Today, I’d like to take some time to speak about video games. Not just any games, though – I’m here to talk about social gaming. It’s become a big thing in recent years, particularly on Facebook. You’d probably be hard pressed to find a Facebook user who hasn’t at least tried Farmville or something similar. As of August, somewhere around two hundred fifty million users were playing various game on the social network. That, my friends, amounts to a huge market of potential customers.
Why Bother With Social Games?
The key word here is engagement. The interactive nature of many Facebook games coupled with the virtual environments many of them feature makes them an ideal means of connecting with users. When someone’s playing a game, they are by definition engaged with their environment and engrossed by the experience. If you can cleverly insert an advertisement into that experience in a fashion that doesn’t impede upon the user’s enjoyment or interrupt that experience, you’re essentially guaranteed to make people aware of your brand. It could be as simple as placing your brand on a premium item in-game – such as Farmville’s Cascadian Farm Blueberries - or as complex as implementing a reward system for players that interact with your organization through the game’s interface.
So long as you’re not too intrusive, reasonably clever, and work with the game’s interface, you’ve got yourself a winning campaign.
Ultimately, while ads placed within social games might not reach as large an audience as ads placed elsewhere, you’re going to be engaging users right out the door. As a result, your efforts might end up being just as successful as they would have been if you’d bought a sponsored story – perhaps more so.
How to Go About an In-Game Advertisement
That depends entirely on what you’re trying to accomplish. As with other mediums, there’s a wide array of methods by which you can reach your target consumer. In most cases, your first step will be to hook up with an application developer which has already established itself and gathered a reasonably sized user base – were I composing this article a few months ago, I might have suggested Zynga. That might not exactly be advisable any longer.
Anyway, once you’ve settled on a developer and a game, make sure the one you’ve selected actually fits with your brand, and that the game’s primary user-base consists of or contains your target demographic. For the most popular titles, this isn’t really a problem – Farmville, for example, contains such a large swathe of Facebook’s audience that you’re probably going to find at least a few people who’d be interested in your product.
Your next step is figuring out how you want to reach your audience. Do you want to simply increase awareness of your brand? An in-game billboard ad or in-game items/locales are just the ticket. If you’re looking to bring more traffic to your website (or increase sales/subscriptions), then offering in-game rewards for interacting with your brand in game (for example, Netflix frequently runs promotions where players can net themselves a hefty sum of in-game cash by signing up for a month-long trial) could be exactly the method you’re looking for. Of course, the best thing about social media is the extent to which it’s integrated itself into our lives – you could very well run an in-store promotion which offers rewards in the virtual world.
You could also design your own branded social game – though in most cases, you’re going to want to bring in a contractor to do the design work for you. Don’t try to do it yourself unless you’ve actually got experience in game design: it’s a process that’s incredibly easy to botch.
Social media is a massive, expansive frontier through which marketers can reach consumers in previously unforeseen and untold ways. Social games are but one facet of this multidimensional approach to advertising: as with any other marketing approach, an in-game ad shouldn’t be the be all and end all of your marketing strategy. Games are, just like the social networks on which they reside, simply another medium through which you can engage your consumers. Their value lies in the unique level of engagement they offer to marketers, coupled with the myriad methods for connecting with the end user.