As part of our Social Media Special, Ubisoft'sUK head of digital marketing Alan Dykes discusses how Twitter and Facebook can be crucial to a game's success – if used inventively
Advocacy radiates from core fans – they give a franchise legitimacy and deliver far more value revenue-wise than they spend themselves.
We don't think of marketing to fans as preaching to the converted: we think about how we can reinforce their conviction and get them to spread the word, preaching to the unconverted. Fan power can be neglected by focusing solely on big headline numbers and mainstream media – but when you value and reward fans and give them a trail of content and creation to engage with, they'll spin buzz into the mainstream. You could call it the gamification of communication.
Of course, you can push the Follows and Likes tactic way too far – it's a blunt instrument that's effective sometimes but needs to be used sparingly and can backfire.In fact, most of the stuff we do doesn't have a Like gate or any other barrier to entry/engagement – it involves giving people the tools to create and spread their own stories.
The Autodance app for Just Dance, for example, lets people video themselves and share with friends – either directly on their phone or via Facebook. Name me another way you can get 5 million people to create 30 million+ videos all branded with Just Dance and shared among their friends?
It can also involve really simple cross-media approaches, like prominently tagging ad campaigns with a hashtag: result, you trend on Twitter with something that's centrally trackable. In essence, the best social media reinforces brand awareness through personalisation.
Globally social media is a big area of investment for us. We have a network of key community and social media staff in the dev studios, in the regional hubs and each local subsidiary that act as the ears and the mouths of our brands.
Once we've committed time and money building a community it's imperative we keep engaging, not just when it suits us: eg when DLC is on the horizon. Fans are easily distracted and have a lot of other interests, so to keep mindshare a brand actually needs to act like its own biggest fan on Social Media, with a clear voice and consistent interaction. But never confuse this with spam… sadly many do.
Social Media evolution, growth and interaction in the quiet times makes it easier to scale up communications when we need to – and creates a ready-made cauldron to stew news and speculation. Measuring this interaction along with other metrics allows us to reassure retail of a games' anticipation and increase orders.
And, of course, we have UPlay.
It's actually still early days in the evolution of UPlay, yet it puts us light years ahead of most of our competitors and we're learning all the time. Ubisoft is focusing more and more on customer lifetime value, in boxed franchises as well as digital.
In a social context we could also think of metrics like total revenue attributable per fan, going beyond what they spend themselves to the spend they influence. It's difficult to measure – but again Social Media is a good research platform.
UPlay is all about giving something back to our family of fans and making them feel that buying one of our games is much more than just a series of one-off transactions. Recent UPlay community developments include taking advocates from the network to E3 to blog about the experience.