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The Real Cost Of Marketing Your Game With Social Media

July 13, 2010 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

[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.

Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

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Mark Venturelli
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Once again, interesting and useful information. Thanks a lot for sharing, Mr. Brown. Keep up the good work! =)

Soroush Khodaii
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Great article, thanks.

Duane Brown
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@Mark You're welcome. Glad to hear you're finding it useful. I love sharing what I know.

@Soroush Thank you for comment.

Alec Shobin
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Another excellent article! I look forward to testing out the tools you mention here - Social Mention has been very helpful at Fire Hose Games, but now it's time for me to suck it up and start working with metrics. I thought I could wing it, but these tools make planning and tracking a campaign too easy :D

Ben Reichert
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Thanks for these tips and suggestions. Very helpful!

Duane Brown
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@Alec Let me know how the testing of the tools go. You can't wing of this marketing. It's no different then any part of marketing where you need objectives and metrics to help tell you how you're doing.

@Ben Glad you found it helpful. Let me know if you've any questions.