Category Archives: marketing

Flattr Microdonations

Some of you may have heard about Flattr before. It’s a “social microdonations platform” where you can give small donations to a content creator if you like their content. Kinda like throwing your loose change to a busker in the street.

It’s a cool idea. Like a blog post? Hit the Flattr button to give them small tip. Enjoyed a Youtube video? Hit the like button to give them a small tip. You set your monthly maximum spend and then you can just go crazy Flattring everyone you like… your monthly spend will get distributed to all the people you tipped that month.

But I’m not convinced that it’s really taken off. How many of you can say you have a Flattr account right now?

At any rate, I thought I’d give it a go. So from now on all my posts have a little Flattr button at the top. If you like what you read, click the button and make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Server Mania Affiliation

Frequent readers of my blog (all 5 of you) will know that I recently stopped using Google AdSense, because it was completely pointless. This lead me to look at alternative ways of offsetting the (admittedly quite low) costs of running this website.

In a serendipitous event, I was emailed by my hosting provider, Server Mania. They said they were running a linkshare affiliation program where you host links to their products, and whenever one of those links turns into a sale, you receive 80% of the first month’s sale as commission.

LinkShare UK Referral Program
This is the affiliate program they operate through.

Since my blog targets indie game developers I imagine there’s quite a few of you out there who want to get good, affordable web servers. So I figured this might be a good fit. Doesn’t hurt to try.

As for my own experience with Server Mania. The price is generally lowest in the industry, the support is insanely good with average support ticket response times being less than 15 minutes, and the product is great. They provide well specced VPS’s, dedicated servers, scalable cloud hosting, and more.

So, if you’re in the market for a web server, consider signing up for hosting using one of the links on this website. If you make a big order you’ll single-handedly pay for my entire year’s hosting costs.

ServerMania

ServerMania

ServerMania

ServerMania

Why I no longer use Google AdSense

When I started this website I signed up for Google AdSense. Chuck a couple of unobtrusive ads on the page. One on the sidebar, one at the footer. Nothing sinister. Might help cover hosting costs, right?

As it turns out though, nobody who visits my website is stupid enough to click on them. My total AdSense “earnings” since January are still less than a dollar. They don’t even pay out until you get $150.

Total AdSense earnings over a 3 month period.
Total AdSense earnings over a 3 month period.

The daily click-through rates reveal why the return is so poor. Problem 1 – not very much traffic. Problem 2 – nobody clicks on ads.

Daily AdSense data.
Daily AdSense data.

Projections are that I will never make $150 from AdSense ads on this website, thus I will make zero dollars from AdSense.

In hindsight this should be no surprise – I’m targeting a highly tech savvy computer scientist audience who has long since become immune to internet advertising, either through the use of ad blocking plugins or sheer indifference. I don’t click on ads, so why would I expect my audience to?

So I might as well not have them. Good riddance if you ask me.

Conclusion

Thinking about putting AdSense ads on your website?

Don’t bother unless you have a way larger readership than I do, or a much more gullible one. Preferably both.

I am now trialling a linkshare affiliation program with Server Mania.

My Five Step Program For Twitter Followers

We all know how important it is to cultivate a good Twitter following for our indie dev projects. Marketing via social media is very important for any game project, but as indie devs it’s doubly important, as we need all the free marketing we can get if our games are to be successful.

The growth of my Twitter account.
The growth of my Twitter account.

I hadn’t paid much attention to Twitter until the start of this year (2015). I had an account, but was only followed by a few close friends. All that started to change on January 10, when I resolved to get my Twitter account sorted.

Detailed in this post are the steps I took to get 400 followers in about 6 weeks. No paid tools, no bought followers, no tricks. Just a small investment of time and effort – you’ll need around 15-30 minutes per day. The more you put in the more you’ll get out.

The five steps.
The five steps summarised.

