Sure, many game companies are using social media these days as advertising platforms, but are they really using Social Media to the extent that they could be doing? I don’t think so. How can they step it up? That’s simple.
They need to listen.
Over the past few years we’ve seen sites like Facebook and Myspace balloon in size, everyone and their mom become a blogger, and tools like Twitter dominate the news. Surprisingly, a lot of companies that you wouldn’t think of as being very active and on the bleeding edge, like Dell and Comcast, are leading the way in Social Media and how to reach out to your existing and potential customers. I think it is time for video game companies, especially MMO game companies, to take this bull by the horns and capitalize on the wealth of opportunities out there on the world wide web.
First, I think I should start out with how game companies can reach out to bloggers, since I’ve recently joined a Warhamer Online Guild full of bloggers . Last week I asked them if any game companies reach out to them when they talk about their products and I was disappointed when they answer was "No" followed by, "I don’t think they ever will". The extent that game companies had reached out to these bloggers seemed to be the simple beta key for a game, which I think is a step in the right direction but they could be doing a lot more.
How to listen to the blogosphere:
Start monitoring the blogosphere using tools like Google Blog Search , BlogLines and Technorati . It’s very simple to setup a search for "Warhammer Online " (or any other game/company name for that matter), sort by the most recent date and then get an RSS feed for that search result and pop it in to Google Reader. Every day, and if you can throughout various parts of the day, have someone on the staff monitor the blogosphere for these conversations and respond accordingly. If someone is having a problem with the game or complaining about a system respond to it. Even a simple "we’re aware of the issue and we’re working hard to fix it" and acknowledging the writer will help.
Sure, there is a lot of noise out there but you will also find a lot of opportunities for you to create a positive customer support experience with your company. I’ve also learned that responding within the first few hours of the post is very key so that the writer sees your comment, other commenters see your comment, etc. It doesn’t help anything if you show up 2 days late to the blog post..everyone has moved on already.
Once you’ve mastered monitoring keywords and phrases that have to do with your company and/or products (game names, company name, etc), you could start monitoring keywords that your company estimates will provide a lot of opportunities to bring in new customers. Perhaps you could monitor "What’s a good MMO" and pop in the comments telling them about your game and providing the writer a free trial key to the game. As long as the original poster is asking a question and inviting replies/discussion, you should be welcome and be seen as helpful.
How to listen to Twitter (And other status related applications)
Twitter has a recent success story for a company that has really caught on and being used by millions of people every day. Luckily monitoring Twitter and other status apps is relatively easy because it has a lot less spam and noise than tracking blogs or forums. There are also a few great examples of companies that really do well in this area
- Create a company Twitter account and start updating about things related to your company. Online game companies could use this particularly well, encouraging all their fans to follow them on Twitter and use it to update them on the status of servers, downtime, patch time, new updates, etc. Thankfully Twitter has had pretty good uptime lately, so if your game is down, hopefully Twitter will be up and your fans can find out what is going on via SMS, IM, Twitter.com or various Twitter applications.
- Similar to blogging, start monitoring certain keywords on Twitter and act on them. Search.Twitter.com is your friend and you can easily create another RSS feed for your search and import that into your staff RSS reader. You might also want to check out applications like TweetDeck which allow you to use all of the features of Twitter.com and their Search within one application.There are a couple examples of companies using this as a great tool to engage with their customers. If you ever go on Twitter and complain about your Dell computer not working, expect a reply from Richard who will try to help you. If you ever are having problems with Comcast expect Frank from ComcastCares to show up and ask you if you need anything. Two of my coworkers have mentioned Comcast on Twitter before and been contacted by Frank who tried to help them out. Twitter is a great tool for customer support, community management, public relations and marketing. Everyone should be using it.
- Just like blogging, once you’ve mastered the previous steps you can move on to monitoring keywords that will create opportunities for your company. Here is a fantastic example of how to do this and convert someone into a customer.
For more examples on how to use Twitter for business (or for personal use), check out Chris Brogan’s writeup on the subject.
Another social media site that you can monitor in a similar way to Twitter is FriendFeed.com, which sort of pools all your Social Media action into one account online. Use their search system to monitor conversations there too.
Right, sounds awesome but…how does it scale?
When you’re a relatively small company or a niche title, I imagine it would not be terribly difficult for a community manager, marketer or PR person to monitor all these conversations. Once you get up to games like World of Warcraft and Call of Duty 4, it gets a lot harder to separate the important information from all the noise. At that level you could probably have someone like Frank at Comcast who works full time monitoring social media and taking action if not more. In the near future I think you’ll see a lot of companies crop up to make applications that are supposed to help you monitoring social media. I’m currently checking out one of those companies now, so I’ll have to let you know if it’s any good.
All of these are methods that I’m using today at gamerDNA to listen to potential and existing conversations about our brand, products and opportunities that might arise for us. I’m just beginning to learn about these things so I’m by no means an expert, but I think this is too big to not share with everyone out there and to get some discussion going about it. It may take you awhile to master each of these things but in time I think you will see how powerful these tools really are.
After all, when have we ever been able to listen to what people are saying about your brand and act quickly? These are exciting times for marketers.
If you would like more information on social media and getting more involved I’d love to offer advice or my thoughts on the subject. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions via email at sam AT qforq DOTT com or leave a comment. I’d love to hear what other bloggers, media and others in the video game industry think. You can also find our gamerDNA Twitter account here (which I and a few others are behind) as well as my personal twitter account here.