Facebook Ad campaigns are proven to help increase brand recognition of your indie game, but also can help you increase sales for your indie game.
What are Facebook Ads?
In a nutshell, Facebook ads are similar to promoted posts that can take on a variety of formats and functionality and can significantly extend an indie dev’s reach and awareness.
There’s a lot of different uses for Facebook ads, which can give indie game developers, studios and even publishers some serious leverage when promoting their game.
Not all formats are created equal though, so before getting into how Facebook advertising can help sell your indie game, here’s a quick briefing on what Facebook ads are and how they’re severed to gamers who want to play your game.
- Ads can appear in News Feed on desktop, News Feed on mobile, and in the right column of Facebook on desktop, as well as Instagram and Messenger!
- Ads have different functionality that can focus on video views, website clicks, leads, gain reach or promote engagement through posts and messenger.
- Facebook ads performance and key metrics are tracked in the Facebook ads manager account and by having the Facebook pixel setup or SDK for mobile apps event tracking.
- Ads can help your indie game by increasing reach, brand recognition, sales, reengage current players on mobile apps and help build your community.
We cover a lot in this article and understand you may not have time to read the whole thing. In that case, feel free to click on the links below to the section you want to learn more about!
For the most part, Facebook ads look just like posts. In some cases, they are created from a Facebook page post.
The only real difference between a Facebook ad and a regular post from what people will see is at the very top of an ad it will say “sponsored”.
This is pretty subtle, so any ads seen in a desktop or mobile news feed blend right in with other organic posts.
Here is a great sample of a Facebook ad for Vindictus that’s focused on Video Views.
At first glance, this looks like a regular post.
The engagement suggests maybe Vindictus had just posted this on their Facebook page, but in fact this was an ad that has been targeting an audience of gamers who they feel would be interested in purchasing their game.
In early 2019 Facebook newsfeed space has become more limited, forcing advertisers to use other placements such as Instagram, Messenger, Instant Articles, and Audience Network. The nice thing about opening placements is that it adds exponential reach to your campaign and lowering cost per objective.
Between how ads look more like posts and being a lot of different ad types, there are a lot of ways that Facebook ads can help sell your indie game.
One of the main reasons why Facebook ads work so well for selling indie games is because of the targeting options and the ability of getting in front of gamers who are interested in your game.
Before getting to why the targeting is so great and how that ultimately helps to sell your game, let’s get some basics established and understand the structure of an Ads Manager account.
There are four main categories of campaigns to be aware of first. They are awareness, prospecting, retargeting, and post-sale reengagement.
Awareness is high-level informative content to drive brand and ad lift. These ads don’t normally result in direct sales however Facebook has shown up to 30% increases in web searches for brands using this ad type. Objectives to Choose: Brand Awareness, Reach, and Video Views
Prospecting is simply reaching out to new people that haven’t interacted with your game studio, brand or game yet. The purpose behind these ads is to drive consideration. This ad type is more direct response driven. Indie game developers with multiple previous releases can utilize custom audiences to target former customers or create audiences with similar users.
Objectives to Choose: Website Clicks, Lead Generation, Product Catalog Ads, App Install, and Messenger Ads.
Retargeting is re-engaging with people who either interacted with your ad, Facebook page,visited your website, or installed your mobile app for mobile game developers.
Objectives to Choose: Can be used with most objectives, but these ads drive sales, installs, and re-engage users who previously used your app but haven’t logged in for weeks or uninstalled the app.
Post-Sale Reengagement is what happens after the sale. For Free-To-Plays this is the most pivotal ad medium. For paid games, this is an opportunity to engage players with downloadable content. In addition, this type of ad can be used to build a community around players.
Objectives to Choose: Website Clicks, Mobile App Re-engagement, Product Catalog Sales, and Messenger.
Having a proper blend of these four types of campaigns in your Facebook ads manager is key to an effective strategy to generate fans and sales.
Regardless of which types you use for your strategy, they should follow the campaign structure listed below.
- Ads Manager Account
- Campaign – Objectives and Budget
- Ad Sets – Targeting, Schedule, Placement, and Bid Optimization
- Ads – Copy, Images, Videos
- Ad Sets – Targeting, Schedule, Placement, and Bid Optimization
- Campaign – Objectives and Budget
At the highest level in an Ads Manager account, there are campaigns. Campaigns have objectives, which can be focused on things such as reach, engagement, website clicks or conversions. You can also set your budget at the campaign level too.