Step One – Become Followable

The first thing to do is set up your profile. This is very important. Whenever someone is trying to decide “should I follow this person?” they will typically look at your profile. If they can tell at a glance that you’re going to tweet the kinds of things they are interested in then they may decide to follow you. If they can’t tell what your account is about from a quick glance, then you have little chance of being followed.

Write a good profile description

Your description is the most important aspect of your profile: people will quickly read this to find out who you are and decide whether they want to follow you. Like all things on Twitter, it has to be short. Typically people list a few key things that they’re interested in, and are likely to tweet about, as well as a little bit about themselves personally. This should include your professional interests, and a few personal interests/hobbies.

Choose a good profile photo

Leaving the default egg profile photo is a death sentence for any Twitter account. If you have a good eye-catching square logo for your group then you might consider using this as your profile photo, otherwise it’s always a good option to use a head-shot. Preferably the photo should be somewhat interesting, memorable, and eye-catching so that people’s eyes are drawn towards it.

cropped-bloody_profile_pic.jpg
My Twitter profile photo. Seriously. It’s eye-catching, memorable, and a headshot. Perfect.

Add a header photo

This is perhaps the least important part of the profile, but can help it to stand out further. This is a large wide landscape banner style photo. If you have something suitable then it’s a great extra to have, but if you don’t have something on hand then you can probably skip this for now. But keep it in mind. The more personalized your profile is the more it sends the message to potential followers that this person takes their Twitter account seriously.

Seed your account

Once you’ve set up your account, you need to seed it with some good, relevant tweets that exemplify the kinds of things that you’re going to post on your account. This could be links to recent work that you or your colleagues have published, or it could be relevant news media articles relating to your field.

When people are deciding whether they should follow you they are given a sample of the last few tweets that you’ve made, and many people will use these to make their final decision about whether you’re someone they want to follow. As such it’s important that whenever you’re going to go on a follower recruitment drive that your most recent tweets are good examples of what you’re about.

Make your Twitter account visible

Make sure your conference presentations, websites, emails, business cards, and other outward facing materials you produce reference your Twitter account. The little blue Twitter bird icon, or the little chat bubble lowercase ‘t’ icon are the universally understood icons for Twitter.

In web-based materials you should insert a clickable link to your Twitter account, so that people can easily follow you straight from your website/email. Like the one you can see on the left.

An example of a business card that includes a Twitter account.
An example of a business card that includes a Twitter account.

Step Two – Recruit followers!

As someone who’s just starting on Twitter the best way to recruit followers is to follow people yourself. Whenever someone receives a new follower Twitter notifies them, shows them a summary of your profile, and gives them the option of following you right back.

Follow people you know

To start with you’ll probably want to follow your friends, family, and colleagues. These people are very likely to follow you back, as you already have an established relationship and they’re inherently more likely to be interested in the things you have to say.

Twitter has tools that help you to do this. In the Discover page you’ll see a “Find friends” link. Clicking this link will give you options to search for friends who use Twitter in the address books of various email services you might use. Twitter will also ask to use your mobile phone number to help connect you with friends in your phonebook. Whether you choose to do this or not is up to you, but it’s fairly harmless in my experience.

The discover page.
The discover page.

Follow people who have the same interests as you

The next step is to start following people who are likely to be interested in the things you want to tweet about. These people are more likely to look at your profile summary, think “they seem interesting” and follow-back. There’s a few ways to go about this.

Search

You can search Twitter for people, or for the words they use in their tweets. If you go to the Discover page, and use the Search Twitter field to start searching for keywords that relate to your areas of interest then Twitter will return pages upon pages of tweets that contain those keywords. Read through the list of tweets that you found in your search and if they seem relevant to you, click on the username of the person who posted the tweet, and click the Follow button.

Tip: If you use the Twitter phone app rather than the website then there will be a little follow shortcut icon that you can use to immediately follow the person who posted the tweet, without having to look at their profile. This can provide a much faster workflow when you want to follow large numbers of accounts.

