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How to increase and maintain your game studio's twitter following
by Marc McCann on 06/25/13 08:18:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

I’ve been asked many times how a small startup with as of yet no released products like ourselves managed to get over 1600 followers on twitter. My usual answer is that I don’t honestly know. Obviously it would be nice to think it’s because people are genuinely interested in our upcoming game Hyphen, but that remains to be seen when we launch.

I can’t sit here and write an experts guide on the subject but what I can do is tell you what WE do, whether that works for you or not is another thing – it can’t harm to try though!

1.) Follow Friday (#FF)
Every week we take part in a social event called Follow Friday. Basically you use the hashtag #FF and put a list of twitter usernames (e.g #FF @FarSpaceStudios @marc_mccann @bigbadbob2003 etc) that you think people would be interested in following. This is a nice thing to do as it is a nice easy way of engaging with your followers and it is also very beneficial. More often than not your followers will retweet your #FF’s and also post one themselves – usually with your username included to return the favour. As you can imagine if you have any followers with a large amount of followers this can quickly increase your follower count as the #FF chain continues.
 

2.) Screenshot Saturday (#screenshotsaturday)
As per the previous example, this is also a weekly social event that we participate in. If you are working on a project and feel you have something to show in the form of a screenshot or video – this is the place to do it. There is a website (http://screenshotsaturday.com/) that collates all of the screenshots that are tweeted using the #screenshotsaturday hashtag. It is well worth doing this as not only is it extra exposure to twitter users and other game developers  which can increase your following, game media also take notice of this site which could lead to even bigger and better things!

3.) Engage with your users often
Engaging with the people who follow you is important, if you don’t bother with them then why should they follow you? Twitter has millions of users and small startup game studios, you are but a small fish in a very vast ocean. I actually treat the @FarspaceStudios account as though it’s my own personal account. People know me by name and I engage with a lot of the people on our follower list. My opinion on this is that people feel more comfortable talking to an individual than they would  do talking to a corporate body. We are not large companies for the most part and I have never understood why some indie game studios (studio usually being a bedroom) try and act bigger than they are. Nobody is fooled and it is actually likely to do more harm than good.

4.) Don’t engage with your users with automated tools
This should go without saying really but there are a lot of accounts that when you follow them they send an automated direct message thanking you, or even trying to promote their product. It may seem like a nice gesture but it is a lazy gesture and most people hate it, myself included. When I do receive automated DM’s I unfollow the account regardless of the content of the DM and I know a lot of other users that do the same.

5.) Follow back when followed
Another thing I have noticed a lot of developers doing is not following back when followed. This is social suicide. It’s almost as though some people think that having 500 followers and only following a couple of accounts back is some sort of status symbol. In my opinion it is a walking advert of how ignorant you are. Sure there are a lot of undesirable and strange people on twitter but it is quite easy to filter them out or delete them individually, it is certainly no excuse to not engage with any of your followers. If you don’t follow them you can’t see what they post. Most of the time users will quickly work out that you are not following them and unfollow you.

6.) Unfollow accounts that unfollow you or don’t follow back
I know this one will be a controversial point with many people. There are VERY few accounts I follow where they don’t follow me back. These accounts are usually news accounts, celebrities or high profile people (I still don’t see a reason why celebrities can’t follow back but hey). The reason I think it is important to unfollow non followers is because you are limited to how many people you are allowed to follow based on how many people follow you. I would not want to waste slots for potentially good people to follow by following people that can’t be bothered to take 2 seconds to follow me back. As I said in the point above, I think it is ignorant.

7.) Don’t use profane language
I know that sometimes things can get on your nerves, in fact I have a heck of a temper at times. However there is a time and a place for bad language and your game studio twitter account certainly isn’t that place. Either keep it to a personal twitter or just yell at random passers by when something gets you down.

8.) Don’t over advertise
A lot of people seem to think twitter is there purely for advertising or posting links to other social sites they participate in. This isn’t the case. I’m not saying don’t do this, I promote Hyphen on twitter all the time. However I also post about other topics and take part in discussions. It is a balancing act to promote your work as often as possible without being seen as a spam account. I’m not professing to be an expert on this but I don’t see a lot of people unfollowing @FarspaceStudios on a regular basis so we’re either tolerated or our signal to noise ratio is right.

