[WiC] Marketing Lessons

Marketing lessons learned from the Winter Is Coming RPG Blog Festival.

The difficulty in marketing is striking the balance between getting the message out and turning your audience off through saturation. If you overload a brain with one message over and over, eventually your message will be blocked as noise.

For a total novice, I think I walked that line fairly well.

The Plan
I didn't really have a marketing plan on paper when I started. I tried to listen to feedback and self-regulate as much as I could, but there are a lot of social media venues out there and trying to cover everything can turn into a full-time job if you let it. Since I already have a full-time job, I did what I could.

Here's roughly how my use of marketing method ended up.
  • Twitter: This was my go-to venue. Updates got posted twice a day without fail. I posted a few times a day otherwise, plus responding to mentions and DMs. My wife got tired of seeing Winter Is Coming, and I noticed retweets falling off as the festival went on, so maybe this was a little too much. Total: 3-5 messages per day.
  • Facebook: I've got Twitter feeding Facebook, so anything that wasn't a mention got posted here as well. Total: 3-5 messages per day.
  • Google Plus: G+ is the new kid on the block, and I'm still feeling out how to use it effectively. I relied on Twitter but spent a little time on G+. Total: 1-2 messages per day.
  • Reddit: This ended up being my 800 pound gorilla for traffic, easily accounting for hundreds of hits per day when the link was "above the fold" on the first page of the RPG subreddit. Calling out a specific article had less staying power than the link to the overall festival, and submitting a link got more feedback and staying power than typing up a note. Total: 1 message every 2 days.
  • StumbleUpon: I "discovered" the festival main page about halfway through. I didn't add a review until after the festival. I think I still have 1 hit on it. Total: 1 link submitted.
  • ENWorld Forums: I posted here late in the game. I got some positive feedback, so I'll post earlier in the process next time. Fair traffic, but not Reddit-level by any stretch. Total: 1 post.
Retweeting really got the word out. Having a rabid advocate in @blindgeekuk helped keep interest high with retweets and other "check this out" messages. I got a measurable amount of traffic from mentions on other blogs. We had buzz. I got over 5000 pageviews in September, and to date we have 1752 page views on the Winter Is Coming main page.

My Goals
Going into the Festival, I had a few vague goals in mind. A couple of others solidified as the Festival progressed. I think it's worth noting listing them for discussion or at least contemplation.
  • Provide a centralized spot for solid winter-themed RPG content. Outcome: Success, though I was expecting about half the size.
  • Have a sustainable flow of content. A month seemed too sparse, a day too intense, so I settled on a week-long festival. I think that worked ideally, and we had a good distribution of articles across the whole week. I was hoping for flow control on the Submission Page, but it wasn't used consistently especially since I was getting email submissions for guest posts.
  • I wanted to reach out to the broader RPG community and give people a voice who may not blog or be tapped into the online group. We succeeded.
  • Get people talking and provide feedback from the community to encourage these newer voices. While I did an edit pass on every guest post and gave some feedback that way, the community feedback in the form of comments on articles was surprisingly sparse. It's an engagement issue, and I think it can be solved through bribery in the form of contests. Still processing this point.
  • Reach out to artists and bring writers and visual artists closer together. Symatt aside, we could have done much better here, but we've learned and I've got some ideas for next time.
  • Not alienate anyone. I stumbled a bit with the wording of the warning to bring your best work, but other than that I think we had a rousing success. We had 29 people contribute, which is stunning for a first-time event run by some guy with a gaming blog.

Tips for Next Time
These are a few notes for me for the next Blog Festival, but feel free to use them if they'll help you.
  1. Find a rabid advocate. Derek Sivers has it right when he talks about how to start a movement: the first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader. Extremely important for motivation and to show that a festival like this is about community and not about one person.
  2. Reddit early, Reddit often. Reddit only takes one link, but you can add some meat around your link by submitting a note. As long as the link is on the first page, you'll get pageviews. (Side note: My Open Letter to D&D R&D got me a high of 183 pageviews in an hour and 1177 pageviews on the day I submitted to Reddit. I got some great comments up there, too.) Once it drops off the first page, the hits drop to near nil. Keep it interesting and offer something to the community.
  3. Figure out StumbleUpon. I've heard it's a great traffic driver, but I'm not tapped in enough to make it work for me. I'm twwombat over there (go figure), so feel free to follow/friend me.
  4. Post to ENWorld much earlier. Generating discussion on forums wasn't a priority for me this contest, and that can generate buzz and get more people involved.
  5. Reach out to the DeviantArt community. I missed the boat on this one because I decided to try it a little too late. Plus, I'm not tapped into DeviantArt, so I don't know how to get a message to interested members of the community over there.
  6. Find an easier way to handle guest posts. Guest posts were very important to me, because it gave the chance for non-bloggers to get their content read easily, and gave bloggers a resume building "I've appeared on other blogs" credit. Formatting posts sucks. I could cut and paste to some degree, but I was till twiddling HTML by hand on every post.
  7. Get more people involved earlier. Many hands make light work, so adding people as blog admins might be the way to go. Also getting feedback on everything festival-related (and not festival entry-related) before posting would have helped avoid ruffled feathers.
  8. Cross-market more. Trading links on blogs is cool and all, but I think I missed some opportunities to get more eyeballs onto the entries through writeups on other non-participating blogs and possible interviews. A week-long festival only needs exposure for about a month tops, and I get the sense that impersonal banner ads aren't worth the money. Not sure where to start here, other than asking online. 
If you're planning on doing a festival, prepare to spend at least a few hours a day on it between outreach, fielding questions, and actually handling the content. It was worth the effort for me due to a great number of random factors aligning, but your mileage may vary wildly.

I'll end it here. Keep the faith and feed your online RPG community. Thank you all for reading and participating.

Be seeing you.

See the entries in the Winter Is Coming RPG Blog Festival.

1 comment:

  1. One big thing I forgot: USE A CONCISE AND CONSISTENT HASHTAG FOR TWITTER AND G+ POSTS. I started using a hashtagthat was too blessed long to use on every post. Inconsistency makes a hashtag useless, so I might as well not have had one at all. Lesson learned.

    Thanks to @pdunwin for pointing that out.