How do you solve a problem like building gaming communities on Twitter? (aka ‘X’)

Ten years ago I was part of the research team that uncovered the slow death of organic reach for brand pages on Facebook.

Led by Marshall Manson and using data from over 100 agency managed brand pages, totalling more than 48 million fans, the Social@Ogilvy team were able to ascertain that organic reach for Facebook was facing a precipitous decline.


From October 2013 – February 2014, we could demonstrably prove that organic reach had dropped from 12% to 6%. That means for fan pages with 100 fans, any post with no paid media behind it would only reach six people.

In short: the free ride for brand fan pages was over. And the age of paid social had begun. Other social platforms soon followed. And in the years that followed, algorithmic content serving became king.

Since then, it became my standard to advise clients as often as possible to steer clear of an organic only approach to social media. To instead diversify your platform investment. To find new ways of not only building community, but doing so on a platform where you have ownership of – or at least reasonable access to the data. Valuable data that you can use for analysis, segmentation, retargeting and beyond.

Above all else, we eschewed the outdated KPIs of follower counts and fan chasing and instead focused on sharp paid media targeting and kick-ass creative.

In short: vanity metrics ain’t it.

If the lesson to stop building a fan following on one social platform wasn’t clear enough by now, you only need to look at the trash-fire that is the far-right, transphobic, sex-trafficker-supporting social platform formerly known as Twitter, X.

Earlier this year you could still see games publishers putting paid media spend behind asking X/Twitter users to ‘Follow this account for the latest updates’ about a new game.


This is nuts.

According to the most recent research, the average half-life of a tweet is 24 minutes. Combine that with X/Twitter now purposefully obfuscating the organic reach metric (instead going with the non-unique nebulous number of ‘impressions’ – all views count, not just uniques), chasing vanity metrics is, at best, a dated KPI from the late noughties and at worst – a complete waste of time. Putting paid media behind that chase, even more so.

This alone should be cause for concern. When put against the recent shift of X/Twitter’s ownership, politics, and frankly, complete rejection of any and all brand safety – putting any spend into X/Twitter at all is… ill-advised.

OK so what’s the solution?

You might be reading this and thinking ‘Well, that’s not my experience’ – and you might be right. You might be experiencing a fantastic community on the platform and everything is amazing.

I doubt it, but you might.

You might also be reading this and screaming ‘James, Discord solves this!’- well, that is and isn’t the answer – the answer is and should always be ‘it depends’.

It depends what it is you’re trying to do. It depends on where you are in your game lifecycle. It depends on how much time/money you’re able to invest.

Learning how to diversify, test, learn and then commit. That’s the real trick.

But let’s get into it.

From AAA publisher to bedroom indie, the first question should always be: What is your objective? What is the one thing you’re actually trying to do?

‘I want brand awareness, community engagement, and sales’ – is not a single-minded objective. It’s three. The serious marketer chooses one.

‘I want to get 5000 followers on Instagram’ is not an objective. It’s a measurement. A measurement of what objective is the question.

‘I want an engaged community that I can reach with news and updates about my game’ – then the answer might be building Discord (for the core) or in fact, email (for mass).

Discord does of course have its pros. And many if not all of you reading this will be familiar with the platform. It is undeniable how useful it can be for developing that early/golden cohort of interest. However, you need to use it properly to drive engagement and interest. Talk to your fans, post regular / exclusive content. Engage in conversation. In Discord you have a captive audience, an audience that you can guarantee reach – so use it wisely. Don’t just auto-post your X/Twitter content. It’s lazy, disrespectful to the community and ultimately won’t deliver against your objective. You know who you are.

What about email?

We are without doubt in the age of the newsletter, whether you use Substack, Mailchimp or Ghost, newsletters are a great way to speak directly to people that actually want to hear from you. You get to own the first party database (hello, email!) and you get to sidestep the algorithmic content serving lords and masters of the social platforms. If email isn’t in your marketing channel plan, why not?

What else can we look at?

Well once again it comes down to your objective. If you’re building awareness, then for a small amount of investment you can do a surprising amount. From reaching new fans, building memory structures for existing, or even just giving announce trailers a paid media bump can be relatively simple and surprisingly cost effective.

If you need to drive interest on pre-orders, then ‘buy now’ carousels or stories/reels might do the job – and with the right creative execution then this too can deliver the results you’re after. All it takes is a clear brief and a commitment to a single objective.

There’s a lot here that should not come as a surprise.
It’s not rocket science.

The point is: when it comes to games marketing, the platform landscape is in flux. Single platform organic engagement can no longer be relied upon for reach and follower/fan vanity metrics are as out of date as the opinions you can find on the platforms you’re squandering effort in.

Endlessly chasing the same core set of gamers to like or follow the same accounts for single digit amounts of organic reach or worse – impressions – is a colossal waste of time and money. Blending a cross-platform organic approach with paid media, underpinned with an owned data driven platform (hello email), all in service to a clear single-minded objective is the route to genuine growth.

