When you create a natural, intuitive environment for social actions, players eventually blur (and lose) the borderline between social network engagement and gameplay.
Social media integration is a core attribute of user acquisition and retention. While common for mobile games, it’s not always easy to convince players to hand over personal information in return for something as basic as a marginally easier login process or a little virtual currency.
And even though Facebook offers developers a set of best practices, following them precisely is still no guarantee that your game will see an outpouring of advocates. They may certainly help you build a strong advocacy network, but in order to get new players interested in social network integration, you must offer some combination of personalized in-game experiences, friend challenges, social leaderboards, and the ability to support one another in-game.
We’ve broken this down into 3 steps. Here’s how to turn your players into true game advocates:
- Integrate your player’s social networks as incentive
- Offer immediate rewards for social actions
- Implement advocacy prompts
Let’s dig into each of these strategies separately.
1. Integrate Your Players’ Social Networks as Incentive
If you haven’t noticed, the overarching goal of social network integration is to offer your players benefits from the social integration of others. How does that work?
Many games (especially in the mobile space) ultimately provide little value to the player unless they connect with other real-life players. The clever thing here is that these games don’t suffer from poor design, rather, they’re specifically designed to acquire social sign-ups.
Here’s the bottom line: connected players grow user bases, and large user bases attract whales. When you hook those whales, pull them into your primary community (an independently developed social network or platform) to pull in additional crowds and grow your userbase.
One caveat that you should be aware of: Using a social network such as Facebook, Steam or Twitch opens you to losing control of your audience. The ability to target messaging becomes expensive over time and no transparency into your players.
2. Offer Immediate Rewards for Social Actions
So what’s the direct benefit of your players’ social network integration? What’s their immediate gratification? After all, there’s no guarantee that their friend invites will attract any new players.
Games need to offer immediate rewards for social actions. A nice example of this is proprietary virtual currency that can be used to expedite time-based actions, purchase cosmetic items or pay-to-win experiences, or access an exclusive level of powerful units or equipment.
Providing immediate and exclusive rewards not only encourages players to take part in social actions, but it makes them feel special for doing so. That feeling of exclusivity and value is what turns an encouraged player into an advocate... it’s that perception of if this makes me feel special, it will make you feel special.
Additionally, when operating alongside independent communities (i.e. not Facebook or Twitter, a network you build and manage yourself), you have the opportunity to implement a gamification-based reward system to encourage social actions.
While it’s never a good idea to use an existing social network as your “home base”, it can be a powerful method of creating viral marketability as users connect with one another for mutual benefit (e.g. Candy Crush).
3. Implement Advocacy Prompts
If this initial rush isn’t enough to transform a happy user into an advocate, however, you’ll need to break out the big guns. It’s time to invest in building user experiences around advocacy prompts (which, frankly, is something that should be done from the start, anyway).
By implementing a regular set of advocacy prompts, you can ensure that users who haven’t embraced social integration will at least consider advocacy. Furthermore, your existing social users will almost certainly become advocates to some degree as a result.
Let’s be honest. Even games famous for spam (Candy Crush, Farmville, etc.) have several thousand advocates with no intention of promoting the brand. It doesn’t matter. Requesting resources and assisting friends in need is still a strong, albeit indirect, endorsement. Your players are announcing to their social network: “I play this game, and we can play together.” Milestone celebrations and personalized sharing prompts are strong ways to encourage this type of social interaction.
For optimal success, however, be careful about how often you prompt your user, and for what reasons. If you leave it for only the most significant events, it may be too infrequent to feel natural. If you celebrate everything, it will lose its impact.
Careful design of prompt frequency, personalization, and user experience is key to turning players into game advocates. Making users feel special builds genuine appreciation for the game, and with regular, thoughtful reminders they’ll share how they feel.
Remember, even if it’s not an explicit endorsement, a simple mention goes a long way. Never forget the power of user advocacy!