What Indie Game Developers need to know about Facebook Ads

Facebook ads are a powerful tool for your video game marketing. I am proud and happy to welcome Andrew Pappas on the blog to share his expertise on the subject.

Andrew Pappas is an indie game marketer and host of the Indie Game Movement podcast. One of the areas he specializes in is paid advertising and shares some valuable insights in hopes his expertise can help indie devs with future advertising campaigns.

Have you ever wanted to save time, build your community and learn more about prospective fans when it comes to promoting your game?

Of course!

Out of all the ways indie devs can promote their game, most may not consider the benefits that Facebook ads provide on all the fronts mentioned above and more. It makes sense some may be deterred by the risk of financial loss or ads simply not working. We have all heard stories about how ineffective Facebook ads can be. While a reasonable concern, what most indie devs haven’t considered is the potential risk they face by not leveraging Facebook ads.

That’s why we thought it would be helpful to share what game developers need to know about Facebook ads before they can reap the benefits the platform has to offer.

Consulting Facebook with a coffee

Facebook connected

Why is Facebook good for promoting my game?

The reason why Facebook can be great to promote your game is it can do an amazing job of getting in front of your target audience and people who are likely to engage with your game.

With all the tracking Facebook has on its users and their behavior, they have a really good sense of knowing if someone is going to click, comment, or make a purchase from your ad.

Other advertising platforms are getting better at this, but Facebook is still one of the best at determining how users will behave. Being a social platform, it also adds another layer where actions like people commenting on, tagging others, and sharing your ads can extend your reach with other users likely to engage with them.

It’s because all the above-mentioned actions are a form of word-of-mouth, the best type of marketing you can get. While this may all sound great, there are still a lot of things to consider before firing up a campaign so you can avoid potential pitfalls.

Facebook ads budget

Obviously, you need a budget, but don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be that big.

If you’re starting out, set aside at least $150. With this, you can start out with a small budget of $5 a day to test for a whole month or $20 for two weeks. In either case, it gives you just enough to get the ball rolling and gain valuable insight.

Facebook will also do a pretty good job at spreading that budget evenly throughout the day or lifetime of the campaign. This is good so you don’t have to worry about spending more than you set.

While you can start with a low budget of $5 a day, a larger budget like $10 a day can make a huge difference in how your campaign performs. This happens because the more Facebook has to work with then the better it can determine which people are best to serve your ads to.

Have a plan to lead your goal to success

Have a plan

You always want to go in with a plan or strategy. Knowing your main objective and what type of results you’ll focus on are important as they help set realistic expectations.

Running a campaign in hopes of accomplishing multiple things is a good way to set false expectations and have a poorly performing campaign. Focus on one thing, and if you garner other results, that’s just icing on the cake.

What generally works best is focusing on a conversion-based strategy that you can track. A great example of this is getting people to sign up for your email list. Doing so can help build your community, gives you an ROI (return on investment), and also provides you with valuable data you can leverage later when creating custom audiences.

If you don’t have a conversion to focus on, the next would be link clicks (specifically landing pages). Again, this all depends on your objectives so make sure you have a plan ready that aligns with your overall goals.

Target the right audience with Facebook ads

Having a clear idea of who your target audience is important as well. If you don’t know your audience or it is too broad, your targeting could be completely off and produce poor results.

One great benefit a lot of people don’t know about is the ability to create custom audiences and lookalike audiences.

  • Custom audiences allow you to create a group of people who visited your website or signed up for your email list and more. This allows you to either re-engage with these people or create a look-alike audience.
  • Look-alike audiences are users similar to your custom audience, meaning a group of new people who have similar behaviors as your custom audience or fans. Look-alike audiences create a much better form of targeting than a broad audience because now you’re targeting people based on their behavior as opposed to just interests.

A quick side note. Facebook also owns Instagram, so if you think your audience hangs out there, you can use the same campaigns from your Facebook campaign on Instagram too.

