Back in August, Matchmade (the Finland-based game influencer marketing data platform) announced $1.73 million in funding.
That's a strong sign of confidence in a company that started out as a games developer itself before changing direction. The Matchmade service pairs influencers with marketing campaigns. It's powered by automated content and audience analysis, with geographic and demographic filtering.
A marketing team can establish tiered CPI goals and Matchmade's audience analysis ensures they are reached. Games companies using the service so far include Charged Monkey, Tilting Point and FuturePlay.
Promising "game sponsorships, 'fair treatment and transparency' for online content creators, and 'relevant influencers and great [campaign] performance' for brands, it's led by CEO Jiri Kupiainen. We took the chance to quiz him at this year's Pocket Gamer Connects event in Helsinki.
InfluencerUpdate.biz: Let’s start at the beginning. You were Shark Punch – a game developer – and you pivoted into the influencer marketing space. Can you talk us through the transition?
Jiri Kupiainen: Actually, Matchmade isn’t the first pivot. It’s the second one. We started out as an indie game developer, and then we basically got to know a lot of different development studios around the world, and everybody talked about these discovery challenges, and how the industry is huge, but still – for many products – it’s really hard to reach a wide audience.
We initially had a project called PlayField, which was an algorithmic curation of gaming content. It was a consumer platform. Super fun stuff to work on, but financially it didn’t make any sense in the end.
But with PlayField we got into this whole idea of analysing an infinite amount of gaming content and figuring out what’s interesting for different audiences. Last year we saw the whole influencer space growing super-fast, and we saw how chaotic it was: we realised there’s an opportunity to use our technology, and it would let us do something good with influencers.
The influencer space has really taken off – but it still feels chaotic, the Wild West. What are the biggest challenges in mapping that?
Even if you just get YouTube gaming, you still have tens of thousands of gaming channels that are big enough to be relevant for most developers. So there's just that challenge of: 'How do I find the right channels? How do I find channels where the audience actually wants to see my game or wants to hear about my game?' Right now people do that manually and obviously it doesn’t really work, because there are too many channels.
I don’t think there are any established rules like what kind of deal structures make sense. You don’t really know how much you should pay for sponsored content. There are a lot of questions around the legal side. So different countries have different rules about paid promotions and sponsored content. There’s no global set of rules that you can apply. It’s just a lot of different things to be sorted out.
And so what solution does Matchmade provide? If I’m an influencer, what do I get out of working with you?
From the influencer’s point of view, the problem is that if you’re big enough, you’re not going to have any challenges getting a lot of sponsorship offers… But most of the offers are not going to be relevant. If you actually take them, the audiences aren’t going to be happy.
So basically, the first thing we do with Matchmade is we match games with channels. We can say that a particular game will be interesting to a particular channel’s audience, which benefits both sides.
What’s the right price to pay? We make it performance-based, so you’re not paying for empty air.Jiri Kupiainen
Then we help the developers and influencers figure out the deal terms. So what’s the right price to pay? We help make it performance-based, so you’re not paying for empty air. And from the influencer’s point of view, if you do a good job, you can actually make more money that way.
We handle all the tracking data recording and all the logistics. We handle payments. We take out all the boring parts.
And for people with a game to promote: we help them realise how much they should be paying for different data, for example. Because we can actually make forecasts on how many installs they’re going to get and which countries these installs are going to be from, and so on.
What are the challenges with performance-based campaigns? Is it easy to track how a campaign works?
It depends on the platforms. Mobile games usually are pretty good, because they all have attribution SDKs built in, and people are used to tracking where their users come from.
But the reality is that most of the people who watch a YouTube video and install the game are not going to click the link that we have in there. So it’s basically about a third to a quarter of the total installs we see.
What we do is we work with developers. Some of them give us access to all of their analytics data. So we can actually see how the organic install rate changes. We can see what’s the average ratio [of installs from the campaign] to the actual full amount.
You previously described that you intend to be the gold standard of your sector. What is your long-term vision for the company?
We recently raised $1.73 million in funding are using that to build up our data analysis team and just make sure that we have the best data; we have the best predictions. We want to be the smart way of working with influencers and that requires a lot of investment into the development of the data science side of things.
We see that, in this industry, you have a lot of different factors. You have all these different agencies. You have influencers who work regularly with companies. Some have managers. There are all kinds of people in this industry, and everybody’s operating blind at the moment.
We don’t want to replace these agencies. We just want to make sure that everybody has good data to make decisions, and everybody can actually track their campaigns.
