One thing that constantly perplexes me is how little social game companies leverage social media. Even though the games are obviously delivered on social networks and the internal game features leverage what makes social networks so powerful, outside of the product their social media marketing and product development strategy is usually light years behind old-school companies like Ford and GM. Yes, the game companies run social media ads. But if you look at their fan pages, Twitter streams and other social media elements, their efforts are normally very superficial.
What got me thinking about this issue was an article in HBR about social media strategy. Rather than repeating the article (you can find it here), I thought it would be most useful to comment on the key points and their relevance to the social gaming industry. The article points out there are four types of strategy, as well as the prevalent option among many game companies, which is “no strategy.”
The first of these options is to be a “predictive practitioner.” This strategy would have a game company focus on using social media for a single, very quantifiable, area in addition to its core gaming/Facebook ads business. To use an international example (since that is the theme of my blog), a game company could use social media to get suggestions from non-US players on what changes they would like to see in a game to make it feel more local. Thus, they would learn what French players are looking for versus Russian players versus Swedish players. This information could then be used by the localization team to create games better suited for target markets.
The second option is that of “creative experimenter.” Using this strategy, a social gaming company would use small tests to find ways to improve practices and services (this would differ from the A/B testing that goes on within games). For example, a social game company might set up a page on a European network that allows customers to talk directly with anyone at the game company. If it worked out well, this strategy would then be rolled out on Facebook and all social networks.
The third strategy is that of “social media champion.” This strategy is defined by large-scale initiatives seeking predictable results. This strategy entails collaboration across multiple functions and levels as well as external partners. An example would be a company that creates a social media strategy to launch in Turkey by having its CEO and other C-level execs blog about their games (preferably in Turkish), online contests in Turkey to build buzz, Turkish tweets that reinforce the base message, a fan page in Turkish to promote the games, and demonstrating dedication and relationships with local media companies.
The final strategy is that of “social media transformer.” This option entails major efforts that extend to external stakeholders. An example of this would be creating and distributing a widget throughout a region that creates a platform for the company, its employees, and customers to interact.
There are many variations on these potential strategies and they are not mutually exclusive. What is interesting is that outside of the actual games, few (if any) social game companies are pursuing a social strategy.