Under campaigns, are Adsets. Targeting is set at the Adset level, which allows you to target specific audiences, placements (like Instagram) and also lets you manage other options such as your bidding strategy.
Within Adsets are Ads. The Ad level is where ads can be created with ad copy, images, slideshows and videos.
Facebook has very detailed information on its users, based on their interactions. Everything people like, comment, share or interact with is recorded and basically made available to advertisers to better target gamers.
For example, if an indie game studio has a RPG style game they are trying to promote, they can easily target interest groups consisting of anyone who has liked other RPG games similar to theirs.
This just scratches the surface, but at a very high level gives you a quick idea on how granular you can get with your targeting.
The more focused you are with your targeting (but not too focused), the more likely you’ll be able to get in front of the right audience and sell your indie game .
We’ll talk more about how to choose your audience later, but first let’s talk more about how to choose the Facebook campaign objective to help you sell your indie game.
There are a lot of different types of campaign objectives you can choose from, but there are only a few campaign objectives you should worry about when using Facebook ads to help increase your indie game sales.
It’s important to make note that campaigns can help you directly and indirectly reach your goals.
Keep in mind, depending on what your goals are and where you are in the development or release of your game can help dictate what campaign objectives you should use.
Let’s dig into this further and discuss some of the indirect methods first.
Increase Facebook Page Engagement
One of the easiest ways to increase your online community is by “boosting” posts you make to your indie game or developer Facebook page.
What’s also cool is before even “boosting” or making your post into ad, Facebook will usually tell you if your page post was well received, essentially validating your “post ad” before you promote it.
This is arguably one of the most important ads you can utilize, as any successful indie game begins and ends with your community and a dedicated following. It’s also easy to do!
The only real downside to “Boosted Posts” is it gives you limited functionality compared to other features you can use in Ad’s manager.
Regardless, boost your posts ads will have your posts reach new gamers, which will help increase community size.
This objective type has an indirect effect in terms of improving game sales, as it promotes community advocacy and overall promotion of your game which can carry over to sales.
Show Off Your Awesome Indie Game Trailer with Video Views!
From our experience, when working with indie game developers, and managing a number of Facebook ad campaigns for their indie games, the Get video views ad is quite possibly the most impactful for the long-term success of any game, not just independent.
This ad type has proven time and again to be an incredible tool to help with branding, but also to help increase recognition of your indie games sales specials, or even for acquiring interest for pledges on your Kickstarter campaign.
What kind of results can you expect from Video View ads for your Indie Game campaigns?
If you took the time to make a great indie game trailer, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t promote it.
From our experience with managing other Facebook ad campaigns for indie game developers, the video views campaign objective is possibly the most impactful for the long-term success of any game, not just independent games.
While this ad type is an incredible tool to help with branding, it can help increase awareness of your indie game sale specials, or can help get backers for your Kickstarter campaign.
What kind of results can you expect from Video View ads for your Indie Game campaigns?
- Thousands of people viewing your gameplay or Kickstarter trailer
- Very low cost per result (per video view)
- Ability to retarget viewers with other ads or target new audiences similar to highly engaged viewers.
- See an increase in organic, direct, and even referral traffic to your Steam store, Kickstarter campaign page, or your game website.
- Increase in more pledges on Kickstarter or more game sales online related to referral traffic.
It’s also worth noting that advertisers can bid on Thruplays. Thruplays on Facebook or views of 15-seconds or longer or completed views for shorter videos. It’s also worth noting that videos shorter than 15 seconds can be placed in many more locations than 30-second videos or long-form content.
Any traffic, sales or pledges generated from this campaign is actually referred to as campaign lift from the video ad.
The most common user behavior which contributes to the latter statement is that users will watch a part of the video, then search for the game on Google, look it up on Steam or try to find it on Kickstarter. Facebook has done lift studies for larger brands and finds that searches increase upwards of 30% after launching a brand awareness or video campaign.
The main intention for video view ads on Facebook for any indie game is to create entry-level interest. So those who are intrigued by the trailer are usually interested enough to research your game.
