A tiny boat amongst massive ships and other dinghy's in an ocean of social media.
3 years. Our project Token Terrors has been in development for 3 years and we are very close to FINALLY launching. It feels awesome. Though one thing that hasn't really changed, the constant paddling against the current that is audience building. I see new and seasoned creators all the time bemoaning the task getting those numbers up. What numbers? well 3 years in, with roughly 1.5 of them spent navigating the currents of the social media sea, and here is where my team and I are at. 687 followers - Instagram Instagram is tricky and here's why. There is a lot of commerce integration here but the impotence of users isn't driven by purchasing on this platform or really doing much clicking at all. Getting a "like" is fine and well but even that is behind a paywall now. Tossing some cash behind some targetted ads is...a thing you can do and IG offers some decent targeting tools for finding your audience so that's cool. You will see an uptick in likes and you may get a few more followers but you know what you will not see a lot of? Clicking. Your ad will get in front of lots of eyeballs as they scroll by but very few will actually click to go fill out that email subscription form or follow your Kickstarter preview page. Some will "save" the ad and revisit it later which might "convert" into a click but IG, a platform centered around visuals, is good for exposure and not much else. In the meantime, to build an audience there is a fairly rigorous amount of rowing you must do. You need to post some decently curated images near-daily, at least 2 to 3 times a week. Regularly engage with other users and wade into uncharted waters finding other users to like, comment, and follow. Don't forget about efficient hashtags, oh the hashtags. Your hashtag game needs to be THICK. Search all that apply and with reckless abandon add them to your post - but wait. Some people will say that adding hashtags directly in the post is a no-no and that you should actually add them all in a comment on your post, and don't forget to like your post too. I know it might feel, a little...I don't know, sleazy but its what's you gotta do, right? Right. All in all, I feel like it would be a mistake to skip out on an IG presence but I can't really say it's been a gale-force wind of help given how much paddling we've had to do. If you do make a profile here, be sure to write posts with your images that engage followers, ask questions. When you get a new follower, go like half a dozen of their pictures and comment on like 2 of them, this will build some traction on your end. 515 Followers - Facebook Business page. If you're in the Boardgame publishing space it's nearly mandatory that you set up on one of these. this is a company or business page for your project/publishing company and it will get very, very low amounts of traffic unless you put some money behind it. Organic engagement is low, and I mean low. Take for example this image.
Pretty cool right? This got 0 reactions on our Facebook business page. This same image, with no money behind it, got 35 likes on IG. On my personal page, it got 14 likes and 11 comments. This is to say that unless you put some money behind posts, you'll be hard-pressed to get much engagement out of a Facebook business page. With that said, the knowledge that the page will do little to no engagement unless some cash is behind it has warded me off from posting to it much, something that in hindsight I wish I hadn't done as the result is more of the same. This sensibility is compounded by the fact that Facebook offers other outlets for tribe building on its platform that are far more effective. Namely... 674 Terrible Games Facebook private group. Facebook also offers group pages where you can personally invite people from your friend's list to join. This group is a closed system where people will see your posts in their feed provided they have opted in. What's important about how you curate content in these groups is how much engagement your posts grant. Don't just make an announcement, ask a question, get people to answer you, make them feel like they're part of the process, and engage. This not only gets your post onto the feed of other members but makes your group members feel like they have a voice in your project development. This type of content speaks to the very core idea of crowdsourcing a project from the ground up and, more importantly, there is no pay to play model here. Once you get people to join they will engage provided they feel motivated to speak up. Additionally, you can incentivize your current members to invite people from their friend list to grow the group. I did this by teasing other content and being profusely thankful for the group's current members and, based on the numbers currently, it seems to have worked. Facebook groups are whats up. One the last thing to note about these, there are different schools of thought regarding doing a group page for each game or project vs one for the company itself. I acknowledged my personal bandwidth to populate many group pages with content and grow them accordingly and decided against doing a different group page for each project and instead opted to do one that is for our publishing company at large. The Endless list of Boardgame Design & Publishing groups on Facebook. This, by far, to me has been one of the most rewarding and integral online communities for building awareness of our upcoming project. Now, this could be because I'm very plugged into Facebook in general, as an individual. I use messenger, I communicate regularly with friends and family. I have been promoting my bands and art on this platform for over a decade so it feels familiar. That said I spent nearly a year building up Token Terrors without being present on any the following groups. Board Game Design Lab Kickstarter Best Practices Board Games Launching on Kickstarter Tabletop Games Kickstarter Advice Art & Graphis Design for Tabletop Games Tabletop Backer Party Board Game Reviews and Media These are a FEW of the Facebook groups that exist that you could join. I could seriously keep going for a while and still not cover them all. Part of the reason for that is that many indie publishers create a group centered around a specific sector of the board game publishing world and build a tribe for their projects through creating a group that services a niche aspect of the indie publishing concern, which is great, but it results in many smaller groups that are all more or less servicing the same concern/community but with much smaller membership numbers. That aside, these groups are essential to building up your project. You can get industry insights on the soup to nuts of developing and publishing your game. Get sage advice from industry pros and those who have accomplished what you seek to do and, more importantly, you can do some serious audience building and actually form meaningful relationships with people who will not only help you bring your project to fruition but will be overt public-facing champions for your project. Finding friendship on this journey is another added benefit, I myself have now found a support system of other creators where we share our in-progress projects with each other, playtest each other's games, give notes that have a direct influence on the final product, joke around, have fun - It's awesome.