Hashtags

As well as being able to search for keywords, Twitter has the hashtag system. People tweeting about particular popular topics will add a hashtag code to identify that their tweet is about that topic. This is tremendously useful when looking for people to follow, as it’s a more reliable and unique identifier than simple keywords. Hashtags don’t automatically become a thing as soon as someone uses one though – there needs to be a certain threshold of people using a particular hashtag before it becomes relevant or useful. Usually this is only achieved when there is a particular social movement that is encouraging it, or when the area is so broad or commonplace that it naturally emerges.

You’ve probably seen television shows encouraging viewers to use a particular hashtag to discuss their show (i.e. QandA’s #qanda, My Kitchen Rules #mkr15, etc.) Similarly, you’ll often find that conferences in “Twitter aware” circles have a designated hashtag for their conference, and they encourage all conference attendees to use that hashtag when posting about things relating to the conference. This is very helpful in ensuring that the conference attendees can connect with each other on Twitter. Conferences are great places to find new people to follow and new followers!

There are also more general purpose hashtags for specific topics that have enough social momentum behind them. Within the indie game dev community the most popular hashtags seem to be #gamedev, #indiedev, and #GamersUnite.

It might take a bit of experimentation, but if you keep your eyes peeled you’ll eventually figure out which hashtags are being used by the communities that you want to connect with. You can then search for these and use them as a shortcut to find people worth following.

Tip: Once you’ve identified the relevant keywords and are comfortable with how the community is using them, you can make use of these keywords to make your own tweets more discoverable. This is very important, and will be discussed in more detail later in this guide!

Follow people who follow people like you

Another way to find large numbers of people who might want to follow you back is to follow the people who follow people like you. Identify well established accounts with several hundred or thousands of followers that are posting about similar topics to you. Click on their Followers, and quickly scroll through the list following everyone who roughly seems to fit the mold.

Step Three – Clean your account

If you correctly follow step two you should find yourself following several hundred or even a thousand people within a couple of weeks. For all that effort, only a small percentage of those people will follow you back – if you’re doing well with your targeting then maybe 1 in 10. This starts to present a problem, as it will make your Twitter feed move very quickly, and it will inevitably be filled with a lot of garbage and spam.

Now is the time to clean up your account and restore your followed to following ratio to a more respectable number. Time to prune out the dead wood and cut back the weeds.

People that don’t follow back

The reality is you only followed most of those people because you were hoping they would follow back, and if they haven’t gotten around to following you back after a couple of days they’re probably never going to get around to it. Unless you’re particularly interested in hearing what they have to say it’s time to unfollow them so that you actually have some chance of seeing Tweets from the people that you do care about.

This is where it becomes necessary to use third party tools or websites. Most of these services will be able to fetch all the relevant data from your Twitter account, and can tell you important information about the people that you are following and the people that you follow. We can use these services to filter out people that we are following who aren’t following us back.

There are many services that offer a premium paid service, as well as a free limited trial service. For this particular activity I prefer to use www.socialbro.com, as it offers a good filtering system for free.

To do this, sign up for SocialBro and link your account. Perform your synchronization, and once it’s finished, go to the My Community page. Change the CRITERIA field to “People you follow who don’t follow back”.

SocialBro's filtering page.
SocialBro’s filtering page.

SocialBro will now give you a list of all the people matching this criteria, and on the left it has a set of filters that you can use to further refine the list.

If the list is short enough you can just trawl through it and manually unfollow each account you decide you aren’t interested in. However, you may find it easier to shorten the list by using different filters. For example, if you’re trying to stop following spam accounts you can change the Tweets per day slider so that it only selects people who post more than 15 tweets per day. Similarly, you might want to stop following people who have accounts that are more than a few months old yet have very few followers, or people who never tweet, suggesting that their account is inactive.

