Publisher vs. Algorithm

Publishing in the digital age isn't just about finding customers, it's about navigating the labyrinthine algorithms that determine when and where to show your product.

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Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

Why This Matters​

Social media's popularity and anonymity has resulted in programmatic algorithms that sort, amplify, and deprecate content without a publisher's input. Because few platforms insist on identification, anonymity has in turn propagated spam bots that pretend to be people. To that end, social media platforms tend to look for three attributes: recency, frequency, and connectivity. Failing to fulfill these attributes risks looking like a spam bot, and therefore your posts may never be seen on social through no fault of your own. Knowing the digital terrain will help you avoid some of these pitfalls so you can reach gamers who want to buy your product.

Please Note: There's a fine line between optimizing your social media efforts and gaming the system. Gaming the system can get you booted off the platform; optimization makes you more competitive. Check each platform's rules to figure out what's acceptable and what's going too far.

Connectivity​

There's a reason Facebook and YouTube require a minimum number of fans to customize a unique URL. Fundamentally, the fact those unique URLs are not offered immediately is a hint that there is a higher turnover of new accounts. These accounts are often bots, launched just to skirt a platform's rules.

Unfortunately, any new user on a platform falls into this category. Or to put it another way, when we first start out we all look like spam bots. This is why it's so important to cultivate fans who like and comment on wherever your brand appears. This will in turn help increase your brand's legitimacy on that platform.

Recency​

For all the accounts that are created every minute, there are just as many that fall dormant and never post again. This churn damages the ability to find content for users, so social media platforms make it a point of sharing the most recent content. This biases sites towards news and events.

For a game publisher, sharing news is important, but what constitutes news can be broad. Fortunately, a lot of RPG content can be broken into easily shareable chunks: one monster, class, magic item, etc. a day. This satisfies the algorithm by providing a steady drip of content while at the same time driving traffic back to a single product.

Frequency​

You can also take the approach of producing multiple, smaller projects. Russ has perfected this on Kickstarter; Phil Reed did the same with PDFs on DriveThruRPG. That said, DriveThruRPG has recently updated their guidelines on this topic:
Please do not flood the front page of our site (under New Releases) with many releases on the same day. Not only does flooding the front page in this way use all your “new release” marketing clout up at once, but our research indicates that publishers typically see more sales from regular releases over time than from a large group of them launched all at once. We will attempt to back-date any more than two (2) titles released on the same day. If you would like to release several titles at once, please notify us so we can adjust the release dates for you.
There's a reason publishers want to be on the front page, and it's because it drives traffic from customers who might otherwise never see your product. This is why DriveThruRPG's Deal of the Day is so valuable, because being on the front page for 24 hours can be a significant boost to sales.

In short, the key to getting your product visible is to post timely, frequently, and have a lot of friends to share it. The algorithm will hopefully notice, but even that's not a guarantee, because social media experts are all vying for the same eyeballs using the same methodology. That's when having a great product matters most.

Your Turn: In a sea of social media noise, how do you make your product stand out?
 

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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
From my standpoint as a consumer, products stand out because other players mention them in discussions--either in-person or in on-line forums. That an news round-ups like the posts by Egg Embry here on ENworld. Next would be Kickstarter and Amazon recommendations, and the notes that Kickstarter posts where someone I backed has backed another creator's product. But I'm not on those sites every day. I can go weeks without logging into Amazon or Kickstarter. Advertisements have less impact. Third would be mentions or ads in Youtube Videos. Not the "watch this add before you can see the video" but where the YouTuber works in sponsor shout out within the video. Same with podcasts, though the only podcast I can think of that has inspired me to make the effort to look up a product is Morrus's TTRPG News podcast. Banner and popup do very little for me. First, my browser extensions and settings filter most out. Second, I'm habituated to ignore them. I suppose enough of them will get a name of a product or publisher to stick in my head, but I cannot remember any purchase made based on these in well over 10 years.

I would have to do some market research, because I can't assume I'm typical, but if I were selling a TTRPG product, I would focus on building a community around it and sponsoring appropriate TTRPG-focused YouTube channels.
 

My blog is over 10 years old and has over 2.5 million views. I advertise posts on Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, and Twitter. I think quality and quantity of posts are important. I've also dabbled as a vanity publisher on DMs Guild & DriveThruRPG. My sales of OSR products are about 10 x my sales on the DMs Guild. I love my day job so this has never been designed to take that over but I've had enough success to keep me in action figures and Kickstarters.
I've contemplated trying a vlog, but I'm not sure that is the direction I want to go and I don't know if I want to deal with YouTube or Twitch.

If you want to check it out its www.crossplanes.com.
 

talien

Community Supporter
From my standpoint as a consumer, products stand out because other players mention them in discussions--either in-person or in on-line forums. That an news round-ups like the posts by Egg Embry here on ENworld. Next would be Kickstarter and Amazon recommendations, and the notes that Kickstarter posts where someone I backed has backed another creator's product. But I'm not on those sites every day. I can go weeks without logging into Amazon or Kickstarter. Advertisements have less impact. Third would be mentions or ads in Youtube Videos. Not the "watch this add before you can see the video" but where the YouTuber works in sponsor shout out within the video. Same with podcasts, though the only podcast I can think of that has inspired me to make the effort to look up a product is Morrus's TTRPG News podcast. Banner and popup do very little for me. First, my browser extensions and settings filter most out. Second, I'm habituated to ignore them. I suppose enough of them will get a name of a product or publisher to stick in my head, but I cannot remember any purchase made based on these in well over 10 years.

I would have to do some market research, because I can't assume I'm typical, but if I were selling a TTRPG product, I would focus on building a community around it and sponsoring appropriate TTRPG-focused YouTube channels.
It's not a coincidence that there are online indicators that a fan community is active, and most social platforms believe those indicators to be the above three elements. Fans tend to keep a brand connected (with each other and the brand), recent (especially if they post fan-content), and frequent (because they're fans).

There is nothing more valuable than real people liking your brand. It's sadly easier to fake these days than it should be.
 

Your Turn: In a sea of social media noise, how do you make your product stand out?

For starters, name your company something that begins with the letter "a" like "ABC RPG LLC". That way, your name will show up first in the yellow pages. I've been told that some unscrupulous companies will actually put a non-printable character (like a pilcrow) at the start of their company name, which will automatically put them at the front of the list. But be careful, some phone books have caught on to this and will put you at the end instead.

My point being, of course, that the game isn't new. It's just being played in new fields.
 

aia_2

Custom title
Your Turn: In a sea of social media noise, how do you make your product stand out?
In another thread i tried to discuss whether or not this is the right question for anyone who wants to be a publisher/writer/creator.

Do you enter the creative process to produce smtg "wanted" by the largest share of consumers or to generate the intellectual product you are looking for?

The main point to my eyes is that any rpg creation is a form of art: i truly believe it is closer to a painting or a book than a phone cover or a box of pencils... And as it is an artistic creation, it'd be mainly driven by the "artist message".

Again, this doesn't mean that the writer of an adventure module should be compared to Pablo Picasso, but at the same time if he wants to follow his vein, he should not care about the market out there.
 

dragoner

solisrpg.com
My RPG is different than the usual Sci-fi fare: real star maps, non-dystopian, an eye towards hard science, with solarpunk, and transhumanist elements. It stands out on its own, though I am also here, to engage with fans.
 

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