How do you solve a problem like building communities on X/Twitter? It was solved years ago, I’m just wondering when everyone else will catch on.

How to: set up Lead Generation Twitter Cards

Lead generation cards are free to use and set up.
This is how you do it.

Lead Gen Twitter Cards of WIN

Regular readers of this website will know that every Friday I put up a collection of the five most interesting things I’ve seen that week.

The posts, imaginatively entitled ‘Five things on Friday‘, are relatively popular. So much so that recently I decided I’d turn them into a weekly newsletter, so that a) folk can get the good stuff delivered to their inbox and b) I could learn how to do it.

And how am I going to get subscribers for this newsletter? From the lead-gen Twitter card!

What is a Lead Generation Twitter Card? Twitter itself expresses the definition thus:

Twitter Cards let you bring rich experiences and useful tools to users within an expanded Tweet. The Lead Generation Card makes it easy for users to express interest in what your brand offers. Users can easily and securely share their email address with a business without leaving Twitter or having to fill out a cumbersome form.

And they look a little bit like this

Lead Generation Twitter Card Example

Fancy, right? It’s a one-click sign up. EASY.

What I’m going to walk you through today is how to set up not only how to set up lead-gen Twitter cards but also linking them to a Mailchimp mailing list and WordPress blog feed.

I’m good to you.

STEP ONE:
SETTING UP THE TWITTER CARD

First, go to Twitter. Well, not strictly speaking. You need to go to ads.twitter.com.

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 12.16.41

EDIT: THIS HAS NOW CHANGED

Before you can see the screen below, you will need to enter your credit card details. Twitter will no longer let you create Lead Gen cards (or Website Cards for that matter) without your credit card details.

I’ve entered mine and have steered VERY CLEAR of hitting the ‘promote’ button.

Without entering these details you will not be able to see the buttons demonstrated from this point onwards.

FYI.

Cards_-_Twitter_Ads

Sign in with your Twitter account (you don’t need to be an advertiser to do this), click on ‘Creatives’ in the top nav, and then ‘Cards’, hit the big blue Create Lead Generation Card button on the right and you’re away.

Most of this first part is pretty simple: you need a description, an image (650 x 150) and a privacy policy. This last part is a little ridiculous, but I’ve created a special page that says I’m not going to sell your email address etc. But there’s no policing around this, so feel free to put a big ‘F U’ in there instead and see if anyone actually calls you on it.

Finish that bit and you’re pretty much ready to go with your first Lead Gen Twitter Card.

Hurrah and hurrah again.

BUT!

You probably want to do a bit more once you’ve got those lovely email addresses. If, like me, you [want to] run your mailing lists through Mailchimp, then this is what you need to do next.

If you scroll down a bit on your lead-gen card page, you’ll see a ‘Data settings (optional)’ section. This is where you add in your Mailchimp id details.

STEP TWO:
SETTING YOUR TWITTER CARD TO TALK TO MAILCHIMP

When you get to Mailchimp (assuming you already have a Mailchimp account), set up a List in Mailchimp. I call mine ‘5 Things’. You might call yours ‘Magic Beans’ or ‘Web Curios’.

Lists___MailChimp

Go to your Lists section, click on the drop down arrow (next to Stats) and head to ‘Sign Up Forms’, then ‘Form Integrations’, and then – oh look, here are the bits you need for your Twitter Card.

And that’s it, you’re done. Anyone that clicks on your Lead-Gen Twitter Card ‘Sign Me Up!’ button will have their email address delivered into your Mailchimp mailing list.

STEP THREE:
SETTING WORDPRESS TO TALK TO MAILCHIMP

WordPress_›_AutoChimp_«_WordPress_Plugins

This part had me going around in circles for a good couple of hours and y’know what? It’s EASY. Go download a plugin called ‘AutoChimp’, boot that up, and pick what tag/category you want to publish (again, for me it’s ‘5things’) and that’s it – you’re done!

It’s not a short process but it’s a relatively simple one.

Some examples –
Test.
The Voicemail.
Mat Morrison.
WWF.

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Five things on Friday #74

Things of note for the week ending May 30th, 2014.

1. ‘Super Important Tweet’
I first found out about this web app via the always interesting Web Curios newsletter. Basically, the premise is that you can add ‘importance’ to a tweet by creating a text-based-image that you can embed in your tweet which subsequently hammers home the importance of what it is you’re trying to say.

However, what it actually does is allow you to create a perfectly sized image for Twitter. That’s right brands, a simple web app now does that thing you all seem incapable of doing.

Amazing, right?

Try it.

2. Ocean Piglets, Shield Toads, and Naked Snails
Aka, how to name animals in German. I used to study German at school and while I’m not a big one for publishing infographics on this here blog of mine, there’s no harm in linking to one.

