Half the Sky Game: What Went Right and What Went Wrong? (Part 3)

Since its debut six weeks ago on March 4, the Half the Sky game has seen more than 650,000 players, who in total have contributed more than $200,000 in donations directly or through sponsors. Players have already unlocked 104,400 free books and $68,700 worth of life-changing surgeries.

While we’re proud of this great success, we know that some of this meaning would be lost if we didn’t share the lessons learned with others.

The third part of this series, contributed by community managers Lisa Pastor and Ashley Alicea, focuses on best practices for community management, and engaging and growing a Facebook game fanbase from the ground up.

(Catch up on part 1 of the series executive production, and part 2 on initial concepting and design.)

What Went Right
1. Paid ads work! We targeted the countries that our game addresses in order to maximize our limited advertising budget. We’ve seen a great spike since we started, adding thousands of players a day at a low acquisition cost. Most of our efforts focused on Facebook ads—they have by far the highest conversion rate.

2. Emails still win. Our bit.ly stats state it clearly. Email click through accounted for between 20% to 70% of all activity.

3. People love pictures. Out of our top 10 most viral posts on Facebook (shares compared to how many people saw the post), eight of them are photos. One of the other two was our trailer, so that’s in a league of its own.

4. Being responsive is the best way to engage. We make it a point to acknowledge every mention of the game across Facebook, Twitter, and the general Internet. Our fans are comfortable at this point sharing anything with us. They send us long posts about feedback, stories about playing with their children, and bring our attention to other causes out there that need our support. These should never go unnoticed.

5. Sharing results is a powerful motivator. Our community engages with us much more when we share the results that they have created through the game. Be transparent—even if the numbers aren’t very high, use this as a way to motivate users to keep up the good work!

6. Asking for what you want will at worst end in a “no”. We spent a lot of time reaching out to potential marketing partners, sponsors, nonprofit organizations, social media influencers and celebrities. At best, people offered up tons of ways they could help promote and support the game. At worst, we got a really nice, “No, thank you.”

7. Never underestimate the power of a cute goat. Posting or tweeting cute pictures or funny jokes has only helped in increasing engagement. Don’t worry about being too serious or professional all the time.

What Went Wrong
1. You can never predict what your fans are going to want to see from you. We’ve been surprised many times when posts we were sure would spark conversation and engagement just flop. Take our “Draw Your Own Radhika” challenge, for example. We were sure this would be a fun and easy activity to do, and even more fun for families or students, but after 36 hours of life, it only produced three likes and one submission.

2. Give your fans a real reason to follow along with you on Facebook and Twitter. Posting nice-looking pictures and inspiring tweets will only get you so far. We need to give our fans and players a real reason to follow us. More promotional codes to help them get ahead in the game? Sneak peeks into what’s coming?

3. Benchmarking is nearly impossible (still). Unless we purchased expensive social media monitoring software that has archives of every social (good) game launch in history, there was really no scientific way to set benchmarks for our success. In the future, we should take more time to interview our friends at other games to get a solid understanding of what we can expect across social media, what to do, and what to avoid.

4. Celebrities don’t want to play your game on Facebook. Even if the game is for the greater good of women worldwide, celebrities (or their staff) do not want to sit down and play your Facebook game.

5. Mobile adoption is way bigger than we planned for. About 15% of our page visitors are using a mobile device. The game doesn’t work on mobile since it is a Flash game. Figuring out a way to convert someone accessing our Facebook fan page on their mobile device to someone that will play the game on their computer is a difficult challenge.

6. We are facing a “not for me” issue. Many of the existing supporters of the Half the Sky cause (or the fans of Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn) LOVE the idea of the game but do not actually play. They either feel it’s not something for them if they are not a “gamer” or they think the game is for children or audiences other than themselves. We had therefore much more success with people who already play Facebook games, regardless of their support of the cause.

7. Comment approval systems can cause other inconveniences. Screening comments before they are posted on the wall is a great way to make sure our page stays family-friendly. However, because Facebook lacks a feature that notifies users of this process, many people re-post their comments many times. This creates more messages we have to sift through which in turn makes managing comments somewhat inefficient.

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