Are video game companies active in Social Media?

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Conclusion

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.

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  • By Macguffin, August 25, 2008 @ 8:56 am

    This is excellent info for any game company – traditional, indie, MMO, whatever. In my opinion, most game companies that sprang from the more traditional AAA mold are really terrible about social media – for whatever reason, it’s just not a realm we’re immediately comfortable in. I saw that easily at GameLoop this weekend, where there were maybe four people tweeting about the conference – and gamerDNA people were half of that!

    As an indie, I see taking advantage of what social media offers as essential if you want to create a company not dominated by the portals in the same way that most traditional 3rd party devs are dominated by publishers. That immediate connection with your fans is extremely important, and it’s a natural compliment to being an indie… because sadly, listening closely to customers and not replying with carefully constructed marketing nonsense is the exception, rather than the norm.

  • By Richardatdell, August 25, 2008 @ 11:15 am

    Hi Sam

    Thanks for the call out. While I do the best I can to reach out, sometimes a rant is a rant and not sure I can help. Also, sometimes, I miss…despite the tools we use, with meetings and other work, sometimes, I miss folks, so hope too that people feel free to reach out to me.

    Also, to figure out others at dell on Twitter and their specific areas of work, people should not hesitate to check http://www.dell.com/twitter (right hand column)

    I too have learned a lot from Chris Brogan and lots of others….its what makes social media so effective, is the willingness to share….like you do, I hope I to return the favor anytime to people asking…and still have more to learn and do too :-)

  • By QforQ, August 25, 2008 @ 11:29 am

    @Macguffin I’m glad you found this to be helpful as someone who works in the local indie game scene here in Boston. Luckily there are a lot of people here in Boston who are major players in the Social Media scene and with that there are a lot of events (some even are free!) to check out if you want more info on Social Media. If you want to learn more and learn more for free (which is the way I like it :P ) you should follow Chris and some others on Twitter and read their blogs.

    A few social media folks I like on twitter are:
    @chrisbrogan @pistachio @mashable @tdefren @cc_chapman

    @Richardatdell
    Thanks for the comment and also proving my point on how Dell is a good company out there that is actively following social media and getting involved with the conversation. Your company seems to be one that others should learn from, which I’m hoping to do with our social media strategy at gamerDNA.

  • By heartless_, August 26, 2008 @ 2:20 pm

    I am not a huge fan of the idea, but I understand the benefit. I am more on the line of companies using the community at large to disseminate information when needed, not so much respond to potential little problems.

    Also, I think too many MMO players vent outside of the game about problems instead of taking the five minutes to contact a service rep to help with a problem. This is a way for the service reps to get to those problems and potentially retain a customer, but I’m not sure how that helps/hurts that players perception of the problem.

    Regardless, it would definitely be cool to blog about a problem and get an official response unexpectedly.

  • By QforQ, August 26, 2008 @ 3:15 pm

    There are many problems with allowing a community at large to disseminate a message or information when you need which is why it isn’t an ideal method. A lot of times that message or information will be wrong by the time it comes to the individual, just like the game “telephone” that we all played when we were kids. Using the telephone game method also doesn’t give the company a chance to build a relationship with the player which is a loss in my opinion. Having a real person from the game company contact me and tell me that they are working on something and appear like they at least care about my problem and want to help me will give me a much better lasting impression of the company/game, even when I leave the game/company to something else. I will still have that memory of the positive customer support experience.

    Like you point out, there will be a ton of “little problems” out there that companies see but it is their job to prioritize who they respond to and who they don’t.

    As we talk about this it reminds me of the book “Purple Cow” by Seth Godin, which says that your company should strive to be extraordinary in some way. Whether it is your product, your customer experience or the customer support, prices, etc something needs to be that “Purple Cow” that stands out to people which will make them want to share the experience with others. I think this might be that “Purple Cow” opportunity for game companies today, just like it is for companies like Comcast, Dell and Zappos.

  • By Aaron, August 26, 2008 @ 9:31 pm

    Sanya Weathers was very astute at 2007′s AGDC when she said that developers and publishers should use bloggers, podcasters, and such for different goals than what they use professional media for. Sometimes bloggers allow you to reach audiences in a different way than sites like IGN or Gamespot, or target a very specific audience for a specific message or opportunity.

    I’ve had a relationship with EA for the past two or three months as a blogger. To be honest, I really don’t understand how my blog fits into their plans, since they’re aware my blog isn’t among the more popular. And my blog really isn’t news-oriented… more design analysis and theory. But for some reason or another, they keep in touch and offer me opportunities from time to time.

    Anyway, I pointed a few Mythic devs to Casualties not long after it was formed, highlighting its unique nature as a blogger’s guild. Having a way to reach so many bloggers in one place is a unique opportunity for a game company, so I think it’s likely they’ll keep an eye on how CoW turns out.

  • By Aidan Minter, September 4, 2009 @ 6:40 am

    great article but I tend to agree with Macguffin that publishers rarely use social media, I’m ashamed to say that when Midway was releasing some of the more bigger games we barely touched the social media platforms available to reach out but I think there’s still a lot of companies out there who want to make sure they can reach out with out being a blatant plug or advertising ploy, Sony got burnt in a big way with PSP because their social media strategy totally backfired.
    I use twitter personally to promote a book i self published but have yet to harness this into increasing book sales, I probably get two extra followers every day on a good day.

    I do agree that value or social currency are great motivators, Activision and the Modern Warfare blog and viral stuff is excellent providing exclusive content for registered followers or users of the blogs, community support for the bigger games is essential.

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  1. Video Game companies on Twitter | Sam "QforQ" Houston — January 11, 2009 @ 1:12 am

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