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Sometimes getting something very publicly (and very badly) wrong can turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

When Games Workshop closed its disastrous Facebook page in February 2013, no-one would have dreamed that just six months later it would be back and delivering an exemplary community experience.

'We ought to be on Facebook'

Games Workshop’s original Facebook page felt as if it had been created from of a sense of duty, rather than as part of an integrated digital and social strategy.

There was a decent feed of high quality product images (Games Workshop make and sell fantasy and sci-fi games and miniatures), but from what I remember, topics were led by the page owners.

Customers couldn’t post or start their own topics, resulting in an overwhelmingly ‘one-sided’ feeling to the content. 'Here’s what we have to tell you' rather than 'Let’s have a conversation'.

Rebellion and retreat

In February 2013, Games Workshop became involved in a heated debate about the ownership of the phrase ‘space marine’.

Unable (or unwilling?) to respond to the volume of Facebook comments that poured in as a result (largely negative), Games Workshop took the decision to close the page.

The official reason was given as:

Many thanks for your email. The Games Workshop Facebook page has been removed so that the customer interaction goes through our retail stores. This will be via face-to-face contact with customers while they are visiting the stores, or by using the individual Facebook pages each store has.

The difficult online conversations and debating points then simply moved to an alternative universe of independent blogs and forums, and therefore outside Games Workshop’s sphere of influence. For example:

Games Workshop tries to act like both the internet and globalization never happened.

It´s not new that Games Workshop hates feedback... especially the negative ones. It´s true that sometimes people get more angry and brutal than necessary, but cutting the feedback channels only gets things worse.

So was this a strange way for a high street retailer to behave? Had it genuinely pulled out of social media? Or was GW regrouping, and ready to make some significant digital marketing advances?

Regeneration

On August 31 2013 Games Workshop returned to Facebook: https://www.Facebook.com/GamesWorkshopDigitalEditions.  

It’s now nominally meant to have a digital product focus (rather than feature the entire product line-up), but nonetheless it’s a centrally managed Facebook community page under an official Games Workshop banner. And it’s good.

In just less than three months it has grown from nothing to over 7,200 followers,  about 200 have joined even as I write this.  Word is getting around the fan base that the Games Workshop page has become a great place to ask questions and get official answers.

Customer posts are full of praise:

This page is awesome. Thanks for all the art, and extra stuff. 

First of all let me say you are going a great job with this page, very friendly and responsive!

Revelation

Here’s how Games Workshop transformed a social media liability into a successful community page:

  1. Conversational. Customers can post new topics. The page owner(s) also post customer content that has been submitted to them – along with a nice compliment and explanation of what it is. There is a genuine two-way dialogue between customers and Games Workshop.
  2. Responsive. Customer questions are answered in good time. Almost all receive a response within a few hours.
  3. Engaging. The page manager engages with customers in a respectful language and tone. Official responses come from ‘Eddie’ so they feel personal.

    Eddie uses good humour with genuine respect for the question. There is a sense that he is a fan of the products too, so the community feels like a fan page run by a peer, with the added bonus that it’s 100% official news rather than unofficial rumours.

  4. Informative. Eddie’s a delightful tease, regularly releasing snippets of information about upcoming products. It’s somewhere to repeat visit and delivers content customers want to see in their Facebook feed.
  5. Socially driven. Fans are encouraged to recruit other fans. For example, on 17 November, Eddie promised to release more teaser content when there were 7,000 page likes.

    This spread virally across gaming communities’ independent blogs and forums – within days the magic number was reached, and Eddie made good on his promise.

Reflection

I haven’t been able to find any other examples of multinationals that have pulled the plug on a corporate Facebook page (if you know of any, please share!), let alone returned as triumphantly as Games Workshop. 

Yet it seems as if brave decisions can pay off. Removing the old page was a smart move, and eliminated the need to spend time and effort on flogging a horse that was dying on its feet. The break gave GW time to revisit its Facebook strategy with fresh eyes, and to find an excellent community page manager.

Yes, they have to start the recruiting battle again to reclaim their former numbers of followers and likes (I think the old page had somewhere around 100,000), but it’s off to a good start. My bet is that if the quality and engagement levels are sustained, this will be achieved.

Games Workshop has also proved that supporting ongoing customer engagement on Facebook takes nothing more scientifically advanced than good old fashioned service skills and good content to share. Eddie deserves a gold star for his work so far!

Luke Brason

Published 26 November, 2013 by Luke Brason

Luke Brason is Head of User Experience at Grass Roots and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can connect with Luke on Google Plus and LinkedIn

8 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Baragash

This is a terrible failure of research. Digital Editions is a department within GW in the same way Forge World, Warhammer World and Black Library are. All those departments have been successfully operating positive and community-engaging pages for years.

GW has not reopened it's overall corporate page so the event (the "reinvention") described in this article hasn't actually happened, and even then the page isn't doing anything that at least 3 other departments in GW haven't been doing for years.

almost 3 years ago

Luke Brason

Luke Brason, Head of User Experience at Grass Roots

@ Baragash. Many thanks for your comment. There are 22 years of being a Games Workshop customer in that research, but I understand where you're coming from!

'Games Workshop' is the parent brand - the core essence behind their most popular games. I follow the Forge world page and am familiar with Black Library & Warhammer World. But they are not positioned as mainstream 'Games Workshop'. They are specialist departments with smaller audiences - they fill a niche role while Games Workshop is the major High Street retailer.

https://www.facebook.com/GamesWorkshopDigitalEditions features the Games Workshop logo prominently - once in the main banner and again in the page icon (the other pages don't). For sure the content talks about digital editions but - and this for me is key - it goes into general gaming questions & answers, miniature showcases and product release teasers. Also, all the recent Games Workshop rulebooks and codexes are in digital format - many of the very latest supplements are currently digital only.

I aimed to summarise this in the main article: [the new page is]...nominally meant to have a digital product focus (rather than feature the entire product line-up), but nonetheless it’s a centrally managed Facebook community page under an official Games Workshop banner.

I guess what I'm saying is that yes you're right that there are other departments pages, but from a general customer's perspective, the Games Workshop Digital Editions page has replaced the role of Games Workshops old page. And it's doing that incredibly well!

almost 3 years ago

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Horacio Serrano

As it has been mentioned before, the reinvention did not happen, GW buries its head on the sand and most of is customers, dislike GW corporate policy. GW has no interaction with its customers online, as their blocked youtube comments have demonstrated for months now. 7200 followers for a company that sells billions of pounds worth of product each year, is less than a drop in the ocean.
The simple fact is, there is no reinventing corporate image through simply taking down a website and or deleting negative comments, as you mentioned the discussion has moved elsewhere, but the customer opinion is still the same, you need only look at a couple threads in dakka dakka to realize this.

"Deleting you browser history does not give you better browsing habits".

Visit this issue again 3 years down the line and put it in contrast with 3rd party public forums. Then we can talk reinvention.

over 2 years ago

Luke Brason

Luke Brason, Head of User Experience at Grass Roots

@ Horacio. Thank you for your comment.

This article was specifically about the change in direction that Games Workshop has taken with regard to Facebook. It will indeed be interesting to see if they evolve their approach to Twitter, YouTube, email campaigns, forums, main website etc as I completely agree there is a lot of room for improvement in their overall digital strategy.

over 2 years ago

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Horacio Serrano

Sure, if you consider deleting their negative coments and scraping their page for a new one, sure they "reinvented" themselves.

Thou i think a more accurate description is what i mentioned, their direction has not changed, thus i think "reinvention" is a bit over the top.

At the very most they simply changed their web page.

over 2 years ago

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