When struggling with bad reviews and toxic user behavior on social media, creating a friendly community for mobile games may seem like an impossible goal.
Managing a large, fully-formed community like that of the city builder SuperCity, with almost a million Facebook followers, comes not only with perks, but with some challenges too. Reducing toxic interaction on posts and among the players being one of the top.
Although it is a natural trend for large gaming communities to deal with trolling and even turn into angry mobs, sometimes, the community manager can set the proper tone for communication on social media.
Playkot's city-builder SuperCity started as a browser game on Russian social media platforms to be voted "Best New Facebook Game" in 2014. SuperCity quickly built a large community on its social media, and we have just celebrated our 10th anniversary.
When I became SuperCity's community manager, It was quite a challenge to fight the negative spirits of some players. But at the same time, it was an experience that taught me a lot about user behavior in videogames, and crowd psychology, in general.
The following 12 Tips boil down the strategy that we employed to improve the atmosphere in SuperCity's community:
- Show that You Care
- Keep your Communication Simple
- Do NOT Wait to Reply to your Gaming Community
- Find Out the Reason Behind the Comment
- Never take the Comments Personally
- Distinguish Between an Angry Player and a Regular Troll
- Choose the Right Level of Moderation
- Be Open to Feedback
- Encourage Positive Contributions
- Generate Positive Contests & Giveaways
- Don’t just cover Online, go Offline too!
- Try for a More Personal Approach
1. Show That You Care
It was not by accident that I have chosen this for the very first tip.
Care should be at the core of every interaction you have with your online community.
It's not enough to affirm it publicly that you care about your community. You must internalize it and keep it in mind in every action you take.
People feel when you genuinely care (or not) about them.
You show them that you care by approaching them nicely and positively.
When dealing with your community, try to approach your users the way you know they will understand you best.
Try to use polite, caring words. Be generous with the "Have a nice day" wishes and friendly emojis. These little things can really improve your communication with the players.
If you want, you can make someone's day better.
2. Keep your Communication Simple
Try to think of your players not only as customers but also as people: they could be your little sister or brother, not at all happy with the new update. Imagine your father or grandmother not understanding the new interface of their favorite game.
I tend to make this mental connection between my family and audiences with players over their forties. When my father bought his first smartphone, he had such a hard time understanding how to use it.
It's the same with your gaming community: try to explain your news and game updates the same way you would with your grandparents.
If your community is small, do your best to answer to all players. That will boost the engagement rates on your social media channels, and it will also show the players that you care about their comments.
As your gaming community gets bigger, it will become difficult to answer all your players.
Some companies prefer to respond when the answer is relevant for all the players to read. Or you can hire moderators or staff to help you keep answering all your players.
In this line of work, emotional burnout can happen very fast: too many contacts can feel overwhelming, resulting in low-quality work or losing valuable people.
3. Do NOT Wait to Reply to your Gaming Community
Giving a quick reply to your players, being there when they need you is also a way of showing you care.
You may have the perfect answer, but if it comes too late, there's no point in it anymore.
This is particularly important for reviews on App Store and Google Play.
Sometimes, players submit their issues there, instead of writing to support or on your social media platforms.
It's always a good idea to monitor your feedback on the App Stores. You will find there all the feedback of your latest update.
The best scenario is to solve their issue from the first message without asking them to contact you via support or email.
You can turn a bad review into a five-star rating just by answering promptly and showing that you care about their issues.
4. Find Out the Reason Behind the Comment
This means going a little further into the player's psychology.
The reason behind their anger may or may not be the game itself. This is something you'll have to find out and adjust your communication accordingly.
If several players come to you with the same complaint, something may be off with the new event or whatever might be the object of their messages.
However, that might not always be the case with individual complaints. Waking up to several angry paragraphs from one of your most loyal players does not always mean yesterday's update was a fiasco.
Take the time to listen to the person who came to you and determine what caused this emotional reaction. Based on the messages you have received, ask them about the issue.
Do it with empathy, in a polite and caring manner, and you might be surprised. It's not uncommon that, during the conversation, the player drops something along the lines of "Actually, yesterday I was really upset because of reasons" or "I couldn't sleep all night because my legs hurt terribly."
