I love it when Kickstarter games offer social stretch goals. It’s one thing to add additional content/upgrades to a game because the campaign raised additional money – these ‘traditional’ stretch goals make perfect sense. Raise more money? Put it back into the game. But it’s doubly cool when a creator spends the effort, time, and money into adding content to a game just because backers and fans helped spread the word online.
However, it can be a tricky thing to get right. How can you–as a creator–translate an active fanbase into the dollars and cents it takes to add content to your game? And if you’re paying for that additional content out of pocket anyway, why not just include it in the game right off the bat?
Let’s break down the first question. How can you–as a creator–translate an active fanbase into the dollars and cents it takes to add content to your game?
The answer is… you can’t. On the one hand, simply having likes, followers, shares, retweets, and fans doesn’t equate to a single dime. But, on the other hand, community… real community is what drives an indie tabletop game’s success. Without true fans, you may as well not even publish a game at all; you need people interested in playing your game. Passionate, like-minded people are worth more than any amount of money. Every time someone gets excited, offers to lend a hand, or even smiles when they play my games, I realize that’s why I do it. No one gets into publishing their own tabletop games to get rich. (Or at least… if they do, they’re in for a very rude awakening.) It’s all about creating something that brings a little bit of fun into someone else’s life. So, instead of stressing out by asking yourself, “How many Facebook shares equals enough backers to afford this extra piece of art to my game?” think of it like, “This’ll be a cool ‘thank you’ gift to give the fans of my game.”
As for the second question… if you’re paying for that additional content out of pocket anyway, why not just include it in the game right off the bat?
This is a bit trickier to answer, because, well, why not just add the content in off the bat? However, I tend to think of game design in the same way I think of software design (or any other product for that matter). You’ve got an MVP (minimum viable product). This is the minimum amount of features it takes to create what you’re setting out to accomplish. Everything extra is just icing on the cake. And, yeah, it takes time and money to create that icing. Sure, you might dream of giving your game a vinyl playmat, metal bits and baubles, custom plastic miniatures, giant-sized dice, etc, etc, etc. But… it’s just not practical. So you crunch the numbers, discuss costs and risks with your manufacturing partner, and figure out how much money it’ll take for you to add those things to your game. Some of those extras, however, don’t have a big extra cost associated with them… but it’s enough to justify not including in the MVP. These are the additions that make great candidates for social stretch goals. Most Kickstarter games rely on word-of-mouth to fund successfully. So add a little icing to your game by incentivizing fans to spread the word.
When I launched the Kickstarter campaign for Osprey Adrift, I included eight social stretch goals, because I wanted to offer fans some fun extras for sharing their excitement. So… now that the campaign is done and successful, what have I learned?
1. Think of cool “thank you” gifts for the social stretch goals, but also think of what you want to accomplish.
Use the “icing on the cake” analogy to come up with the rewards – those little extras that add something fun to the game or the experience that don’t necessarily cost a lot of extra money or time. But also, think about what your goals as a creator are. Do you want to build a following on Facebook to help spread the word for your next game? Do you want people to share your Kickstarter page to help generate more impressions and potential backers? Do you have a YouTube channel that you want people to keep their eyes on, because it’s personally fulfilling for you? I think one problem with my approach to the social stretch goals for Osprey Adrift was that I didn’t have a very clear idea of my own goals. So I simply took the shotgun approach – there was a social stretch goal for Facebook followers, Instagram followers, Twitter followers, an aggregate of followers on all three of these, shares on Facebook, shares on Instagram, shares on Twitter, as well as one for BoardGameGeek Wishlist adds.
In hindsight, I should have taken a moment to think of where my own online presence needed some extra attention. I should have included a social stretch goal for comments/followers on this blog, because it’s a much more important piece of my online presence than, say, my Twitter account; more people read it, and… to be honest, it’s more personally important to me. Similarly, I should have gotten rid of the Instagram social stretch goals because I already had a pretty decent Instagram following going into the Kickstarter. Focus on what you want to achieve. And make those your benchmarks.
