I think most indie game developers will agree that marketing is important. However, finding the time to dedicate to it is another topic, entirely. Between meetings, brainstorming with teammates in Slack, and working on the actual product, the time for anything outside of getting the game finished can seem like more of a distraction than productive work.
I’d like to share what I consider one of the more important aspects of digital marketing that many people forget about in the midst of content creation, hashtag searches, and a plethora of social media profiles: the content calendar. A content calendar will help you be more efficient in your studio’s marketing, ensures your studio pushes quality social media posts regularly, and can eventually even help lead to game sales by increasing traffic to your website. But first…what’s a content calendar? A content calendar (also sometimes called an editorial calendar) is essentially a visual aid that helps organize your studio’s social media posts. This can come in the form of a nifty online tool, an intricate spreadsheet, or a calendar of post-it notes on the wall (or many other forms). In whatever form it may be, a content calendar ensures that your studio keeps marketing at least somewhere on the mind, even if it’s not anywhere near the front.
Ensures a Regular Stream of Social Media Posts
Raise your hand if this has ever happened to you. One day (let’s say Saturday) you make a post on Twitter with a new gif from your game. And this week, #screenshotsaturday’s traffic likes it and it quickly becomes one of your best performing Twitter posts. Let’s say you even wrote a whole blog post the day before, from which the gif derived, and the image did so well that the amount of traffic you got to your blog was more than ever before. “Awesome!,” you think to yourself, “I’m a social media guru and indie dev rockstar.” However, despite the traffic to your blog and interest in your game, you hardly gain any new followers or subscribers to your RSS feed. Why is this? It could be for many, many reasons (some of which just can’t be explained; social media is sometimes an inexplicable enigma). However, one of those reasons may very well be that said blog post was your first in a very long time, and the tweet may have been your first since the previous Saturday. Followers, readers, and fans want to follow someone who has something to say, and says something regularly.
Digital marketers will know the concept very well, but for the uninitiated, social media is often likened to a cocktail party. Everyone who attends has a purpose to be there, but no one likes the attendees that only talk about themselves. The dance of conversation, the back and forth between strangers and acquaintances, eventually leads to a place where people become interested in you, THEN your product. However, to be a part of the party, you have to attend. Studios that post regularly on social media maintain a presence. Anyone who spends time in gamedev circles on Twitter know some of the people who do this the best: Chris Kaitila (@McFunkypants), Rick King (@RickKing16), and Alan Zucconi (…@AlanZucconi) are all names that should be familiar to anyone who’s ever spent time on #gamedev on Twitter. They’re very active, provide good insight, and share great content that’s both their own and others’ articles. These are examples of what we in the inbound marketing game like to call influencers, people who have a trusted following on social media, due to their prolific activity. Take inspiration from the people who do it “right” and be a part of the party.
Helps You Maintain a Schedule
For years, media outlets have known that the key to building a fan base is publishing content at regularly scheduled times (TV has done this for years, successfully). As videoblogging, YouTube channels, and livestreaming have proliferated, web media creators have followed suit. For example, Greg Miller, of Kinda Funny, introduces every episode of the GameOverGreggy Show with a reminder of when new content is published and on what platforms. Humans like patterns. Advertising what days your audience can expect new content (or at least always publishing it on the same day, each week) gives potential fans a reason to come back. Instead of forcing them to revisit arbitrarily, fans can add your blog to their list of activities for a certain day. For as long as I can remember, Wednesday has been Zero Punctuation day. Sometime around noon, every single Wednesday, I know Yahtzee’s lovable cynicism will grace my laptop screen. And it does because I know when to check for it. Also, since publishing content based on a weekly schedule gives people a reason to visit your site, you create a cycle of traffic to your studio’s homepage, which
should will eventually lead to sales of your game (which is, you know, the whole reason you care about marketing in the first place).
Makes Content Relevant
The concept of a content calendar stems from the editorial calendar used by news media for years. In fact, many marketing blogs use templates created by magazine and adapt them for marketing purposes. An editorial calendar allows a gaming news outlet, for example, to keep track of upcoming game releases, conventions, and newsworthy items (holidays, etc). A dev studio can do much of the same. By tracking long-term production milestones, blog posts can be scheduled around them, helping you make the most out of the exciting times in your dev cycle. Beyond this, it helps you be creative with the events that could trend, getting your post, studio, and game in front of new eyes. It also leads to more creative social media posts, which can lead to more followers.
— PolyKnight Games (@PolyKnightGames) May 5, 2015
Keeps Marketing on Your Team’s Mind
As important as marketing your game may be, actually finishing and shipping it should take precedence, obviously. At many times, marketing is probably be more of a distraction than an asset. A content calendar allows you and your indie dev team to be more efficient in your marketing and social media strategies. By utilizing a schedule, a content calendar creates dedicated deadlines for your team to have content ready to publish. It also makes marketing feel much less daunting, since much can be made ahead of schedule: blogs, videos, and social media posts can be done over weeks, instead of having to crunch in a few days, taking time away from normal work. Also, by knowing what you want to post and when, you can schedule posts well in advance with various automation tools, like Buffer and Hootsuite. If you’re even organized enough, you can schedule dedicated time each week to focusing on marketing, then going back to focusing at work, only hopping on Twitter or Facebook when you please.
Two of the more popular social media management tools are Hootsuite and Buffer. I personally like Hootsuite, but feel free to use whatever works for you. The most important takeaway is that it allows you to schedule what needs to be done during your dedicated “marketing” time, then frees your mind to return to development. Hootsuite Buffer Tweetdeck Latergram.me …and many, many, many more…
Content Calendar Template
There are plenty of good templates out there, and each serve a slightly different purpose. Personally, I like to use a mix of Google Calendar (for long-term marketing goals, production milestones, and important gaming related events) in conjunction with Hootsuite’s spreadsheet template. Hootsuite’s templates Buffer’s templates CoSchedule’s templates
Hopefully, some of these ideas and tools can help your indie dev studio market your game more effectively and efficiently. Maintaining a content calendar can be a challenge, and is something that I’ve personally let slide (and our blogging has suffered for it). Writing this has been a good reminder for why I enjoy working with one in the first place, and hopefully you can get something out of using one, too. If you have any feedback, please leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter (either @PolyKnightGames or my personal handle, @ericbrodie).