(I asked Dan Gray if he would want to touch on the subject of random developer updates. He was kind enough to oblige, and here is his great contribution to random week. –Ravious)
In the age of 140 character communication it’s becoming standard practice for developers to tease their audience with sporadic tidbits of information, be that through Twitter, forums, or other mediums. It’s guerrilla warfare tactics in the fight against stagnation, but just how effective are these seemingly random ‘micro-updates’? A sincere effort to maintain a more responsive and fluid relationship, or just the easiest solution to a tricky problem?
To me, any effective communication strategy revolves around the ability to manage expectations. Everything you say or do is weighed against past events, and evidence that you are reneging on a precedent or accepted belief will always upset someone. Recognizing how these expectations are built is crucial, because they have just as much impact on the reaction to a message as the message its self.
Any form of communication will earn you an overwhelmingly positive response in the beginning, simply because it is unexpected. Whether it’s the first developer blog, the first post on a fansite, or the first tweet, the community’s reaction will always be encouraging. It’s comforting to imagine that the strategy will continue producing that positive vibe month after month, but of course it’s never that easy. Keep anything up for too long and you build an expectation around it; the stimulating effect fades as it becomes routine, leaving only disappointment when it’s absent. Thus a guaranteed positive turns into a potential negative, and much of your hard work is undone.
So what is the value of these micro-updates? Their complete lack of schedule and random content makes them an ideal candidate to keep expectations shifting from day to day. Provided you can keep the content varied, interesting, and significant it will keep the audience on their toes, always looking forward – never becoming entirely numb to that buzz.
This form of communication is possibly also more suitable for the younger generations of gamers, famed for their short attention spans. Where a developer blog or Q&A transcript might arouse a bit more interest from your core audience, a brutally paired down message will impact a broader audience with much greater speed – provided there’s an existing positive expectation that ensures peoples immediate attention.
So be wary of letting your micro-updates become a drip feed of banalities, just because they tend not to carry much individual weight. With every update you build an expectation that directly influences the impact of that medium, and how effective it is at keeping your community content and forward looking.
This post was brought to you by Dan Gray, author of BiffTheUnderstudy.com