Below is an example of how effective video views can be in terms of helping increase indirect traffic growth to an indie game Steam store.
In this instance, when the video view campaign was launched, organic, direct and referral traffic to the Steam store increased dramatically. No other promotions or campaigns were running during this time.
Source: Google Analytics
If you are looking to track direct results, meaning you want to see exactly how many sales your advertising campaigns are generating from Facebook, then ideally you’ll want to focus on website clicks.
Keep in mind though, the two campaign objectives that drive website traffic the best are the traffic and conversion campaign objectives.
The obvious thought is to drive traffic with website clicks. Like any campaign type, this objective has its place in certain situations.
However, using a conversion campaign objective will focus on generating conversions opposed to just traffic. This means that the campaign is designed to optimize for conversions and not traffic.
This allows you to focus efforts on sales and other metrics you value and ultimately means the traffic you drive to your website is more likely to generate a conversion.
So, while the conversion objective may sound like the best option, is there a reason to choose the traffic objective? Yup, there sure is.
Why Use Traffic Objective Campaigns?
The reason you would want to use the traffic objective campaign because it’s best suited if you’re directing traffic a site where you can’t install the Facebook pixel to track conversions. This campaign can send traffic to your Steam store, or wherever your game may be sold online.
What kind of results can you expect with website click ads on Facebook?
Below are some numbers that provide a little insight on what to expect. Please note they aren’t actual numbers you should expect or rely on as data will be different for everyone!
- Receive referral traffic directly from interested Facebook users for as low as $0.25 to $0.60 per website click, depending on how you’re targeting your audience and what ads you’re using.
- Using the right ad copy and call to action you can see a conversion rate (from click to buy) as high as 10 percent*
To get an idea of how Facebook web clicks perform, here is a snippet from a website clicks campaign we managed for an indie game developer during a sales event.
The traffic from this ad continued to grow and peaked at the end of the campaign.
In this given campaign there was roughly a 15% conversion rate, meaning if 1000 users clicked the ad, roughly 150 of those users then bought the game from the Steam store*.
*Numbers are based on estimates due to limited attribution.
For Steam or any other platform, it can be difficult to attribute direct sales to Facebook advertising efforts.
This is because cross-device attribution is difficult to track, because users can go from their mobile device to desktop and back, then go to your Steam page.
However, assuming users provider the game developer with their personal information, when registering their purchase through Stream, advertisers can upload that list as an “Offline Event Set” and attribute sales to specific campaigns.
By leveraging Facebook, attribution loss is greatly mitigated, so long as the user has used Facebook on the devices they jump from or to. Typically Facebook can identify users based on their other online activities or offline through app usage on mobile. An estimated 40% of conversion events are misattributed with cookie-based tracking. Facebook leverages that method in the event they cannot use their normal user-based tracking.
Why Use Conversion Objective Campaigns?
The big reason why you would want to use the conversion objective campaign is that you have the ability to dictate what a conversion is. In this case, a conversion is a metric you find to be valuable.
That’s obviously a sale, but a conversion could also mean an email subscription confirmation, or people viewing a specific landing page on your website.
Facebook now allows you to optimize for multiple conversion objectives in addition to sales which broadens opportunities for indie game advertising. Imagine a scenario with 3 separate campaigns, all optimizing for separate conversions. One campaign could optimize for game downloads, another for game page views, and a third for email signups.
Conversion objective campaigns can also be used to directly or indirectly work towards your overall goal.
Before considering using a conversion objective campaign, you need to have your Facebook pixel with event tracking installed on your website. This is because the information that the Facebook pixel collects is what the conversion campaign will use to optimize its performance.
The only caveat to this though is Facebook needs some conversion data before it can start optimizing the campaign.
Sometimes to get the ball rolling and work towards your direct goal of selling games, you need to optimize for a different, lower value conversion first (like visiting a specific page of your website).
That’s why having the Facebook pixel with event tracking helps so much, as you can easily start with one type of conversion, then change to a higher value conversion once your campaign starts getting traction.
Once your conversion campaign gets some momentum, the Facebook system will be able to take the conversion data and do most of the work by determining what people to serve your ad to based on the targeting you selected.
Once you determined which objectives you want to use, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re targeting the right audience.
