This post was originally published on Deconstructor of Fun. Deconstructor of Fun is a blog, podcast, and consulting company that specializes in free-to-play games. They break down the best titles, and share insights on what causes them to succeed or fail.
As the prices for UA have soared, game companies are looking for alternative marketing channels, which have given rise to influencer marketing. Hiring influencers to promote a game has become an increasingly important part of any game’s marketing mix. The successful influencer strategies from the likes of Fortnite and Brawl Stars are attracting others to follow suit. However, there’re many mistakes that can be easily made with influencer campaigns.
In this post, our CMO, Heini Vesander, goes through the 10 common mistakes, and more importantly, offer practical fixes to these common challenges.
- No clear goals
The cardinal sin for all marketing efforts: you don’t set clear goals for your influencer marketing efforts. To be fair, influencer marketing is still so new that ambiguous goal-setting is understandable. Also, in many organisations influencer operations live among UA, PR and community management. More and more companies are hiring dedicated influencer marketing managers, which is ideal as goals can be aligned across multiple stakeholders, but owned by a clear function.
The fix to unclear goals is, well, setting clear goals! You can use the SMART model, or something else — just make sure your goals are specific, well defined, metric, and there’s a deadline. The most common goals for influencer marketing are around awareness, installs and community building:
Measure the number of views your sponsored videos or streams get. Also, compare your views to the average views of the channel to assess if your content is interesting for the channel’s audience. Typically views for games that aren’t a channel’s main title get lower views, so don’t worry if your content isn’t crazy popular from the get go.
This one is easy. If your goal is to gain installs, then set your goal around gaining installs. You can estimate a sponsored campaign’s performance by looking at channel average viewership (past 30 days) and average engagement. To be cautious, estimate your views to be 20-30% lower than average, with CTR around 2-3%. You can also assume that the bigger the channel, the lower the engagement rate. Smaller channels tend to reach a more niche audience – with subscribers being more interested and, well, engaged with the channel’s content.
When it comes to community-building, good goals are set around viewership – and engagement. To build a community, you’re not in to only get eyeballs, but ideally to also create content so appealing that the viewers want to interact with your game. Make sure you know what your CTA is — are you pushing folks to Discord, Twitter, or something else?
Also, look at the number of organic videos made about your game, and keep of track their viewership. It’s important to not only use paid tactics but also think about your non-paid content creators. How can you help them grow with your game?
- Bad content matching
No matter what your goal is, it will be difficult to gain good results if your game doesn’t suit the channel you’re sponsoring. For example, mobile games have had a very difficult time gaining traction on Twitch — YouTube tends to be the natural place for mobile gamers and content creators.
The way to fix this is by doing your homework. Here are a few easy steps:
Look at your target audience — who are you trying to reach?
Ask yourself what other games your target group is playing. (Or other common interests)
List 10-50 influencers who are making content about these other games or interests of your target players. Narrow the list down:
- What kind of average viewership are the interesting influencers reaching?
- Where are the influencers based? Do they reach relevant geos for your game?
- What language are they publishing in? Is your game localized in those languages?
Be critical: does your game make any sense for the shortlisted channels?
You can use tools (yes, like Matchmade) to access more data about the channels to understand the channels’ demographics, geographies, and device base. Based on the questions above and the actual numbers, you should be able to find channels that are relevant for your game. Also, remember that it’s a two-way street. It’s not only about finding channels that suit your game, it’s also about offering the influencer content that’s enjoyable for their audience.
Below is a sample image of the data you should be looking at when selecting which influencers you want to work with:
- Bad tracking
In this day and age, game marketers have become the masters of tracking every click, purchase and hover. Yet, I still run into the argument that influencer marketing is difficult to measure. This is not true as one bad mistake is to not set up proper tracking for your influencer campaigns. So, define your goals, find your channels, and set tracking in advance to ensure you’re tracking the right things. This is simple to fix through tracking partners like Kochava and Adjust – you just need to generate unique links per influencer, video and stream. You can also hack around this by something as simple as bit.ly (and coffee and time).
Influencer marketing tends to cause a bump in organic installs as well (see our case study below), so keep an eye out on your app store data. Also, ask the influencer to send a data report of the sponsored content — YouTube and Twitch show a lot of data on the user dashboard so ask nicely to view some of it.
- Forgetting your organic folks
Whether you’re running influencer marketing as part of UA, PR or within a dedicated team, one important thing to keep in mind is remembering your organic folks. Although you want to run paid campaigns with some influencers, make sure you have a program in place for organic content creators. I recommend having two aligned yet distinct strategies for influencer marketing, where one track focuses on paid sponsorships and another focuses on supporting the small organic channels to grow alongside your game. Typically, the community managers will run the organic program, but each studio organization is unique.
Build a program for the organic content creators with the intent to helping their channels grow. If their audience grows, you will have a roster of channels that are dedicated to your title, and can self-sustain through ad revenue as well as other sponsorships. It’s in your best interest to help the early YouTubers, Twitch streamers, or other content creators. Here are some factors to consider:
What can you offer the organic content creators?
- In-game currency allowance
- Graphics, fonts, assets
- Access to discord with devs
- Visibility in your game app
- Visibility on your social channels
- Swag for them or their viewers
- Early access to new builds
- Tickets to events
What is the criteria for the organic folks to get access to the above?
