10 Things I’ve Learned About Social Media This Year

22 June 2017 | 36 Comments

I’ve always spent a fair amount of time representing Stonemaier Games on Facebook, Twitter, BoardGameGeek, YouTube, Kickstarter comments, and various blogs (including this one). But with my move away from Kickstarter and the growth of our game-specific Facebook groups, I’ve learned a lot about social media this year through observations, tests, and experiments.

Here’s what I’ve learned in no particular order. Most of this is focused on creators and entrepreneurs, but some of these notes apply to anyone who wants to improve their interactions on social media.

  1. Presence matters. I’ve seen conversations take a turn for the worse really quickly on social media, particularly Facebook, BGG, and the Kickstarter comments. Studies show that untended behavior can allow things to spiral out of control. So while I don’t participate in every conversation about my games on social media, I consistently make it known that I’m there.
  2. You control the welcome mat. I’ve observed and heard from a some people that they don’t feel comfortable asking rules questions in the Scythe Facebook group because they’ll be chided by fans for not reading the rulebook. Sometimes they’ve asked such questions in the past and haven’t liked the response (see #3). But often these people have never tried to ask a question because they’re afraid. Ever since I started hearing that, I’ve significantly increased how I monitor threads with rules questions, as I want to make sure people (including myself) answer the question in a welcoming, inclusive way. I’d much rather have people ask than continue to play the wrong way.
  3. How to ask a question and not get a defensive response. This is related to the point above, but this tip is directed at people who ask questions in forums. You have some control over the tone you set by your question. For example, if you have a rules question and you phrase it as, “The rules don’t say if….” then you’re likely to have a bunch of people point out exactly where in the rules it says the thing that you missed. However, you could instead say, “I’m a little confused about how this works. Can you help clarify it?” You’re much more likely then to get a warm response.
  4. Update your LinkedIn profile. I hardly ever use LinkedIn, but Richard Bliss’ recent podcast inspired me to take a few minutes to update my profile. I think the entire podcast is worth listening to, but if you want to jump to his 5 tips, you can skip to the final 7-8 minutes.
  5. Ban as little as possible. If you’re an admin in a Facebook group, you have the power to ban anyone in the group permanently. I’ve made the mistake of banning someone when a quick private conversation could have cleared the air, so I’d recommend using this power sparingly. There’s a difference between someone who doesn’t know how to express an opinion (more about that in #6) and someone who wants to light a conversation on fire and watch it burn. There’s some really interesting information about this in a recent Ludology podcast with a League of Legends player psychology lead.
  6. The way you present opinions matters. This is for anyone on social media. I started thinking about it a few months ago when Peter Hayward of Jellybean Games posted this image (see right), and I’ve come back to it a number of times since then. I don’t even think we necessarily need to use “I think” and “I feel” before everything we say, but it makes a big difference to say things as an individual instead of as an authority. It’s the difference between saying “I don’t like provel cheese” and “Provel cheese is terrible.” Yes, we understand that they’re both opinions, but one is about you while the other is about the cheese and everyone who likes the cheese.
  7. You can change the tone of most conversations. The other day, Scythe won the Origins 2016 Game of the Year award, and a few minutes later there were posts on Facebook about it. Those threads quickly turned into a mix of people shouting either that Scythe deserved it or didn’t deserve it. I never like this type of conversation, no matter who created the thing people are discussing. There’s no reason to disparage things you don’t like or to force others to acknowledge that they’re wrong about not liking the thing you like. Anyway, so, I posted a lengthy comment about my favorite things about all the other games that were nominated. And it seemed to work. The threads turned into a celebration of things people love instead of opinion dodgeball.
  8. Blocking vs. muting. As you can probably tell, I try to keep things positive. Part of that is for my own self-preservation–I simply don’t have the emotional constitution to deal with people who are always complaining, insulting, or bemoaning. The topic could be anything–it’s far from limited to things I create. So for a while I was too trigger-happy with blocking those people on Facebook, even after reading a single negative post or comment. I’ve stopped doing that because, well, people deserve better than to have one comment represent their character as a whole. Instead, I keep an eye on patterns, and if there is a consistent string of negative behavior, I’ll mute that person (they can still see things I write). Very rarely do I block anyone on Facebook these days.
  9. If you’re a true fan, don’t put on the blinders. There are Stonemaier fans who tell me that they think that I/Stonemaier can do no wrong and that they’ll blindly buy and support anything we make. I cringe whenever I hear that. I mean, I appreciate that level of passion, but to me, the best fan is someone who holds me accountable in a healthy way. If I make a bad game, they shouldn’t buy it. If I act unprofessionally on social media, I don’t want them to rush to my defense. Instead, reply to me (publicly or privately) in a judicious way so I can be the creator you deserve. This also prevents certain threads from turning into cesspools of clashing loyalties.
  10. It never hurts to tag. Yesterday I wrote a post about Charterstone, and I complimented a few different people in the post. They wouldn’t have known about it unless I tagged them. Conversely, I’ve noticed that Facebook’s notification system has gotten worse and worse. I hardly ever get notifications when someone has commented on posts I make to the Stonemaier Games page, so every few days I go on there to check to see if someone has commented on a recent thread. The remedy for this–particularly if you have a question–is to tag the applicable party. Tag notifications are typically quite good, whether you’re tagging me or my page. Same goes on BoardGameGeek or Twitter.

