MEDIA SPECIAL: The social club

It’s easy to assume community managers just sit on Facebook all day, but with social media increasingly becoming the new mainstay of the games media PR machine, they do much more.

Community management is about creating a two-way conversation between a young, busy and cluttered fanbase and translating it to the boardroom.

The really exciting thing about community management is that it’s right at the vanguard, the bleeding edge of company communications,” says Creative Assembly community manager, Craig Laycock. Part and parcel with that, the role is constantly evolving.”

With online content in such high demand, community managers are taking on more and more responsibilities.

Interviews, analytics, events, customer support, podcasts, blogs, competitions, features and marketing all come under the umbrella of community management and it’s becoming increasingly apparent that these managers are not only part of PR but part of the press as well.

There’s certainly a growing emphasis on it and we’re involved with the press a lot more than say three years ago,” says Codemasters’ community manager Ben Walker. This is probably down to the community management role emerging from the shadows and being recognised as the key and important facet it is.”

While gamers would often rush to press sites for the latest news and announcements, community managers are creating so much content that consumers are now flocking to these official sources instead of third party publications.

Namco Bandai’s consumer and community PR executive Hollie Bennett tells MCV: I’ve certainly noticed a shift and found that fans are coming to us directly.

Some titles we release are quite niche and have a target fanbase so they might not gain the information they need from the press. However they can easily access that information from us or ask questions directly.”

Born Ready Games’ community manager Jamin Smith adds: There’s absolutely a space for both. Consumers are always going to rely on press as a source of unbiased information and generally trust their opinions, but we can offer more detailed answers to questions direct from our consumers.”

Deep Silver’s international community manager Maurice Tan says: When new information is only available on, say, Battlefield Blog, press tend to pick up on it and post that information on their own outlets. But then readers will also know where to get that information first if they are interested.”

During the run-up to Battlefield 3’s launch, EA made sure that most major updates were run on the product’s blog page rather than via a media source. This caused controversy with the media who felt they couldn’t compete.

Many sites run rampant with rumours – even the major players, which is frustrating. There is a lot of distrust of the larger sites and their daunting communities,” Capcom UK’s new community manager Neil Gorton tells MCV. Fans now seek out smaller and friendlier communities.”

Large outlets are trying to combat this by hiring community managers of their own. IGN has social media editor Tom Butler, who highlights individuals’ involvement within its vast community.

The growth of reader engagement across our social media profiles shows that people want to engage with IGN,” says Butler.

UK readers love the fact we’re doing something for them. They are now helping to shape IGN’s news agenda, providing us with scoops and high quality user generated content.”

Butler adds: Being part of the editorial discussion is crucial when delivering information in a timely manner so we own the conversation.”

While PR and marketing do their best to reach the biggest audience, it’s community managers who translate the frontline. Keeping the dedicated entertained and engaged is vital.

Think of the community sitting in a theatre, you wouldn’t stick around if it was boring – you’d simply get up and leave,” concludes Walker.

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