Ugly word, 'blog'. Sounds like bog and log. But, by far, the blog is the most important aspect of any social marketing campaign. It allows you to access and maintain audience at a very low cost.
It allows you to message directly, without any media third parties sucking your budgets clean. It allows you to be the conversation you want to have with your consumer. Little wonder Fast Company called blogging "the first commandment of social marketing".
HOW IT WAS
In the past, magazines and their audiences belonged to third party media organizations. Games companies that wanted to access these audiences did so by handing over lots of money.
Same in the games industry. With the exception of Nintendo Power (which Nintendo once owned and produced), that was how the media worked.
For the games industry, it sorta made sense. Games producers do not want to spend their time producing magazines. With the exception of the hardware manufacturers, there was not much call for media properties focused around individual companies or products. It is hard to imagine The Official Codemasters Magazine or even The Official EA Magazine.
So magazines were the original aggregators. They aggregated content, which begat readers which begat audience. Fine.
HOW IT IS
But the infrastructure underpinning this model is crumbling and swaying. Audience is not dependent on print or on news-stand. Audience is not even dependent on the traditional web.
There are now so many access points to audience that are vastly more cost-effective and message-effective than print or banner-advertising. And they are available for games companies to build themselves at ludicrously low cost.
The explosion in community managers at games companies is fabulous proof of this. Games companies, sensibly, want to build, maintain and nurture their own communities and audiences. They do so via forums, email and social media outlets like Twitter. They do so via their websites and they do so via that most effective social media marketing tool, the humble blog.
A games company's blog is not the same as its website. One informs and sells in a traditional fashion (company address and video previews etc.). The other entertains and communicates as a friend might. In fact, the blog is more like a magazine than a corporate website. It is a trusted pal. We all know that its ultimate aim is to sell games. But that's okay, because it's on the level. It gives the reader a privileged insight into the company's activities and its culture. Most important, it tells stories.
And, like a magazine, it builds audience - loyal audience that keeps coming back. Unlike a magazine, the blog is 100% dedicated to the games company, and it's owned by the games company. This is a fabulous opportunity for marketers to build something that sells games AND that the audience genuinely loves. Bungie's done it. Capcom's done it.
But most blogs are half-hearted and do not even come close to hitting their potential.
Most game company blogs are improvable. They don't tell compelling stories. They don't communicate in a friendly, warm way. They don't update enough. They aren't relevant. (Next week I'm going to talk about how games company blogs can be improved, and what can be gained from a great blog.)
At E3, I launched a new company, Intent Social Media, dedicated to building great blogs for games companies. We just launched our first for Cryptic and Atari (www.championsonlinedailynews,com), and the results have been startling. (We'll be releasing stats in the autumn, but the site's traffic, after one week, is in the thousands.)
Have a look at the reader comments. They are overwhelmingly welcoming and positive. This is marketing. They know it's marketing. They love it. The monthly cost to a games company is less than a glossy, ephemeral page of advertising. And the audience? It belongs to the game-maker. Why wouldn't you?
Colin Campbell is head of Intent Social Media, a subsidiary of Intent Media. More at www.intentsocialmedia.com