Yesterday I posted a poll on Twitter asking people how they learn about new indie games most of the time. The poll is still open but it’s starting to lose steam so here’s my analysis of this completely non-scientific and bogus poll.

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It’s easy to reach people when you ask their opinion or get them to interact

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone but I wanted to have a specific personal example to show to talk about this point. This tweet has 7,379 impressions (and it keeps getting more as I’m writing this) which makes it I think my 2nd most printed tweet right behind the one announcing the release of March of the Living though this poll has 41 retweets VS 18 for the one about the release of MotL.

I didn’t put much energy into this tweet. It took me 30 seconds to post, I quickly asked fellow indie devs to RT it and I was done. For someone with only 699 followers, the results are pretty good. My tweets never get this much attention and game release aside, self-promoting tweets are usually those performing the worst.

The point is if you’re on Twitter only to promote your work then you’re probably doing it wrong. If you consider social networks as a one-way communication channel then you won’t achieve much unless you’re already famous. People are looking for content that will make them react, that will make them feel like they are talking to you and simply promoting your work over and over will most likely bore most.

Was this poll just an experiment? Well no but let’s just say I was much more interested to see how this tweet would do than the poll results themselves.

The idea of this poll came to me yesterday after checking the Google Analytics stats of the Steam page of March of the Living. I was quite surprised that the articles I posted on Gamasutra this year drove more traffic to Steam than all the press coverage March of the Living received (it includes websites like PCGamer, Rock,Paper,Shotgun and YouTube videos with 100,000+ views). My articles on Gamasutra were not directly promoting my game, they were simply mentioning it as it’s part of my recent experience. Writing these articles still ended up being a good marketing effort requiring very little of me.

So basically, your online presence should be more focused on your experience than your games because your experience has a lot more potential to reach people you wouldn’t be able to reach by just talking about your games.

About the “social networks” answer for a question asked on Twitter…

The first thing to know is that Twitter limits the number of answers to 4 so it’s not great if you want something accurate. Should I have not included a “social networks” answer in there then people would have told me “I learned about indie games on Twitter but you didn’t include this answer”.

The “social networks” answer also can have a negative impact on the “gaming press” one. What I mean is if you follow Rock, Paper, Shotgun on Twitter and selected “social networks” as an answer then your choice doesn’t say everything it should say. You’re still directly consuming gaming press content here since nobody else relay the information to you. In my eyes your choice should have been “gaming press” instead. When I post a tweet I hope it will reach more people than just my 699 followers otherwise I’m not benefiting at all from the full potential of Twitter.

So if I had to post the poll again I’d probably go with the following possible answers:

  • Gaming press / YouTubers / Streamers (website, twitter, facebook, youtube, etc.)
  • Other people followed on social networks (devs, friends, family, etc.)
  • Offline word of mouth
  • Online stores (Steam, GoG, etc.)

But like I said a few times on Twitter, my intention wasn’t to run a scientifically accurate poll. For me it was just a curiosity to have some fun with.

Still 48% of Twitter users said they mostly learn about indie games outside of Twitter

So sure, the “social networks” answer might be boosted because I asked the question on a social network but I was honestly expecting this choice to be much more popular.

There are a few ways to interpret this. The first one would be to say that indie devs are generally bad at using Twitter. Maybe because they just keep posting about their current project and there’s no chance at all such content can reach people not following them unless you attach a clever animated gif that shows something cool and the gif is a good reason enough for people to RT it.

You could also say that Twitter is a terrible way to try to get some attention when your posting content that has little chance to go viral in any way. I follow only 73 accounts on Twitter and still manage to miss a lot of content because there’s simply too much. Now imagine someone following 500 accounts or maybe more. The chance your tweet will get their attention is very slim, specially if they follow a few accounts that can post 10-20 tweets in a row.

Another explanation might be that many Twitter users are only on Twitter to follow a few people they know or a few devs that made a game they like and have little followers or don’t care much about Twitter after all. If one of my follower is following 150 other accounts and only have 10 followers himself then I can’t expect much from this follower if he RT some content I posted.

Often, indie devs will follow other indie devs on Twitter and if there’s something I learned is that other indie devs are NOT the people you want to reach. Sure, other indie devs play games too but they have their own stuff to promote and if your tweet just end up being locked in some kind of loop where only other indie devs see your content then you’re not achieving much.

Steam has a lot of power or the gaming press has now little

I was a bit surprised to see Steam with the same percentage as the gaming press as I don’t personally browse Steam to discover new indie games. When I check Steam it’s to check a specific game I heard about somewhere else or to quickly check the list of top sellers to see what’s hot these days. It might be because I’m a dev myself and rarely buy games, I don’t know.

It shows however that the slightest change Steam makes can have a lot of impact on indie devs when it’s as important as the gaming press. I said above that the gaming press percentage should probably be a bit higher because some people selected social networks instead but the gaming press can’t possibly cover as many indie games as what you can discover on Steam directly so it’s quite significant that 15% of people selected Steam as their answer.

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