Advertising an RPG
Maybe other people who have studies in Communication and PR would approach it from another side, and I am curious to see how they see it too. But as an economist who has learnt management and marketing in Uni, I believe in applying as many marketing and management concepts to managing a RPG. Yes, RPGs are not profit yielding, but this is the only main difference. In truth, most concepts applying to small businesses and non profit organisations do apply to it.
You have opened a new RPG; so what? It is not enough to have an idea, as long as you can’t convey it to others, make them aware of the new RPG and persuade them to join it. Otherwise, it would be just an empty place waiting to be populated. So, advertising is a must.
Advertising is the process of reaching the target market and convincing the potential customers to buy the product. In our case, it is spreading the word out to the potential members and convincing them to join your RPG. And it gets to the marketing mix, which in its classical acceptation involves the product, its price (value), the place (distribution channels) and, most important, promotion. Translated to RPGs, in order to get a good advertisement and advertising strategy, it means:
What makes your RPG different from the others in the same genre? This sums the first two parts, the product (your RPG) and its value for the others. Once you have the answer, highlight it in your advertisement, as a part of it.
Mine says (the relevant fragment):
“We are going strong since August 2010! And we are writing a swashbuckling adventure story which is waiting for your contribution too. So, join us and let’s write it together, because we are here to stay!
There is no Sparrow here, mate. Enjoy our gritty, realistic historical setting if you like learning about those times while getting immersed in weaving our original story.”
This highlights the fact that not many RPGs last longer than 6 months, while ours does; that we are writing a coherent story which is not related to any fandom and it is historical fiction, not fantasy. This is the place to highlight what is original, but also if you have a word count or any specific requirements. Also, get a graphic which to supplement the idea of originality too. (Attention, the graphic should be in various dimensions, according to the various advertising needs – see below).
Where can you find potential interested people? This stands for the third element, the place.
- RPG directories, where people who have this hobby join and discuss about it
- RPG listings, where many RPGs are advertised
- Other RPGs
- If your RPG belongs to a fandom, there are fan lists (including on tumblr now) and discussion boards where people with the same interests do gather. Maybe they can get interested in RPGs too. (“What if we don’t belong to any fandom?” you may ask. There still can be discussion boards – for example, for my original pirate site, I found reenactors’ sites and tumblrs of help).
- Writing groups (including fanfiction groups if your RPG belongs to a fandom).
- Mass media/ networking places: Facebook, twitter, tumblr, MySpace, etc.
- There might be other places too, if you think creatively… And practically everywhere you might find a potential member you have overlooked.
How to spread the message around? This is promotion, and it means that you should put your link everywhere possible, without breaking the rules and guidelines of any advertising place. Leave no stone unturned – you don’t know where your best future member is hiding!
You would say, first and foremost, word of mouth. People inviting their friends. And yes, it is true, up to an extent. If you make it into a contest, rewarding the one who recruits his friends, the better. But what if somebody doesn’t have too many friends who are into writing/ into this specific genre? Isn’t basing mostly on the word of mouth severely limiting your possibility of getting members?
As an economist, I strongly believe in the concept of Guerrilla Marketing and its twin sister, Guerrilla Advertising. Yes, it has been designed for small enterprises, but, again, it can be adapted. Of course you wouldn’t do for a RPG everything one can do for a NGO campaign or for a newly opened small shop in the neighbourhood – for example, no phone campaign or random e-mail campaign which would mark you as a spammer. But you can use creatively the mass-media, you can tailor your advertisement for several environments…
- The graphic for your regular advertisement to be posted on forum directories and other RPGs should be 450 to 500 pixels wide and link to your site.
- Affiliation buttons are 88×31 – affiliate with as many RPGs as it is reasonable for you. Try to find various genres, not only yours! There are many people who might get interested in trying something new.
- Use the same 450 to 500 pixels wide graphic (or a smaller one, depending on the rules, up to an affiliation button size) in your signature on resource sites, and get active there! Each post in discussion threads might get curious ones to check your site. Don’t limit to posting your ad in the directory list, get involved in the discussions, submit resources, take part in the contests to win more advertising spots! If there is a RPG request subforum, browse there for interested people and pimp your site! (The signature rule is valid on all the fandom discussion sites too).
- Don’t be afraid to advertise on other RPG sites! Create on your board a guest-friendly advertising forum, and get your message out there on the others’ while allowing the courtesy of link back. Don’t be scared of competition – if people want to leave your site, they will leave it no matter if the lure of new sites is closer or farther from them. But they might not be willing to leave – and many people are active, in parallel, on 2-3 RPGs in different or close settings.
- Get a tumblr, a twitter and a Facebook page for your RPG, and do connect them for more efficiency! So, if you post something on tumblr or twitter, it gets on Facebook too and updating your Facebook page gets more… automated. What to post? Your advert, wanted ads, your monthly newsletter, site and character graphics, spotlight posts, threads and characters… Reblog others’ posts which are in the same field of interest – graphics, quotes, writing tips, etc. Network with other RPGs, writing communities, RPG resource groups, advertisers by twitter, tumblr and Facebook. For twitter, there are so called site pimps who retweet to all their 300+ followers your ad. For tumblr, there are RPG helpers and tumblr directories to which you can submit your ad too, in addition to your own posting to your followers.
- YahooGroups have directories too – post there once a month, add your advertisement to their library too.
- Plugboards and topsites – get your affiliation button there too! (88×31)
- Get a DeviantArt account and a group for your site and affiliate with others. Submit not only graphics related to your RPG, but also spotlight posts which might interest others.
- LiveJournal, InsaneJournal, MySpace have lots of roleplaying communities. Post your ads regularly there too!
- Additional ideas from my friend Drae of Sizael, who has gone farther than me in adapting the Guerilla Marketing concept: providing services that you enjoy to do, getting credited with a link back to your site in exchange; create an advertisement which can be exposed in bookshops, writers circles, on your car window; print a short funny advert on shirts, hoodies, hats and other things – think about giving some as a prize, for example.
- And, least but not last, if some of the internet-based advertising ways do not lead directly to the desired effect (at least for now)… they still have a good impact: they promote your Google ranking, and your site will be more visible by Google search. So you will still win.
As a conclusion… don’t forget being, at the same time, patient and insistent. Marketing studies say that it takes a person to have seen several times your advertisement in order to be tempted to investigate further… And I know people who had joined my site after having seen the advertisement everywhere for several months.
Advertise, be active and don’t give up!
This article was written by Elena of Before the Mast.