Growing and nurturing your game’s community
As the principal guardians of Unity’s social media channels and the forums, my team sees a lot of people struggling to promote their creations. If you develop a game and nobody talks about it, did anybody actually play it? Having a vibrant community is a great way to get feedback early on and spread the word about your game, but getting there takes time, effort and skill. So we held a Q&A panel about community management at GDC 2016, building on our experiences at Unity and elsewhere. We also gave a talk at Unite Europe on the same topic. Now it’s time to share that knowledge with you all!
Why did we do a Q&A at GDC? Lists of commandments are a great way to start, but your mileage will vary depending on your project, audience and budget. Trying to follow all these rules and guidelines can lead to confusion, exhaustion or even worse, wasting your budget on tools and agencies that promise they’ll make your game the next Clash of Clans for sure.
So instead, we wanted to give specific answers to specific situations of real world studios and their actual projects. Here’s the overview of what we talked about as a handy Community Management Kit / FAQs. We also took some of the points you found most useful and explain them in more detail in Amsterdam during our talk on “The ABC of dealing with your gamer community”:
Here are a few basic principles that should help you decide how to get started, manage and keep growing a loyal fan base, no matter the genre or platform.
The first one would be to think about who are you making a game for. If you have a very narrow audience, that’s completely fine! Just make sure you build your community on the channels where people like them already congregate. And talk to them like they talk to each other. This is why a lot of successful independent games started out with ideas that seemed fun to the creators and their friends – if you go for this strategy, it’s easier to be consistent.
It’s also good to have some sort of a content plan. It doesn’t have to be very specific, but you want to have an idea of why you’re doing what you’re doing. You can download this template, which we put together with smaller projects in mind. Examples of content might be a dev blog, trailer, concept art etc. When making the editorial schedule, you should of course consider your development plan. Releasing alpha builds early can help you to get valuable input for your design, build a community of really invested players and spread the word more broadly.
As soon as you know what kind of content you want, take a hard look at your own writing, graphic design and video editing abilities. And remember that time is money. If your marketing budget is zero and you really don’t have any of these skills, beg friends and family to help you. If you have some money aside for marketing, consider hiring a freelancer to help you get great content. How do you know your content did great? Analytics! There are loads of tools out there, from analytics.twitter.com and Facebook Insights through things like Buffer or SumAll to entreprise level services like Social Bakers or Sprinklr.
Community management requires a lot of emotional maturity and patience. You need to look beyond people’s negativity to find helpful feedback and overcome the instinct to get too defensive. You need to define what is inappropriate and who’s a troll that you don’t want in your space. This can be overwhelming for a small team, so before responding, consider running your reactions past somebody who’s not involved. Practice empathy, imagine how different people will react to new features or changes to the game before announcing them. You’ll have a higher chance of keeping your mental health and it will make you a better game designer.