Love audience

Love your audience

Have great messaging and imagery

Your messaging and imagery are absolutely essential to the effectiveness of your campaigns. Facebook can get your ads in front of the right people, but it’s your job to write compelling messaging that resonates with people and directs them to take action.

Your imagery, whether using screenshots or videos needs to capture gameplay and showcase elements that excite people. It’s the first thing people are going to see, so make sure they stand out.

As you’re creating your ads, ask yourself: “Is this something others will share?”

Going in with this mindset can make all the difference between a great ad and a not-so-great ad. If you need help or inspiration, look to posts made by other popular titles that receive high engagement or shares. It’s ok to emulate what they have done and apply your own version to your ads.

Getting Ready

Getting Ready!

Have the right mindset

Having your campaign generate results is important, but shouldn’t be the main focus. One of the most valuable benefits of Facebook ads is learning about your target audience.

Looking at how people engage with your ads and landing pages can provide valuable insight into your audience’s behavior. Even if your ads don’t perform well, let it be a learning experience where you can apply your findings to other promotional efforts.

This will give your more confidence and make your other marketing efforts stronger. Most importantly, you can learn all this within days as opposed to using organic methods that can take weeks, saving time you can dedicate to your development.

What steps do I take to create an effective Facebook ads campaign?

Now that you have a good sense and direction with Facebook ads, there are a few other steps to follow when it comes to implementing your campaign.

Outlined below are the key steps to follow when you’re ready to set up your campaign.

  1. Setup a Manager account
    1. Whether you’re a solo dev or not, having a manager account makes it easy to assign other roles and do a variety of other things.
  2. Set up your Tracking Pixel on your website
    1. This is very important and allows you to create valuable custom audiences.
    2. If you have email signup or other conversions on your site, make sure your pixel is set up to track those conversions.
    3. Unfortunately, you can’t install this on Steam or other game platforms.
  3. Create your campaign and choose your objective
    1. These are very results focus and they range from awareness to conversions.
      1. For awareness, choose video views or the reach objective.
      2. To drive traffic, choose link clicks
      3. To increase the email list, use conversions or lead generation.
  4. Create an adset and choose your targeting
    1. When choosing audiences, make sure your audience isn’t too broad or specific.
    2. Make sure to refine and exclude audiences to target your core audience.
      1. If starting from scratch, choose an audience Facebook has.
      2. If not, create a custom audience and use look-alike audiences.
  5. Choose your ad type:
    1. Ad types are limited based on your campaign objective..
      1. Most campaign objectives allow you to use Single Image, Video, Carousel, or Instant Experience ads (mobile only).
      2. Consider using ads that cater to mobile users. Most users on Facebook are mobile users.
      3. Consider using ads that keep people on Facebook as opposed to linking off if it aligns with your goals. This can help lower costs.

After following these steps and really thinking strategically about your Facebook campaign, you are now ready to launch!

Again, it can’t be stressed enough the importance of approaching Facebook ads with a learning mindset. What you learn regardless of how your campaigns perform will be valuable information you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else. Applying what you learned to your development or other marketing efforts can make all the difference in increasing your awareness, building your community, and providing a positive experience for your fans.

On a personal note, I would like to thank Andrew for this sharing his experience with Facebook ads. Also, feel free to listen to his podcast about indie game marketing. Especially episode 125 about How to Take the Right approach with PR 🙂

I would also strongly recommend any Indie Game Studio consider Facebook ads to define and analyze its audience. I am actually working on a Kickstarter Campaign for Catch Weigh Studio. Their game Conscript is a great pixel-art horror survival game set in WWW1 Trenches.

Conscript Game

Conscript: A pixel-art survival horror game set in WW1 Trenches.

Conscript is selected in the official lineup of the Summer Steam Game Festival. Please, check it out, wishlist it, and play the demo (available on June 16, 2020). At the moment, I am using Facebook Ads to define Conscript’s audience. When the Kickstarter campaign will start (June 16, 2020), I will use Lookalike Audience provided by Facebook Ads to reach more potential gamers and backers.

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