Influencer marketing in Esports: how it works, what the implications for companies are and how teams and individuals can leverage it.
Nowadays a lot of people are talking about influencer marketing, and I am sure it will be more and more soon. In case you don’t know what influencer marketing is, let me quote the following definition:
“Influencer marketing […] is a form of marketing […] in which focus is placed on specific key individuals […] rather than the target market as a whole. It identifies the individuals that have influence over potential buyers, and orients marketing activities around these influencers.”
In other words: instead of flooding the market with advertising, a company will focus on key individuals (e.g. Esports athletes) that they think have access to the target group they want to reach. Marketing activities will then be planned around these key influencers. Looking at Esports, teams and athletes act as an intermediary between the company and its desired target group.
Key elements to make influencer marketing work.
Earlier this year, Lander Vu published an interesting article explaining what brands can learn from Twitch about marketing to Millennials. I can really recommend this read (click here) and think that the mentioned key points apply in a wider sense. Let’s look at the four key points helping Twitch as a platform to be successful:
- The content is not polished, but unfiltered.
- Twitch creates an opportunity for real-time interaction.
- The experience incentivizes a personal connection between content and viewer.
- Twitch empowers active engagement.
Without going into more details of the article, we can generalize the elements leading up to Twitch’s above-mentioned advantage. The article summarizes these elements as “authentic, personalized, real-time and interactive”.
The implications for companies – authenticity: blessing or curse?
When advertising to Millennials, companies should not be afraid of putting out raw content. Not everyone responds to “bigger, better and more awesome” products. Some people just want a product to fulfill a purpose and their needs. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if your washing powder cleans clothes even ‘cleaner than clean’ as the expectation is ‘clean clothes’. Keep in mind that Millennials will most likely be able to differentiate between authentic raw content and content that is created to look raw. Most Millennials will understand that they are being advertised to. Don’t try to fool them.
Influencers have built their networks and gained their following by being whom and what they are. Followers will have certain expectations towards their ‘stars’. Don’t try to buy their opinion. Tobias Brandel, Director Marketing at DOJO Madness and former EVP of the Youtube gaming MCN (mutli-channel network) “TGN”, had a simple and spot-on description for the company-influencer-relationship: “You do not pay them to give your own opinion or marketing message about your own product, you pay them to compensate them for sharing their opinion about your product with their following – provided they like the product.”
Obviously not a lot of companies want to have an influencer talking about how bad their product is, so the above-mentioned relationship implies that the product and the influencer are compatible. Note that there is a difference between trying to buy an opinion and finding an influencer that actually likes your product. I am convinced that the latter will be more successful in the long run.
Even if, or especially when, an influencer likes your product: don’t be afraid of criticism. Don’t think in black and white. An influencer can like your product and still criticize parts of it. If you ask for an honest opinion, you will have to live with it as influencer marketing is about authenticity and honesty. Consider it as a great way to learn about your product and see if your value proposition is in line with the audience’s perception. You will be able to learn and potentially further improve and develop your product.
Don’t forget: authenticity is what makes the difference.
The opportunity for Esports teams – how to leverage this marketing trend.
Basically, a successful Esports team is sitting on a group of influencers an can be considered as an influencer itself. It is hard to define what ‘successful’ is as the market has a need for a full spectrum of influencers, from ‘little’ to ‘a lot of’ followers and everything in between.
An influencer, who is interested in offering marketing services (such as Posts, Tweets, endorsements, streams, brand quotes, etc.), should keep an eye on his/her performance. An Esports team can and should do the same thing for its players. A good question to ask is: how do I measure my performance to price out my services?
Well, let me give you the standard answer: it depends.
Some people and teams look at reach. When they talk to potential partners, they will advertise e.g. their Facebook reach, because they have a Facebook following of 1,000,000 likes. If option B is an Esports team with 400,000 likes, 1,000,000 sounds good and looks like an impressive number. Don’t be scared about a potential massive following of your competitors. Ask yourself: what does this tell you?
What if out of this 1,000,000 likes, only 2% engage with the content (that’s 20,000 people)? Engaging with the content can be everything from liking a post, sharing it, commenting it, clicking links, etc. If your team with 400,000 likes can show and proof an engagement rate of 6% (that’s 24,000 people) – ceteris paribus, what is more valuable to you? Having a larger reach or having more people engaging and/or interacting with your content?
If you can’t show a competitive engagement rate, you might want to work on your content. If you don’t have the right skills, there are plenty of resources online and there are several agencies and consultants out there that can help you to create more engaging content.
Of course, when talking about reach and engagement, there are a lot of variables to consider, such as the brand value and perception. The point I am trying to make is that you should know how you perform and what you can do to help your partner when it comes to advertising. Implement KPIs (key performance indicators) that will allow you to track and measure numbers over time to visualize historic data and to identify trends. These numbers and trends can be transformed into a value proposition for partners. It will allow you to price out Posts, Tweets, streams and other marketing activities. It will also help you to understand and justify changes in your pricing strategy based on KPI development.
If you feel confident enough, you can create your own KPIs beyond reach and engagement rate. Ask yourself: if I were a company, what would I want to see in order to make an investment decision? Then prepare and present relevant information in a comprehensive way.
Know what you are talking about
Keep in mind: most platforms have different definitions for KPIs with the same name. The engagement rate provided by a platform is calculated differently for Facebook and Twitter. Know what you are talking about and make sure you understand it. Know what you have to offer and try to benchmark your data against other datasets.
If you have trouble defining KPIs, compiling relevant data, benchmarking it, etc., please feel free to reach out and we can find a suitable way for your situation. I don’t think there is a golden way to handle this, but there are good and better pitches.
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