by Max Barry

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by The King of All Wild Things. . 229 reads.

Branding, Advertising, and Recruitment

The following is from a text-based lecture given at UCRCon 2018

The Brand

When starting a new nation, we spend a lot of time preening our presentation. We want a distinctive appearance that stands out. Our flags are the first things other people see when they meet us. We want to make the right first impression. Flags carry our own personal brand. We can customise banners and fields, but it is the flag that is the face we present to the public. Just take a look at the popularity of the “Flag Makers/Requests II” thread on the Gameplay forum. It's rarely off the front page.

When we set up a region, we do the same thing. We choose a flag. We set the text of our WFE. We add tags and dispatches too. This is our new brand. To compare to real world brands, the flag is our logo, and the WFE is our corporate brochure. Only when we think we have our brochure just right do we set out to recruit.

The Black Hawks are arguably NationStates’ strongest brand. If we ran a poll to find out which regions most players had heard of, I've no doubt that TBH would be very high up that list.

Their flag is a good one. The image is of a hawk, dominating the world. The arrangement of hawk and sword looks a bit like a Roman standard. Subconsciously, we associate them with the military might of the Roman Empire. It fits well with their region's purpose.

Telegram Content

With flag and WFE set, we set out to recruit. The classic approach is to buy stamps, or set up the API, and send out recruitment telegrams to new nations.

But this is a notoriously ineffective way to recruit. From your 1000 stamps, you might get ten people show up. A few of them might stay. When they do, some will just answer issues. Others will just CTE.

Why is this method of recruitment so bad?

First, there's your telegram itself. It doesn't contain images. You've spent all this time creating the perfect flag, your logo, but this doesn't get seen by your targets. Can you imagine Coca Cola trying to advertise without including their logo? That’s a big handicap to overcome.

It helps to have the flag of the nation sending your TG to reflect the flag of your region. For recipients who use a phone, this image is tiny though. Which is why an effective flag is important.

But really, your text needs to do the job of selling your region.

Telegram Text

“The Most Feared Military Organisation in NationStates”. The Black Hawks have a great strapline. It's simple and effective. The telegram recipient knows exactly what they're buying into.

A simple but powerful strapline helps give you, the recruiter, an advantage. Don't waste your time talking about other recruitment telegrams the recipient might get. Don't waste time telling them how to block recruitment telegrams. Just tell them, in as few words as possible, why your region is sh!t-hot.

Your first paragraph is the one most likely to be read. It should be your best. You're trying to get people to read the rest of your telegram.

Similarly, the first sentence in each paragraph needs to be good. People often only take in the first sentence of each paragraph. Have your first sentence 'sell’ the rest of the paragraph.

A little alliteration brings benefits (see what I did there?).

Keep sentences short. 96% of people understand a 12 word sentence on first reading. Only approximately four percent of people are able to understand a sentence composed of over thirty words upon reading it for the first time without having to go back and read it again. (and there?)

You need to avoid walls of text. We're all lazy, and want the TL;DR version. On a phone, you get about five or six words per line of text. Just a few sentences can look like a lot. So try to keep paragraphs under 100 words.

If a link is to be included, put it in the first half of the sentence. Apparently people are more likely to click it if it's positioned there.

Telegram Targets

The other problem with telegram recruitment is the audience. We dutifully send them out to “new” nations.

It's worth noting that 25% of nations reside in the Pacifics, and about 37% in GCRs altogether. So we can guess that 25% to 37% of recipients have no interest in your TG.

Existing players creating new nations are usually creating them with a purpose in mind. So they're not interested in your TG either.

The remaining new players who read your telegram have 19 other such telegrams in their inboxes. So you can realistically expect only 5% of them will choose your region.

These statistics explain why this method is so ineffective.

And if you get genuinely new players, you need to help explain the game to them. Do you have the energy for that? Are you really targeting the right people?

Another technique is to target refounded nations. But if someone let their nation CTE once before, do you really have high hopes of them becoming an active part of your community?

The Black Hawks made interesting use of the API (I admit I don't know how effective it was). They targeted nations who had just joined the WA. That gave them a good mix of Gameplayers (ideal recruits for them) and other players.

It's generally frowned upon to directly target another UCR for recruits. But clever use of the API should allow you to define a better target audience, more suited to the theme of your region.