Have you learned anything interesting from social media lately?

36 Comments on “10 Things I’ve Learned About Social Media This Year

    1. Oh, there are plenty of things I’ve learned about social media over time that I didn’t mention here (there scattered across many posts). Is that something you’ve learned, Harry?

      1. Well, there are always those who are never satisfied. As well as those that do not understand the tone you use when writing, so they get offended/misunderstand and start picking fights.

        In rare occasions you find yourself defending something not needed; an idea, for example. If I had an inspiration of a rule that is not satisfying or more to your liking, you are free to dislike the rule and/or my project. Moreso you can even propose an alternative to enhance players’ experience!

        Swearing and nagging won’t help. So not responding to such cases is a civilized way of keeping status.

  1. Some thoughts on #3 – What I’ve found effective in the past for rules queries on BGG is “I couldn’t find it in the rules” rather than “The rules don’t state” – since that shifts the blame to you rather than coming across as an accusation of a poor product to fans of the game. (Relatedly, for #2, “I often struggle to find that when I need to reference it as well” while giving the page number can really soften the ‘well you didn’t look hard enough, did you?’ implication that ‘this is where to find it’ can sometimes have instead (hopefully) coming across as ‘No, I don’t get why this is here rather than other parts of the rulebook, and can never remember where it is, so I entirely understand why you couldn’t find it’)

    Or, for rules ambiguities, state the rule, state the (possible) rule that seemed to contradict it, say how you ruled it in the game, and ask if that’s right. Essentially the rules query equivalent of using “My understanding was” rather than “I assumed that”. Yeah, it takes longer, but it both smooths over any possible ruffled feathers, and gets to the heart of what’s causing the confusion and might even help for future revisions of the rules. Or at least work its way into the online FAQ.

    1. Stephen: I agree that making it about you instead of the rules can initiate a much different conversation than the converse. I think I may most like your second solution (“for rules ambiguities, state the rule, state the (possible) rule that seemed to contradict it, say how you ruled it in the game, and ask if that’s right.”)

  2. Great post Jamey. I’m glad you like the “people that keep me accountable” type of person cause I’ve sent you “sooome emails” in the past. ; )

    As for the question, yes. Fan facebook groups are a blast!
    A fan recently made a “Halfsies Dice Fans” facebook group, (thank you Jess). Feel free to join https://www.facebook.com/groups/392371007828167/. But it’s been so much fun to be a part of I actually pay attention to Facebook now! ; )

    Generally I’m a “not that good at facebook” guy, for the same reasons that you stated get you down. It, and Twitter, are all too often a spiraling whirlpool of negativity that drags me down. BUT the smaller group dedicated to fun around a single loved topic/item/product has really been a blast for me.

  3. Great post thank you Jamey, and very timely for me. I’ve recently started doing some very targeted FB ads to the ‘camping’ fans in preparation for launching my camping product on KS this summer. And I was shocked and somewhat upset at how quickly the thread on one ad went negative. It made me feel like the ‘happy camper’ tribe, which I personally belong to, were not as nice and happy as I thought. I resisted jumping into the fray, though I REALLY wanted to defend myself and product and eventually it turned when somebody pulled the nay sayers up, telling them to chill out and get over themselves. That’s when I spoke up and added some positive thoughts about how I like to camp. This experience has taught me to look at different user markets that are less hardcore and less judgemental. Still hurt a bit though! I guess I have to grow a thicker skin. Reading your advice now, should I have handled that incident differently?

    1. Julie: I’m impressed that you were able to hold back! :) My first instinct is often to defend myself (or someone else), but I try to avoid doing that, as it generally doesn’t work out well for me or the conversation as a whole. I think maybe you could have let your presence be known, like maybe chiming in to say, “If anyone has any questions, I’m happy to answer them.” That way they know that you’re human, that you’re there, and that you’re willing to engage on your terms.

  4. Jamey, I recently read a response you wrote to someone writing about the SDJ Kennerspiel nominees on a social media site. The person was talking about how Scythe was so much better than the other nominees and how terrible it was that Scythe was not nominated. Your response: The other nominees are great games and we don’t need to start a negative dialogue bashing other games. It was really classy Jamey. I agree with #1 the most. Presence is key to keeping dialogue active and topics growing. I think even more than a presence is a “sincere attendance”. Your comments and response aren’t 1 or 2 words. They are thought out and genuine. I think the distinction is important.

  5. Thanks Jamey. Yeah it was hard to hold back, instead I used my poor husband as a ‘rant station’ and he was wise enough to not let me take my protest to FB. But your suggestion is a good one, let them know I’m there without expressing defence or how offended I am feeling. The thread died eventually in the end, thank goodness, but I don’t feel I was instrumental in turning it into anything productive or usefully informative for other readers. I ran away from it in fact. Your neutral way of ‘chiming in’ is an excellent idea which I no doubt will get to implement another time soon. Sadly! Thanks again, love your work.

