MS Vodcast Episode#26 | Kellie Parker, USA Online Community Manager/Social Media Strategist for SEGA

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The blue hedgehog brand and being social.

Our fourth in a new series of video podcasts (vodcasts) focussing on those interesting folks who manage social media for their brand / company / organisation.

Kellie Parker, USA Online Community Manager/Social Media Strategist for SEGA.

0.00 intro
0.17 day to day operations
0.41 how the team works
1.35 the numbers
2:38 measuring success
3:47 managing game titles not social spaces
5:10 an example (Super Monkey Ball 3D)
6:28 strategic targeting vs being organic
8:01 humanising the SEGA brand
11:03 the policy
13:04 monitoring the brand
15:31 advice for smaller brands
17:35 the future
18:52 outro

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0:10 Kelly Parker: So my name is Kelly Parker. I am online community manager at Sega of America and I’m coming to you from our US offices in San Francisco California.

0:17 DK: Well, it’s brilliant to have you with us Kelly. I’ll ask you straight away a quick question about so what do you day in and day out?

0:25 Kelly Parker: Well my team manages the forums, blogs, Facebook pages, twitter feeds, YouTube, Flickr, etc, etc, etc. for our company. So really anything that has to do with interacting with our customers that is not customer service because that’s a separate department, really falls on our shoulders.

0:41 DK: Okay. And you said you referenced your team there. Can you give us an idea of how many and do they all have specific roles, do they have like a Flickr role or a Twitter role and stuff like that?

0:15 Kelly Parker: We divide our work by game titles, not by area like Flickr or twitter. So we all participate in all the different types of social media for our games but we all work on particular games. So for example, I will do all of the social media about one game from the beginning of the campaign all the way to the end. And then other community managers will do the same thing for their games that they’re assigned to. We do have one person who is main role is actually a dual role. He’s the lead for our online MML Phantasy Star Universe. And he also tends to hand out all the digitally distributed titles. So that’s iphone games or XBLA games, downloaded games, things that aren’t printed on a disc and sold in the store. So he tends to take the lead on those but otherwise, we just divided it up by title.

1:35 DK: Wow, fascinating. And give us an idea, you referenced it, all of the social spaces that you do and then some. Give us some idea about the numbers in terms of I know you got a really active forum on And I know you do a lot of blogging. So give us some numbers about people participating and all that.

1:54 Kelly Parker: Yeah, we have about two million page views a month on our forum. So they’re really, really big and really active. We do really well on our blogs. How much page views we get on the blogs is really dependent on the content. We’ve had months where we’ve just blown it out of the water and other months when we’re quiet. And a lot of times that’s because our products tend to have different cycles. So if we are in a spot in a year where we really don’t have a lot of games that we’re announcing or launching then it tends to be a little quieter. We have about a half a million fans. I know you’re supposed to call them likes but they’re still fans to me because I hate that. So we have about a half a million fans on the Sega Facebook and we have over a million on the Sonic Facebook. And then we have about a quarter million people on our twitter.

2:38 DK: Wow. That’s a hell of a lot. And in terms of all those numbers adding up then, what has been successful? How do you measure your success along those numbers? Is it literally people clicking the “like” button or adding you as a friend on Facebook like you said or is it more conversions? In other words, people talking to you?

2:59 Kelly Parker: Well, it’s a little bit of both. I mean, I think and every space is different and that’s one of the important things that we try to do is to treat each space differently and use it for its best advantage. Content that is really going to work on Facebook might not work at all on twitter and might work worse on our blog. So we really try and tune the message for the media. So for something like a twitter or a Facebook, most of the time people click the like button because they want to get updates from us, they want to know whether we have a new product coming out or when we have something like that. So we to do that. But we also interact with our fans a lot and we do have a lot of fans especially on twitter that just like to talk to us. They’ll send us a cool like that they found or if we post something like, “Hey, it’s Friday morning, here’s the donuts we have this morning”, we’ll have a whole conversation about donuts all morning. So —

3:47 DK: Sure. Wow. And I just want to take you back and ask you a subquestion regarding you were talking about that you take game titles and one person will cover all the social spaces and social content around that. Was that a strategic decision or was that when you first started they, just something that you all felt that that was the best way to do it or did you trial and error?

