How Brands Can (And Should) Advertise Within Social Games

By Projjol Banerjea
Monday, January 24, 2011 / 2 min read

The latest edition of the Facebook Marketing Bible (FMB) from our friends at Inside Network is a must-read for marketers looking to either initiate or improve their footprint on Facebook. In fact, marketers who haven’t yet explored this channel are well advised to do so … and soon.

In particular, social games have established themselves as an extremely effective medium for advertising. As the authors of the FMB have astutely noted, “advertising through television, print, display, or search ads online might get your brand in front of potential customers for a few seconds, but social game integrations can translate into hours of exposure per user”. Indeed, our experiences with running successful campaigns for brands across games on Facebook and other social networking platforms have more than convinced us of the efficacy of the channel.

But what is the best strategy for advertisers looking to achieve this kind of exposure? The FMB lists four key factors for successful campaigns in social games that we would like to share and complement with our own insight:

1. Find a game in which your brand can be naturally integrated.

While this seems rather commonsensical, the issue is a bit more complex than, for example, choosing farming games for food products. In our experience, it is equally important to find an audience for whom your brand is relevant. Fitting a campaign to a regional audience is crucial for even moderate success. Further customization on the basis of demographics, behavior and other user data can improve results manifold.

2. In exchange for their engagement with branded content, offer players something cool or that helps them in the game.

The act of ‘sponsoring’ virtual goods has proven very effective for brands. Giving users free virtual items in exchange for their engagement not only boosts brand sentiment immediately but also builds loyalty in the long run. However, it is imperative you choose a reliable distribution partner that will deliver a positive overall experience for the user by providing a pleasant engagement process as well as timely delivery of virtual items. Falling short on either front – especially the latter – can actually harm rather than help your brand image.

Facebook Banner Campaign - Yves Rocher in Crazy Cow from FreshPlanet

3. Make the integrations optional, not mandatory, and only interrupt the game with content like videos when requested.

An advertising campaign on a social game can be both an excellent branding mechanism as well as an opt-in method for users to earn virtual items. Be sure to distinguish between these two. For example, banners that are well integrated into the game environment serve a dual purpose. With no user interaction, they exist purely for branding purposes. However, if the banners offer virtual items in exchange for some form of user engagement – be it a survey completion, discounted purchase or video view – they become, in essence, a payment method. As long as the latter is not forced on users and only comes into play when the choice is so made, users do not get a feeling of coercion.

4. Offer access to the branded content for a limited time only, creating a sense of urgency so players want to experience it before it’s gone.

We’ve seen tremendous results with special limited-time promotions that boost both user engagement and sales. Limited campaigns offering attractive incentives that are presented in an appealing manner not only draw amplified attention to your brand but also demand immediate user action. As an advertiser, you can usually achieve superior results if the user engagement required either has low friction, such as a quick online registration ­or short video, or is of tangible benefit to the user, such as an online purchase. For example, we recently ran a limited in-game social media campaign for a prominent cosmetics brand that offered users virtual items in exchange for transactions in the company’s online retail store. The promotion resulted in 10+ million banner impressions and triggered thousands of purchases in three days.

Social games continue to gain traction among a wide variety of users and present a compelling channel for advertisers to not only expand distribution but also achieve closer and longer brand engagement. We recommend you tap into this cornucopia of opportunity.