Many social game companies use Facebook as the central point of their community strategy but changes to Facebook’s surfacing algorithm suggest you may want to focus elsewhere. A social game’s Facebook fan page has been a great medium to increase retention, virality and even monetization. Keeping the community engaged through dialogue and promotional offers, so they are regularly on the fan page, is a relatively low-cost, low-effort way of getting your players back in the game (and thus increasing retention). Running promotions that encourage your Facebook fans to share links and other information increases the virality of your app. You can even use your Facebook fan page to improve monetization, by running sales directly from the page that cater to the community.
A recent article on Business Insider, however, points to the lower reach these pages are now experiencing, and thus reduced effectiveness. According to the article, at the beginning of December, Facebook changed the algorithm it uses to select the stories that appear in users’ News Feeds. The effect of the change was to reduce the reach of Facebook posts, which some companies feel declined by as much as 80 percent. Although Facebook’s motivation for the change is uncertain (Facebook claims it is trying to surface more relevant posts, while companies feel they are trying to force them to advertise more), the impact is very clear: Less surfacing equals less effectiveness.
For social game companies, and really anyone building a brand, the key action item is that you should develop a strategy to build and leverage your community that does not center on Facebook. Jim Tobin, a social media guru whose book I previously have recommended on this blog, commented in the article his clients may soon leave Facebook and take the $6 billion they spend on Facebook advertising with them. Tobin says, “We as brands have the ability to take our money elsewhere. It’s not like there’s a lack of social networks for us to take our business.”
For many social games, Pinterest users are a similar demographic (predominantly older women) and thus represent an excellent opportunity to build a community. Twitter is an effective channel for mobile games, though there is generally too much friction for it to be as successful for web-centric applications. As these and other social networks are structured differently, you should not just copy what has worked for you on Facebook but build a strategy that leverages the social network’s strengths while avoiding its weaknesses. Your community strategy also needs to be robust enough, that if any social network changes its algorithms or policies, you are not left reinventing your community plan.