Social media has not just changed the way people interact socially, but how they do business; for instance we are seeing many of the old marketing methods ( newspaper, magazine, Yellow Pages advertising etc.) being superseded by online marketing that is more affordable. Small businesses can suddenly compete with the big guys on a more even playing field.
In social gaming, we have seen the likes of Rovio, Zynga and King rapidly rise up from nowhere and grab all the headlines, but there are tens of thousands of small, agile developers all getting a slice of the pie; many have moved quickly to adopt business practices that could point the way forward for businesses in other industries too.
Here are a few of the key strategies that social gaming companies are using that make sense in virtually any modern business:
Understanding the Audience
Successful game developers have a keen understanding of their target audience and know who they are designing games for. They understand what they like and don’t like, how old they are, the language they use, how much money they spend on games and so on…this helps them tailor games specifically for their audience, including how to make money from their games. You need to know your market before you design products or try to sell anything.
Many of the social and mobile games are free to download. Free content is now expected across social networks and, while methods obviously exist to monetise games, many audiences will only play freebies. For exposure and getting your name out there, free content is essential – and this applies whether you are designing games or writing blog posts, articles, white papers, making videos or designing info-graphics: it all helps a business gain credibility and status.
The core group in social game development companies may be a just a few committed guys; much of the legwork and programming is done by outsourced contractors, whom the company is able to hire from around the world. They have a pick of global talent rather than relying on local populations. This has revolutionized the way small, online-based companies work and it is a model that many more small businesses could be using.
The “social” side of social gaming creates an open communication channel between game players and often with the game developer themselves via live support. The modern, social media savvy individual increasingly expects this level of interaction with any business they obtain services from. Small businesses need to take note of this when designing their customer service models.
Responding to Feedback
Similarly, social gaming development companies often throw the feedback doors wide open to uncover suggestions for improving their products. Nimble and agile companies can quickly redesign components of the game, fix bugs and upgrade features in response to their customer feedback: another lesson for small businesses everywhere.
Joining the Cloud
Social gaming as we know it – via Facebook for instance – would not exist without the cloud. There are many cloud-based technologies that can help to keep costs down for small businesses – such as Zoho Office Suite, Microsoft Office Live, Adobe Forms and Trello. However traditional IT set ups and security doubts over using the cloud have prevented many small businesses from taking advantage of these benefits.
The concept of sharing is a very social one. Game players share high scores with their friends and contacts and this, without any effort on the part of the developer, helps to advertise the game and the company. The ability to do this should be used by small businesses to share the content they have created, using the social channels such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to spread the word; it’s essentially free, word-of-mouth marketing.
Looking at social gaming business models makes a lot of sense in this growing industry. Modern small business owners from all industries would do well to take heed of what they are doing and follow the best strategies that apply to their own companies.