If you want to run a successful crowdfunding campaign or build a successful business, then you are going to need 2 things:
- Something to sell.
- People to buy it.
It is important to start working on both things from day 1.
I see many creators who only start growing a community once their product is finished and this will make your life harder. If you only start building a following once your game is ready, then you will need to wait months before you can launch.
I recently estimated that Kickstarter will double your backer number, meaning you need to bring half your backers yourself, and a good starting point is to get 1,000 followers on your campaign page before you launch.
Finding what works for you
This guide is going to be long and will cover a variety of methods for growing a community. As you read through, I recommend you think about what approaches work for you. You do not have to do everything and probably shouldn’t.
- Consider what types of content you can create reliably.
- Think about the type of community you want to grow.
- Look for ways you can stand out from the crowd and be original.
The quality of followers
Throughout this guide I will refer to 3 different types of followers:
- Incentivised followers: They aren’t really interested but followed due to an incentive.
- Genuine followers: They are genuinely interested and followed to learn more.
- Passive followers: They don’t click follow or subscribe, but they keep a mental note of your brand.
I put a lot of value on genuine followers and would rather have 500 of them than 5,000 incentivised followers, but they are much harder to get.
My own strategy is to focus on passive followers, when you finally come to launch your game they will have an organic positive memory of your brand and be more likely to engage.
As you think about each of the recommendations below, think about how you can use them to get these different types of followers and which you want to focus on.
Websites come in all shapes and sizes but having one can give you a central place to send people regardless of how they find you.
If you have never made a website before, services such as SquareSpace offer an easy and reliable service which will be enough to get you started.
At a minimum, I would recommend the following pages:
- The game – Showing the game via text, images, and eventually video.
- About us – Giving some details about the creators.
- Contact – Telling people how they can get in touch.
When you get started, keep it simple and use your game page as your homepage.
Make sure you include links to any social media platforms you use, and a newsletter sign up if you have one.
A website alone will not grow your community, but having a central hub to direct people to will make it easier to grow a community via other channels, and as your website grows you’ll eventually find it starting to bring in new visitors.
I posted my first blog post on June 3rd 2015 and didn’t launch my first Kickstarter until March 28th 2017. By the time the campaign went live, I had posted 47 articles which had received 20,000 views from 6,000 unique visitors.
These aren’t huge numbers but back then, as someone who was completely unknown in the industry and just getting started? This was a huge number of passive followers which I got for free.
If you’ve never set up a blog before, then SquareSpace offers this feature, and it can be an easy addition to your website.
What to write about?
Blogs can cover many things and my recommendation is to find something that you are passionate about and start sharing. For me, this was my journey into game design and simply talking about what I was doing while developing The City of Kings.
Why not take a look at some of my first posts for inspiration:
- Just do it
- Prototype development part 1
- The prototype becomes a game
- The first public play test
- Creating Vyliria Ellion
Other relevant blogs I’ve read include tips and tricks for game design, experiences getting into publishing, thoughts on games, and generally just sharing interesting information around board games.
If you don’t already, I recommend you start using a calendar on your phone and add important tasks to it. I have a reminder set for every Tuesday and Thursday to remind me to post blog posts. While getting started, just once every two weeks is a great starting point!
Over the past 5 years I have tried hard to fill my newsletter with genuine followers. I don’t promote my newsletter much, but it’s always there floating around on my website for people who have clicked around looking for information.
It’s great for in-person events when people ask for more information, and for people wanting to be notified when your game will be available.
When I launched my first Kickstarter I had 465 subscribers on my newsletter, a 91% open rate and 62% of people clicked through. These were very high percentages and much more than you’d expect to get if your newsletter was filled with incentivised followers.
I opt to use Mailchimp which has a free option for when your subscription count is under 1,500, so it’s a great platform to get started on and their tools for creating newsletters and sign-up forms on your website are very easy to use.
I have 2 primary recommendations for sourcing subscribers:
- Have a link on your website.
- Ask people if they want to sign up after doing demos.
Outside of this, take note of different situations you find yourself in and consider whether or not mentioning your newsletter would be a good idea.
With your website setup, bi-weekly articles being posted, and a newsletter slowly gathering genuine followers, your foundations will be set and we can move on to more specific ways of growing an audience.