Next week I'll be posting some specific guidelines and suggestions for how BYONDers can help to promote and spread the word about NEStalgia. Before I go over that, however, I think that it's important to have a more philosophical discussion of the "dos and don'ts" of promoting something online. The best way to go about this is to point to an example of what not to do in order to learn from someone else's mistakes.
What not to do
Last Spring a NEStalgia player randomly took it upon themselves to go out and promote the game online. Who this person was isn't important - this is not about the person, but what his failed techniques were and how to learn from his mistakes. Frankly, it's as much my fault as it is his: at the time I didn't want to hurt his feelings by saying "No, I don't want you to do that so please stop!".
This person used the name "NES_Online" and signed up for accounts on lots of different message boards and gaming sites for the specific purpose of promoting NEStalgia. He was met with fierce resistance, and most of the threads were deleted. Here are a couple examples of what he posted: Example 1 | Example 2
So what did he do wrong? Lots of things, but first and foremost: NEVER join a website or a community forum for the sole purpose of promoting something. Even though most of the message boards he posted on were geared towards online gamers and RPG fans, NES_Online was essentially a human spambot. No one likes to be advertised to like that.
The actual NES_Online handle was another huge mistake. Not only did it scream "I'm only here to advertise this game!", it gave the impression that he was officially representing NEStalgia... yet in his post he presents himself as just a player, or even someone who has just heard of the game and not played it. Ex: "I was wondering if anyone had heard of this game... It's supposed to be....". Now he is coming off as a spambot AND a self-promoting douche trying to deceive people.
Last but not least, the post itself is pretty bad, full of paragraphs of poorly worded and meaningless information (no one cares about the names of the people who made the game, etc). Also, saying that NEStalgia is a "parody" of old games and movies is not only misleading, it's incorrect.
What should have happened here?
To promote something like this online, you spread the word amongst people with whom you already have a relationship. If NES_Online was already a known member of a gaming forum or community, then he should have made a post about NEStalgia that said something like "Hey guys I've been playing this game called NEStalgia, and I really enjoy it. Here is why:", and then provided relevant links so that they could try it out as well. Short, sweet, and personal.
This philosophy applies to more than just message boards. Post a bulletin on YouTube with a link to the NEStalgia trailer for your friends, but don't go spam message a bunch of random YouTube members saying "watch this video!". Write an entry about the game on your blog, but don't go posting comments with links on random blogs hoping to leach traffic.
Promoting the game on larger news sites, gaming blogs and independent gaming websites is my job as the game's developer. That type of promotion needs to be done in an official way through the appropriate channels.
Unfortunately, NES_Online also took it upon himself to create official looking entries for NEStalgia at sites like this using the same cringe-inducing verbage. The only person who should be listing NEStalgia on those types of sites is me; if you stumble upon a site that you think the game ought to be listed on then the best thing to do is send me a link to it.
Why does all of this matter?
When you're marketing anything you need to have a consistent message and avoid getting in people's faces. Word-of-mouth can be incredibly powerful (see Minecraft's success), but it can't be forced. An advertising campaign can just as easily backfire if you tick off your potential audience.
With the promotional website and the trailer I've created the best tools that I possibly can to help convince outsiders to give NEStalgia a chance. The goal at this point is simply to get those materials in front of people in the most natural and unobtrusive way possible.
Stay tuned - we're going to have some fun with this next week!