I was replying to an email about democracy 3 today, when ti occurred to me to suggest the person who wrote to me ‘like’ the facebook page for democracy 3. For those interested, you can find the page here: https://www.facebook.com/democracygame. As of the time of writing, it has 540 likes. This is not a lot. On the other hand I could have sent him to the very sparsely populated Democracy 3 forum at my site, which is at http://positech.co.uk/forums/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=35. It currently has 139 posts.

I’ve been musing over whether or not that sort of decision makes sense. This is the kind of thing I lie awake worrying about :D

Pros:

  1. Almost everyone has a facebook account. he can visit the page and click ‘like’ and that boosts the popularity of the game in the eyes of others. it’s simple and easy. He is MUCH more likely to do this that join my forums. In other words, this is less likely to be a waste of time.
  2. Facebook is always up to date and has no security flaws or requires any technical maintenance on my part. It also has features that forums do not have, and everyone knows how to use it. People are more familiar with facebook ‘likes’ and posts than they are forums.
  3. Facebook is viral. If this guy ‘likes’ democracy 3, then that gives me indirect marketing to all his friends who saw that like. Even those who have never heard of the game. In other words, facebook likes ‘leak’ out into the rest of the world for free. Forum posts stay where they are.

Cons:

  1. I control my forums and my server. I have total freedom to do what I like there. I cannot have my forum ‘banned’, or have the terms and conditions change underneath me. I can also populate that forum page with banners linking to my main site, and promote my games there with greater freedom than I can within a facebook page
  2. I’d just be making the facebook page more popular and my own forum less so. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy if I start defining facebook as the place to go, which could kill off my own forum.
  3. People on my forums can be ‘marketed’ to for free by me. People on facebook, even those on my facebook page, will only see my posts if I pay facebook enough. Essentially, I’m building up their network for free, and then paying them for permission to talk to the same people I sent there in the first place. This is stupid in the long term.

The game is not even in beta yet (although it will be soon, I’ve even made the buy button for it!). So the traffic on both is limited. I need to get these decisions right NOW, not dither about them. The trouble is, I tend to dither and not make firm commitments.

Does the virality of facebook trump the ownership of developer forums? I’m suspecting that it may do, although that is horribly short-term thinking. ARGHHHHH.

19 Responses to “Self-destructive behavior? or practical PR management?”

  1. Alstein says:

    Different purposes for each?

    Facebook to get folks to buy the game, Forum for folks who have bought it?

  2. Tim says:

    The good thing about Facebook is that for somebody who already has a Facebook account, there’s no friction to stop them from posting on there. Conversely if you want to post on your forum, there’s a whole new registration / new account & password you need to set up.

    You might be able to get much of the same advantages by allowing people to use their existing logins to access your forum – e.g support Facebook / Twitter / Google account logins as well as your own login system.

  3. GBGames says:

    I worry about similar things. Another Facebook con? Not everyone uses Facebook.

    A lot of people do, but a non-trivial number don’t, so they can’t like your page. Asking them to do so might come off as noisey marketing copy.

    But maybe among your prospects and customers, you don’t have to be concerned about it.

  4. Paul says:

    I have a category of online interaction that I have absolutely no interest in becoming part of my Facebook graph.

    The important thing about forums is that it puts identity in the control of your customers. And allows compartmentalision.

  5. Niall says:

    Personally I hardly ever ‘like’ things on Facebook these days because I don’t like the idea of a corporation building up a profile of me that can then potentially be misused. A bit OTT? Probably, but it means I would be more likely to join the forum than give a ‘like’ on Facebook (though it does help that I’m already signed up to the forum and familiar with how they work).
    Why not advertise both the forum and the Facebook page equally so people can choose which one they want to use?

  6. bryanf says:

    I’d expect…
    – the target audience for this game will be more suspicious of using FB than the general public are (see previous comments :))
    – FB is far better from a pure PR perspective for spreading word about anything
    – your forums will be far better for longer-term discussions, support, etc

    So, given that, I’d say advertise both, but treat FB as more a pure PR area and the forums as both PR and more interactive discussion and support location, and split your time accordingly (3:1 in favour of the forums?). You could also experiment with funnelling people to the forums from FB, maybe post a forum link there without comments enabled (if that’s possible).

  7. DGatsby says:

    I would vote for the forums. I would also vote for a beta release. And a vote for a banana split. I’d vote for a lot of things, really.

  8. BarryB says:

    As all of this is just anecdotal, I’ll add my personal opinion, based solely on what I’ve seen: a lot of people are no longer posting heavily on Facebook, not after the revelations (here, in USia) about spying on the public and the willingness with which both providers and data miners have turned over all content to the federal government. Even something as simple as liking a game may be affected; it may not. I’m posting less on FB, and will probably end up quitting soon.

    Your site I would be far more likely to post on. And I’d share my opinions on private, encrypted forums, where I still post old reviews of mine and new ones at time, as well.

  9. Kynrael says:

    What’s that about paying Facebook to keep posting ??