4:09 Kelly Parker: Well, no it just something that it’s always been. And I think it makes the most sense. It really mirrors how the way that the other teams internally work. So we will have one marketing manager assigned to a particular product, one PR manager assigned to a particular product, on producer assigned to a particular product. So what it allows us to do is create kind of a cross functional team of people where we can all sit in a room and we’ll have a representative from just about every department and we can have a meeting about what’s going on with that title. One of the things that’s really imprint when youre doing community management for gaming is that you really know your games very well. Because as you go through and do demos and are out even on the internet talking about it, you really need to know what youre talking about. People can spot a fake a mile away. So be — specializing in that game and kind of being with it through its lifecycle really helps you understand the game, know all the ins and outs of it so that you can talk about it appropriately. So that’s why we did that as opposed to someone doing just Facebook for all of our games.

5:10 DK: So can you give us a live example then of a game title that came out recently that had that social and community element running through it?

5:20 Kelly Parker: Well pretty much every title that we do has some sort of that. So one of the things that’s actually launching this weekend with the Nintendo 3DS here in America is Super Monkey Ball 3D. so it is a long running franchise of Super Monkey Ball. And if youre not familiar with it, the concepts really very simple. You are a cartoon monkey, you are trapped in a ball and you need to roll through kind of some puzzle levels. You use the tilt control and you’re picking up bananas along the way. And every ten bananas you get an extra life. if you fall off the platform, you die, you need to start all over again. So it’s simple, it’s fun, it’s bright and cheery and cartoony. And they can be really, really challenging levels through. And so that’s a franchise that’s actually celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. So this is the new incarnation on Nintendo 3DS; it looks fantastic. So we along the way have been doing events, giveaways with promotional items for it, posting trailers on our Facebook, posting content on our twitter. And really doing a lot to get people excited about picking this Sega game for the Nintendo 3DS when comes out.

6:28 DK: And I spoke to Scott Monty from Ford who talked a lot about actually with social now, you can actually really pinpoint and target the big network guys and girls who have bigger networks. Do you do some strategic targeting in terms of your forum members or even the people who add you on twitter and kind of go in and see if they’re well into the game and maybe send them some freebies and stuff like that?

6:52 Kelly Parker: We do some of that but it’s a lot more organic than that. I’m not interested in how many followers somebody has or how, what clout says their influencer scale is. I’m interested in people. And if you are really into the game, like then that’s really cool. And a lot of the fans that we know really well, we know because we continue to have an ongoing conversation with them. So it’s about the people, it’s not about how many people you know or what you can get for me. If you’re a really big fan and you want to have a conversation, let’s have a conversation. And sure, if I know that you’re really into something, then I might send you a free — we made these ridiculous plastic banana guards for Super Monkey Ball because of course you connect bananas in the game so they’re really silly looking, but they work. And so you put your banana in it then when you pack it in your lunch or put it in your bag you banana doesn’t get bruised. So if I know that you’re a big Super Monkey Ball fan or just that you think it’s really funny, I might you send you one. But, so we do some of that, but it’s about the numbers and kind of about what fans can get for me. We’re really about giving back to our fans and really treating our fans very well.

8:01 DK: That’s really interesting. And I say that segways nicely into my next question about the humanization about brands and creating that relationship with your consumers or your customers or you audience or you fans as you call them; which is great. And that is stolen obviously from Gary Vaynerchuk and I know you’re a big fan of Gary V. And really I wanted to kind of broaden that. You’ve already touched on how that manifests itself. But in terms of forums and other campaigns, could you go into maybe some other ideas or some of the examples of how that actually manifests itself in terms of our Sega approach community and online kind of social?

