Sonic The Hedgehog is a famous video game character, he’s been around since the 90s, he’s a world famous icon of video games, and even people who don’t play video games will likely recognise him at a glance.
Sonic is also something of a laughing stock. His games have been terrible for years, his fans ultra-defensive, and his future prospects grim.
When faced with a failing IP, most companies would stick to the company line and try to avoid any additional damage by making sure their media presence is clean and concise; after all, calls for users to engage with your product may be met with negative feedback, and criticism of your blindly positive outlook.
When it came to Sonic, SEGA (the company who created and owns the brand) took a big risk. Faced with an all or nothing situation, they took a gamble, and sent Sonic’s online presence in a new direction. The official Sonic Facebook page started to post self referential, humorous content. Fans were encouraged to participate in the comments, and the page would often reply directly to user comments, and not with a sterile “thank you for your support”, but by actually joining in on the joke. When it comes to Sonic on Facebook, users feel like the page is one of them.
As an example, it’s commonly known that the fishing minigame from Sonic Adventure wasn’t fun. In fact, it was highly unpopular, and was considered a strange diversion for the series. SEGA hardly mentions it, and would probably rather people forgot about it.
So what did the official Sonic page do? It made mock up album art called “Fishing In Paradise”, prominently featuring the character Big The Cat, who is featured in the fishing minigame.
The page also posted a link to Game Grumps (online let’s play channel) playing Sonic Adventure and getting frustrated with it. The Sonic page appears honest, and people think he’s in on the joke.
Users engage with and share the content proudly, because it’s humourous . If the content was simply an advertisement for a new game, people would be reluctant to share it because they wouldn’t want to appear as if they were advertising on behalf of the page. However, people will gladly share content that they find funny, especially if they feel that it’s genuine.
Even though it may appear at first like Sonic’s official page is openly mocking the series, it actually displays a fondness for Sonic, at his best and his worst. It makes people laugh, and it makes people remember the good times they had with Sonic games. Because of this, when the next Sonic game comes out, people are likely to relate the name Sonic to a positive experience that they had on Facebook. People will want to buy the game at launch, to be “in on the joke”. They will want to discuss it on the official Sonic page. Maybe even with the administrators themselves?
In a way, SEGA have protected themselves even if the game is bad, because Sonic fans will love making new memes out of the game. And if the game’s good? SEGA has bought on board hundreds of new potential ambassadors who will gladly share their positive impressions of the new game.
Engaging a younger audience is difficult because many of them are highly sceptical towards marketing. Gamers especially often find themselves disappointed by games which promised the world and delivered very little. Sonic, ironically, is a series which is very guilty of this. However, using clever social media marketing, SEGA has turned his image around. They have accepted their mistakes, and now they celebrate Sonic through shared experience with their fans. The official Sonic page appears to be in touch with fans, it appears responsive, and best of all, it brings fans together. All of this combined helps to create a positive image for Sonic, and fans will start so associate Sonic with a positive experience.
Other Facebook pages could learn from Sonic’s success on the platform. An easy starting point would be to engage with your fans, answer their questions and respond to their jokes. Try and sprinkle some humour into each post and make people want to share it without you having to ask them to. If you manage to post quality content that people enjoy, you will achieve more organic reach and your community will see your product in a positive light.