Articles

Social Media Marketing for Indie Games – Twitter 2021 Guide

As of 2019 Twitter has over 81.7 million users, according to Statista. Over 55% of Twitter users as of July 2020 are between 18-34 years old. This is the site you’ll see recommended again and again to indie devs, and for good reason- it’s easy to pick up, there’s a wide array of indie devs on the site, and you can easily link things.

Today we’re going to look at how to compose your tweets and different tips & tricks for indie game marketing on Twitter.

Check out the opening article for this series if you haven’t already!

Why Twitter?

If you’ve ever used Twitter, you’re probably familiar with how easy it is compared to other sites to pick up. There’s no subreddit moderation and rules like on Reddit; you’re able to link freely as opposed to Instagram; and you can post multiple forms of media from images to gifs to videos. But, there are some downsides to Twitter…

Pros:

  • Easy to post to
  • Can link anything (store pages, newsletters, Discords, YouTube videos, etc.)
  • Can post images, gifs, and videos (under 2 min and 20 seconds long)
  • Lots of other indie devs on Twitter

Cons:

  • Twitter tends to suppress tweets with links
  • Your audience may not be on the site or easily reachable

The first con we’ll go over later, but the second we’ll go over now. There’s a lot of indie devs on Twitter which makes Twitter a great place to network online, but keep in mind that indie devs aren’t your game’s target audience. Your target audience is players, not the people who make them! As we talked about in the beginning guide, find out who your target audience is and where they are. There’s a lot of anime fans on Twitter, so if your game has an anime aesthetic then Twitter might be a good fit for you.

Use Twitter as a piece in your marketing mix- use it to gain new fans while also bringing fans from other sites to your Twitter. It can be hard to get a foot hold when you’re first starting out as your first followers will be other indie devs. Don’t give up hope! Post your Twitter link on all your other sites- at the end of your demo, on your website, on your store pages, and more.

A harsh truth is that a fair amount of your target audience may be on Twitter but don’t know you exist. If you look at the otome audience, a lot are on Twitter but have under 300 followers and only follow the big name brands and a handful of friends. It’s basically impossible to reach some of these people on Twitter despite both of you being there- this is why you also want to funnel people from outside Twitter to your account. Post regularly and have your Twitter link easily accessible.

Posting – Message

There’s several different ways you can approach tweeting and there’s no set way that you should tweet. Some studio accounts take a more personal, jokey approach such as Among Us…

Some studio accounts take a more formal, grounded approach…

And some do this.

As you can see, there’s no set way to tweet. This is where your audience comes into play! Why are you tweeting? Who are you tweeting to? What do they respond better to? Spend some time browsing other studio accounts and consumer accounts. Like I said, a lot of this is research-based.

Don’t trust blanket advice such as “don’t post memes”. For anime games, memes can be really effective! For example, the subreddit for feminine romance visual novels with male love interests, /r/OtomeGames, is full of memes. Tailor your content to what your audience responds to.

Seasonal Content

Holidays and events are a great time to take a break from posting updates and post something time relevant. For these types of days it’s important to plan ahead so you’re not scrambling the day of.

One example of this is my Valentines cards. Every Valentines Day I’ll make cards for my studio, Studio ร‰lan, and friends to post.

This is just one example of something cute you can do for the holidays. Another example is custom artwork, like characters decorating a Christmas tree.

Posting – Tags

Hashtags are a feature Twitter (as well as most social media) has that serve as quick search terms for users. Anything can be a hashtag, but some hashtags are better than others. First we’ll look at which hashtags you should consider using and then look at how many to use.

Which tags?

Like I said, anything can become a tag- but some tags are better than others. How do you know which tags are better for you? Again, we’re back to browsing other studio accounts and seeing what tags consumers use. For example, with otome games a popular tag that players and studios use is #OtomeArmada. You wouldn’t come up with this tag on your own if you didn’t look around first!

For general indie dev there’s several popular tags:

  • #indiegame and #indiegames
  • #indiedev and #indiedevs
  • #indiegamedev
  • #gamedev

For more specified game dev content there’s these popular tags:

  • #madewithunity and #unity
  • #madewithunreal and #unrealengine
  • #vrgame
  • #pixelart
  • #visualnovel
  • #vndev
  • #screenshotsaturday
  • #wipwednesday
  • #indiedevhour (check here for the timing on this)

In order to check out how effective tags are, you can use sites such as Hashtagify and RiteTag. By searching #visualnovel on Hashtagify we can see other tags most commonly used with it.

Mix and match tags, try new ones out, see what works for you and your content.

How many tags?

Tags or no tags? It’s the age-old question for social media managers. If they’re used sparingly, tags are useful. If they’re used too much, they’ll hurt you.

Twitter’s business blog says that one or two hashtags per tweet is ideal, but doesn’t clarify if using more hurts you algorithm-wise. Typically, though, would you rather look at a tweet with 4 hashtags or 20? Chances are you and your potential players are going to shy away from retweeting tweets that use way too many tags.

Personally, I use 4 or less tags per tweet, typically 2. Please do not use more than 10 tags per tweet- focus on your message!

With some editing you can work tags mostly seamlessly into your tweet. Remember, the meat of your tweet is the message- why are you posting this? Make sure the message is still clear once you add tags.

Why tags?

