Is a Branded Facebook Game Right for My Business?

March 19, 2013

Filed under: Branded Games — Simon Walklate

With a huge existing user base and built in social channels to encourage automatic viral spread, branded Facebook games sound like a marketing dream come true. But have you stopped to really think if they are right for your business?

Are Branded Games in General Right For My Business?

This is the first question you need to ask yourself. They can be a great way of promoting brands, products and services. But games aren’t suitable for promoting every type of business. Think about your target audience and the product you’re promoting. As a general rule, they are great for mass market products, but not so great for tight niche products (unless you have a huge targeted mailing list).

Be Realistic

The most common example, that gets cited by potential clients, is Farmville. What they don’t generally understand is that a game like that will have a large team of developers initially producing it and after launch working on constant maintenance. It’s a huge undertaking that would require a massive budget (way above and beyond what any business would spend as part of their marketing). And that’s without taking into account the substantial ongoing costs of the dedicated servers required to keep it running. Which brings me onto the next point…

Be Mindful of Hosting Requirements

It’s a common misconception that Facebook applications are hosted on the platform (i.e. by the Facebook site). This is incorrect. All application data is hosted by the publisher, so you need to make sure that you have hosting in place that will cope with the data transfer and processing load required for delivery to the expected number of players.

The files can be pretty big, so if you’re going to get thousands of players, a cheap shared hosting account probably isn’t going to cut it.

Then there’s the security requirements of the Facebook developer platform. Most user logins on Facebook are now SSL secured. This is great for users, but does mean you now need an SSL certificate set up on the hosting side.

None of this is a huge problem because we do include limited hosting that meets all the above requirements. Just bear in mind, if you expect huge amounts of traffic, you may need to organise your own suitable hosting.

Don’t Rely on Facebook’s Social Channels to Generate Your Traffic

One of the main reasons businesses want to go down the social network route is because they think the automatic viral spread though the platform will mean loads of players automatically. This just isn’t the case, as with any content that exists in one place only, you can’t rely on the magic of viral marketing to generate traffic from nothing. Always go in with the attitude that any viral spread that occurs is a bonus, not a necessity.

When using a Facebook game, you really need to focus on integrating into other areas of your marketing campaign to drive traffic in the first instance. Treat it as a tool to increase engagement with your brand and social presence, not an automatic traffic generator. There will undoubtedly be a certain amount of social spread, but the traffic needs to be there to start with, otherwise it will die pretty quickly.

Does Your Business Have the Marketing Muscle For a Successful Launch?

Don’t underestimate how much work is involved in a successful launch. You’ll need to use all your existing marketing channels, along with a bit of creative thinking, in order to generate the initial traffic needed to make your game a success. Use everything at your disposal to maximise exposure, including (as a bare minimum) your mailing list, social media and a press release sent out to key media contacts in your industry. You might also want to think about setting budget aside to run a targeted ad campaign on Facebook, to get more guaranteed players.

So You’re Still Interested?

I know it all sounds like doom and gloom, but it’s not all that way. A branded Facebook game can be a great way to grow your social media presence (including visits and ‘likes’ on your Facebook page). You do need to be fully aware of what’s involved though and consider if it’s right for you.

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