- Regular posts
- Minimum subs
- Minimum views
- Quality of content
I recommend setting up a tiered program: not only does this incentivize the content creators to keep talking about your game, but it also becomes transparent and clear to all parties involved how the program is run. Make sure you communicate openly when running your program, and don’t play favorites.
For example, EA’s game changers is a program that the company runs to build close relationships with key content creators.
- Forgetting that this is content, not ads
As mentioned above, influencer marketing is a hybrid of PR, UA, and community. Oftentimes, game marketers are used to running ads in a very methodic, data-driven way. I’m a fan of the approach, but when it comes to influencer marketing, advertisers shouldn’t forget that the best kind of influencer marketing is about unique content — made by the individual influencer for their audience. Yes, guidelines are necessary, but this is not the business of buying ads, this is the business of sponsoring content. Allow the influencers to have creative freedom and address their audience in their authentic way. I know, it’s horrible to let go of control, but as long as the guidelines are in place, you will get great content. In the clip below, Chief Pat has done a great job promoting (yes, paid) EA’s new mobile game, Command and Conquer: Rivals.
- Not experimenting enough
After running a few influencer marketing campaigns, marketers often get stuck trying to do the same thing over and over again, on their quest for scale. Running campaigns the same way will likely decrease CTRs (you reach the same audience over and over) and engagement rates in return. So, be creative — experiment across different sized channels, geographies and sponsorship types. Here’s a few recommendations:
Set up a part of your influencer marketing budget to test:
- Different sized channels
- Genres of influencers (not only gaming channels)
- Languages & audience geos
- Dedicated / integrated content
- Multiple platforms
Here’s an example of a fun integrated video — the game got great views because it was a part of a more organic bit of content the influencer was making.
- Assuming you know the reasons an influencer chooses who they work with
In a recent study, we asked influencers what is the most important factor for them when deciding whether to accept a paid deal. Interestingly, the results show that it all comes down to relevance.
Over 66% of influencers report that the following factors are the most important:
- They think your game suits their channel
- Their audience will like the game
Interestingly, only 4% consider the amount of money they’d receive as the most important. In other words, it all comes down to relevance and content matching. It’s silly to assume you know the inner thinking of each influencer, especially when they are all unique and the masters of their own media empires. Here are a few guidelines to abide by:
- Personalise your outreach
- Be critical — does your game suit their channel? Save time and effort from all parties involved by not approaching channels that aren’t relevant.
- Is your target group similar to their audience
- Let the influencer try your game out before signing a deal
- Ask for their opinion — What do they think about your game? What’s a creative way they can feature it?
- Getting lured by subscribers only
In the table below, you can see some real, yet anonymous, data from YouTube. It’s easy to look at channels and judge them based only on the number of subs they have since those numbers are what you’re presented with at first. But, if you want to find out if the channel has high viewership or engagement, you have to look at each channel in a bit more detail to estimate if and what kind of results you can expect.
Big subscriber counts can mean high viewership, but it can also mean overpaying for an audience that isn’t viewing the channel’s content anymore. Some big influencers have grown massive with the success of a specific game. But, as interest for the game dies out, the channel keeps the subscribers, meaning you might be overpaying for an audience that isn’t really tuned in. If you compare the two top rows, you can easily see how large channels can have very different viewership (and a similar engagement rate). So make sure to do you homework and calculate their average viewership for past 30 (or even 60) days. There’s a few more examples in the table, to highlight that sub counts and engagement rates alone aren’t enough to determine if a channel makes sense for your game. (If you have questions, tweet @Heinider or email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The point here is to boldly work with big, medium and small influencers and see what works for your game. Compare subs with average viewership and engagement, track your sponsored content, and think beyond gaming-channels only. For example, a zombie game might do really well on an outdoors channel.
- Bad briefs
As is the case when working with any external partner, the quality of your communication is critical. Bad briefs end up wasting the influencer’s time (they need to re-edit), and your time (never-ending feedback-loop). Be short, clear and consistent – provide the necessary information accurately and timely, but remember to give the influencer creative freedom. Don’t copy-write but provide information. Here’s a few things you need to include:
- The name of your game with correct capitalization
- The basic blurb (e.g. “Game of Fun is multiplayer based in La La Land. The goal is to beat all the players in intense battles, and slay the ultimate beast. Evolve your hero and become a La La Legend.”)
- The platform(s) of your game
- Where to download your game
- What is the CTA for the video – click link, sign up, tweet etc…
- The individual tracking link with information where to post if
- Hashtags and tags for social
- Basic “how-to-play” guide can be useful
- Any vocabulary / glossary
- Anything you DON’T want them to say
Again, be careful not to copy-write for them. You want to give the influencers the facts but leave them the creativity. Also keep in mind, your brief can be a video, not only written words.
- Rush orders
This one’s easy – give influencers enough time to make a great video. This means:
- Plan your influencer marketing campaigns early
- Allow enough time for outreach and negotiation (2-3 weeks minimum)
- Allow the influencer enough time to play your game and get familiar with you
- Use your calendar, set up reminder and pings
- Don’t set the deadline for the video as the actual deadline – allow yourself a couple of days to review and ask for edits.
That’s it! There’s plenty more mistakes that could be listed, but that’s 10 cardinal sins for you. Check out our other posts for regular tips and tricks to influencer marketing. You can even sign up to our newsletter (we send 2 per month, no spam.)