ways that can help you identify potential community members: leveraging the community searching tools, or checking out where your competitors’ communities are.


Leveraging the community searching tools can be an easy start. By putting into topics you want to search, these engines can provide you with thousands of threads, discussions, articles and other related posts. By browsing through these threads, you can identify where conversations related to your topics happen most frequently and who are major contributors to these discussions. These platforms can then become the next destinations of your promotions, and these contributors can be your prospective customers.


The two most commonly-used community search engines are Google Groups and Omgili (Oh My God I Love It). The former one can show you all threads related to your topics, the group these threads belong to and who the thread authors are. The latter one takes a step forward and shows you all related blog posts, articles and discussion groups, as well as the number of comments and the number of unique participants in these discussions. Amazing, right? However, it usually takes a lot of time to browse through results and find the most popular discussions.


You can also refer to your competitors’, especially successful competitors’, communities to identify where your potential players are. People who stick to one game are likely to fall to another one in the similar genre. For example, if you are Stella Pop, you probably wants to check out the Puzzle Bobble community, but if you are CandyCrush, you probably wants to check out the Bejeweled community. See whether your competitors have their Wikia pages and sub-reddits, as well as checking which gaming forums and social media platforms they have picked to set up sub-forums/accounts. Be sure to also analyze your competitors’ popular posts to see what’s appealing to their audiences. With these information in hand, you can now start establishing your own accounts/pages/forums on these platforms or creating contents to attract potential players.  


I Analyzed, I Predicted, I Nailed It     


Let’s just assume that you have done a great job in identifying potential customers and creating your own communities. Now it’s time manage the community and keep it loyal, healthy and vibrant. To achieve this goal, your best friend should not be your gamer’s intuition, but metrics and predictive analytics.


Below are some tips on how to use predictive analytics to achieve successful community management.


1. Create Community Profiles, Not Just Individual Ones


In our last article in this series, we talked about how important it is to analyze individual metrics. However, are community metrics equal to individual metrics? Not really. At GDC 2013, Jeffrey Lin, the leading game designer from Riot Games, delivered a speech about how the team at Riot Games leverage the power of community to reduce toxic behaviors in LOL. In the speech, he profiled each gamer’s individual toxic behaviors in a coordinate system with the time on X-axis and the severity of toxic behaviors on Y-axis. If you look at the individual profile, most of the gamers have toxic behaviors occasionally with low severity. However, when integrating all community members’ profiles together, it turns out that the whole community has toxic behaviors both in high severity and high frequency. The takeaway from this case? What you see from an individual is not necessarily true for the community. Therefore, it is very important to create a community profile, decide a set of KPIs that are really valuable to you, and monitor the community metrics daily so that there won’t be any blind spot.

2. Drive Actionable Insights from Community Profile

Now that you have decided to create a community profile, what metrics are really valuable to you? Most game developers monitor similar metrics, such as demographic distribution, churn information, LTV, etc. However, these information can’t give you many actionable insights if you look at them without context. With a community profile at hand, what’s more important is to examine how these metrics look like in a trend or at a specific time point. Combining metrics with context will help you in predicting what will happen next in a similar situation and developing your own event hacking plan.

For example, if you find that 250 female players convert from freemium to paying right on the Valentine’s Day, you would probably want to check whether it was because of something happening in the community, or it was because you had a killer Valentine’s Day event resonating with female players. With your investigation results at hand, you should be able to revise your plan for the next Valentine’s Day and also have a better idea of what will work for female players

3. If Possible, Localize Your Community Profile

If allowed, it will be great if you can set up separate community profiles for different cities/countries, or for players who have different psychographics, such as additional interests. It’s not hard to imagine that Chinese and US players may have different reasons to churn, and they may also react differently to a specific event. Besides, people from different countries may celebrate different holidays, so if you target your community as a whole, you might miss some important trends at a specific time point. Therefore, localize your community profiles will make it easier for you to execute targeted initiatives.  

4. Pay Special Attentions to Social Whales

One thing that can be tricky about community management is that you sometimes don’t know whom to pay special attentions to. Since players come and go everyday, it’s difficult to deal with these cases one by one. An effective way is to target those players with high social value, which means that these players are more influential than others and have a higher chance to motive other players to spend money.

Don’t know who these players are? You can definitely go to the forum of your game and see who the major contributors are. These people usually have high contribution levels and forum activeness. Some of them are also given nicknames that contain words like “Master” or “King” by other players to show respect. However, a more accurate way to identify these social whales is to leverage a specialized tool that measures social value.

At the end of this article, it’s important to remind you that the community can not only be your friend, but can also be your biggest potential enemy. LOL players can form the most sportsmanlike community, but at the same time, the notorious in-community toxic behaviors can drive groups of players away. Therefore, in addition to analyzing all of the metrics we talked about in the article, make sure to also have someone monitor the community dynamics and look at real-time events.

Happy players make a happy community, but the reverse can happen as well.

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