  10. cliffski says:

    posts on facebook for ‘fan’ pages with a lot of ‘likes’ don’t get seen by all of the fans, unless you pay. They changed it a few months back…

  11. Lethe Kohime says:

    I’ll be honest here. I would never have engaged the GSB community if it was a facebook thing. I’m quite agressive in keeping my social media presence minimized, and being forced to use facebook to communicate with a group is enough to make me cut the group off.

  12. Tutamun says:

    I don’t mind if game companies have a facebook page as long as they have a homepage/forum/blog for those who do not use facebook. I may check a companies facebook page for news… but I will not interact on that platform in any other way. I’m not going to register on facebook. Others I know are far more strict in their refusal to use or even see facebook and block all facebook related IP-Addresses on DNS level. Even if that means that they can’t use some websites that have a deep facebook integration.

  13. Michael says:

    I agree with some of the other comments. Use facebook for extra PR, but don’t waste any money on it, just direct people to your site. A lot of users will start to lose interest in fb as it continues to find ways to milk more revenue from them.

  14. John says:

    Cliff,

    Being a non-fan of Facebook, I certainly can’t attest to the benefits of advertising on Facebook. However, I was able to find this article over on Gamasutra which provides some interesting reading for someone who is at least considering using Facebook for advertising purposes.

    http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/171895/using_facebook_ads_to_find_your_.php

    With that said, as a gamer, a customer, and a fan, I still prefer to be able to go to the developers website, access the forums, and get in touch with the developer and other like-minded gamers. I still find that email and these types of forums provide a far better interpersonal experience than Facebook, but perhaps that’s just me.

    Hopefully the article will be of some help though.

  15. moonface says:

    My vote would be for your forums.

    If past performance (internet wise) is anything to go by, facebook will go the same way as myspace. The next big social thing will go the same way as facebook, and so on.

    Assuming that is that is the case, then promoting your forums for your games in the long term would seem a better bet.

    Also, many people do not use facebook, or are on facebook but do not use it regularly.

    It is possible of course that the short term viral nature of the facebook *like* would outweigh the above, in terms of the lifespan of Democracy 3. Personally, I find many facebook pages faintly off-putting, and would never engage with them.

  16. Michael A. says:

    I’ll go against the grain here, and say Facebook.

    Regarding your cons:

    1. There are limits to what you can do with promotion on Facebook, but there are quite a lot of possibilities still. You can post links, images, change your banner, etc. And everything you do is potentially communicated to the people who have “liked” your page. Even if you don’t pay for exposure, that is worth something.

    2. Very true. Personally, though, I think “official” game forums are a dying breed, anyway.

    As a User, I will sometimes read such forums if I’m on the lookout for specific information/help, but I never register anymore. If the forum is almost inactive, there is pretty much no point (“no one” will read what you write anyway – and I’ll probably forget to go back and check for responses), and if there is too much activity, the forums is often so virulent with fanboys that I can’t be bothered.

    From a developer perspective (I do mobile games), I’ve pretty much decided to kill my own forums and go for Facebook simply due to the relative activity levels. Have limited time for PR, so it’s worth focusing it where there is most activity. Facebook also has the advantage that a lot of the communication is player to developer, rather than player to an open room. That can also be a disadvantage, of course (not many eager fellow fans who’ll help out the newbies), but in my case it’s been OK, as I end up having to reply to most things on the forums anyway.

    3. True – though those people were already in their network beforehand (if you don’t have FB page, you’re not likely register just to Like a game) . Also – you do still get exposure in newsfeeds – you just don’t get as much as if you pay them. And TBH, I think the comparison with forums in that respect is off – that’s a mailing list, not a forum. If I ever started getting promo e-mails from a forum registration, I’d unregister before you could spell “spam”.

    Facebook does have a few big weaknesses as a “replacement” for forums, though:

    – Very poorly suited to long posts. You’re not likely to get deep discussions of strategy, etc. on a Facebook page. The format simply doesn’t work for it.

    – No searchability worth speaking of. People can search your forums if they’re looking for information. On Facebook, they’ll ask. And ask. And ask. Creating a F.A.Q. is probably a must for any significantly sized page.

    Neither of those are major dealbreakers for my efforts though, at least not at the moment. For the minority who are not on Facebook and who might still want to contact us, there is still e-mail, twitter (connected to Facebook, btw), and the blog.

  17. Dandelion says:

    I don’t use Facebook. I play games. If I used facebook I’d probably play less. If I had friends I’d probably play less also. But I’m a gamer. And I can’t wait to get my hands on Democracy 3.

  18. jlp says:

    I don’t use Facebook. I won’t use Facebook. When I see promotions that say “just bip on over to our Facebook page and ‘like’ us!” I say “nope.”

    I realize I’m in the minority, but nevertheless, I’m not going to start using Facebook.

  19. Laurens says:

    I don’t like facebook either, so I’d much rather read & subscribe to your forum, but I could be part of a minority.

    Also, this link might help in your decision making process:

    http://socialfixer.com/blog/2013/09/12/beware-your-business-is-at-the-mercy-of-facebook-social-fixer-page-deleted-without-explanation/