How else can you promote your brand outside of the traditional telegrams?

Again, The Black Hawks have an answer. But not all of us want to go tag raiding!

The Gameplay Forum Thread

Gameplay forum threads are great. You can set up your thread with all the images and straplines you want. For new regions, the aim here is to keep your thread visible. When you first post, your thread will go to the top of the page. It will gradually slip down the page until someone else responds, boosting it back to the top. It can be tempting to reply straight away. Don't. Allow the thread to slip out of the top 10 before replying. The game is to keep your thread in the top 10 for as long as possible. That gets you maximum exposure.

When the initial interest in your region has faded, your thread will fall off the first page of the Gameplay forum. When it does, add a follow up post. Tell them what the favourite poll option has been so far, or how many people have been recruited. It doesn't need to be anything earth-shattering (but don't just write “bump” - that makes you look unimaginative). The purpose of this post is to get your thread back on the first page, so more people can find you.

The Poll

As I said on another channel, polls are a great way to generate activity, and promote your brand.

Set up a poll (max 7 days long), open to all nations, not just residents. Make it something simple, like “Which city would you most like to visit?”. Everyone has an answer to that.
Go round all your embassies, posting a link to the poll, and asking the same question on their RMB. If someone replies, reply back. Ask them questions about it, “Wow, Moscow, that sounds cool. What in particular makes you want to go there?”. That keeps a conversation going, and makes your region look more interesting, even though it's on someone else's RMB. Then people in *their* embassies see that you exist, and that you're a sociable region.
“What's your favourite ice-cream” doesn't really work, because it's hard to have follow-up questions.

The poll makes a good follow up post on your Gameplay thread too. As well as linking to your poll, you can try and strike up a conversation there, keeping your region in the top 10 threads.

The Embassies

As mentioned, having conversations on your embassies’ RMBs gives you exposure to their embassies, so spreading your brand.

Any post that you can turn into a conversation, jump on it. Again, a good way is to ask a question. Then the other person feels compelled to answer.

When you've nothing to say, do a round of your embassies anyway. Some of you will know of Brightonberg from One Big Island. Often his posts are just a text picture of a keg of beer. They're no practical use, but they keep that communication and awareness going.


When I set up The NewsStand dispatch (“your one-stop, non-stop, news shop, promoting newspapers and events from all over NationStates”), I wondered how to publicise it. My first thought was to get enough upvotes to be in the top 20 'best’ dispatches. At the time, I needed 150 upvotes to reach the top 20. In position 20 was a dispatch called “A potato for all!”. How hard could it be to be more popular than a potato? It turns out it's a lot of work! It took around a year to get there. Now the barrier is 267 upvotes. So, not an easy route to publicise your region.

You can however, leverage The NewsStand. It's there to promote newspapers and events from all over NationStates. If you've something going on, let me know.

The other high visibility dispatch screen is the top 20 'new’ dispatches. There's a magic formula (that I haven't yet tried to figure out) connecting how long the dispatch has existed, how many reads, and how many upvotes it has. That determines the order of dispatches.

Europeia took advantage of this for a while, and had a squad of people upvote almost every dispatch coming out of Europeia. It annoyed the hell out of a lot of people.

I'm pleased that the weekly updates from The Sands usually make it onto this list. Without up-vote manipulation!

Triggering Notifications

This is one of the secrets to The Sands poll success. We run our polls as casino games. But there's no easy way for you to check if you've won. That's where our weekly dispatch comes in. By naming all the nations that took part, they get a notification saying that they were mentioned in a dispatch. They then read the results in the dispatch, which also has handy links to our new game. It's a good way for us to get repeat business.

In The Sands, we can legitimately trigger a notification. You chose to take part in our poll, and we choose to let you know the result. If triggering for other purposes, you have to be wary about spamming people.

When Funk couped Lazarus, notifications were used to get people to join the resistance. That caused complaints of spamming.

Yuno used notifications to boost her endorsement count when delegate of TEP. By calling out all the WA nations that weren't endorsing her, she was able to boost her count.

The Newspaper

A more transparent way to use a dispatch for publicity is to publish a newspaper. A newspaper can be a good way to tell the world about your region and what happens. But it needs to be good. A bad paper makes your region look bad. It's better to do a decent job monthly or quarterly, than do a poor job weekly.