8:38 Kelly Parker: Sure. So we, like you said I’m really, I’m really big into the humanization of the brand. A lot of times people see us as “the man”. We’re like this big, bad faceless company. And that’s one of the things that we work really hard to kind of break down those walls. We are people that work here and there’s a human being updating and we try to bring that forward. so some of the ways that we do that, although there are several people that update under the Sega name either on Facebook or on twitter. So to differentiate ourselves a lot of times we will sign our tweets just with our names so you know who was updating whom. That actually helps when people need to follow-up, they can tell you who they were talking to. So but even on Facebook, we get involved and we want to have real conversations. Its not — if you take a look at our twitter feed, it’s not just marketing, we’re not using this for 140 press releases. That’s part of our job is to inform people and get people excited. And ultimately that’s why they’re, that’s why they initially come. So people join people though. They don’t necessarily join products. So you maybe might have come for the updates but youre going to stay because we’re human beings. So we’ll, like I said before, we’ll tweet a photo of like here’s our Friday donuts or something really funny is happening in our office, here’s a photo of it. And so that really helps us to build a relationship and be human and get involved with our fans. Instead of having robotic answers, we try to have just real answers. One of the things that people ask us all the time is when are you going to announce such and such game? I’m like, “Well, I can’t tell you that because if I tell you that, I just announced it.” So, but instead of ignoring that question or giving a very stilted answer, I will say, “Well if I even answer that question, that’s just means that I just announced so I can’t really do that.” Or sometimes people will demand a game. I want this game on this platform. And we’re like, sorry, we lost our magic make it happen button, but we’ll pass the information on. So we really just, just try to be into, as into our fans as our fans are into us. That is — it’s a big responsibility, a lot of people really hold a lot of fond memories and really good feelings for Sega. And we try very hard not to take that lightly. We want to be good to our fans, we want to give back as much as we can. And we want them to know that the people that are working here are just as passionate as they are. we may not be able to do everything that they ask us to do but we do listen, we do try and it’s important to us that they know that.

11:03 DK: Oh, that’s brilliant. Is there a policy then governing what you actually do? Is there a written down set rules and criteria that you guys have come up with? A strategy, a policy or is it just like you referenced before, being organic?

11:19 Kelly Parker: A lot of it is organic. We do have a few policies in place. Unless you are on the communication which the community team is part of as well as the PR team, if youre just a general employee of Sega, youre really not supposed to be talking about Sega products out on your Facebook or twitter. The gaming industry like a lot of industries tends to be a little secretive in that unless we’ve officially announce something, you can’t talk about it, it’s secret. So we have to be really careful in terms of what we say and how it can be interpreted. Because like I said, if — so if that question earlier, when are you going to announce such and such game? I have to be very careful how I answer that question because I can’t say, “We haven’t announced that yet” because that implies that we’re going to announce it. and then the story is, “Sega’s going to make this game” and then I get fired. So we have to be really careful about how we do that. So I can say, “I have announced anything like that or I have no information on that”. But like I said, if I say anything that could be misinterpreted somehow, that could be a big problem. So even employees, you know a lot of times your, we’re working on stuff for six months before we announce it. so we have, so you can’t be like, “Oh, I had a hard day at work working on X game. Ooops haven’t announced that yet. Now we’re in trouble.” So generally it’s only the communications team that is supposed to be doing all the talking about it. and then kind of within the communications team, it just depends on what have we announced yet, what is the communication strategy for this? I mean, we try to be as organic as we can within those guidelines but there really are specific marketing plans and reveals scheduled, announcements scheduled that we do have to stick to.

13:04 DK: Understand. Cool. And let’s go back in terms of the content that’s created on your forum sites and blogs. Obviously that’s, that’s within the Sega four walls we say or the online four walls. But as I’m sure you’re aware, I’m sure you monitor, there’s conversation about your products and your titles and just Sega itself outside Sega. You know on people’s blogs, on their poster sites, tumblr’s, whatever on twitter itself. Do you monitor them and get involved in conversations outside as well as inside?

