CategoryIndie Game

Followers on Twitter: What to do?

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So, I have a Twitter account for me and my company. Just like all the other indies, I try to use it to promote my stuff, whether it’s this blog or my company-in-the-works Morchella Games. Everybody mentions how Twitter is important and should be used on a daily (hourly? minutely?) basis. That’s fine and I get it. However, there is one thing that has been nagging at me for a while now: what is the best way to gain followers? I looked for answer in (so, so many) different articles on how to use social media for indie game developers, on the best content independent developers should put on them, etc. Most authors agree on the content that should be put on social media. But there is one point on which authors don’t agree and that is how to gain followers.

Twitter Followers?

Twitter Followers?

Indies and experts on gaining followers

The different articles I’ve read are typically written by either indies that have succeeded or marketing working in the gaming industry. From these articles and testimonials, there seems to be three main “techniques”.

Some experts say that the best use of Twitter for marketing is to simply use the social media “normally”. This means showing your personality in your tweets, creating and sharing interesting content, both visual and written and asking questions to elicit responses. This high-quality content should attract natural followers and the idea behind this technique is that these followers will eventually build up. This is probably what Twitter had in mind when it first started, though this is not how it works for many people. This technique has its merits though, as theoretically, it should be the best one. People who are genuinely interested in you or your content will naturally find you or will discover you through others will similar interests. The biggest problem with this technique is that you will gain followers, but it will be very slow.

Other say you should mostly follow journalists and people with influence, trying to engage them so that they might re-tweet you, follow you back or show an interest in your projects. This also feels like a good way to approach Twitter, as you are using the real-time communication aspect to engage with people you would not be able to engage with normally. Be prepared for a lot of work though, as you can imagine, lots of other people are trying to do the same thing. So good luck being the wittiest, funniest, most interesting one in the group.

Finally, there is the follow-as-many-people-as-possible approach, possibly using tools such as CrowdFire or gasp!, companies that will sell you followers. This is the one that can be best describe as an actual “technique”. Indeed, on a daily basis, people using this strategy will add as many accounts as possible, hopefully getting a few follow backs in the process. Using a (mostly free) tool such as CrowdFire will actually help you clean up your followers, non-followers and even automate tweets or even direct messages for new followers. It’s all very mechanical, but the numbers will go up quickly. In theory, you could target the “right” people and get a high follow-back rate, so this would also qualify as a good technique. In practice, many people just basically add anyone they come across or that Twitter suggests. The phenomena is even worst when you realize many of the people you follow are basically doing the same thing. So you’re following a lot people that you’re not really following, because there is no way you have time to read all that, and they in turn are following you but never check out your stuff. Sure, the numbers are big, but are these “real” followers? A number of people I ended up following have 45K followers, but are following 43K. Is this really a useful contact? Finally, I also don’t trust the companies that sell you followers. I’ve never used those services, but there is no way that the followers gained from this are useful (let alone even real).

What I do to get followers on Twitter

What I try to do (emphasis on the word try), is do all three at the same time. You can actually use all three techniques if you do it intelligently: they are mutually exclusive. You can create good content and show personality; in fact, it should be your default behavior. You can try and engage with journalists and influencers, but maybe you need to target very specific people and not go after the “big fish” right away. And finally, it’s normal to follow some people and hope that they follow you back. The tools that are out there are useful if used in a smart way.

All in all, like for many aspects of social media as a content creator, I think indies should aim to be genuine. What are these numbers if the people we connect to are not the right people?

Meta-reminder: The goal of these meta indie development blog posts is to talk about all the work and decisions happening behind the scenes for an indie game developer. Just as a development blog would show potential fans the content of their game being developed, the meta blog can be useful for other indie developers going through the same process as I am.

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The value of an artist for indie developers

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So, as I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently developing my next indie game project, along with its marketing. I’m currently working with a writer, but have yet to find an artist. As I was thinking about the different channels that can be used for inbound marketing, I came to a realization: I have nothing (beautiful) to show.