As you can see this isn’t the most exhaustive of lists but these are the core principles I stick to where the @FarspaceStudios account is concerned. I hope this list has been of some use and please feel free to suggest any other points you can think of, I would be happy to hear them!


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Comments


E Zachary Knight
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I like these tips. Thanks. I have been kind of ignoring my development twitter account lately. I really need to use it more.

Any advice on a good multi-account twitter application to use?

Marc McCann
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You're welcome. Glad they are of some use to you. I used to use a Chrome app called Hootsuite, it's pretty powerful and free too. However I find it difficult to manage a couple of accounts at once on the same screen so I have just resigned to having my personal twitter and FarSpace Studios' twitter in seperate tabs in my browser. Crude i know, but I personally find it much easier

Bryson Whiteman
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I use Tweetdeck. It's good for scheduling tweets as I tend to want to post when everyone is asleep. :)

Phil Maxey
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I use TweetDeck.

Regis Leboeuf
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Great tips! It's time for us to develop our Twitter audience and I'm sure those tips can help us.
Also, does anyone use #IDRTG? Is it really usefull?

Joseph Elliott
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Nice list! This is all simple and practical advice, but I hadn't considered a few of your points. I don't have a developer twitter account yet, but when I start one I'll certainly be putting your advice to use. Thanks!

Jack Nilssen
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Being consistently entertaining tends to work out pretty well, too. I've also found that— #9) Don't read Twitter because you're breaking your ability to communicate with people— is extremely sound advice. As a communication tool Twitter is highly over-rated. If you find yourself in need of an actual conversation it's best to move it to a more expressive form as quickly as possible, like e-mail, Skype, or hell even the telephone.

Also a good read for any dev who gets more hooked on social networking than building their game (it happens more often than you'd like to admit) - http://davidrainoshek.com/2013/06/how-facebook-fb-is-altering-you
r-mind-2/

Marc McCann
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Very good addition there, thanks. You have hit the nail right on the head with the not getting hooked on the social networking link. What use is promoting a game that's never going to be finished because you spend all your time on twitter after all!

Alexander Ageno
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How about a point for discouraging all of the pointless, demeaning, and damaging vitriol that's landed towards certain developers, other people's creative work, publishers, press members, etc? I am tired of other people defecating on other people's work, especially since we are suppose to be building and bridging gaps between industries and different developers, not alienating each other.

I don't even have a Twitter account, which is ultimately a good thing.

Eric Finlay
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I like this post, thank you! I'm trying to increase my startup's profile, but am severely ignorant about how Twitter works on any level. This will help me pass the "I like turtles" stage...hopefully (@_foosler_).

Christiaan Moleman
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If I may offer a dissenting opinion on 5 and 6: I usually take someone new un-following me if I don't immediately follow them back as a sign that they were not actually interested in anything I have to say and only fishing for followers... I consider this spam.

If I follow someone it's because I am interested in reading their tweets.

Marc McCann
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I purposely didn't specify a time frame for this reason. There are various factors involved in how long you would give someone to respond/follow back that I hope the people who read this article would work out on their own on an individual follower basis. I don't tend to work to any time limit, what would trigger me to unfollow someone is seeing that since me following them they have followed a few other people but not returned my follow, or posted on twitter a lot since my follow but made no effort to interact or follow back. However if someone was to follow me and then immediately unfollow me when I followed them I wouldn't hesitate to unfollow them in the blink of an eye as that *IS* spam.

I realise not everyone will agree with my points (especially number 6) so I expect many people will say/think a similar thing to what you have said. However your point about accounts with 500+ followers not actually reading anything couldn't be further from the truth (in my case at least). I am extremely sociable with my followers on twitter and take the time to read my timeline on a regular basis.

Kevin Fishburne
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I have to agree with Christiaan Moleman. I think what it comes down to is whether your goal is (A) to have the maximum number of followers possible or (B) to only have followers who actually care about what you're doing.

