The Gassy Gnoll: Social Networking and RPG Blogs

It’s time to mix things up a little, so this week the Gassy Gnoll wants to talk about social networking. And no, we’re not talking about Gnollbook or Merc’dIn, though I’m sure the conversation might be a bit more entertaining at times. We’re talking about all the real-world social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Reddit, and Pinterest.

I know that many of you are trying to tune out already. “But what does this have to do with me?” Honestly if you run a gaming blog, you probably deal with one or more of these sites already. Someone is probably starting a great conversation about a gaming-related topic on one of them right now. And though you might be tempted to pop over to check your account every 30 seconds, you’ll never keep up with them all. (Unless you’re a machine, in which case Skynet has already taken over!)

This past week I had an interesting e-mail conversation with Andrew Armstrong, who’s been putting together a series of gaming videos at YouTube like this one about starting a gaming group: Tips for Forming a Gaming Group – Dawnforged Cast. They do a great job of using humor and common sense to help folks achieve the goal of getting a group together.

Andrew and his friends have a YouTube channel and they seem to put up videos all the time about topics as varied as playing cross-gender characters, why math is your friend in gaming (and in life), and much much more. I’ve only barely scratched the surface.

His questions were about getting the word out about his group’s videos. How do they build an audience for their corner of the Internet? Well, as I wrote down some of my thoughts on these questions, I figured other people might glean something from my responses as well. Though I’m aiming this mostly at gaming bloggers, with minor changes it could apply to any other hobby blogger as well!

Keep in mind that I’m not a social media expert and don’t have a huge following on Game Knight Reviews, but I’ve done pretty well growing this site over the last 18 months or so, I’ve (virtually) met some great folks around the world who are also gamers, and I’ve experimented here and there with a variety of social media networks as a blogger over the last 5 years or so.

Let’s start with my process for this site. Every time I post a new article on the site (5-6x a week usually), I do the following:

  • Each post gets cross-posted to my Facebook
    fan page
    and Twitter account automatically by way of dlvr.it. I’ve tried various WordPress plug-ins and other web services hat key off a RSS feed, but so far none of them have worked as well as dlvr.it.
  • I also cross-post every post on my Google+ page for Game Knight Reviews as well as my own profile. This is a manual effort so far since all the web services (like dlvr.it) are waiting for Google to finalize the G+ APIs. Hopefully I’ll be able to automate this in the future.
  • I also manually put links to two or three posts a week on Reddit/RPG, which has a vibrant and vociferous gaming community.
  • Occasionally I put a few links up on StumbleUpon, but it seems to be a very hit or miss proposition. Readers who “stumble by” in this manner usually only stop for a few seconds and then move to the next site, so they’re not sticking around to read anything really. It happens now and then, but not often.
  • And recently I’ve started posting to Pinterest, which seems to be gaining momentum of late. I haven’t seen much in the way of links back to my site yet, but I’m hoping that by building a bit of a following the hits will come eventually.

As far as “bang for the buck” goes, Reddit is the site that consistently brings in the most hits. The Reddit community can be quite abrasive at times, but they are passionate about the hobby and often share very interesting insights via the comment threads. Beyond that, I get some conversation via Twitter and Facebook, but seem to get more engagement from Google+ even though I don’t get many clickthroughs from any of them.

I’m averaging about 200 page views a day at my site. Some days more. Others less. And consistently getting around 6,000 page views and nearly 5,000 unique visitors or more a month over the last 6 months. My best month so far was 7,300 page views and nearly 6,000 unique visits. I’m not a huge site, but I’ve grown quite a bit over the last year – from 836 page views in Feb 2011 to 5,848 this year.

Without social networking, I can quite honestly say that I wouldn’t have seen any of the growth I’ve had so far. It’s not a perfect science, but it’s a great way to find like-minded individuals who might share your articles with their own audiences. Think of it like a salmon swimming up stream, splashing from one pool to another. Sometimes all it takes is making a splash in the right pool and you’ll get a ton of attention. (Just watch for the grizzly bears – they’re hungry and it’s probably not the kind of attention you’re looking for.)

Beyond social networking, I really encourage bloggers to branch out and find places to write guest posts. Find a site you read frequently, come up with a couple of proposed topics, and drop them a note asking if they’re looking for guest bloggers. I’m always looking for contributors, so if you have something to say feel free to drop me a line. Another way to get some notice is by participating in the RPG Blog Carnival. If you have a take on the topic of the month and submit it to the carnival, you’ll find some readers/viewers that way as well.

Lastly, so long as you have an RSS feed, the RPG Bloggers network and the RPG Blog Alliance can help get your posts get noticed. I watch the feeds quite a bit and feature articles I find interesting in the Friday links post on my site weekly.

If you want to share other sites’ content with your viewers and readers using social media, I highly recommend looking for web services like Buffer, which allows you to post links to both Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn in one fell swoop. (Hopefully Google+ will be in the mix soon if they settle on an API.) It makes things a little simpler for posting to multiple social networks at once.

Really I guess my “process” is a bit haphazard, but it seems to work for the most part. I’m getting the word out and having fun at the same time, (virtually) meeting new people, and constantly coming up with new things to review and talk about! Hopefully one or more of these tidbits is useful to you!

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