I don't know any Community Manager that hasn't received something like that.
Just keep in mind: the reason for anger might not always be your product.
5. Never take the Comments Personally
You may feel a bit frustrated by the loss of work time when you find out that the real reason was not work-related at all.
Don't take it personally!
My advice here is not to cut the person off. If you do, you may come off as rude. Listen to them for a while, and, if you can, say something nice.
This will not only consolidate the bond you have with that particular player, but you will also have one good deed added to your karma: everyone needs to be heard out once in a while, might as well be by an online game community manager.
You may even end up with a loyal user who will defend you and your game when other players rant at you.
6. Distinguish Between an Angry Player and a Regular Troll
If you've been on the internet for some time, you're probably familiar with internet Trolls.
They are the worst nightmares of every community manager.
Not only is it tiresome to see every new post you publish overridden with negative comments, but you'll soon find the regular players rally up against you as well.
Never let the troll loose. If you do, more negative comments will spring up like mushrooms after a rainy day.
The last thing you want is for the top comment on your newest post -Yes, that one with 600 likes and 90 replies!- to be a faceless profile solely made to have some fun at your expense.
There are many theories on internet trolling. Be it what some call the mob mentality or something else. Trolls are very good at finding weaknesses, real or made up, and presenting them in a way that will make others feel like they have a point.
Distinguishing between a player who is genuinely upset and a regular troll is not easy. You can only learn that by practice. However, if you want to get rid of your trolls, you must set the right parameters for communication on your social media.
7. Choose the Right Level of Moderation
To ban or not to ban? That is the question.
The topic of how strong moderation should be is often a sensitive one for community managers. Nobody wants to come off as iron-fisted. The flip side of this is a too relaxed approach and having your community infested with toxic behavior and trolling.
How should strong moderation be against a troll? As strong as necessary!
The level of moderation is individual to every community. Large communities, such as SuperCity, are prone to trolls and things getting out of hand quickly. Small communities can have more flexible policies that don't require such careful monitoring.
Trolling should not be tolerated on your social media. However, if a user genuinely sends you negative comments or reviews, you'll have to address it.
One of the main purposes of a Community Manager, after all, is to address all feedback. Whether the feedback is positive or negative, game developers have to learn to take critique just as much .-or even more- than praise.
But again, Do not mistake trolling for feedback. Trolls will never bring anything constructive to your community.
8. Be Open to Feedback
Another way of showing that you care about your players and the comments they leave is to be open.
Never stop asking them for feedback. Ask about your users' opinions in your posts, dedicated polls, or even player surveys.
Be mentally ready to accept both positive and negative feedback.
When you receive it, be honest about it with your team. If the latest event was not well-received, don't sugarcoat it. Describe the situation as it is: in a logical, non-emotional manner.
It's great for players when you put their suggestions into practice. It increases their loyalty when they see that you act on their feedback.
It also creates a feeling of belonging for your players. Their opinions are materialized in their favorite game!
When you act on your users' feedback, make sure to emphasize it when speaking with your community. Release a dedicated post, tweet about it, spread the word.
Players love to see when game developers take their feedback into account.
Depending on how close are your product team and your community managers, these magic moments will occur more -or less- often.
9. Encourage Positive Contributions
It is just as important to encourage & reward positive contributions to your community as it is to limit the damage done by negative comments.
To set an example of good behavior will offer players a new outlook on things. It will also help steer them in the direction you'd like the community to head to.
Find the silent players that love your game, and make them speak out.
For every successful project, there are supportive players out there. However, your supporters don’t tend to be as vocal as their polar opposites.
For SuperCity, we introduced something called "SuperCity Hall of Fame".
We gave the SuperCity Hall of Fame award to players that had meaningful contributions to our community: helping other players out with useful advice; writing creative stories about our game; helping us track down some technical issues, or simply having a consistently positive attitude over time.
The reward was a special frame for Facebook profile pictures that could not be found elsewhere. They had to be attached by us for each winner's picture.
The winners would also be mentioned on our page, and their pictures would remain in a dedicated SuperCity Hall of Fame album. Moreover, the award also came with a little bit of in-game currency.
