How do you reach your hand out to your player base … without getting bitten?! Our clients have used a variety of methods to connect with their players — whether it involves push, pull, social media, community management, advertising, or events (in-game and real-world). Here are just a few guidelines and best practices. (For further information, please see Chris Morrison’s Chartboost article — featuring a quote from this blog post, along with advice from other industry professionals.)

Push vs. Pull
At Novy, we see “push” as distinct from “pull” — incorporating a variety of campaign elements that get the attention of the consumer in a more obvious way. This might include anything from banner ads, video ads, and even promotions at game conferences. Traditionally, push marketing tends to be more expensive and can sometimes have temporary effects — but some types of campaigns that have become more popular in the last decade (such as Facebook ads and boosted posts) are quite cost-effective and are used widely by indie mobile game developers. A smaller subset of our clients does utilize push marketing associated with media outlets — such as banner ads, takeovers, skins, and sponsored articles. Still others have opted for a combination of Google AdWords, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Chartboost — all video ads.

A much smaller percentage of our clients use push notifications to let users know that they can get some rewards if they log back into the game. The majority of our clients who have experimented with push notifications have noticed that this method has waned in popularity over the years due to a change in user response; in fact, sometimes the results of notifications are opposite to the desired effect — where players decide to not return to the game, and may even uninstall it! If you’re thinking of utilizing push notifications, it would be best to do what one of our clients has done successfully: experiment with adjusting your strategy based on message content and frequency so that you can customize the experience and give the players what they really want!

“Pull,” in contrast to “push,” includes social networking (not ads or boosts but general posts), SEO, blog posts, contributed pieces, and public relations/press coverage. These methods are much more common across the board and are used by all of our clients in one form or another!

Social Media
The most important and reliable communication channel by far between our developers and users/players is through social media such as Facebook and Twitter. When we handle social media and community management directly, we increase engagement through user polls and comments, compelling facts and quotes, and shareable and fun content (including comps related to special occasions, gameplay gifs, and “meme” gifs — where we combine characters and other elements from the game with pre-existing live action gifs). Between comments and private messages, social media can be a very effective way of interacting with the player base. Another relevant way to communicate is through a newsletter, which can be quite powerful when users opt in and sign up to show that they’re truly interested in keeping touch with developers — receiving information on everything from game updates and trade show appearances to sales, contests, competitions, and giveaways. A client that’s based in China regularly uses QQ Messenger (a popular “What’s App” style tool in China) to communicate with users. Forums on sites such as Touch Arcade can also be very effective for user feedback. The key in choosing the best communications channels for a mobile game campaign is to consider the type of relationship you want to have with your players. If you want a more personal relationship, stick with social media and email newsletters. When possible, make direct contact with prospective players at industry events; some would say, “What can be more personal than old-fashioned, face-to-face interaction?! 🙂

Tread Carefully
Most of our clients steer clear of in-app pop-up ads and notifications when possible. Others, as mentioned above, are experimenting with them to see what might be most effective — but the key is that a truly effective strategy hasn’t been solidified yet in this area … at least with what we’ve seen thus far. It’s important to have a feedback loop so that developers and players can communicate effectively with each other — rather than a seemingly one-way “push” that doesn’t elicit responses in the other direction. Although banner ads are somewhat common, depending on budget, takeovers have fallen out of favor due to being forced on users. Skins are a close second but not as obtrusive. Video ads are still fairly effective — although feedback can be minimal in some cases.

Communication Mix
The most common combination of communication strategies involves press coverage paired with social media. If a third element is used, this usually consists of a newsletter and/or banner/social media ads. Some clients opt for public relations only, which can be effective on its own — but it doesn’t involve direct engagement with users, which limits community-building and the ability to get true feedback from players. We advocate combining at least two channels to get results.

Effect on CPI
The good news is that multi-channel marketing can lower CPI considerably! For example, if a marketing campaign works well on social media using posts/tweets and ads, downloads/installs increase while CPI decreases. Word-of mouth can play a big part in this — especially when developers have direct communication with players.

Staying Economical
The best way to keep a multi-channel marketing campaign cost effective is to focus on building your community first (prior to launch) through social media. This is practically “free.” The next step is to focus on contacting the press and get earned (not paid) coverage. (Make sure you include press outlets and contacts that have written about games that have targeted your player market in the past.) Both of these channels can work together effectively. If there’s more money in the budget, put together an ad campaign at launch — with Facebook ads (very cost-effective), Chartboost ads, and strategically placed banner ads that target your audience. (For a mobile developer, a straightforward way to do this is to advertise on top mobile sites; many of them have special deals for indie developers.) Promote a newsletter signup link and start sending out newsletters on a regular basis; the newsletters themselves can also be shared through social media. If you plan to soft launch your game, have players opt in to your newsletter and social networks at that time — and collect as much feedback as possible related to player demographics and psychographics, along with what works (and what doesn’t) in-game. This advance information can help you shape your campaign!

Measuring ROI
ROI is usually measured by calculating the relationship between ad revenue, DAU, and the retention rate via the data of each channel. Some clients also use the LTV model (7 days, 15 days, 30 days) to calculate quality and see if the channel is valuable.

Hopefully, these tip will provide some guidance as you move forward with your multi-channel marketing campaigns. It’s always tricky to reach out to players without being accused of harassment or spam — but the above suggestions are “tried and true” … should actually result in a larger and more loyal player base!