Field of dreams got it wrong. If you build it they won't come, unless you tell them to
I haven’t seen the Kevin Costner film “Field of Dreams” because it sounds terrible. Fortunately I have Waynes World which spoofed the film’s main catchphrase “If you build it, they will come”, leading Wayne and Garth to create a rock concert, which goes surprisingly well despite barely any advertising.
The mentality of “If you build it, they will come” is a dangerous one in my opinion. I used to see it when working for a web agency, we’d create fantastic websites for small companies, who somehow thought that just having a website would make them enormous amounts of money. When the website was finished, I’d ask them how they were going to get users to the site and they all seemed to think just by having a website, the general public would magically know about the website and start using it. Wrong.
It’s like opening a shop in the middle of a desert. Where are these customers going to magically come from if you don’t tell them where your shop is?
One of the most difficult problems faced by new roleplaying games is getting new members. It’s no fun to roleplay on your own so you want at least one opther person to roleplay with, ideally a couple. But how do you find these people? Should you expect them to magically appear? Of course not!
So you’ve created a new game on OngoingWorlds. You’ve created a few characters, written a good description, edited your character groups, and written an introductory post which sets up the world. Good start. Now you need some more members, and you wait and wait.
Wait for what? Now you’ve created your shop in the desert, how are you going to get customers? You need to put a signpost up, advertise, tell people!
I’ve written about advertising your game before (see here) and even listed a few websites you can use for advertising. But you don’t really have to think about it as advertising. Here’s a few ways to let people know about your game:
Join a forum about your game’s topic
This one’s easier if your game is based on an existing concept, like a TV series, film or book. There are probably forums filled with people who’d find your game really interesting. Instead of waiting for them to find you, find them first!
Join the forum, and start chatting with the members. You might have to push yourself to interact, don’t just be the lemon in the corner of the room of a party. Take part in the discussions, maybe PM some of the members to talk to them directly. Don’t just create a catch-all post aimed at no-one in particular saying “Hey guys, join my game” because it looks spammy, and it’s unlikely anyone will pay attention unless they know you first. You have to build up some trust and reputation with these people first.
Talking about your game with people one-to-one is a good idea too because it allows you to really explain what your game’s about, and also allows you to get to know the other person, so you can work out if they’ll be a good match for your game. If they’re interested in your idea, tell them about your game on OngoingWorlds and encourage them to join.
In many forums you can add links and images to your signature, which is a great and subtle way to advertise your game. That means the more you post, the more opportunity other members will see your advert.
Almost everyone has a Facebook account, so it’s a good place to start to find people. But it’s very difficult to use this to effectively find roleplayers you don’t already know. Also people often don’t like to talk about their roleplaying publically on Facebook, so tread carefully.
When I say “advertise” on Facebook, I don’t mean the paid ads down the right of the page. These are very difficult to get working in your favor because our hobby is so niche, and you might end up wasting your money. But if you get a free voucher, feel free to experiment.
The best way I find to use Facebook is to use the groups, which are collections of people chatting about a topic. Similar to forums. The method is the same, chat with people you find there, let them know about your game gently, building their trust first. Again, don’t spam. Allow people to get to know you before you start banging on about your game.
Another great way to get people interested is to create your own Facebook page. This is something that will represent your game on Facebook, like an ambassador for your brand. It’ll allow people to ‘like’ your page, so they’ll see your updates. Keep them informed about your game’s plot, and post things of relevant interest. You can also setup a way to automatically post a status update when your post in your game. Here’s a guide showing you how.
I’ve had a lot of success with Facebook, and most of OngoingWorld’s site traffic actually comes from there. I wrote an article a while ago about how I use Facebook for advertising here.
Less strict than Facebook, Twitter is a bit more popular for roleplayers than Facebook. Many roleplayers create a Twitter account for their game, and there’s a way to automatically tweet whenever someone in your game posts, using Twitterfeed.
Posting new content and links to each of your game’s posts increases discoverability, but you can also use Twitter to actively find people who might be interested in joining. Just like I mentioned above, you want to get to know people and let them you start advertising your game to them. Creating this personal connection is what social media is all about.
Submit to RPG-Directory.com
RPG-D is a massive social site for roleplayers like us. I’d recommend adding your site to their directory as well as getting involved in the community there, as it’s a busy forum where you can get to know other roleplayers.
Submitting to their directory is easy, but requires to to have their banner on your site. OngoingWorlds already has this in the footer, so you don’t need to worry about this. Submit their form here to be included, and an admin will put the advert in the appropriate section. As with all forums, this will work its way to the bottom over time, so they allow you to bump it back up to the top once per month. Most people do this but just adding a new post to the thread saying “bump”, or you could write a few sentences about what’s been happening in your game recently, to entice new members.
I mentioned RPG-D’s community, there’s many threads where you can get involved talking to other roleplayers, and like I mentioned above, get stuck in and talk to these people, get to know them and let them know about your game, maybe they’ll be interested in joining. Many users here will be trying to advertise their own game back at you!
RPG-D is a forum, and like I mentioned above, you can add a link to your game in your signature. The more you contribute, the more chances someone will see your link.
There’s also a blog section, which is an ideal place to post updates about your game, ans as long as it’s well written, people will read and get an insight into your game’s story.
Submit to PBEM2.com
This is a directory that automatically removes your advert after 30 days, so you need to keep going back and recreating it. This is a bit annoying, but removing old adverts means adverts are always new and relevant, so browsing PBEM2’s directory isn’t filled with adverts for games that closed 10 years ago.
Add to their directory and they’ll also Tweet an advert for your game too.
I’ve had many people find my game through PBEM2, so it’s worth the effort of going back every month.
Create groups in RP Repository
Mike wrote this guide on how to use groups on the RP Repository website to advertise your game.
Don’t be shy
The best advice I can give is, don’t be shy. Tell people about your game, but not in a spammy way. Talk to people, get them interested in your game, and invite them personally.
We’ve written some other articles about advertising your game. See them here.