💸 Budgeting to Build Your Community

Let’s talk about what community management REALLY entails for an indie studio (and how to budget for it).

Art by @thisishannako
  • A general cost overview of marketing
  • Marketing versus community management
  • Community management budgeting and tasks

How much does marketing cost?

That feel when you need MONEY to SURVIVE.
Here is a picture of money in case you forgot what that looked like.

Ok, then what is community management?

Added a venn diagram so this entire post felt more business and official.
  • Marketing: Focused outwards. Think: “How do you reach as many people as possible? How do you appeal to them? What will grab attention?”
  • Community Manager: Focused inwards. Think: “How do we make our current space better? How do we connect our members? How do we continually engage members and make them advocates?”
Marketing is a bit more one directional, while community goes back and forth with more direct contact.
  • Smaller indie studio that may need their community manager to take on multiple roles (like some marketing, social media management, or even PR)
  • PC game only
  • You don’t have a publisher helping you with marketing or PR

TIME TO TALK COMMUNITY MANAGER BUDGETING

Option 1: Solo Developer / No Dedicated Community Manager

AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
  • create content and post it
  • figure out where your audience is
  • strategize ways to keep the community engaged during development
  • handle forums or customer support
  • and more!
Who is the Gordon Ramsay of community management that will tell you your content is RAWWW.
  • Social media: No need to sign up for every social media platform. Focus on a space that brings you a relative amount of joy, are where people are, and you can keep up with. Good examples of this are Twitter, TikTok, or maybe even Reddit if that’s your favorite. Keep in mind social media tends to be better for retention and engagement, not necessarily discovery outside of your normal bubble.
  • Events/features: Especially digital events, since these tend to be a little more budget friendly than physical ones. Keep in mind though that physical events are GREAT for networking with other devs and business contacts. It’s very easy to end up just marketing to other game devs, especially on Twitter, and while that has its own benefits, you want to put effort into finding places OUTSIDE of your normal bubble to get views, and events or store features are best for that.
  • Press outreach (when relevant): Building your network of press and influencers is good, as not only does it give you legitimacy and some discovery, but helps with something a lot of indies tend to forget : SEO. Don’t forget to create good press assets like screenshots and a trailer.

Option 2: Hiring a Community Manager

Me to community managers!!!

When should they be brought on?

What will they do?

  • What do you currently do?
  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • What do you not enjoy doing/what drains you?
  • Where are your gaps in knowledge?
They will also usually take the heat for any issues the community faces. Art by @thisishannako
  • Ensuring content, activities, and marketing is in line with studio values, guidelines and personality
  • Measuring success and ensuring the game’s marketing is performing well, or noting any drops and why
  • Ensuring product pages are kept up to date and/or are consistent
  • Copywriting
  • Strategizing campaigns for sustained and increased brand awareness
  • Working with the team to define the studio’s business strategy and ensuring our activities are in line with that
  • Monitoring competitor activities to measure their impact and influence
    e.g. Checking out any other multiplayer social deduction games
  • Working with external partners on marketing beats, content, and asset approvals
    e.g. Collaborations with other studios, merch, or third party platforms
  • Spearhead marketing strategy for any content launches
    e.g. Dreaming up a Direct-style Cosmicube/Roles announcement
  • Creating content, generating ideas, tracking and scheduling optimal dates for content/announcements, and ensuring content is relevant, engaging, and posted on a regular basis
  • Working with artists to create content for social
  • Planning and executing social media and communication campaigns
  • Interacting with players, influencers, partners, and the public
  • Monitoring conversations and events to ensure the studio is participating and represented appropriately
  • Monitoring the interaction level, volume, and tone with the community and identifying the appropriate methods of communication style
  • Note influencers and trends within the community, and dreaming up ways to highlight members of our community
  • Community sentiment and checking up on our reviews. Are they going down? Why? Can we improve them? What are the pain points?
  • Understanding the traits, communication style, and preferences of the community
  • In-game community improvement
  • Writing and ensuring relevant information gets pushed to community platforms on a regular basis — forums, website, blog, social media, in-game patch notes
  • Being the contact and in between person for mods, the dev team, and players
  • Create sentiment reports from new launches, working directly with the dev team to provide suggestions for future improvement
  • Tracking traffic and interactions, such as likes, comments, and shares
  • Conglomerating key information from social networks to provide feedback to the team on future decisions. This includes being able to understand and sift through what is just loud, what is plentiful but ultimately not urgent, and understanding what the actual key issues are.
  • Gathering information from the community as requested from the development team
  • Answering press questions and/or forwarding them to the appropriate parties
  • Events and stream appearances
  • Emailing press about new features and news coming to the game
  • Working with influencers and providing support or passing on any opportunities that I’m approached with to them
  • Approving/fielding influencers, events, and related when it comes to using the game
  • Crisis communications
  • Player support escalations/ban appeals
  • Fielding random business requests
  • Figuring out Discord bots lol
  • Sometimes just showing up for any cool community activities that are happening as an Innersloth representative

A Note on Part-Time Community Managers

Seeing two members get in a fight on a Friday evening.

But Wait, Do I REALLY Need a Community Manager?

Art by PuffballsUnited

Conclusion

Here is a shitpost as a reward for reaching the end of the blog post.

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Community Director at Innersloth, creators of Among Us. Fascinated by compassion, ethics, and making better online communities. ✨ victoriatran.com

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Victoria Tran

Community Director at Innersloth, creators of Among Us. Fascinated by compassion, ethics, and making better online communities. ✨ victoriatran.com