The ideal strategy for case A is to follow every Twitter account that exists, effectively "pinging" them on the off chance they'll follow you back. That is how spam works. The insidious refinement of this technique is to unfollow the account several days later and hope they don't notice. I have witnessed this countless times with my account and the two clear warning signs are (A) their following/follower ratio is near 1:1 and (B) their tweets and profile reflect no interest in the subject of your account.

I consider a Twitter account's ratio of followers to following directly proportional to the percentage of their followers who are interested in the account. If someone follows you simply because you followed them your number of followers is a number without meaning, and vice versa. This kind of min/max thinking only serves to damage the integrity of the presumed meaning behind the numbers, that is, if someone is following you they actually give a damn about what you have to say.

Christiaan Moleman
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[I originally added this to my original comment, but Marc replied while I was editing]

"I would not want to waste slots for potentially good people to follow by following people that can’t be bothered to take 2 seconds to follow me back."

This seems really odd to me. Basically you are suggesting the only cost of following someone is the act of clicking FOLLOW. Not, you know, the time it takes to actually read their tweets! This basically confirms my suspicion that anyone with 500+ follows is not actually reading *anything*... just 'collecting' people.

Engaging directly is great, but just making a number go up seems less useful.

Marc McCann
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Yes I removed the addition to my post to reflect you removing the above. Guy's I can take the fact you disagree on the chin. Different opinions on subjects are what make these kind of posts interesting. What I will say is that I am not trying to advocate spamming. My twitter account is certainly not a spam account and I engage with quite a lot of my followers regularly. It would be unwise for any game studio to operate a spam account if they ever actually want to amount to something

Christiaan Moleman
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Yeah, was just trying to illustrate there may be different interpretations of follow/unfollow etiquette out there and in some cases this approach may have an adverse effect. No idea how common my reaction is.

I didn't mention above but I do agree with your other points (#screenshotsaturday is especially useful).

Marc McCann
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Thanks :) At least you got something from it which is ultimately what I was aiming for!

I imagined that point #6 would divide opinion (I stated in the blog too that it may be controversial) so I'm quite sure your reaction is pretty common!

Roberto Dillon
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I always thought that #FF stood for "Friendly Followers", I never noticed those tweets came out on Fridays! :D

Neil Doherty
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Thanks for the helpful advice Marc. I've been meaning to start using twitter for a while now. How often would you say its ok to tweet without being obnoxious? Also what are your thoughts on re tweeting, especially regarding indie development studios/projects?

Marc McCann
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You're welcome :) It's hard to say how often tweeting is acceptable, obviously if you are involved in some sort of conversation then your tweets will be frequent. I'd hold back on advertising and talking about yourself/activities too frequently though, a couple of times a day to capture different global audiences is what I would recommend.

As for retweets - go for it! Doing favours for people always pays off in the long run. The only thing I would say is try not to be perceived as an account that has no value other than retweeting everyone elses stuff, I'm selective with what and whom I retweet with the FarSpace Studios account

Neil Doherty
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I forgot to ask in my last comment, how do you manage your personal account in comparison to FarSpace studio's?

Marc McCann
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To be honest my personal account is rather neglected at the minute. When I have been more active with it however I use it as just a personal thing. I don't tend to talk about FarSpace Studios or Hyphen on it very much. I only tend to follow people who I know too

Paul Laroquod
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Actually "follow back your followers" is the only advice here that is mathematically necessary to explain the results. I did a test once by posting repeated nonsense to a dummy account. It was a useless account where I post only one word repeatedly. But unlike my usual behaviour I followed back everyone who followed me. Within a month this useless one-word spam account had more followers than I had managed to accumulate in two years.

The explanation for this is simple. There are those who truly engage with Twitter, and then there are those who are interested mostly in increasing their follower counts, and there are enough of the latter to be had by anyone who wants them for the price of a follow back. You don't have to post anything interesting. All you have to do is. Follow. Back.

So it should be obvious to anyone with a brain before too long that the types of followers you gather by following back are largely useless populators if database fields who will not read a word you say b/c their only interest in you is as a number.


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