How are you building social currency Jesse Divnich of the game research firm EEDAR asked that question to the audience of game developers and professionals. Many of the other talks and panels at GDC this year discussing trends in game marketing and monetization touched upon that important question.

One of the take-aways from many of the marketing and monetization sessions at GDC 2014 is that Facebook remains a critical tool for virality and discovery. Especially for mobile games.

While Jesse Divnich presented research showing that Facebook has dropped from being the #2 source of mobile game discovery in 2012 to #5 today (behind different forms of word-of-mouth as #1, featured in store front as #2 and top charts as #3), Facebook is still the undisputed leader in mobile game promotion.

In the company’s own session on Wednesday, Facebook’s Dan Morris showed some impressive figures to back up its continued relevance for game developers and marketers. For example, Facebook is now driving 735 million clicks to games every day and that number keeps on growing.

“The growth of casino games over the last year is probably no surprise to anyone here, but we are seeing growth in many other categories as well,” he said. “Our native ad feed stories is something we are particularly excited about growing in 2014 in
and we have served 245 million mobile game app install ads to date.”

In separate sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, Dimitri Williams of Ninja Metrics as well as Jesse Divnich of EEDAR pointed to the need to focus on the 1 to 5 percent of game users referred to as “whales,” users who convert and monetize much better than the majority of players.


Game Developers Conference in San Francisco

So how do you make sure that you get as many whales as possible to play your game Getting demographic and psychographic targeting right is no doubt key to success here. Especially when it comes to mobile games. Going too broad with your advertising is expensive and techniques like paying for your advertising on an install basis (CPI) rather than reach (CPM) can be much more effective.

But even if you manage to convince your advertising partners to pay on a CPI basis, how can you make sure you are getting the right users who will monetize.

Music service Pandora’s Andre DeRussy‘s talk focused on just that, the importance of tracking post-install behavior so that you’re not just buying “dumb installs” for your game, but make sure that they are actually spending something and interacting with the downloaded app. At Pandora they have a lot of active mobile app users, so they pride themselves on being able to predict user behavior well, which is the message they wanted to get across to game developers.

Bottom line: The real advantage going forward will be to use data to drive your marketing and user acquisition tactics. Look at what is performing and who is converting, in real time. Then change your tactics accordingly. The Facebook platform is just so powerful here because they have the most data and a huge audience of 1.2 billion users. Many other publishers are also trying to copy their sponsored updates and in-stream app install ad format, but not doing it as well. At least not yet.