Getting rid of spammers

Some accounts are considered “bot” accounts, run by a computer program rather than a human. Others are run by humans, but just really annoying humans that post a lot of garbage. Either way, it is a common tactic for these accounts to follow you back in the hope that it means you won’t unfollow them.

So, as much as it may pain you to do it, it is important to also filter your entire following list for people that post more than 15 tweets per day. It is usually a good idea to unfollow people who post more than this, but there are two notable exceptions.

  1. They are just a really good, professionally managed account.

These accounts are usually pretty obvious. They post frequently, but it’s good stuff. These accounts are usually managed by a respectable organisation i.e. New Scientist magazine, Harvard Research, the Mayo Clinic, etc. but sometimes they’re run by professional marketing firms or people who have managed to turn their twitter account into a full time job. These people really exist, and it’s quite ok to follow them if you’re interested in what they’re posting about.

  1. They are a useful retweeting bot.

It is not an inherently bad thing to follow a Twitter bot. Although many of them are quite spammy, in some instances the spam may be worth it. It is common in many areas for people to create a Twitter bot as a service for a particular community. These bots will automatically retweet tweets that use certain hashtags – but sometimes they will only re-tweet you if you follow them in return. Following these retweet bots helps you to quickly discover what’s happening within your community, and it’s a great way to discover active users in your area. As per the Follow people who have the same interests as you section, it is a good idea to follow the people that the re-tweet bot helps you find, as there is a decent chance they will decide to follow you back, and you can always use SocialBro to easily unfollow these people later if it doesn’t pay off.

Step Four – Tweet good

To encourage people to follow you, and to keep your followers from unfollowing you, it is important that you regularly post good content on your Twitter account. Just like you did in Step Three – Clean your account, most people will unfollow inactive accounts, or accounts that post content they’re disinterested in.

Retweeting

One easy way to make sure you’re posting content that your followers should be interested in is to retweet tweets that you yourself liked reading. If you’re interested in it, your followers should be interested in it. As a rule of thumb you should aim to be retweeting at least a couple of interesting articles per day. Feel free to do more, but if you start to find yourself retweeting 10 or more articles per day then consider being more selective. You don’t want people to think you’re just another retweet spam bot.

Publications

Make sure to tweet every time you publish new work. Link the content where possible, and give a headline so that readers can tell at a quick glance if it’s the kind of thing they’d be interested in looking at.

Include images

Adding relevant or amusing images to your tweets makes them more visually interesting and significantly increases click-through rates. If the article you’re posting has a catchy logo or graphic to identify it then consider adding that image to your tweet. Alternatively you can search on Google images for a relevant image to add. As a rule of thumb, you might aim to include an image on at least 25% of your tweets.

Use appropriate hashtags

Hashtags are by no means required when you post a tweet, but selecting one or two appropriate hashtags to add into your tweet will help significantly with exposure. The retweet bots we’ve already talked about will see the hashtag and retweet you to a much bigger following audience than you personally have access to. Not only does this give you access to a bigger audience but it also helps other users find you, and if they like what they see they’re likely to start following you.

Tweet regularly

Aim to send at least one tweet every day, and preferably at least 3 or 4. Between your own articles that you want to promote and retweets this is quite easy to achieve. The more you post the more reasons you’re giving people to follow you… just make sure you’re always posting something that has some value.

Another consideration is time zones. Twitter is most active during the day… in America and Europe. For Australians that basically means the hours between midnight and 9am.

One solution is to use a tool like Buffer (https://bufferapp.com/) or HootSuite (https://hootsuite.com/) to schedule your tweets. Buffer will let you do this for free, and if you use the Google chrome browser you can install a browser extension that makes it very easy to do this. Paying for HootSuite or the extended version of Buffer unlocks a range of additional features.

A lot of people choose to send all their tweets through Buffer or HootSuite, rather than Twitter directly, because that way you can space your tweets out throughout the day, hopefully reaching a larger audience.

