Indie Game Marketing for Introverts: 3 Tips for Social Survival

Indie Game Marketing for Introverts: 3 Tips for Social Survival

I’m an introvert. Being around people drains my batteries…and I consider my alone time some much-needed solitude. A lot of people (my extrovert friends especially) don’t really understand that when I tell them. They will all try to help me in their own way. They tell me I should get out more, or be more sociable, or make more friends. And I appreciate the intention behind those suggestions, I am thankful that they are trying to help, but really, my alone time is sacred to me.

Now granted there are many benefits to interpersonal relationships and networking and such, even for introverts. But that doesn’t mean that being an introvert is wrong or it somehow makes you broken, it just makes you different. I’m not going to get into my personal struggle here because that is a different post for a different day, but for a long time I thought I DID need to be an extrovert, and I thought that being an introvert contributed to my depression, loneliness etc. I thought that by not being great at talking to people or preferring to just be alone made me less likely to succeed.

And marketing specifically always scared me, because that was the ultimate extrovert thing right??


Tell everyone about everything? That’s terrifying!

Most people think about marketing as a contest to get the most eyeballs. They think in general terms, like the brand or the company has a giant megaphone in front of a an interested global audience. For me personally, that scared me. I had trouble maintaining a conversation with the chick taking my drink order at Starbucks. So, I set out on a journey to actually learn this stuff.

I read a lot of self help and self improvement material on my journey to git gud at marketing. I also read a lot of marketing material and business books because at the same time. I was  working on a software project or my latest startup idea, so I always wanted more information on improving myself or my projects as well as marketing them. But these books were telling me I had to have a conversation with thousands of people to sell my game or my products? They were telling me that I basically HAD to be an extrovert in order to succeed at marketing.

I acknowledged the power of people and the significance of interpersonal relationships. I also realized that my bad social skills an inability to communicate was SEPARATE from my introversion. But I always thought that was the wrong way to look at things. Introverts may not necessarily like 24/7 social interaction, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be good at some of those things. Still, that idea didn’t make talking to people any less scary for me.

Well funny story. Between then and now, I actually started a marketing company and ran it for several years before I sold it in 2015. And let me just tell you, all of those books were wrong.


Turns out, it’s not the marketing that’s scary, it’s everything else

When I first started my marketing company, I was terrified of phone calls. Like quite literally, scared and anxious of receiving them from clients. Marketing scared me because that meant that people might call me. If someone would call me, like a client or something, my heart would race and I felt like I was unable to even answer the phone. In fact, back then the thing I did most was follow up on a missed phone call via email, because that was the only way I knew how to communicate, and it allowed me to organize my thoughts and prepare my communication to be effective.

As time went on, I grew to prefer phone calls, but only when they were planned or they were on my terms. For example, I would be able to call anyone and talk to them, as long as it was my decision. If I had a call at 4:00pm on a wednesday, it would be no issue, because I was prepared. If a client called me up randomly though, that would still bother me. It didn’t feel like a heart attack like it did when I first started, but I still got an anxious feeling in my chest when it happened.

I realized that for me, it was not the actual sharing of information, the selling of myself, or the marketing of my products that scared me. I realized that it was the direct interaction with people in a medium I didn’t like, during a time outside of my control. Now I realize this bubbles over into social anxiety as opposed to being an introvert, but I know a lot of introverts suffer from social anxiety because of lack of experience in a lot of these situations.

For me personally I’ve found that my communication is MUCH more effective when it fits the following criteria for me:

  • The communication is in a medium I like. Phone calls just were not my thing. In fact, any sort of live communication gave me a bit of anxiety, especially when I had to sell myself or my product and convince the other person to give me their money. To be honest with my games, I don’t even really like emailing people about them, but I love making videos about them.
  • The communication is planned in advance. I’m not sure if this is just an introvert thing or if a wider range of people experience it, but I feel the need to plan my interaction with people. It gives me a sense of control, and a sense of strength when I communicate. If I can just mentally prepare for an interaction, even though I don’t do any actual work to prepare, I am much better off.
  • There is a set topic of discussion. It always scared me to have to talk to somebody when I had no idea what the topic was. I hate small talk, and I hate not getting straight to the point of something, especially in business. If you want to talk to me, make it clear why. It makes it much easier for me to communicate and help you.

I found that for me if I could meet those 3 criteria every time I communicated with clients or reached out to others I would have a far better experience. I also found that my issue with communication was directly related to my ability to effectively market products. Whenever I didn’t quite feel up to marketing a product for a client, it came down to one of those things. And video games are not different.


Tip #1 – Pick the medium that works for you

That’s right, you do not have to create an account on ALL the social networks. You don’t have to do EVERYTHING. In fact doing everything on all the websites is a great way to fail spectacularly. As an introvert, you have to like the medium that will be your core driver for marketing.

Let’s take Game Dev Underground for example. If you’ve been following me for a bit, you’ll notice that I’ve taken a liking to blogging, YouTube videos and the occasional email blast. You’ll also have noticed that while we used to do live chats every Friday, I have slowly strayed away from that. I was even going to start a podcast, but that requires me interacting with other human beings directly, so I’ve been procrastinating that like a motherfucker. The point is, I stick to the mediums that I am comfortable with, because I can be more effective with them. And the mediums I don’t like I either accidentally kill or completely avoid until they don’t exist.

