In this installment of my analysis of the building and fostering a local RPG community panel, we are going to explore the online avenues that the panelists suggested. The online realm is vast and very diverse, therefore it is ripe for finding locals that may be interested in checking out what it is you are trying to do.
Consistently, the panelists commented that social media sites, in particular, meetup.com (ok, not quite social media) was an avenue that they explored and had very good results using. I find meetup.com to be a double edge sword when it comes to creating a game group. For the record, I have not used it, but let me explain why. In the past I did look into as a way of growing the groups I was working with, but I found the site cost prohibitive for organizers if they ever expected to grow beyond 50 members. Let’s face it, we’d rather spend our money on game products, not services and website fees. On the other side of this equation, is the ability to reach out and connect with people who are specifically looking for what it is you are offering. That right there is a great selling point for meetup.com.
Exposure is critical and while meetup.com gives you some level of exposure, the panelists hinted at other online sources that are also worth exploring. Let’s move into the realm of traditional social media sites. Several of the panelists mentioned using sites like Google+ and Facebook to find local gamers. This is where I would like to focus most of my attention. I have used Facebook extensively with solid proven results.
These are two sites that I have particularly used with measurable success. In particular, Facebook was an avenue that proved very successful for me. Prior to Facebook we (the organizers) used Yahoo message boards with great success, but Facebook opened up a whole new segment of the local population to us. After entering the Facebook realm our group of interested followers grew from 40ish to nearly 200. Do all followers get involved? Nope, not even close, but what it has allowed us to do was get our message out there to people who might be interested. That was in 2008/2009. The group is still going strong even though I am no longer a part of the organizational team and to prove this point, the group is going strong on Facebook. Today, this group is up to over 380 followers and they meet every other Saturday to play boardgames and the occasional RPG game.
I have explored Google+ to some extent, but have not had the same type of results that I got when using Facebook. Despite that, Google+ has allowed me access to very diverse groups of roleplayers and if nothing else, I have been able to expand my horizons in terms of hobby trends, diversification and exposure to new and exciting games. I personally think social media, by its very nature, is a great avenue to find, connect and foster healthy gaming communities. There are a variety of strategies to successfully using social media.
There is not a “one size fits all” winning strategy and this is where it will take work and in some cases hard work, on your part. Being an organizer of a gaming community is work! Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can have your personal Field of Dreams. Building it does not mean they will come! It takes work, but taking things slow and steady and leveraging sites like Facebook, Twitter and even Google+ can yield very positive and rewarding results that will pay dividends as your group grows and becomes more diverse in both the demographics and games that are played.
Social media sites, besides allowing you to create online groups or communities in which you grow your local game community, also give you access to other groups of people. Accessing these other groups, if they contain your target audience, are an additional resource for you to tap into. Every panelist commented that groups need to be diverse and appeal to diverse audiences, this is where social media sites excel. Everyone has a group or community, it’s up to you to find, create and promote your own diverse group!
In the next installment I will discuss, what is a gamer and how to create a safe spaces. The panelists had some great suggestions.
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