10. Generate Positive Contests & Giveaways
People love having the chance of winning something.
Therefore, contests and giveaways are some of the most powerful tools in the community manager's arsenal.
Contests and Giveaways increase activity on your social media, while they set a more positive mindset inside the community.
Working together towards common goals, on a daily basis, has created strong bonds between the players and that was something we tried to encourage and promote as much as possible as the true identity of our community.
A big part of SuperCity's game strategy was being part of a friends' group that would help each other out.
Many of our contests revolved around the idea of online friendship, with one notable merch giveaway. Most of our contests involved tagging a gaming buddy and having them tell us why they consider them such a good online friend.
If they got lucky, we'd send them both an item of exclusive merch.
11. Don’t just cover Online, go Offline too!
Sometimes, online communities evolve to the point that online friendships turn into real-life, long-lasting friendships. This also tends to reinforce the online bond.
This was also the case for SuperCity. After a long journey over the years, some people in our community started to trust each other more and shared fond memories. This encouraged some of our players to meet in real life.
Observing that trend, we encouraged our players to organize meetups and form bonds in real life. We considered it a beautiful thing.
What starts in the virtual world may have a wonderful impact on people's lives.
A group of players from France had the first initiative of this kind in 2019. Sadly, no one from SuperCity was able to attend in person, but we supported the meetup with our merch and also got some souvenirs from them in exchange.
The meeting got an entry on our official SuperCity page and more people from other countries started organizing themselves too. The next meeting was, a few months after, in Canada.
The meetups had the potential to develop from local meetings to more international meetings.
I was also supposed to attend the 2020 meetup in France, but that was, unfortunately, postponed to 2021 and then to 2022 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
12. Try for a More Personal Approach
One of the challenges of SuperCity’s Community Management team, was to change the way the players viewed ourselves and our company.
Stereotypes, especially negative ones, have the ability to latch on very easily.
Sometimes it’s not easy for players to see game developers as people too.
Among our negative comments, there was a recurring theme of us being the evil corporation that was thinking of nothing else except our profits. Ironically, we are still very far away from being a big corporation.
If you’re a small developer like us, don’t let that kind of comment get under your skin. Let your work ethic and values speak for themselves with your hard work, your games, and the way you handle your community.
The key here was for players to see we are also regular people with personalities and dreams of our own. We love our game, SuperCity, just as much as they, and we care about them.
Some game developers and community managers prefer not to expose themselves. Therefore, they choose an impersonal approach. -in my case, I took the risk and chose the exact opposite.-
The players of SuperCity community know my real name and how do I look. I also created a Youtube channel. A place where I personally:
- Explain the new events and features of the game.
- Feature interviews with team members.
- Filmed special moments from our office life.
- And much more!
Moreover, we organized an event called "SuperCity Mail Time". This is a unique chance for players to send to us a gift and get something in return from us.
There are many big companies that would not feel comfortable leaving a postal address out in the open. In our case, we are proud to have a small museum with souvenirs in our office, that come from all around the world. And so far, not a single bad comment has been to my mail.
This has proven to me that, in most cases, negative comments were just online rants and nothing serious.
However, such an initiative does come with some risks, so If you decide to for it, first analyze if it's worth the try for your particular situation.
Turning Angry Mobs & Bad Comments in Social Media into Loyal Players
These are some tips from my own experience as a manager of a large online gaming community, I don't claim that SuperCity has a 100% hate-free, positive vibes-only community. Such things don't exist.
However, the above strategies did improve our game’s atmosphere. Some tips may be applicable to other cases as well, some not, it's up to every manager or developer to see what works best for their community.
This is perhaps the beauty in our line of work: there are no two identical online communities. Each of us has to be willing to accept the challenge of experimenting and finding new ways of bringing people together.
Diana Craciun is an ex-pat working for the Russian gaming company Playkot for over four years now. She started her career as a community manager for one of Playkot's most popular games, SuperCity. Soon after that, Diana moved on to mobile games, such as the mobile version of SuperCity and the company's new project, Spring Valley Farm Adventures. Managing SuperCity's community of almost a million followers on Facebook provided her with plenty of experience dealing with negative comments, toxicity, and even downright trolling.