Cryptic social media posts can perform well. A few words about gift codes (3 case studies)

Even though I strongly advocate for simplicity and precision when it comes to the creation of copy for social media, I do realise that being a tad bit cryptic in some scenarios will actually be quite beneficial in terms of performance. However, before you put your fanbase to work, you need to know if they will find the effort they will have to put in worthwhile. Here are two similar cases that were leveraged due to being cryptic.

The nature of gift codes

Gift codes are a great tool and I really enjoy using them. They serve three main purposes:

  1. They enhance player retention rates – a bunch of free items or in-game currency can often be a strong enough incentive for players to turn the game on and play for a while. And the more people play the game, it’s not only more fun and more competitive, but it also increases the number of prospective daily spenders (remember that I’m writing from the mobile F2P perspective).
  2. They make players happy and improve the brand’s perception – who doesn’t like free and useful stuff? Players certainly do. And even if they don’t consider the gift to be very good, they’ll still use it. It also provides an opportunity to make your brand be perceived as a pro-player one.
  3. They drive SoMe KPIs – who doesn’t like having high reach, CTR/ER and such? Yup, nobody. Due to the obvious value, these codes provide for the players, they pretty much always perform well and stand out when compared to other posts, especially in the terms of ER.

There are, however, two downsides to them and they need to be mentioned:

  1. Players can get too used to them – I wouldn’t necessarily call it a bad thing, but posting codes often and regularly can pose an odd downside. I was ordered to limit the number of codes a short while ago, so I did. Players, obviously, reacted negatively when they realised that there are now Wednesdays without codes. At first, they thought that we had just forgotten. They are changing their attitude, but it was certainly an unpleasant surprise for them and it negatively influenced the sentiment regarding Fishing Clash in social media. It can become the new norm over time, though, and I’m certain that the sentiment will improve in this case over time.
  2. They can negatively influence monetization – you need to be pretty careful when it comes to slinging in-game currency (both hard and soft) and perishable items that can influence the gameplay. The nature of gift codes usually means that you will sacrifice some income in order to accomplish other goals. There are some items that won’t influence the monetization (like minor/unpopular vanity items), but they are pretty rare and frequent posting them wouldn’t probably be particularly viable and could hurt your KPIs and the general approach to the gift codes within the community.

Despite the fact that they have some cons, they are, in general, a great tool for fulfilling the three objectives I’ve mentioned above. I decided that I wanna talk about them because providing context for case studies is important. And I wanna talk about 3 gift codes I posted (or I designed them and had them posted by my colleague/trainee).

Case study #1 – control post

This is a regular gift code post. A random word that once written in the proper field in the game, will give the player some items or currency. The image is usually somehow related to the code itself or, if the code is a jumbled mess, it has a fish or some other aquatic animal.


This code demanded no work from the players to figure it out and it performed relatively well. The reach was at almost 60k, it had an ER of 8-11% (I’m not allowed to share the precise number) and a distribution rate of 1,3x. The distribution rate on these posts usually ranges between 1,3x and 1,9x, so it wasn’t particularly great, but ok nevertheless.

Case study #2 – Morse code

The entirety of this post’s copy (both the copy in the post and in the picture) was coded in the well known Morse code. The picture features radar-like imagery, as both are usually associated (at least we think so). The copy in the post, when translated, says something along the lines of “try to figure this one out”. We had used similar coded formats in the past, so we could skip an explanation of what this is and what to do with it, as players correctly assumed this was a gift code.

This post had a reach of slightly below 60k (a bit more than the first case’s post, but the difference wasn’t very significant), a distribution rate of 1,4x (slightly better) and an ER of 17-20%, which is quite a good score in our case, but not exactly uncommon.

Case study #3 – Caesar cypher

This one is certainly the hardest of them all, as it features Caesar cypher – a cypher used by ancient Romans mostly for military purposes. It features a ton of variations, as you can use different shifts. To make it easier, we decided to include the shift on the image (+3) and used odd, but fitting, imagery. The English version of the copy said in the first sentence “Et tu, Codus?” as a reference to Caesar’s demise (changing Brutus into something more “fishy”). This was certainly the most challenging post to make and the most challenging cypher to solve.

This post had a reach of almost 70k, no data regarding distribution rate (Facebook didn’t feature such data in March) and an ER of 24-27%, which is a tremendous score.

Conclusion

While gift codes, in general, are a great tool to use for many different purposes, can be primarily used to drive engagement rates of your post. Cyphers can be great fun for your communities if the reward for solving them is sufficient. I’m not sure if cyphers should be used for different purposes (aside from hyping content, maybe), but maybe I’ll try them someday. Have you used cyphers or were cryptic in some other way in SoMe communications? Share your story in the comments below!


If you’d like to hire me for consulting, mentoring, auditing or social media management, here are my contact details:

LinkedIn: Jakub Mamulski

Twitter: @jakubmamulski

email: jakub.mamulski@gmail.com

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