As previously mentioned, Facebook has a lot of interest, behavior and demographic targeting options all based on their users’ data. You can also localize your ads based on location and language too.
Now the trick is figuring out what to and not to target.
What Facebook targeting should you use if you’re starting from scratch?
If you’re an indie dev that is literally starting from scratch then targeting game related groups and interests is a great place to start.
When starting out, you want to make sure you have a pretty good idea of what your core audience is. This doesn’t mean you’re going exclusively target that audience out of the gate though.
With Facebook advertising, you never want to be too broad or specific. The reason for this is you need to learn from your campaign so you can effectively refine your targeting.
On that same note, you don’t necessarily want to target a specific demographic or gender either.
Ok, you might not want to be hitting up grandparents on Facebook with your ads, but it’s best if you leave even demographic targeting a little open. .
The reason for this is Facebook does a really good job at serving ads to users they feel they will resonate the most with, so don’t get too carried away with targeting.
To make this easier to understand, let’s use the RPG example again but go into more detail.
You’re working on a new RPG game, that has functionality or simply inspiration from games like Final Fantasy, Earthbound and Chrono Trigger. You’re totally going to want to target those interest groups.
Now, knowing this, there is a very high chance that most people who like those games are in their early to mid 30s. But what if there are people in their early 20s or early 40s that are fans of those games too.
You wouldn’t want to exclude them either, not right away at least.
Let’s take this a little further.
Let’s say your game is more for hardcore gamers than casual audiences, and you really want to target a behavior or interest audience that is associated with or somewhat represents hardcore gamers.
On top of that, you want to also layer your targeting with people who like crafting (because this is a big component of the game), and a few other features.
Then you want to target a behavior of only those who have or are likely to contribute to Kickstarter campaigns or donations.
All of this might sound great, but now this specific audience we are targeting is probably too focused.
What this will do is limit your potential reach and make it difficult for the Facebook algorithm to work on your behalf and find people that may be interested in your game or want to purchase it.
So if you’re starting out, make sure you’re picking the right main audience and some interests and behaviors to narrow it down a little. While you want to focus on interests your core audience cares about, you also don’t want to get too granular either.
With this approach you’ll be able to learn a lot more this way and possibly identify other audiences you can target with more accuracy.
Another important thing to be aware of is making sure that groups or behaviors you target are actually attributes that make up your core audience.
If not, you can be misrepresenting your game and marketing it to people that aren’t that interested, missing those that are. Just make sure your messaging is tailored to the right crowd to avoid missed opportunities or future headaches of resetting your messaging.
Don’t sweat the small stuff either though.
Throughout your campaign, you’ll be able to learn and refine your targeting and messaging. Adapting and making changes to improve your campaign’s performance is all part of the process.
What targeting do you use if you have a small fan base for your game?
There was a lot covered about targeting and what to do if you’re starting from scratch, but what if you already have an established brand or a small network of fans? Is there a way to leverage them? Yup!
One of the awesome things about Facebook advertising is the ability to create custom audiences and LookAlike (LAL) audiences.
What are Facebook Custom Audiences and LookAlike (LAL) audiences?
In a nutshell, custom audiences are simply audiences you can create from fans of your Facebook page, website visitors from data collected from your Facebook pixel or an email list you have.
A LookAlike (LAL) audience is simply an audience that is similar to a custom audience.
Out of all the targeting options available, using a LAL audience is probably the best type of targeting to consider. This is because Facebook does such a great job of finding people that are very similar to your game’s fans.
By using this audience type, you’re more than likely to increase your fan base, engagement, getting more people to subscribe to your email list and ultimately more sales of your game.
The really cool thing is it doesn’t matter if you’re a AAA publisher or a solo indie developer, you still have access to this targeting and can run it on a minimal budget.
There is one important note to all of this though.
When creating custom audiences to make a LAL audience you ideally want to create LAL audiences from website conversion data using your Facebook Pixel or your subscriber email list.
Why is Using the Facebook Pixel so important for Indie Devs?
Ok, the Facebook pixel was mentioned a lot and people are probably wondering what exactly it is. The Facebook pixel is a code you place onto your website which collects data that you can use to help you better target your audience.
The reason why this is so important is because by tracking what actions users take on your website, you can take out a lot of the guesswork about who to target your ads to.