You'll find some parallels in benefit from being an active member on these groups vs some of the other platforms listed here but the big differentiator with the tabletop focused facebook groups is how Facebook passively drops the content that matters to you into your notifications and feed. I've had to turn off Facebook notifications on my phone simply because of how much activity pings my profile but, when I scroll on the site (which is often) I'm flooded with opportunities to engage other creators just starting out, established publishers launching larger, more anticipated projects, as well as dedicated hobbyists whos opinions, are those of the people I hope to sell to. It's radical. Okay, so all this is pretty good, right? these numbers are...decent. What other uncharted waters wait to be sailed in the social media ocean? So, so many my captains and that's part of the challenge. There is a veritable tidal wave of platforms that one can sail towards. Here is a list of others that I have more or less ignored or failed to engage with efficiently - Reddit - Reddit is very tough because it asks a lot of you. The results can be potent if you navigate these waters with some aplomb but there are many, many rules that one must abide by to get your posts to be published. Here is where the 10 to 1 rule really applies (the 10 to 1 rule is that for every 10 posts that are unrelated to your project you get one post relating to your project). You have to babysit these Reddit groups and acclimate to a variety of different posting regulations. Moreover, unless you are putting in the time to REALLY engage various communities in a genuine way without doing any self-promo, most if not all of your posts will be largely ignored. This is to say that you really just have to put in the time here. Unless your prepared to be a truly active member of these groups, most efforts will likely fall flat. Post in here anyway but be warned, if you're like me, the less than streamlined UI paired with a thoughtfully crafted post about something involving your project getting denied 2 or 3 times may ward you off from using this platform to audience build. Twitter, Twitch, Tik Tok, Discord - I'll just come out and say it. These platforms are akin to a fishing spot that I know is teeming with plump fish but I have to steer the boat through some rather treacherous low tide passages to get there that and it just seems like too much work. Discord on its own, there is something there. I have seen other indie publishers begin to build a groundswell of a community on there. That actually tracks given the current necessity of playing and testing in development board games using Tabletop Simulator. Many, many games I've organized of Token Terrors online typically end up with the live voice chat happening on Discord. Of these 4, Discord is the only one that I want to begin building a community on. That said, I have also noticed that other creators who use this also, in most cases have a dedicated partner whos only duty is to build, organize, and administrate on the Discord server. Again, my limitations here meltdown to personal bandwidth. The other 3, I just haven't the time or energy to tackle in a meaningful way aside from acknowledging that they exist and creating an account on them for safety should I decide to go there and do stuff. Board Game Geek - Oh BGG, how I wish I knew ye. BGG is a lot like Reddit. The UI is, to put it bluntly, awful. The 10 to 1 rule here is very prevalent. I've tried and failed to really engage with this community and to be honest, I'm not 100% sure why. It might be that this community is almost exclusively populated by hardcore hobbyists and other creators looking to promote. Don't get it twisted, every indie publisher should absolutely set up a BGG page for the game. If you have a posse of fans behind your project who are ride or die, advocates, ask them to go visit the page and rate the game (provided they have played it) as this can be helpful. Your fans can also post reviews about the game as well. The issue with crowd building on BGG is the forums. There are so many, they all have their own rules and all serve different facets of the hobby, it's a lot to navigate. This is akin to seeking a path to a distant paradise island and being presented with 30 different maps to the same place. If your able though, I have heard good things about doing a creator dairy on BGG. From what I've gathered - this is a place on the BGG forum where creators post pictures and articles about their in-progress game design in real-time, as it develops. I think I might try this with another game we have kicking around in the future but for now, Token Terrors kind missed the boat on this one. All Aboard!!! In closing, I think the main take away here is - if you take part in any of these platforms for audience building and engagement, actually do it. Find your groove and be present and post fairly often. The only way to get a bunch of people to join your crew is to sail around. Bon Voyage.
John de Campos - Terrible Games.