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.
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.