If you want your game to stand out from your competition, says one expert, you should get Twittering.
In the crowded videogame market, strong word of mouth can be vital to a game's financial success, marketing consultant Tina Tyndal explained on the opening day of the Triangle Game Conference. Traditional marketing methods simply aren't as effective as they once were, and can also be out of reach for smaller developers and projects, so it makes sense to turn to digital communication methods like Twitter, Facebook, and Blogger to get your message out.
Game companies aren't the only ones turning to Twitter, though, as anyone who uses the microblogging service has probably realized. Even a mildly active Twitter account is likely to get a number of friend requests (called "Followers") from companies hoping to attract your attention and money. (I have everything from travel agencies to investment firms following me, which just shows how little they really know about my bank account.) Because the Twitterverse is clogged with so much marketing noise, says Tyndal, it's important to actually connect with your would-be followers.
"Start engaging in conversation," advised Tyndal to the developers in attendance. "It's about forming a relationship with your audience." She pointed to Infinity Ward's Twitter account, @InfinityWard, as being a particularly excellent example of how a company can use a digital communication service to build a bond with its audience.
"People are giving you data for free on how to make your game great," said Tyndal, referring to Twitter entries - called "Tweets" - sent to Infinity Ward about level design and gameplay elements. Tyndal also recommended social networking sites like Facebook, though she said some are more user-friendly than others.
So that next friend or follow request you get might be trying to sell you something, or it might be your chance to help shape the games you play. Probably a little bit of both.