Electronic Arts' recent stint with a Facebook app may shed some light on whether the social media site can work as a direct marketing channel. The video games manufacturer employed an app to promote the release of its "Dante's Inferno" video game during December and January and saw a 2 percent conversion-to-sale rate.
"[Two percent is] a really solid direct marketing number," said Jaap Tuinman, senior director of online marketing and community development for EA. "I think we are very optimistic with these types of programs as we go forward."
In recent years, online marketers have typically reported conversion rates between 2 and 3 percent - but those metrics were recorded before social networks like Facebook had begun to be thought of as possible sales engines.
Tuinman said clickable copy - offering the chance to pre-order the $59.95 console game - appeared while users played the sneak-peak-styled app. The effort was designed by gaming apps developer Lolapps to capture the storylines of "Dante's Inferno" - fashioned as a multi-phase fantasy journey through hell - without spoiling key aspects that can be enjoyed via an Xbox or PlayStation.
The Redwood City, CA-based company tested a similar idea last year, when it teased the to-be-released game, "Godfather II." That test didn't incorporate a direct-sales component, Tuinman added. "We dipped our toe in the water and did a lot of learning," he said. "The 'Dante's Inferno' program was a totally complete marketing [initiative]."
Early sales results are not available for the game that was released on Feb. 9 in the U.S. and Feb. 12 in Europe. Whatever number of units has been moved so far can be attributed to EA's ongoing integrated campaign that has included a Super Bowl ad. (The big TV spot helped lift Facebook "fans" by more than 18,000.)
Tuinman said the brand was encouraged by the marketing efforts through Facebook alone. The app garnered 8 million users on the social media network during the two month pre-release period. It was supported by paid right-rail ads on Facebook, as well as cross-promotions via Lolapps' other online games and apps. And there's little doubt that the wild success of Facebook games like Zynga's "FarmVille" helped set the stage for EA's run.
"Looking at the response to ['Dante's Inferno'], there's no doubt in my mind that there are gamers on Facebook," Tuinman said. "Equally, you can't look at the overall numbers and not recognize that there is a massive shift happening in terms of how we define what a gamer is."
Meanwhile, Lolapps surveyed "Dante's Inferno" Facebook players and unearthed a few noteworthy items. First, 62 percent indicated that they intended to purchase the console version of the game. Second, 64 percent of players surveyed claimed to have normally played the Facebook game for more than an hour. Third, 52 percent said they first learned about EA's "Dante's Inferno" game from the Facebook app. And when it came to analytics, the San Francisco-based apps developer said around .5 percent of "daily active users" clicked through to EAStore.com.
"We're still digging through the data to figure out what this [exactly] means for our strategy going forward," Tuinman said. "But you are not going to see us spend any less effort thinking about how we should show up on Facebook, on Twitter, or on YouTube, or whatever great new social channel might [be] around the corner. We are very keen to showing up at places where consumers are."
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
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