While I do think that my next game is going to be fun, will have a good story and will cater to a specific niche of people that I believe will be willing to spend on the game that I am making, the truth is that I have no images to show potential fan or buyers of my game. And I believe that this is crucial to get people to notice my game.

Images, videos and animations, such as gifs or vines, are currently the best way to get people to see and share the development of you next project. If you’re on Twitter, the best way to get engagement is with visual media. Same for Facebook and other social media. On top of that, some crucial social media are almost exclusively based on visual media, such as Pinterest and Instagram. So, unless your procedural/simple/wonky programmer art (Minecraft) is so interesting that people will share images of your game, if you don’t have a an artist working with you, I think you are facing an uphill marketing battle.

A programmer in the market

As a programmer by trade that has worked in the AAA/mobile industry for quite some time now, I think I’ve always had the bigger end of the stick in terms of market value. Programmers typically start (and end) at a higher base salary that other jobs (except project management) and are in high demand on the game development market. And if things get tough in the games industry, it’s possible for us to work in fields that are close to games, or even far from games. I have no statistics to back this up, but to me it feels like there are a lot more employment opportunities for programmers. Not a month goes by without receiving at least one direct solicitation for a programmer job (though it’s usually for a job outside the games industry or in some strange land like the UK. Stop trying to get me to work in your country, UK recruiters!)

As for the artist side, I can’t really speak for them (so if you have any insight, let me know), but I’ve always had the feeling that it’s at least a little tougher for them (not to mention designers, but that’s a whole other subject).

parole-abusate-artista

Indie: Artist vs Programmer

Things are quite different in the indie realm. There are currently tons of programmers that are attempting fame and fortune in the indie market. Getting noticed is really hard today and marketing is of the utmost importance. As game developers, artists have an edge over programmers for this. They can embody their vision through their art and therefore communicate their idea in a more efficient manner that programmers.

I we were to push this line of thinking further. We might say that with the proliferation of simplified game development tools, it might be easier a lone artist to complete a game and stand out of the crowd, as opposed to a lone programmer. If a programmer writes great code, but has crappy looking art, most people will probably dismiss the game. But if an artist has a great and inspiring art style, but writes crappy code, no one playing the game will actually realize it (unless the game is full of bugs).

Of course, this is all very theoretical and oversimplifying the problem. Not many indie projects are truly ever completed by one person without the aid of someone in another field at some point. However, we can question the “market” value of an artist in the indie universe.

Should artists ask for better salaries when working with indies? Should they ask for more revenue share, especially if what is making the game more visible is the art style? Again, I don’t think there is a simple answer; it’s just food for thought.

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LowDown – Soft Launch in Canada

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Our strange little game, LowDown: A Social Experiment, has just been released in soft launch in Canada for iOS!

LowDown: A Social Experiment is a strange little game that was designed from the twisted mind of Ethan Larson, of Maniac Games. In LowDown, all players must pick one (or many) numbers and the winner is the player who picked the lowest unique number. There are hourly and daily contests, so you can play just once a day or a bit more.

Maniac Games - LowDown

Maniac Games – maker of LowDown (and me, also!)

I get “LowDown”, but why “A Social Experiment”?

Before actually implementing it, Ethan would discuss the game in the Stack Exchange group on Game Design. One of the interesting discussion that came out of those discussions was whether or not LowDown was a game. About half the people on the forum would say that it was indeed a game, and the other half would say it wasn’t; that it was more akin to a social experiment than a game.

What is a soft launch?

Right now, we’re only soft launching in Canada, which means that the game is only available to players that use the Canadian app store. A lot of companies that make free-to-play games use the soft launch technique to test the game in a smaller market before doing the international launch. The idea here is not to find bugs (though that certainly happens, at least with us), but also to see how the players act when in the game. That way, when the game becomes available to the whole world, some balancing issues, bugs and other potential problems may be ironed out. This can prevent a game from being “burned” on the market before it’s ready.

We’re still deciding on what features we’ll be adding before and after the international launch so stay tuned!

Oh, and my company name is Morchella Games!

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