It's hardly a secret that working with influencers and creators is the next big marketing tactic in the gaming industry, and beyond.
Fortunately, a lot of companies are already ahead of the curve when it comes to partnering developers with the perfect creators, and vice versa.
This week we asked our panel of Viral Visionaries for their expertise on working with influencers. We've pulled together some of the brighest minds in the influencer marketing space to provide some tried and tested guidance.
If you'd like to get involved with our panel, email the editor at [email protected]
To start, look for streamers and YouTubers that would genuinely enjoy your game. It's great to have a big name influencer attached to your brand but really consider whether the influencer's audience, style, and content is a good match for you. Achieving a strong channel-game fit is the most surefire way to ensure the influencer, and more importantly the influencer's fans, will adopt your game.
We have seen a lot of success when working with app developers who are keen to include the talent in their activations! With Seriously Digital (Best Fiends) we have run Easter Egg hunts in-game where something that resonates well with each talents' audience (ex: their logo, a pic of their cat, an object that they're known for, etc.) is hidden within the game and fans are given clues from their fave talent to help them to find it.
We did something similar, with HighRise (a social networking app) where one YouTubers fans (& users in-app) were asked to design him a specific room. We received so many entries, it was wild! Then he offered a virtual meet and greet in app which literally went nuts with fans trying to get in there to chat with him!
It's definitely not for all talent. Some just want to chat about cool games, regardless of if you can see their face in there. And others want the wow factor. Developers are so creative, so we always encourage them to think outside the box and come up with cool ways to incorporate the talent! Nothing drives installs like someone who literally loves the game!
Here's a few tips for developers to get their game 'Influencer ready'
Twitch uses giantbomb.com for its curated game list. You need to add your game to the wiki to be correctly featured on Twitch - make sure it's an exact match for the game name, no rogue characters or spaces. Here's a link to the artwork requirements or you get the purple box treatment.
Mixer has a similar system using Player.me. Register your game there so that broadcasters have it in the drop-down list when they want to stream it.
YouTube's method is very different, but worthwhile. Here's instructions on what to do.
If it's Steam game, try to set a "Month YYYY" and then a "DD MON, YYYY" date format as soon as possible. Games listed as Summer or Q3 or Coming Soon get pushed to the back of the listings on the Steam store making it impossible to find.
Define YouTube and Twitter tags early on and communicate them wherever you can, make them as unique as possible so you can monitor them, and don't insist on 120 characters-worth of hashtags
Have logos and artworks with transparent backgrounds available for YouTube content creators to make their Preview image.
Make sure Influencers have a way of getting in touch if they're interested - Keymailer has a simple link you can use that also filters out 'non-influencers'.
David's advice about making sure the channel's audience fits the game is the absolute golden rule. Not every game works for every channel, so don't expect coverage for every game key you send out - and when you see good coverage, do whatever you can to support it through your own channels.
- Always work with Talent that are genuinely interested in your product!
- Always Help the manager or talent figure out the best way to show your game organically to fans (this is key don’t be invasive to normal content).
- Try to do fun activations - giveaways, in game challenges, incorporate talent into the game as a character if you both agree thats fine.
- Realise as the dev or talent you are pretty much opposite sides to a coin, meaning you have the same goal for the fans watching or playing, but usually don’t understand each others point of views so be patient and respectful.
- This one sounds obvious but you’d be surprised many people still do this - don’t pay based on subs, expected views are whats important! That being said have some fun and be open minded, influencers are entertainers the crazier they get the more the fans pay attention as long as they do it in their own style that feels natural to the channel!
If you need more advice contact me we are always happy to help people and guide them so they spend there money wisely! We want you to have positive experiences even if you don’t end up working with Spartan Elite Advertising.
I believe the main thing is identify who likes your game as most of the people already pointed out, then involve them in the development process wherever possible: a weapon with their name, a skin with their logo.
If an influencer is part of the project will be likely promoting with its audience as well. Another suggestion is going as vertical as possible expanding also to non gaming influencers, people that are relevant to the theme of the game as they sometime really keen to support without huge investment. I really like to create bespoke content when I had the chance and paid really well.
The main key here is also partnership as all parts needs to understand how important is the project and believe in it.
Philip Hickey is a former professional basketball player turned award-winning marketeer. Currently, he is responsible for marketing and communications at Seriously.
My advice for developers looking to dive into influencer marketing is to focus on the influencer’s audience engagement, and not just the number of subscribers or views. Rather than aiming for a broad reach, experiment to understand which audiences resonate strongest with your brand.
For example, when we first launched Best Fiends, we partnered with creators from a variety of verticals to feel out what worked best for us. After evaluating the campaign, we found that the beauty and lifestyle vertical, the family vertical, and the LGBTQ+ vertical resonated with our brand.
Additionally, if you have the resources, I’d also recommend having a data science team to identify influencer demographics that are likely to connect well and how best to measure your campaigns. We focus our KPIs on a ROAS (‘return on ad spend’) basis, where we tie the performance of our marketing directly back to revenue and engagement.
With this insight, it is amazing how measurable our media buying has become. We’re in a perpetual state of optimizing our marketing, and we’ve seen how well non-gaming verticals can perform for us.