13:35 Kelly Parker: We do, we do. I mean, obviously we are really involved in all of our spaces as you say. But I mean, I keep a running search for Sega on twitter and I watch that update through the day. And sometimes it’s silly things. So for example, there’s a DJ who calls himself DJ Sega. So I see all of his updates and all the talk about him. Sometimes it’s song ware because there have been a couple songs that have referenced Sega in the lyrics and then people post all the lyrics; that shows up. But every once in a while I do find an interesting link that I haven’t seen before or a notification when somebody puts up an article or sometimes I’ve even been able to identify problems that way where someone is having an issue and they don’t, they didn’t know to connect us or they just did not contact us for some reason and then I can reach out to them and say, “Hi, I’m from Sega and I want to help you out. Here’s the answer to your question.” Or even just I heard you. If it’s a problem I can’t solve, they want to complain about something that I can’t solve then at least I can let them know that they were heard. And most of the time that calms people down. We have a lot of good relationships with other sites. The PR side of the communications team tends to manage the relationships with the really big sites like the IGN, Kotaku, Joystick, etc. The community team really works with kind of the sites that are not big enough to get PR’s attention but are still vitally important to what we’re doing. So there are a couple of sites that are just dedicated to Sega and Sega games and we have a close working relationship with them. Yeah. So we work really closely with them to give them stuff to give away on their site, make sure they have information, make sure they’re coming to our games. So we work with a lot of those different fan sites. And usually when they post something about us, they’ll send us a link and we’ll check out and we try to be respectful of other communities. I don’t necessarily want to jump in and take over the conversation everywhere they’re talking about our brand. But when it’s necessary, sure, we’ll jump in and we’ll let people know we’re there, you know we’re listening. So we definitely do that too.

15:31 DK: Interesting. Fantastic. Thanks for that answer. I want to ask you a couple more questions and then we’ll tie this up. One is about maybe ask you a piece of advice in terms of your Sega, quite a big, well establish brand and you’ve got great online presence and communities. But what about the smaller brands out there? Do you think it’s as important for them to a social and community aspects to what they do and to monitor and to react accordingly? How would you advise smaller brands to do what you guys do?

16:03 Kelly Parker: Absolutely it’s important. I think that things, the basics like this in terms of getting involved with your community, being human and having conversations can scale no matter what size your company is. So it’s important. Every company has a product. Probably if youre successful you have people that are fans of that product. So it’s important to get involved with them and let them really, you know still do the work of informing them, don’t be so shy that you don’t want to tell them about your products. But at the same time, if youre using it for just like I said 140 character press releases youre really not doing it right. So I think for smaller brands, don’t try to do everything all at once. Look at what’s realistic. So for example, you may want to just focus on twitter or you may just want to focus on Facebook or take on just a few of those but not get into everything. And don’t feel like you have to jump on board everything that comes along. So for example, we’re not involved in with tumblr because I love tumblr, I think it’s great. But I looked at tumblr and said, “You know what can this do in terms of social media for Sega?” And I didn’t really see that it filled a need for us so chose not to go into that space. We may at some time, but for now we’re not. And also just other tools that come along. Don’t feel like you have to jump on everything. Its better to concentrate on a few things and do it really well than to spread yourself so thin that it looks like you never come to any of those sites.

17:35 DK: That’s great advice there. So let’s ask you and wrap up this, this great interview with a question about the future. I know you can’t go into too much details and you can’t announce titles. But what youre focusing on, is there going to be any change for you personally or professionally are you steering it in a different directions?

17:52 Kelly Parker: Well, I think that we’re on a really good trajectory and I want to keep building on what we’re doing and find ways to just do it better. So whether that’s one of the things that we did last year at Pax which is a big convention in Seattle. There’s a Sega owned arcade right across the street from the convention center and we had a really big party. We invited a bunch of people, come play. It was two hours of free play for all the arcade machines and it was really successful. So I want to continue to try do community events like that to really find a way to connect with our community in person, not just online. The online is still very important but I want to find ways to kind of grow that and help to meet the growing and changing needs of our community but most importantly, I want to continue to grow the relationship with our fans whether that’s you know hardcore fans, casual fans, old fans, new fans. We’re interested in all of them and we’re really interested in kind of growing that relationship with them and finding out how we can better serve them as a company.

18:52 DK: Brilliant. Great. Well I just want to think you for giving up your time to speak to MediaSnackers Kelly. It’s been really interesting, really awesome, and thank you very much.

19:00 Kelly Parker: Yep, thank you so much for having me.