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What Bloggers can Learn from Farmville

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Update: It’s been pointed out to me that the wording of this piece was a little harsh. Didn’t mean to offend! I’m actually a Farmville user too (or at least, used to be, I don’t have as much time as I used to). I was coming off of a conversation with someone who argued that Farmville was a joke, so the opinion I was trying to express is that people who dismiss the game aren’t seeing that it has something to teach us (not that if you play the game you’re an idiot). I’ve since edited the post to try to reflect that.

We all poke fun at Farmville, but the fact of the matter is that what some people dismiss as  a silly little Facebook game actually has over 62 million active users as of September 2010. That means that about 10% of Facebook users play the game. Those are crazy numbers. Wouldn’t you kill to have 62 million people log onto your blog every day? I know I would.

They must be doing something right…right? There’s a take-away message or two here somewhere. Whether you love or hate Farmville, the game’s success as some lessons to teach us as bloggers.

Lesson #1: Give your readers a reason to visit.

One of the things Farmville does absurdly well is make it necessary for your to play the game often in order to succeed. If you don’t water or harvest your damn crops, they’ll die and you’ll lose all that money. You have to log in if you want the most bang for your virtual buck. Do your readers have a reason to visit your site often? Not every blogger has to blog every day, but if you don’t, your once- or twice-a-week posts need to be amazing. In addition, on days you don’t post anything, you can promote other reasons to visit your site. Link to something in the archives, remind people that you have something for sale, or highly an interesting conversation going on in the comments section.

Lesson #2: Give them something to buy.

If you’d walk up to someone on the street and tell them they’d pay for a virtual chicken coop, they’d think you were nuts. Yeah, Farmville users pay for all sorts of virtual crap. We’re seriously buying NOTHING and by the millions. I bet you’ve bought something, or at least thought about it. I know I have, and I’m not even a fan of the game on the level that some people are. It just goes to show that people want to spend money. You just need to let them do so. If your site has nothing to sell, you’re missing out! Don’t have time to create a product? At the very least, start recommending some affiliate products.

Lesson #3: Make it easy for them to tell their friends.

One of the biggest reasons I think that the makers of Farmville and other Facebook games are such geniuses is that they put their fans to work when it comes to advertising. You’ve hear that word-of-mouth is the best form of advertising you can get, right? Well, Farmville doesn’t just rely on their fans to talk about them. They actually make it part of the game. How many requests do you see all the time in your stream, friends who play games on Facebook asking for crap? Sure, you can block it…but many get sucked right in and start playing the game themselves. And even though I hate when others clog my stream with stinkin’ requests, every once in awhile, I send them out too. The take away message here is that you should make it very easy for your readers to promote your content to their friends. Include social bookmarking buttons at the beginning AND end of your posts, encourage readers to tweet if they agree at the end of a strong opinion piece, etc. Something I like to do: if there’s something you especially want people to tweet, give it right to them so all they have to do is c/p and hit the tweet button. I’ve done that with success when I was having a sale on my ebook a few months again – I sent an email to my list and asked everyone to retweet a line I included (or come up with their own tweet). Around 10% of my list did, which I definitely consider a success.

As annoying as Farmville may be, at least to some, there’s definitely some genius behind it. Have you been sucked into playing? Do you think it has anything to teacher bloggers?

Allison Boyer freelance writer and content marketing consultant. She also runs the food blog The PinterTest Kitchen with her mom and sister. You can follow her shenanigans on Twitter (@allison_boyer) or contact her at allisonmboyer@gmail.com.


Feedback

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  • Jay Feitlinger

    When I first signed up for Facebook all the posts from family and friends about their social gaming status really was intriguing. Sure it was annoying at times but some of these updates were from people I very much respected and quite surprised were playing these games.

    As an owner of an online marketing agency I had to look into this further. At least I had an excuse for playing games, right? I found the game developers like Zynga to be pure genius when it comes to their game mechanics. They make the games fun, easy to play, addictive, cheap and best of all a nice escape from the real world. I have used those mechanics in any marketing project I am working on to make sure to connect with the intended audience in the most effective and innovative way possible. I really enjoyed your post as you translated that well into blogging and my only other thought to add are bloggers (or any online publisher) need to also think about incentives. It does not have to be monetary but a way to have both push and pull strategy. There is so much competition out there I often wonder if there is an innovative way to reward your readers (your lesson #3) for things like sharing?

    • Alli

      Good point, Jay. I think a lot of social networking games do it well because they let you give a gift to your friends if you post something or grab a gift some someone else if they post something, so there’s a built-in reward system. Even people who wouldn’t normally post game messages will do it for in-game rewards. That’s definitely something to consider. I once saw someone do a $3 discount on his product for anyone who sent out a tweet about it. Genius.

  • Nikki

    As an avid Farmville (and Frontierville) player – I think there’s another lesson that can be learned. And it’s “know your audience”. I have created a group that I call “non gaming” and I add all of my non-game-playing friends to the list. That way if I put something on my wall, I can exclude them from the list and they never see it in my stream. And I don’t send them requests. I even delete items from my wall if someone “sends” me a gift. I don’t want to spam them – and so I keep that in mind when I’m harvesting and planting crops 🙂

    • Alli

      That’s definitely a really good less.

      I wish everyone used their lists that way! I’ve blocked a lot of people’s messages because they send out tons and tons of gift requests and such. I don’t mind seeing it occasionally, but some people are ridiculous.

  • Amber

    I think there’s a lot anyone trying to succeed online can learn from these tips. Content really should dominate your online presence because why will people even choose to visit your site if you don’t provide something valuable. But, being able to share content easily is important too. Has anyone else found more ways to encourage people to share to the content they find online?

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