Seriously, this is brilliant.

3. Beautiful Brands on Instagram

Beautiful Instagram Brands

The value of branded activity on Instagram is still very much a point of argument amongst the marketing folk of today. Does it drive any meaningful value? Can you actually measure anything? Why are we bothering? – are all questions that float around when this comes up for discussion, and you really have to know your onions to formulate a decent response.

If you don’t know your onions and want to know more about how Instagram can ‘work’ for brands, the blog of those folk at Nitrogram is a good place to start. There’s a ton of stuff to read up on and, if you’re looking for inspiration, they’re latest post isn’t a bad read at all.

4. Faking Cultural Literacy

It’s not lying, exactly, when we nod knowingly at a cocktail party or over drinks when a colleague mentions a movie or book that we have not actually seen or read, nor even read a review of. There is a very good chance that our conversational partner may herself be simply repeating the mordant observations of someone in her timeline or feed. The entire in-person exchange is built from a few factoids netted in the course of a day’s scanning of iPhone apps. Who wants to be the Luddite who slows everything down by admitting he has never actually read a Malcolm Gladwell book and maybe doesn’t exactly understand what is meant by the term “Gladwellian” — though he occasionally uses it himself?

This, from the New York Times, is remarkably spot on.

Go read it.

Properly.

Without skimming.

The final paragraph is a knock-out.

5. Gorgeous Art, at High Speed

From this:

High speed art before

To this:

High Speed Art

Cool, right?

Made to been seen at high speeds, these colorful patterns form a sequential whole for commuters whizzing by at top speed. Dubbed ‘Psycholustro’, the artist (Katharina Grosse) created the work as a way to ‘engage everyday travelers with a project that addresses their in-motion perspective and the passage of time’ (more at the source).

I think it’s awesome and, bizarrely enough, similar to an idea I had for the Channel Tunnel when I was nine years old.

It’s OK, I’m pretty sure she didn’t copy me.

 

 

Does Twitter need another Ryan Giggs moment?

This Google Trend chart goes some way to proving the hunch that I’ve been harbouring for some time that Twitter’s UK growth explosion was kick-started by a Mr Ryan Giggs.

twitter and ryan giggs

When the front page of every newspaper isn’t allowed to say a certain someone’s name (but can happily point readers online to where its freely available) it’s no wonder that interest in Twitter shot up at this time. Furthermore, given the social network’s recent slowdown in user acquisition, one can’t help wondering if another useless celebrity gagging order is exactly what it needs.

Scandal drives the global gossip engine. Who knew?

 

NEW Twitter Cards for Brands: The Impact

Twitter has quietly launched new markup documentation for twitter cards…

And brands should take note. Why? Let’s start at the top –

What are Twitter cards?

Twitter cards are a fairly recent addition to the Twitter suite of tools that allow richest media content (images, videos, and blog post previews – or ‘photo’, ‘player’, and ‘summary’ respectively) to be displayed in-stream. Launched last year with a few partners such as The New York Times and WWE, these expanded Tweets are another way for publishers to engage with Twitters in a more meaningful way.

Since June last year, Twitter has slowly released this functionality both as new partnerships with other media houses; and as developer documentation for others to add to their own websites and blogs.

Why are they useful?

It’s simple: Twitter cards enable a preview (or in some cases a full view) of the content linked to in the Tweet. This means users of the official Twitter client can consume content without leaving the app and, if they do have to click out, they have a better understanding of what they’re about to engage with.

So what’s new?

Overnight, Twitter launched three more variations of the Twitter card on top of their ex: App, Gallery, and Product.

The first two work as follows –

App
This one shows information about an app; including the app name, icon, description and other details such as the rating or price. If your app is in the AppleApp Store or Google Play, then the corresponding information there can be pulled in accordingly.

Result? More app downloads, hurrah! 

Gallery
This new card represents an album or a collection of photographs via a preview of the photo gallery. This card indicates to a Twitter user that a gallery has been shared, as opposed to just one individual photo.

Result? More imagery = more engaging = increased CTR.

That’s all well and good, but it’s this next third one that I find most interesting:

Product
The Twitter product card can represent different products by showing an image and description, along with up to two customisable fields that let you display more details like price or ratings.

On both web and mobile, it would look something like this –

Result? MORE. SALES. It’s that simple. 

In short: this is fantastic.

This basically says that brands can now, with a simple piece of html markup, preview actual products, for purchase, including reviews and/or pricing information into their followers’ Twitter streams. Combine that with some decent tracking and you finally have what looks like a decent social sales ecosystem.

Think about that for a second; instead of ‘Hey! Look at this thing we’ve launched! [link]’, you now get ‘Hey! Look at this thing we’ve launched [image] + [price]’.

HUGE.

We’re already talking to our clients about getting this markup integrated into their websites’ product pages, and we’ve got a funny feeling a few of you might be too.

Exciting times indeed.