The Thumb Commotion
I've been rather annoying this week on social media (Twitter, Facebook) asking people to click a link to our cover image for Hocus. This link leads to Board Game Geek and the image, at which point I'm hoping people click a little green image where they thumb it.
With sufficient thumbs, the image enters the front page image gallery, which gains more exposure. This seems like a lot of very annoying, tedious effort for us to get our picture on a page for some form of accomplishment, but it really matters a great deal.
Briefly, I wanted to detail why publishers like me seek out your thumbs and what it means for us.
Firstly, some perspective. The figures I'm going to give you will not be impressive. Remember, the board game hobby is a very tiny niche hobby. I am at the absolute bottom of that niche as a first-time publisher. We all start somewhere, and I'm a scum guppy choking down mud in my pool.
Our social network, being our Twitter followers, Facebook followers, and personal friends who happen to have BGG accounts, helped us get onto that front page. Once there, people who do not know us gain access to our product and what we're offering. Without me putting it in front of their face personally, they can take a look, click it, and go "huh, this looks neat." With one click from there, they gain access to our page, where we have links to our PNP, a how to play video, and our publishing page. These BGG users are learning about us on their own in a less obnoxious way and they're beginning to use our content.
Since our image hit the front page, we've seen:
- A dramatic spike in Fans on BGG (up from 2 to 17)
- A spike in thumbs for our PNP (up to 30)
- A spike in PNP downloads (over 50+ since we hit the front page)
- A spike in comments, primarily on our image files
- More newsletter sign ups. This is SO valuable!
- More Facebook fan sign ups.
- More Twitter followers.
As a result of this traffic and activity, Hocus is now on the Hotness of BGG.
The Hotness on BGG is updated once per day, I believe in the wee hours of the morning. For one day, you're one of several games with front page exposure. The Hotness is based on some formula that is a combination of thumbs and activity. Basically, if people are engaging with your game, talking about it, that sort of thing, you'll join the hotness. Often it's represented by very popular games, like Twilight Struggle - people are always discussing it. It's also where you'll see many popular Kickstarter games. The reason, is that people hear about the Kickstarter, then go on BGG to engage with them. See images, read reviews, chat in the forums.
The Hotness seems like a silly banner for silly people, but I think it's important. I have no data to back it up, other than the fact it is slowly helping us build awareness. However, BGG is a hyper targeted site. It is THE destination for board games. People who know about and like board games GO TO BGG to learn more about them and discuss. You know what advertisers crave? A hyper focused audience. Often, you hear about "18-24 year old males," and huge demographic swaths. With BGG, everyone is there for one reason: board games. I pay every year to remove ads, but I never do. Why? Because most of the ads are for board games. Products I want to buy.
This is partially the reason for Twitch.tv's success. Their audience is hyper engaged video gamers who want to eat, sleep, breathe, and buy video games and their accessories. Many of your favorite productivity apps exist as a way to gain a hyper focused following to then appreciate ad content.
Thoughts on advertising aside, by being in the Hotness, and on the front page for ads, we are now on the front stage for the premier platform for board games. Though our social network is not insignificant, there is a stark difference between followers and active fans. Our active fans, and those who happened to see my post (there's a lot of noise!) have now propelled us in front of dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of other potential fans. This is an immense gift, just shy of two weeks of our Kickstarter launch.
As a small publisher, in a small pond, we have few assets to gain recognition. One of the reasons we've been so slow and patient in shifting from just designers to designers who also publish is that it takes a VERY long time to build an audience. You may have 4,000 followers, but how many will click an image? Don't fool yourself into thinking you're that popular. One of the reasons we invested so much in art, and we did, was because it helps us with window shopping appeal. People who are just browsing BGG might notice our shiny, gorgeous cover in the background. People might stop to pull it off the shelf, metaphorically in this case, and learn more.
Yes, our art is a part of the game, but it's also an advertising asset.
In addition to organic thumb drives, publishers have a few other tools to gain attention and build a direct conversation with customers. The first and most obvious are social platforms. I recommend you use all that you think you can provide valuable content for. I have to treat FB and Twitter differently, so I do. I don't use Instagram for publishing because I don't have viable content at this time. Secondly, you can buy ads. This is expensive, but it's effective if you use the proper platforms. We have ads planned for Hocus, at a time when we think they will be the most effective. We'll probably also have ads when it goes on sale for post-Kickstarter customers, but that's some time in the future.
A final method is to pay for a contest on BGG. This is a pretty clever solution, but it costs money. The contests on BGG ask you for many specific details related to the game. Details that require you to engage with the game on BGG. If you have hundreds, or even thousands of people suddenly visiting and clicking on your game page? Well, you're guaranteed to be on the hotness. Next time you see a contest, see if the game is on the hotness. Hint: It is.
I hope this reveals a little information about why we, and other publishers, come stomping about, hat in hand, asking for thumbs. It's a relatively low cost method to gain exposure and new followers. It isn't free! You need to have good art and a social network established to do this. But, it's effective.