Pascal Clarysse started looking for so-called Growth Hacks a good decade before the buzzword was coined.
Clarysse used to be the marketing driving force at Lik-Sang.com, where he was in charge of relentlessly spotting new trends, waves and magic holes. In recent years, he's served as a marketing consultant for various indie studios, participating in launching mobile games and the occasional Kickstarter campaign.
Advice for both sides: respect each other's craft. No, it's not easy to make a kick-ass youtube video and it's not easy to re-shoot it if the brief was unclear on a critical point.
No, it's not easy either to add something into a game. And yes, both of these things cost production money and proper timeline and planning to be done right. You come to one another because the other knows something better: the game people know game development/design better, but youtube creator knows better how to create an engaging video. Let them.
For creators: a good way to respect the game developer is to actually try their game vs saying you did. It avoids bad surprises for both later. It takes 5-10 minutes to decide if a game is for you (and you totally could have an intern playing first defense filter on that front, if requests abound).
If the game is for you and the money is right, give it a few hours of your play time before elaborating the script. Playing the game is actually part of the job when working with a game developer; which is not that bad a deal, you know, get paid to play a video game for a few hours.
For developers: don't improvise yourself a Cannes Palme d'Or film director just because you're paying for the video. If you were so good about creating engaging videos, you'd have your own channel with millions of views per day. Respect the creator on style decision, it's the same style that got him/her his/her audience to begin with, and he/she respects his/her audience because losing them core fans would pretty much ruin his/her current lifestyle. Same as your company is under threat if you don't respect your core players.
Last but not least: be direct and transparent, don't beat around the bush. It's not easy to say no to someone's face, but leaving too much ambiguity up in the air only makes the problem bigger later.
Jiri is the founder of Shark Punch, a transatlantic game development company working on a game about bank robberies in the 70s.
He was the CEO and a founder of the cross-platform gaming pioneer Rocket Pack, which was acquired by Disney in 2011.
He has been part of the Finnish games industry for almost 14 years, but currently resides in San Francisco because the weather in Helsinki sucks.
- Be very transparent with the influencer on the purpose and goals of the campaign. This will help them align with your thinking.
- Decide if you want to compensate the influencers for coverage
- Decide if you want to invest into doing influencer marketing internally, or if you want to work through partners
- Respect the audience. Don't try to force the creator to feature a game that their audience won't enjoy.
- Test, optimise, repeat!
- Understanding that influencer marketing shouldn't be purely performance based, nor pure branding. It's a mix of both.
- Understanding of the vast opportunities out there!
- Willingness to test different promotion types, geo's and creatives.
- A significant enough budget (10k+)
When developers turn to influencer marketing for user acquisition, they should challenge themselves to think outside the box and not only work with traditional gaming channels, but also lifestyle, podcast, or even cooking channels.
While a traditional Let's Play video isn't standard for these genres, there are other ways to effectively highlight the game and its' most interesting elements in a natural and engaging format.
More often than not, the influencers who manage these channels are not stereotypical gamers, so the integration ideas they bring to the table may be something the developer hadn't ever considered. That said, it's important to integrate a brand into a channel without giving the viewers a feeling that it's a blatant advertisement.
While we have done multiple successful Let's Play campaigns, we do love to work with open-minded publishers who are willing to try creative approaches to influencer marketing. Following a set script isn't going to do anyone any favors, so the ability to let go a bit on creative control has proven incredibly successful for our clients so far.
InfluencerUpdate recently did a profile on us, where I’ve deconstructed this answer in a little more detail - but essentially a few of the many factors that should be considered from both sides are:
- Are these Influencers authentic to the brand/product?
- Are these Influencers relevant to the campaign, Will their audience want to hear about this product, Do they play this (genre of) game?
- What is their engagement like? - Views aren’t the be-all and end-all!
- Are they brand-friendly and professional to work with?
- Are you looking for a quick hit or longevity from this relationship? - It’s becoming more popular to want Influencer partners and ongoing relationships with a brand/game. This is great, as it could be a ‘genuine exchange of value, even if it’s not financial’ as our Managing Director (Will Jeffery) put it - but as always there are sub-elements to consider here from both parties; such as questions of commitment & exclusivity, financial/other compensation or lack thereof, and the responsibility of this form of Ambassadorship?
If I may be so forthright - we can show the success of the process we use by simply looking at the results from our campaigns for Watchdogs_2, Rainbow Six Siege, The Division, Stellaris, and even Tekken 7 - in which we just enhanced our Live Action trailer with Influencers, and our campaign helped the game debut at no.1 for the first time since Tekken 3 in 1998!
One quick point as an in-house PR at a publisher: from a creator I want total honesty. If we approach a creator for a (paid) partnership and reach an agreement, it is implicitly understood that both parties believe in that game’s potential.
If a partnership is agreed but the end result is clearly a forced piece of content, it will turn off viewers in the first seconds, it’s bad for the creator’s channel, and equally it’s very damaging for a brand (and its bottom line).
Honesty from the outset allows the brand to move fast and execute plans B, C, D and so on.