Play on Words: The First Step to Marketing Your Indie Game

Emmy Jonassen, creator of Indie Game Girl, shares DIY marketing advice for indpendent game developers. In the first part of this ongoing series, she offers tips for starting a blog and attracting an audience. 

If you’re an independent game developer, you are well aware of the critical role marketing plays in indie game success. And, if you’re an indie who has never practiced marketing before, you are also well aware of how overwhelming learning this discipline can be. Sure, there’s tons of free advice online, which is great for those who know what they’re doing. But what if you’re new to the whole marketing thing? Where do you begin?  

As an indie game marketing professional, let me start off by saying if the above paragraph describes your current situation, you are not alone. The question of “where do I begin?” is by far the most frequent question I get asked by indies. It is also one I consistently answer with: get a blog and learn how to write.

Don’t misunderstand. This article is not about proper sentence structure, forming thesis statements, the difference between an en and em dash, or other AP Style guidelines. The purpose of this article is to highlight the strategy behind executing written content for the purpose of promotion. Let me explain.

As an indie, the majority of the time you spend promoting your game will be writing. You’ll write pitch emails, press releases, blog posts, and more at what seems like an unrelenting pace. This kind of writing is not the same as you may use for emails, college essays, etc. This is strategic writing intended to accomplish two goals: (1) to capture a reader’s attention and (2) compel that reader to share whatever he or she has just read.

Strategic writing of this nature is not innate, especially if you have never done it before. For this reason, you’ll need a way to practice without negative consequences (ahem, ahem, like blowing your first game’s chances with the press). Enter your blog.

A blog is the perfect vehicle for practicing strategic writing. It’s low risk, i.e., if you flub up, the press won’t dismiss you (probably because they won’t even notice).  It’s digital, so you can test and measure your writing’s impact though things like shares, comments, etc. And, it’s free. Woohoo!

How to Get a Blog and Write Strategically

Now that we’ve covered what strategic writing is, why it’s important, and what you need to practice it, let’s move on to execution. Below are the steps to get you started setting up your blog and writing strategically. 

STEP 1: Get a Blog

There are many services you can use to set up your blog. However, I am biased toward Wordpress. It’s user friendly, free, and has excellent support in case you run into technical issues. Getting started is also well documented. Here is the link.

Several website templates come with the free version of Wordpress. However, if you want your site to look more unique and professional, there are thousands of affordable templates to choose from. Themeforest is good resource for your layout search (here are some guidelines for selecting a usable theme).

STEP 2: Select Engaging Topics

Now that your blog is up and running, you can start selecting topics for posts. A good blog topic is something that your intended audience will take interest in (remember, you’re writing to engage and compel sharing with your audience, not yourself). That said, here are a two ways to come up with such blog topics.

Use Science

If you haven’t heard of Google’s Keyword Planner, no worries. This free search term researching tool will soon become your best friend. How does it work? Let’s say your intended audience is cake enthusiasts and you think a post about carrot cakes would be of interest. However, you’re a savvy blogger and don’t want to leave it up to chance. Just because you think carrot cakes are interesting, doesn’t mean cake enthusiasts do. So, you visit Google’s Keyword Planner to get the facts.

Once logged into Keyword Planner, you type “carrot cakes” into the search field. Up comes the search term “carrot cakes,” its monthly search statistics, as well as related terms. While “carrot cakes” gets 33,000 monthly searches, “carrot cake recipes” gets 60,500—almost double. Perhaps carrot cake recipes might be a more interesting topic to cake enthusiasts.  

Ask Your Audience

At some point, all writers get writer’s block—even when coming up with topic ideas. If this happens to you, don’t stress. Instead of beating your head against the wall, reach out to members of your target audience. They’re sure to have great topic ideas! Utilize your various networks, including social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), forums, professional organizations, etc. to reach out. Once you receive an interesting topic, make sure to check it against Google’s Keyword Planner for extra peace of mind.

STEP 3: Execute Sharable Posts

Even with the most excellent topic, your post won’t magically go viral. To elicit that kind of response, your posts must be highly shareable. And to be highly shareable, your posts must be perceived as unique, valuable, cool, and so forth, which is all accomplished in your posts’ execution. Here are five execution styles to think about when creating your blogs. These styles are proven to get shared more than your run-of-the-mill text post.   

  1. How-to Lists

    People love free advice. Especially when it comes in the form of an easy-to-follow, step-by-step list.  

  2. How-to Videos

    Similar to the how-to list, the how-to video is simply a how-to list in a video format. With a smartphone and YouTube subscription, putting a how-to video together isn’t so hard.

  3. Research

    Quality research with corresponding statistics is coveted in the Internet world. And, if you’re the first person to publish the research, all the better. Case studies, white papers, and the like are excellent content to invest in the creation of from a sharability perspective.

  4. Infographics

    To make your research and statistics even more impactful, publish them in the ultimate visual format: the infographic. You may think you need to be a graphic designer to create these viral gems, but nay. Check out these 10 free tools for creating infographics.  

  5. Opinion Pieces

    When well executed, opinion pieces can generate a whole lot of conversation. The only problem is, they need to be well executed. An opinion piece that misses its mark can cause major alienation. So, if you’re thinking of pursuing this path, do your research.  

What has worked for you?

Have you executed any of the above strategies and seen positive results? Have you done anything different? Please share your experiences with us on Facebook.

Emmy Jonassen is a marketing professional with 10 years experience and creator of Indie Game Girl–a free marketing resource that provides actionable, step-by-step instruction. Learn more at indiegamegirl.com.

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