Tweets are instantly put into the feed of all your followers as soon as you send them. Any tweets that occur subsequently will push your tweets further and further down the feed.

If all your tweets happen around the same time then only the people who are both following you and happen to be looking at Twitter right now are likely to see them.

Repeat important tweets

Following on from this, it is important to repeat your most important tweets several times throughout the day. In my experience I need to tweet important announcements 4 or 5 times throughout a 48hr period before the click-through rate starts to noticeably decrease.

Use analytics

There are many twitter analytics sites out there. SocialBro, Buffer, and Hootsuite all do this in various ways. There are many others. Unfortunately, many of the really useful statistics require a paid membership to access.

By using the analytics on these sites you can see which of your tweets is having the most impact and learn from what works and what doesn’t work. Even the free analytics can be useful.

Build your personal brand

You’ll often hear criticism about Twitter and how it’s an inane waste of time. Critics cite examples of people posting about mundane daily activities. Although this does happen, and sometimes it really is pointless, there is a method to the madness.

The most successful Twitter users are those who can build their own personal brand, generating a cult of personality around themselves.

One great way to make people care about the things you have to say is to help people see you as a human being. Telling people that you had to get up super early to catch a flight to your conference may seem like a trivial detail that other people shouldn’t care about, but it does send the message “I am a human being, I have troubles just like you. You can relate to me.”, similarly you could mention that you’ve got a bad cold, or that you’re struggling to hit a big deadline, or share a humorous exchange about your kids. These are all great examples of the kinds of personal troubles that just about anyone can relate to and sympathize with. Don’t be shy, people like to feel socially connected, and to do that they need to feel like you’re a real person not just a mindless Twitter drone.

Do try to keep it reasonable though. If you are spending all your time talking about your personal life, and none of your time talking about your product, then the people who are following you because they’re interested in your product might switch off. That would be counterproductive to the whole purpose of this exercise.

It is also important to be aware of the boundaries. Your Twitter followers aren’t your close friends and family, and everything you post is public, so it’s important that you don’t post anything too personal, anything potentially offensive, or anything that should be kept secret. This brings us nicely to the next section…

DANGER

All your tweets are public, and aren’t necessarily going to be read by people who know you. Take care to make sure you never tweet anything that could be considered offensive or insensitive. It doesn’t help if you were just joking, because the people reading your message might not get your sense of humour.

Consider the story of Justine Sacco. 30 year old Senior Director of Corporate Communications at a big American media and internet company. Just before boarding a flight to Cape Town she posted this tweet to her 170 followers:

“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

It was just meant to be a stupid joke, a parody of racism. Her tweet was supposed to mimic—and mock—what an actual racist, ignorant person would say. It never even occurred to her that people might take her at face value, nobody who knew her would think for a second that she was being serious.

Unfortunately for her, one of her followers saw the tweet and thought it ironic that a director of corporate communications was making such an insensitive communication. He retweeted it to his over ten thousand followers. As editor for a major blog his job was to generate traffic, and it worked.

While she was in the air on an 11 hour flight the Internet was stirred into a frenzy. She became the #1 trending topic on Twitter worldwide. The hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet exploded. People were both offended at her casually racist remark, and excited at the prospect of being part of a social media movement that would result in someone losing their job.

As soon as she landed and turned her phone back on realization dawned. She deleted the offending tweet and her entire Twitter account, but it was too late.

She lost her job that day.

Step Five – Repeat!

If you keep repeating all the steps outlined in this guide (particularly steps two through four) you should see your follower count continue to grow, and you should see the things you post gaining more and more traction and better and better response rates. You’ll find that you gradually get a better feel for the kinds of headlines and articles that your followers respond to, and you should start to see some genuine social relations forming between you and some of your more engaged followers. This can be quite a rewarding process, and hopefully you will find that you start to enjoy your daily Twitter activity… because if you don’t enjoy it you won’t continue, and inactive Twitter accounts die.