In a world full of millions of options to follow – brand accounts, creators, influencers, friends – why would you follow a little game brand posting inside jokes about games, which you may or may not have played? That’s where our team at Exploding Kittens found ourselves at the beginning of 2021 with stagnant social growth.
To appeal to a wide audience, we embarked on a mission to revamp our social media presence and establish the company’s unique voice that resonates with its core audience and fan base through humor.
Exploding Kittens’ games are marked by our unique sense of humor and signature art style, driven by co-founder and creator of The Oatmeal, Matthew Inman. When you pick up an Exploding Kittens game, you know what you’re going to get – and it's comedically delightful. Up until recently, when you accessed Exploding Kittens’ social media, you didn't get quite that same experience.
Through this evaluation, we set out to create each piece of content in a way that allows it to stand on its own without context so anyone – whether you’ve played the game or not – can be in on the joke.
We started by taking internal stock of our options. We don't have a ton of SKUs. While the unboxing of a game box is fun, it's not thumb-stopper content for everyone. And honestly, photos of people playing games don't play - no pun intended. With our principle of each piece of content needing to stand on its own without context, it didn't make sense for us to take characters from our games and insert them into other, unrelated situations. Based on this self-evaluation, we made a game-changing decision. We weren't going to make every post about our games.
Instead, we dialed back to the basics.
Why do people get on a platform like Instagram? And why would they choose to follow and engage with our profile? We boiled it down to two things: people like to be entertained and they want to take some value away from content that they are being served (not unlike what they look for when playing a game).
We took a cue from one of our founders, Matthew Inman (aka. The Oatmeal) and started going down the path of infographic and comic mash-ups. We then worked on identifying some predetermined categories. While "Cat Facts'' was a no-brainer, we love juxtaposition at Exploding Kittens, so it was important to try to reflect that in some of the categories such as "Nature is Disgusting" and "Space is Terrifying." Sure, nature is wonderful, but it's equally also gross. And space? Don't even get us started. The sun is great and warms our planet, but one day it will also die and envelop the Earth and everyone on it - terrifying. Our last category was "Your New Favorite Animal." Admittedly, we love drawing cute animals.
So we wrote some light, informational pieces in each of these categories and started illustrating them then threw them up. They were a hit. All of our metrics were going up and we started getting a ton of comments just saying 'came for the games, stayed for this.'
Most importantly, it unlocked a key insight about our audience. If we present information in a comic, visual way - they will read to the end regardless of the image-count. We used this to evolve our promotional strategy. Asking someone to buy something felt less intrusive if we could give them some education or external knowledge beforehand. We created a new category, the 'info-promo.' This was essentially a promotional sales post nestled into an info-comic. The best example of this is our 'Containergeddon' post, which was used to promote our Black Friday sale. Before asking them to buy, we outlined the shipping crisis - i.e. why orders are taking so long. After the overview, we reminded them about our Black Friday sales and let fans know all we want to do is get them their games on time. We literally had comments from people saying they had never been so thankful for an advertisement. Win.
As we started to implement our strategy, the organic numbers started to rise. By the end of 2021, we increased our reach by 40% YoY, increased our impressions by 44% YoY, and had finally found content that we could boost to new audiences that resulted in follower growth (+32% YoY).
However, most importantly, we discovered a way to speak directly to our audience and offer them a promotional post without feeling intrusive. They thought so too. During the launch of our game Throw Throw Avocado, we experimented with info-promo posts and straight promotional pieces. We saw that info-promos had 54% more engagement than straight promotional pieces. We adapted this style into a method to speak to our customers about hard topics or during periods (like the holidays) when your content needs to stand out.
Additionally, we aimed to reach new audiences, develop brand affinity, and nurture our community. Our success shines through our engagement rate which is +754% higher than recorded industry averages for 'media.' We got rid of the gimmicks and instilled the same values that make our games great into our social content, resulting in us leading our competitor-set in Instagram follower growth rate in 2021.
We were able to experiment, discover a key insight, and then implement it to optimize our strategy. Our fans say it the best - they come for the games and stay for the education.
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