2. Make sure your numbers are realistic.
I didn’t have any previous experience to draw from, and I didn’t do a ton of data analysis on how to set my social stretch goals. So, I essentially just picked a number that felt achievable. I went into the campaign by asking myself, “What’s a number of followers/shares that I can realistically receive in a 30-day timeframe?” Well, needless to say, I completely overestimated that number when it came to some of my goals… and completely underestimated that number when it came to others. Luckily, now that I’ve been through the experience, I’ll be able to calibrate my numbers accordingly for my next Kickstarter. But to any aspiring Kickstarter creators out there, I’ll leave you with these tips for setting–and boosting–your numbers:
- If you have an extremely small following on any social media platform, don’t expect much growth on it just because you have a Kickstarter project that’s gone live.
- Make sure your Kickstarter updates include the call-to-action for people to like/follow/share/whatever you want them to do to reach the social stretch goals. Keep reminding people of what they can help add to the game, and how they can do it.
- Facebook: Over the campaign, we received 106 Page Likes (Followers) and 54 Kickstarter page shares.
- Instagram: Over the campaign, we received 261 Followers and 59 image shares.
- Twitter: Over the campaign, we received 89 Followers and 22 Kickstarter page shares.
- BoardGameGeek: Over the campaign, we received 14 Wishlist adds. We didn’t include a social stretch goal for Fans, because we didn’t have our Publisher page up in time. Which leads me to my next tip…
- BoardGameGeek Game and Publisher pages take several weeks to get approved. Make sure you get these submitted well in advance of your Kickstarter campaign. Osprey Adrift was approved mere hours before our campaign went live, and I’d mistakenly submitted it for approval a couple weeks in advance, thinking that was plenty of time.
- Use hashtags on Instagram. Yes, they’re obnoxious and can come across as tryhard-y. But they’re the only easy way people can find your page unless they’re connected to you some other way. There’s a couple ways to mitigate their obnoxiousness – Put them in a comment instead of the caption of your pics. This buries them so they’re not as easily visible to people scanning their feeds. Similarly, you can use a vertical string of periods to bury all your hashtags from view. This requires some copy-pasta, but it’s worth it to not piss off your friends.
- A counterpoint to the above… only use hashtags that apply to your post. While it might be tempting to hashtag a photo of your game with #coffee just so you can get thousands of people to search for your photo and potentially follow you, there’s a good chance they just won’t be into tabletop games. Unless your game is called Espresso Party, leave the #coffee hashtag for the pics of your morning latte.
- Know how to write a good Twitter post. This is something I still struggle with, because I have a tendency to be overly verbose, and the writing major in me has a very, very hard time with shortening “your” to “ur” and clipping full sentences to sentence fragments without having a near nervous breakdown. I’m working on it.
- Know the difference in how people interact with content across different social media platforms. This may seem obvious, but there’s a science and an art to Facebook that’s wholly different from Instagram, and still wholly different from Twitter. I’m planning on writing a separate blog post in the near future that dissects the gaming community’s use of different social media platforms… but for now, just know that Facebook is for sharing news, Instagram is for posting pretty pictures, and Twitter is for 1-to-many or 1-to-1 discussions.
3. Make sure your social stretch goals are fully independent of one another.
This applies to both the “goal” side and the “reward” side. With Osprey Adrift, I made the mistake of adding new three new Coin cards to the game for Facebook Likes, Instagram Followers, and Twitter Followers. Seemed harmless. However, what I neglected to realize was that these three Coins needed to be included together; I had one for each of the three nationalities in the game. So, including one without the other two would have thrown off the balance of the game’s economy. When the campaign concluded, I went ahead and unlocked the two social stretch goals we didn’t hit, because it was my mistake to arrange them this way. Make sure all of your social stretch goals can stand on their own.
4. Have fun with it!
I spent way too much time analyzing my social stretch goals, re-analyzing them, stressing out over them, and re-analyzing them again… ad nauseam. My final piece of advice is this: Don’t worry so much. You are making a game, after all. Offer something cool for players. Personally thank your backers. Be gracious. Be responsive. Share. And most importantly, have fun. Everything you need to learn in life, you learned in kindergarten. That goes for social stretch goals, too.
Until next time, gang. Keep it plucky,