For example, if you’re tracking email subscriptions on your website, those are now fans of your game and carry a lot of value. If you track people who have purchased your game, those conversions carry more value.
Wouldn’t you want to reach out directly to people who are just like your fans or re-engage potential fans that show interest in your indie game? That’s essentially what the Facebook pixel allows you to do.
That’s why the Facebook Pixel is so important and is ultimately is the answer to how to set up your Facebook advertising campaign for success.
Split Testing and Campaign Budgets
Recently, Facebook rolled out the ability to Split Test and use campaign budgets to further improve campaign performance. Here are a few ways Indie Game Devs can take advantage of these options.
- Split test multiple creatives and determine which resonates most with your target audience
- Split test multiple targets to determine which target audience is most viable for your game
- Split test based on Placements and determine where the most conversions for the desired result is occurring.
- Using campaign budgets, create several audiences and Facebook will allocate spend automatically based on performance, audience size, and budget.
Now that we’ve pretty much covered all of the essentials, that last thing worth discussing in more detail are ads.
As we have identified earlier, there are a lot of different types of ads. The big question of course is are there Facebook ads that will perform better than others for game sales?
Honestly, this is a bit of a loaded question as results can vary depending on your objectives and goals, but the short answer is yes!
Here’s a basic list of Facebook Ad Types people can start with
- Collection Ads (mobile only)
- Carousel Ads
- Lead Generation Ads
- Video Ads
- App Installs (Mobile Games)
- App Engagement (Mobile Games)
- Catalog Sales (DLC and Larger Studios/Collaborative Partnerships)
While the above ad types can seem pretty straightforward, this is where things can get a little tricky, but not too much.
See, the ad types appear to be different, however there is a lot of overlap between the ad types in terms of functionality.
For example, Collection Ads (previously referred to as Canvas ads but now known as Instant Experience ads) can appear as an image or video ad for mobile users, and then expand into a “canvas” for a better user experience. In the “canvas” part of the ad, people can see more images or a slideshow and learn more about your game.
It’s kinda like two ads in one.
More importantly though, Facebook wants users to stay on Facebook as much as possible. The more users they keep on their platform, the more likely they’ll get businesses to advertise on Facebook (that’s one reason why Collection ads work so well!).
So when you choose an ad type you really want to consider what that ad is designed to do.
For example, if your ad’s purpose is to keep people engaged (like a Collection ad) and offer the potential to click on your site, then Facebook will likely reward that ad more than another ad that directs traffic immediately to your website.
To take the above example further, this also means having the right kind of imagery in your ad that will catch people’s attention. You also want ad copy that will resonate and give people a compelling reason to commit and buy your game.
All these things keep users engaged and on Facebook, while still offering the ability to drive a good amount of traffic to your site or store and Facebook rewards advertisers that do this well.
By “reward”, this means having a better relevancy score, higher engagement level and lower costs. Not only that, but more engagement is simply a bonus for your advertising efforts as it will continue to grow your existing fanbase.
Another thing to consider is what devices are most people you’re targeting accessing Facebook with. In most cases, it’s mobile devices.
So if you’re setting up a campaign with targeting and ads that focus only on desktops, you’ll probably find that traffic is lower and costs are higher. Around 90% of ad spend will occur on Mobile when using Facebook advertising.
While a lot of focused in the above examples was on Collection ads, In some ways, it doesn’t matter which ad type you use.
Just as long as the ad keeps users engaged and on Facebook, then those ads have a greater chance of performing better.
So the best answer really comes down to trying new things and A/B testing ads but also being mindful of what resonates with your targeted audience and keeping them engaged as much as possible.
All kidding aside though, Facebook ads have become a necessary tool that should be a part of any indie game developer and publisher’s marketing plan.
If you want to grow your fan base and increase your indie game sales, then Facebook is a great channel to consider and shouldn’t be ignored simply because of its accurate targeting and social engagement.
As long as you can properly identify your audience and understand how to communicate your game to them, there is no reason why a platform like Facebook shouldn’t be a part of a holistic marketing strategy.
Knowing what influenced you to make your game and the elements you incorporated can help promote your game, but if you want to build a successful Facebook campaign, you need to go beyond that mindset.
At the end of the day, it comes down to how you connect with your audience.