Social games not only represent a lucrative new revenue channel for social media sites but they also signal a fundamental change in the structure of the social media industry. Social networks can no longer afford to rely solely on advertising revenue—they must master the intricacies of directly monetizing their users via virtual currency, virtual goods, and social games.
Social games are the perfect addition to the social network. They provide a lightweight, social form of entertainment that enriches the interaction of a site’s users. As a result, social games on smaller social networks often meet or exceed the ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) observed on Facebook. And, unlike advertising, which detracts from the social experience of a site, a successful social games strategy will simultaneously increase a site’s stickiness and significantly increase revenue. However, implementing a successful social games strategy is not easy; new technology, new skills, and an ongoing commitment are required to succeed.
There are three main pillars that anchor a successful strategy: The platform, the content, and the distribution. If any one of these pillars is weak or missing, the true potential of social games and the virtual goods sold within them will remain unrealized.
The first step in a successful social gaming strategy is creating an application platform from which social games can be distributed to a site’s users. A great platform must enable social games to be well integrated into a site’s structure, have access to essential social information about a site’s users, and monetize a site’s users with the least possible friction.
A site’s content strategy must be focused on developing a portfolio of games that are the best fit for its users. One or two social games are seldom enough to transform a site into a virtual goods powerhouse. The sweet spot is to launch with at least five games and most smaller sites can support twenty or thirty popular games before attention gets spread too thin.
Sites should deploy games that:
Appeal to the site’s core demographic;
Promote the behaviors that are key to the site’s appeal — whether that is flirting, keeping up with friends, or gathering around a particular theme.
Have already proven to be engaging.
Are continually optimized and refreshed to retain users.
Crafting an initial portfolio is often more challenging than expected. Great content takes significant skill and resources to build. In addition, it’s important to realize that many games have a limited shelf life, so new content must be continually added in order to keep a site’s social gaming ecosystem vibrant.
It won’t just work to simply add a “Games” tab to a site and call it a day. The goal is to get a site’s users so immersed in social games that some users are willing to pay to get ahead. To do that, social games must be promoted as a core element of the site’s feature set and the site must be proactive about driving traffic to the social games.
Social networks have three methods for driving traffic to social games:
Premier placement: Not only creating a dedicated section for social games, but also implementing hooks for those games into a site’s features such as profile pages, activity feeds, and the site’s main navigation.
Ongoing promotion: A site will dedicate high profile real estate to promote game launches, in-game events, and other calls to action that drive traffic into the games.
Viral notification channels: A site will allow social games to have reasonably unfettered access to a site’s communication channels including user-to-user messaging, invitations, and activity feeds.
A site must use all of these methods extensively in order to build its base of social game DAUs (Daily Active Users), which are key to driving revenue.
These are some key points to be taken into consideration how you could benefit from the social gaming. They would help companies understand how social games can transform the engagement and monetization potential of their social media sites.
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