Don’t torture yourself like that. Don’t get stuck into thinking that you have to use the platforms that everyone else uses. Use what you like and amplify that. Dude, if I had to cold call people or tweet people directly about my blog all day, I literally would never get anywhere in life. Find what works for you. Do you like Facebook? Twitter? Reddit? Blogging? Videos? Email? Find what doesn’t terrify you and be consistent at that. It is MUCH better for you to be great at a single platform than to be average on a whole bunch.

But the thing is here, you have to try a bunch of things to know what you like and don’t like. I was scared of a lot of stuff, but I tried everything at least once to see if it was for me. Believe it or not, I was actually really scared of blogging when I started, but I now really enjoy it.


Tip #2 – Don’t  be courageous all the time, schedule it

Any communication with the outside world can come with anxiety for me. I am significantly better at managing it than I was a few years ago, but I don’t think it will ever fully go away, that’s why you have to learn how to deal with it. And the BEST way that I’ve found to deal with it is to schedule my social courage. This post for example is getting published on a Wednesday. I’m writing this ahead of time, and I am prepared ahead of time to spend a few hours on Wednesday to promote it a few places, interact with a few people, and spread the word.

I don’t have to interact with people ALL THE TIME, I only have to do it on wednesdays, because that is when I release new posts. But it doesn’t have to be limited to recurring events either. You can schedule a time for yourself to go meet people, to tweet at influencers you like, or even something like interacting online with your player base. I, for example, am getting prepared to contact a publisher for one of my mobile games. This is something I’ve been avoiding, I really don’t want to do it, and it’s scary. But I know that if I schedule it in advance to do a whole bunch of emails on a single day, It is much more manageable for me. I don’t have to wake up every single day and feel the anxiety of having to write more emails to publishers. I do it all in one swoop, and I’m prepared for it.

You can also batch a lot of marketing tasks on days that you schedule. For example, you can sit down one day, write 60 different tweets about your game, and schedule them out twice a day for the next month with tools like Buffer. You can write 4 devlogs about 4 things you’ve worked on recently all at the same time, and release them once a week for the next 4 weeks.


Tip #3 – Prepare materials in advance

If I sit down to “market my game” with no clear direction, I will have no freaking idea what to do, and I’ll get social anxiety at the idea that I have to reach out to people with no clear direction. So I plan my marketing ahead of time.

Marketing is about stories. Great marketing is as simple as creating a great story. Its one of the reasons you can’t just email Kotaku every single month to cover your game over and over again. Your launch day is a story, and they love to tell that story. But after that, the story is already told, and there is no use in retelling the same story. SO with that in mind, create a series of stories that you can share over time, and do so ahead of time.

Lots of things can count as stories. If you made your game with your husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/son/daughter/neighbor, you can craft a good story about it. Every new version is an opportunity for a new story. Donate 100 copies to a charity, that makes a great story. That one bug that you decided to turn into a feature will make a great story.

If you think about it, this is where most indie game developers fail at marketing. They think the only story surrounding their game is the launch. That is a HUGE game-killing mistake.

If you create a series of stories ahead of time for a period leading up to launch, its a lot easier to not only to carry through with what you’re doing, but also to publish those stories and actually get some marketing done. You might plan out blog posts, you might plan out details about the game you are sharing one at a time, or you might even plan out devlogs in a certain sequence that paint a really cool picture of the development process. You might just do something as simple as claiming next week to be the week where you only talk about feature 1, and the week after, feature 2 and so on.

Know what you are going to talk about ahead of time. It helps with the introversion and social anxiety aspects, but it also gives you more confidence because you are prepared.


It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality and consistency

As with any business and any marketing, it really is about effort over the long term. Don’t try and throw all of your effort into a single day and blast everyone on the planet. Not only do you risk burnout that way, but it is also not a great idea for building a longer term and sustainable business. As an introvert, I know it was way easier for me to put a bunch of effort in at once and then avoid everything than it ever was for me to be consistent. That’s normal. And It’s why building a business is so hard.

If you schedule your consistency, that can help. Maybe even pick a day of the week to schedule out all of your marketing for the week and see how that works for you. The key is to keep at it, and pay attention to how things make you feel. For me, the vast majority of problems were tied to the type of communication medium and not so much the actual communication. Pay attention and make sure that you eliminate things in your life that can stop you from staying consistent like that.

I know you’ve heard this a thousand times, but I SERIOUSLY MEAN IT when I say consistency will outperform any other single metric in marketing. If you just keep at it every single day or week, you will learn things, you will improve, you will feel less anxious and scared. And while I think being an introvert is just a part of how we are wired, I have seen a significant improvement in my social skills just by doing the things that scare me and interacting with people I didn’t really want to. The more you do something, the better at it you get.


Conclusion: Introverts don’t suck at marketing

Introverts just have to play by different rules. Most of the marketing books are geared toward extroverts, but there are plenty of places where introverts can succeed and excel at marketing if they know what they are doing.

If you find a medium that works for you, it’ll make your life a thousand times easier, and your marketing will rock. If you realize that you don’t have to be social all the time, and you can schedule out your courage, you can feel a little less anxious. And if you determine the narrative or the story you are going to tell ahead of time, you can relax a bit when it comes to actually executing.

I talked a lot about the introvert-specific aspects that stopped me from effectively marketing in this article. There are however a lot of basic marketing concepts here that we did not cover, so here are a few links if you are interested in the “what to do” aspect of marketing, versus how to do it. Check out:

Questions? Ask them in the comments!

Tim Ruswick

Tim Ruswick is the founder of Game Dev Underground and the author of the Game-Maker's Manifesto.

  • What’s your introvert marketing horror story? Any tips on how you’ve overcome your desire to just hide from the world and actually get yourself out there?