We don’t want to replace these agencies. We want to make sure everybody has good data to make decisions and everybody can track their campaigns.Jiri Kupiainen
Hopefully, we can make the whole thing clear and transparent to all the different parties. Because right now, everybody’s just blind. Please are making deals, and you don’t know what the actual value of that deal is going to be to you. And you don’t really know if it’s the right person to work with.
Our internal goal is that a year from now, we want to really reach that gold standard status. We want to get to a point where everybody who’s doing this professionally, everybody who’s working with influencers in gaming professionally, will be using our platform. Because they trust us. They know that this is the smart way to do this.
Right now, we’re just focusing on gaming and just making sure we have absolutely the best data and the best forecast and the best matching. Eventually we’re also going to look at other verticals. We’ll be adding more platforms than YouTube, and things like that. Within the next year, we’ll be adding support for several new platforms, in addition to YouTube.
Regarding the data that you gather on your platform, obviously view counts and subscribers are dynamic numbers that change from one hour to the next. You’re crunching a lot of data. What's your biggest technical challenge?
That’s going a little bit into 'secret sauce' territory.
In general, we do have a pretty stupid amount of processing power considering the size of the company. We are going through lots of channels every day, and many of them several, several times a day.
We prioritise the channels based on the frequency of posting and the size of the channel and the engagement we see. We have a way of prioritising which channels get refreshed often and which ones are worth doing once a day or whatever.
There's no human curation. We only manually check content that’s created as part of a Matchmade campaign. We do some data verification, some random checking of videos to make sure there are no problems; we’ll look at a random list of videos now and then and if there’s problems, we tackle them and then we address the algorithm to do a better job.
YouTube tends to get the headlines at the moment whenever an influencer says something outrageous. Do you think there’s an education process generally about influencer marketing that the whole world needs?
One of the most interesting things about the whole industry is that it’s a new thing. Nobody knows how this is supposed to be done. I mean, especially with the really big guys it’s like, "come on, you’re a dude who just started playing games, and suddenly you have millions and millions of fans!", I think it’s easier to get to a point where you think that the rules don’t apply. And I think that’s kind of a stage that we just need to go through.
But usually we advise people not to work with the top 10 YouTubers because they’re a little bit unpredictable and usually it’s just not going to work out for the developer.
When you look at the slightly smaller influencers, usually they’re already doing their best to grow, which means that they are likely to be more professional. They’re going to really try to do a good job, on the content level.
We advise people not to work with the top ten YouTubers. When you look at the slightly smaller influencers, they’re already doing their best to grow, which means they are likely to be more professional.Jiri Kupiainen
The only way for them to grow their channel is by making sure that every piece of content is actually good and relevant. Which means that if they do a promotion of your game, then they’ll also hope you’re also going to see good results, because that benefits both.
What’s the international scene like for influencers?
I think a lot of it can be super-regional. A lot of the fans are people under 15, to be honest, and many of them just don’t speak any English. So we look at different countries: for example, Brazil is massive, massive. They have several influencers who are all in the five million-plus subscriber range. The videos get insane view counts each time.
The problem with the industry right now is that a lot of people only look at the English-speaking influencers. Whereas their games available globally. Their audience is global. They’re missing out on a lot of the good stuff.
Having said that, we know some Finnish influencers, for example, who have been creating Finnish-language content for the last five years, and they recently switched to English, and now they have 10 times the audience they used to have. So I think there’s going to be a bit of a trend for certain markets to switch to English eventually, like the Nordics for instance.
The thing with many Asian countries is that they have their own platforms. We can see that in Japan and South Korea, YouTube is growing. The numbers you can get from influencer marketing campaigns as a developer can be very, very good in those countries.
But of course, even if it’s the same platform, the whole content culture is very different. So the types of content they produce are different. The audience behaves differently to Western audiences.
So if we take a Japanese YouTube gaming channel and compare it to a US-based channel, you might just look at the numbers, and reach the conclusion that this is the worst channel ever. Because people don’t comment. They don’t click "like". They don’t do anything.
But when we actually look at the installs… everybody installs the game, and they are super high quality users. So there are really quite big international differences, and we’re still figuring it out.
Find out more about Matchmade, which is a launch partner of InfluencerUpdate.biz, at its official site: Matchmade.tv. For more interviews with people shaping the direction of modern influencer marketing, visit our profiles section. Are you working in the field and have a story to tell? Please contact our editorial team.