Some users might shy away from tags, and while I won’t say “you absolutely need tags”, they are helpful some of the time. For instance, using tags is the easiest way to get picked up by bots. Yes, getting retweeted by bots is a good thing most of the time.

Lemon-chan, the mascot of Devtalk, a large visual novel developer community.

The less spammy bots such as Lemon-chan are used as a funnel of sorts, where people follow them to see a curated feed of development updates. Some of these bots have requirements, though. For example, these are Lemon-chan’s basic requirements to get auto-retweeted (not all of them):

  • Account must be older than 2 weeks
  • You have at least 10 followers
  • You use #VNdev
  • Only one RT every 24 hours

There’s a lot of bots on Twitter that will auto -retweet your tweets if you follow their rubrics. Don’t try to learn them all (you can’t), just use a variety of tags and see which ones work best for you.

Posting – Images & Media

Twitter is a great platform for media as you can post images, gifs, and videos. For images you can post up to 4 per tweet; for videos they must be under 2 minutes and 20 seconds.

Twitter has an auto-cropping feature as well as a preference for different aspect ratios depending on how many images you upload, but never fear, I’ll walk you through all of it.

1 Image

When you only have 1 image in your tweet, Twitter prefers it to be horizontal rather than vertical. This is perfect for screenshots- if you post horizontal screenshots, try to post either 1, 3, or 4 together.

If the image is vertical, then Twitter will attempt to crop it to either a face or text. This doesn’t always work out, but it tries to auto-crop to text and then face. Here you can see the image preview was auto-cropped to her face.

As you can upload the same image twice and crop the image in Twitter itself (this crops the entire image, not the auto-cropped preview), you should consider posting 2 images vertically rather than just 1. Let’s take a look at that.

2 Images

When you have 2 images in a tweet, Twitter prefers them to be vertical. If you have 1 vertical image, you can still use this to your advantage. To best show this off I’ll use an example of my art.

Having 2 images prevents them both from being extremely auto-cropped horizontally and allows for a close up- it’s a win-win. If you notice I also put a small amount of text (my username) at the top which helps make sure the crop focuses where I want it to. This also works with hand-written text if it’s legible enough!

3 Images

When you have 3 images in a tweet, Twitter will crop the first one vertically and the other two horizontally. If you have one vertical image you want to show, you can show two crops for extra details.

4 Images

When you have 4 images in a tweet, Twitter will crop all of them horizontally. This can be good for screenshots, character bios, and more.

Videos & GIFs

Videos and gifs are eye catching because they move, but they also have another advantage- no auto cropping. Twitter will resize videos if they’re too long but for the most part they will retain a large size, as you can see here.

Taking up more space on the screen with your visuals can be very helpful, and some people have even added banners to their videos that were originally horizontal!

Fleets

Twitter’s newest feature as of writing this are Fleets, which are tweets that last for 24 hours. They’re essentially Instagram Stories or Snapchats but with fewer features.

Example of a Fleet I made.

Pros:

  • Appear at the top of people’s feed on mobile
  • Easy for quick info, like if you have an announcement or something happening that day
  • You can directly share tweets to a fleet where people tap through it and view the tweet

Cons:

  • Disappears after 24 hours
  • No analytics available on them- if you don’t check how many people looked at a Fleet before it expires then you can’t go back and check it
  • Mobile only

Posting – Times

So you know what you want to post, but when do you post it? It’s hard to say when is best due to time zones and the way of the world, but some sites have made guesses.

Best times to post on Twitter 2020
A graph from SproutSocial. These times are in CST.

Most sites you’ll see will recommend posting on Wednesday – Friday around lunchtime in the US. This might work for you but there’s no surefire way- I’ve posted tweets at 8PM CST that got much more engagement than on average. Find a time that works best for you and consider scheduling tweets in advance.

Posting – Algorithms

When someone says “algorithm” in reference to a social media platform, they mean the behind the scenes code that dictates what posts are seen more by a person’s followers and not suppressed. Every few months you’ll see posts of someone “cracking the code” to the elusive Social Media Algorithms… sadly, there’s not set way to appease any major social media’s algorithm, and they change every few months, typically when new features are implemented.

The most recent feature Twitter’s implemented are Fleets- with this update the algorithm seemingly changed again. This time the algorithm seems to favor images over videos & gifs and favors tweets with no links.

This Twitter user did a test with images versus video, with results in the small thread.

Keep in mind, social media platforms won’t tell you what works and what doesn’t- they don’t want users to game the system, they want users to buy ads. Try different things, mix it up!

Tweetdeck

Twitter nowadays allows for a lot of tools including scheduling and drafts, but years ago you had to do all of that through Tweetdeck, an official addition to Twitter. Tweetdeck allows you to have multiple feeds up on one screen including searches, hashtag feeds, notifications, and more for multiple accounts.

If you run multiple accounts or want to have multiple feeds up at one time then check it out.

tl;dr

  • Figure out how you want your Twitter presence to look before you start tweeting
  • Be mindful of auto image crops (text > faces >>> everything else)
  • Tags aren’t your enemy, but using 8+ will hurt you
  • Scheduling content can make things easier later (future you will thank you)
  • Try posting at different times with different tags when starting out and see what works best for you
  • Treat Twitter as a part of your marketing plan, not your entire marketing plan

I hope this overlook at Twitter helped! Here’s some more articles on aspects of indie game marketing.

A look at cross-promotion strategies we can use for indie games.
A list of different questions to ask yourself while making games.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *