Zorka.Mobi's Dmitry Liapin on influencer marketing in Russia

Zorka.Mobi's Dmitry Liapin on influencer marketing in Russia

Dmitry Liapin is Business Development Director at creative mobile performance agency Zorka.Mobi. He recently spoke at Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki, which took place on September 19th to 20th.

Prior to the event, we decided to catch up with Liapin to discuss the company's services and his opinions on the influencer space in the Russian games market. Could you please explain what services Zorka.Mobi provides?

Dmitry Liapin: Zorka.Mobi is a creative mobile performance agency, which provides mobile user acquisition services globally on CPI and CPA basis.

Zorka’s media buying team is reaching global audiences by providing high quality traffic from Facebook, Google, myTarget, and large DSPs. Zorka’s affiliate network consists of hundreds of in-app and mobile web traffic sources.

Since the end of 2014 Zorka.Mobi has grown from a small affiliate network to one of the top mobile marketing agencies in Russia and CIS, serving globally-known developers and agencies such as Plarium, Pixonic, Youzu Interactive, Gameloft, Yandex, Vivaki, OMD and others, providing thousands of installs for iOS and Android games and apps on a daily basis.

Companies aiming to conquer the Russian market will benefit from Zorka’s full service approach: from building a strategy to implementing it via ASO and Apple Search Ads, targeted ads, video production, influencer marketing and remarketing campaigns.

How big is the Russian games market right now and what are the most prevalent games platforms?

Answering this question, I’d like to provide the data from our mutual report with Adjust. It contains the latest available data about the Russian mobile market.

With 80 million smartphone users in 2017, Russia is Europe’s largest mobile internet market.

Information from Mobile Gaming in Russia report

What is more, Russia is number one in Europe by number of mobile game downloads, and sixth by total game revenues (2016).

Information from Mobile Gaming in Russia report

Desktop, console, VR and mobile games generated $1.4 billion in revenues in Russia in 2016. More than one third (37% or $523 million) came from mobile games.

Information from Mobile Gaming in Russia report

About 120 new mobile games were released last year in Russia, up from 90 in 2015; a nearly 30% increase. Of this number, about 40% were offered by international publishers, with the most successful games generating more than $1 million per month in revenues.

How popular are social media influencers in Russia?

It all depends. They are definitely popular for brands like Coca Cola, P&G, MARS, etc. They are also getting popular for such segments as beauty, gaming, children goods, gambling and mass market apps.

But the thing is today the market of influencers is at the very initial stage, that's why you may face a lot of issues while working with them. Literally, developers have two options: try to work directly with influencers or use agencies to get things done.

And here is one more problem - there are not so many agencies in Russia that specialise in influencer marketing. We are happy to admit that our decision to create an in-house influencer marketing team was right - we've been working with influencers for one year already and have succeeded at it.

As Pixonic's Chief Marketing Officer Artem Petukhov puts it:

"It seems to me that here at Pixonic that we've found out how to sponsor YouTubers' traffic based on a performance-oriented model. The latest flight with Tier-1 bloggers has its estimated ROI over 100%. I’d like thank our marketing team as well as Zorka.Mobi agency which met our strict requirements and helped us to find the right bloggers. This is the case that we are both proud of."

During this time we not only helped numerous developers to increase their ROMI, but also created our own platform that helps to collect data and optimise IM campaigns.

Sample report from Zorka's Influencer Marketing platform

To sum it up, I would say IM is worth trying. It's up to you to decide which option to try.

Why is influencer marketing so important to games companies compared to other means of user acquisition?

One of the main problems for big game developers is exhausting their target audience by using the same traffic sources. Developers face a problem on where to acquire new paying users, and this channel is the answer. IM gives you an access to millions of people and a loyal audience.

You shouldn't only use this channel, though, but it gives an additional effect to your performance campaigns.

When compared with targeted ads and ads on TV, it definitely has some advantages.

Let's take targeted ads on Facebook for example. Its ad auction system selects the best ads to run based on the ads' maximum bids and ad performance. So you should always keep an eye on bids, budgets and creatives in order to get good results. Once you pay the YouTuber, you get a guaranteed placement on the channel.

Talking about ads on TV, I should underline that first of all, they are more expensive than ads by bloggers.

Secondly, TV ads will provide you with a limited number of views (people will see your ad only when the TV is on), unlikel with IM campaigns - episodes with your ads will be on the channel as long as it exists (your brand awareness grows alongside the popularity of a channel).

Apart from TV, you get more formats available. They are: pre-roll, mid-roll, post-roll, integration, special episodes and full let's plays. So these ads looks more vital and native. Thirdly, with IM you can target the audience you need. As for TV ads - the targeting options won't be so accurate.

Once the YouTuber recommends something to their loyal audience, it's more effective than TV ads - conversion from the first video ad view on YouTube is at least two to three times higher that from TV ads.

All in all, IM campaigns provide more variety of available formats and access to reach more audiences show better conversions.

Just how effective is influencer marketing in mobile?

60% to 70% of views on YouTube are made from mobile devices. So generally, it works. But as I said earlier, it all depends on a product category. Have a look - these are the average CPIs we get from IM campaigns:

Average CPI for Influencer Marketing campaigns in Tier 1 countries
(by game category, in USD)

Average CPI for Influencer Marketing campaigns in Russia and Russian speaking countries(by game category, in USD)

If you don't go deeper, CPIs look quite expensive. But here it doesn't really matter. The main thing that matters is whether your investments are paid off or not.

Thanks to our platform we can forecast the results of our campaigns, and provide developers with the list of influencers who will be the most relevant to the promoted products before we launch those campaigns. And of course, their subscribers will be more likely to donate after the episode.

But you should understand that good results don't come right away. Test, fail, test again, fail better, get profit. This is how it works and this is how you get the most from your campaign.

What tips do you have for developers looking to start an influencer marketing campaign?

  • Make sure that you know who your audience is
  • Define your goals: either you want to acquire new users or you need to retain existing ones
  • Don't spend a lot at once. Test first. Starts with $15.000 for a test IM campaign in Tier-1 countries.

This amount of money is enough to sign five influencers and to get 1.5 to 2 million views. You'll also be able to test different formats, creatives and make A/B tests with different channel types.

N.B. Don't be afraid of a high CPI - IM campaigns differ from your performance ones. Users acquired from these campaigns are more likely to pay so your investments will be covered.

To draw a conclusion, I can say that IM is not a silver bullet. You should invest not only money, but also your time in it. This channel is relatively new and risky, but the results it gives are definitely worth it.

Tags: regularly posts content from a variety of guest writers across the games industry. These encompass a wide range of topics and people from different backgrounds and diversities, sharing their opinion on the hottest trending topics, undiscovered gems and what the future of the business holds.