      1. Thanks Dennya, I love designing, product development and technical problem solving, but I have to say this whole social media thing gets the better of me sometimes! I’m always learning :-) (Actually I love learning too!) I’ll be sending you an email right away…

        If there are any other happy outdoorsy people out there, please check out my website http://www.hubchair.com

        Finally, although I am not in the games arena, I have found Jamey’s book and lessons absolutely invaluable in all things ‘crowdfunding’! I thoroughly read all his posts and often action some new idea or other. So, at risk of sounding like a member of the blind fan club, please don’t stop teaching us stuff Jamey!

    1. Julie: I’m glad you had someone to share your true thoughts with! :)

      And thank you! I really enjoy the process of writing these posts, and it feels good to know that they’re adding value to some people. :)

  6. Great post Jamey. I may be wrong but I imagine that managing all of the social media aspects of your business is quite time consuming. How do you factor in the time spent on these things, versus other business needs?

  7. It was Warren Buffet who said “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to destroy it”. I think you have to be extra careful about how you respond to social media especially when you respesent a company. The rules of taking 5 minutes to cool down if you read something you don’t like are paramount.

    Something that springs to mind is the ‘Garadget’ fracas. I suggest you google it if you haven’t seen it, essentially they responded to a customer compliant by publically calling out they had remotely disabled his account so his system would no longer work. The whole thing went viral. This was the result of someone being a little too hot headed in responding.

    1. Ian: Thanks for sharing about Garadget, and I agree with the precarious nature of how a mistake on social media can completely overshadow everything else. I’ve had that happen, and it’s interesting to see how much your weaker moments stick with some people.

      I think there’s a lesson in the Garadget example for customers too. The article notes, “Martin followed up with a one-star review on Amazon, where he advised potential buyers, “DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY” and asserted that the start-up manufacturer “obviously has not performed proper quality assurance tests on their products.”

      The takeaway is that just because something didn’t work for you doesn’t mean the entire product and company are flawed.

  8. Great tips. I’m an artist on a board game design {read your crowdfunders guide). I truly appreciate all your advice and direction.

    And I recently had a cyberbullying attack on my Facebook page that I’ve had for my tattoo biz for 8 years with no problems. Out of the blue, a few weeks ago 1 star reviews started coming in… I was confused, they had never even visited my studio. Suddenly over the next day over 150 horrible comments, which I didn’t catch till the end of the day. Began blocking and reporting, filtering, changed profanity filter to high. And by the end of the week over 300 negative comments and then they moved over to Google reviews!! I was shocked at the hateful attitude… The kicker? They were tattoo artists from other states who are against the concept of tattoo school, even though it is required in Oregon, where I live. It was Soooooooooo hard not to take it personally, but I DID NOT engage them or defend myself. Instead, I am making a video, in the style of “Jimmy Kimmel”s celebrities read mean teeets” as my humorous response! When it’s finished I’ll post it on FB, YouTube , etc. I just had to find a way to “shake it off”. And the truth is, it just spurred me to be better, be even more positive (“if Pollyanna were a tattoo artist”) and ignore the Haters! ?

  9. I think Kickstarter’s comments a much harder place to manage a conversation than other places. Nothing is threaded, there’s no real space to talk about what the space is for without it getting in the way of the KS and there’s no real option to ban anyone if you decide it’s come to that.

    Facebooks notification system is a constant source of irritation. Personally as well as professionally, it’s got a tendency to make a lot of decisions that are hidden from you as a user about what you do and don’t want to see and then to enforce them.

    I’ve been pleasantly surprised by reddit recently. It’s not somewhere I would’ve thought of as the best venue for it, but actually I’ve had some really neat game design conversations there over the last few months.

  10. Great post, Jamey! I’m not as Social Media savvy as my colleague Mike Strickland, which is why you’ll see stuff from him about our games long before you see something from me. My purview is answering “the mail” on BGG, and as Harry pointed out, there are some people you’ll never please. It’s best to answer politely, attempt to address their concern, and move on. Don’t engage for any protracted period because in the end they’re not worth your time and energy which you could devote to more meaningful pursuits.

  11. Great post as always! I will be honest, I am incredibly bad at social media. I just have never had much interest in it, and I am pretty disengaged from the whole thing. That being said, I am really trying to get more involved with it for the sake of my game. I really think that being able to read about other people’s experiences, as well as share my own and ask for help occasionally is really useful, and I am doing my best. I have been reading your site for a few months, and I just want to say that your posts about building a community and being involved have really helped me. That being said, I have been dipping my toe in the water by getting involved in some game design communities on Reddit, and I don’t know how people do this! I have only just started, and it already seems so time consuming. I don’t know how I could possibly keep that up, as well as twitter and facebook and forums, etc. But I’ll keep learning and keep trying, and thank you for your help!

    1. Caleb: I admire you taking the plunge into something that isn’t something that originally interested you for the sake of your project. It is tough to manage all the different platforms. I might recommend that you just set aside 15-20 minutes a day at first to be solely focused on social media engagement–perhaps that will help with the feeling of being overwhelmed while still making you feel like you’re making progress?

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