Gaming Marketing: The Social Media Game Plan

Twitch, YouTube, Mixer, Twitter, Reddit, Discord, Snapchat… there are so many channels out there, each with their own pros and cons when it comes to engaging gaming consumers. Then there’s the gaming influencers who, in reality, are marketing channels in themselves, allowing brands to tap into their dedicated following. So what of 2020? What social channels are gamers using? What type of content is driving their purchases? And what’s the best way to collaborate with gaming influencers?

The importance of influencers 

The relationship between game producers and influencers has never been so vital. Influencers need good games to help them create compelling online content, while game producers need influencers to inspire potential customers through their exciting gameplay.

Indeed, the huge success of Fortnite is partly due to the sheer amount of content that was (and still is) being pumped out by influencers playing the game. In 2018, 7/10 of Twitch’s leading influencers were livestreaming Fortnite on their channels (source: MediaKix). Gamers look to their wider community of gamers for product inspiration, from top Twitch streamers to everyday gamers. Indeed, according to GamingScan, 39% of gamers find YouTube content most useful when making a purchasing decision, with 30% looking to customer reviews and 20% turning to streaming. So, in 2020, a key marketing focus will be making human connections with customers through influencer content.

Making authentic connections

90% of consumers factor in authenticity when supporting brands, a factor that is affecting the gaming industry too (source: Stackla). So while it’s important to grab an influencer early on – especially in a market becoming increasingly saturated by new game releases – the process shouldn’t be rushed. For both gaming and non-gaming brands, finding the right influencer and the right collaborative concept is essential. 

While the US chocolate brand Hershey’s has little to do with gaming, they put a clever spin on their collaboration with world-famous gamers, Ninja and DrLupo. Their new bar – a mashup of Hershey’s and Reese’s Pieces, was promoted on a mashup livestream between Ninja and DrLupo. By combining 2 hugely popular chocolates with 2 of the world’s biggest gamers, the collaboration felt relevant, perhaps even a little tongue-in-cheek thanks to the video’s title: ‘Best Duo’. This clever strategy paid off; rather than feeling forced into a sales-push, 70K viewers watched the entirety of the mashup livestream (source: Influencer Marketing Hub). 

Make it multi-channel

‘Best Duo’ was shared across various channels, with Ninja and DrLupo also promoting the livestream on their Twitter and Instagram accounts, meaning their fans weren’t going to miss the mashup. Cross-channel influencer activity is another great method for connecting with gaming communities and audiences. After all, an influencer’s audience won’t just be sitting on one channel. While they might consistently tune into streams on Twitch, they’ll also follow their favourite gamers across various platforms for all the latest updates. According to the Aberdeen Group, strong omni-channel engagement helps brands to hold onto around 89% of their customers.

For more useful insights on gaming marketing, make sure to download our latest report!

Mega, macro, micro – does any of it matter?

While the marketing hype around micro-influencers hasn’t impacted the gaming industry the way it has other sectors, it’s clear that integrating smaller gamers into a brand’s influencer strategy can really pay off. For example, in 2018, Supercell partnered with influencers to launch their new Brawl Stars game. Rather than collaborating with the top gamers, they chose smaller YouTubers and gamers – like Molt and Powerbang Gaming – who already played Supercell’s games, and therefore had an authentic connection to the brand. Their pre-launch live streams were extremely successful, helping Supercell hit 5M registrations ahead of the game release. For 2020, jumping on the wider marketing industry’s micro-influencer trend might not be such a bad idea. 

Nurturing the community  

With gaming enthusiasts engaging with influencer content, it’s important that brands keep an eye on what’s being said about their brand, their products and the gaming industry in general. For this reason, community management will continue to play a vital role in gaming marketing this year as brands seek to protect their reputations. 

Of course, community management isn’t just about brand reputation, it’s also about interacting with fan communities. Brands must show off their personality in order to connect with their fans through a shared passion for gaming. 

Sprout Social suggests getting involved with gaming debates, on Twitter in particular. Equally, creating reactive content around groundbreaking gaming events, like Ninja and Drake’s livestream Fortnite battle which broke Twitch streaming records, is a great way for brands to show they’re part of the community. 

Reddit is also effective for finding and engaging with niche audiences, found on specific subreddits. So brands can listen in and interact with a subreddit around specific games or consoles etc. However, perhaps more than on any other social media channel, Reddit and its user are strongly averse to marketing messages. In fact, there are actually subreddits dedicated to calling out and mocking heavy-handed Reddit marketing. So brands must be careful to remain relevant in their interactions.

Finally, Discord is a popular channel for gaming communities. While it has been embroiled in scandal due to illegal online activity, there are still plenty of gamers using it for its original purpose – to interact with their communities. 

Related Read: #BrandStrategy: Creating a Digital Community for your Brand

Ready, set, stream

Of course, streaming channels are still a huge hub for the gaming community, and continue to provide a great platform for influencer collaboration, product placement and paid advertising. 

Twitch, for the most part, has dominated the conversation when it comes to streaming platforms. That’s not surprising, since 3.7M streamers a month consumed video game content on Twitch in 2019 (source: Twitch Tracker). Brands like Nike have used Twitch’s popularity to their advantage, unveiling new products via livestreams. In recent years, however, a new streaming channel has been added to the mix, aptly named Mixer. Through new partnership deals, Mixer has obtained some of the biggest global gamers, like Ninja and Shroud. But marketers shouldn’t simply ditch Twitch. On Mixer, brands can’t purchase ad units and can only advertise via a streamer’s video. Twitch, on the other hand, provides plenty of scope for paid ads and still has most of the viewership. 

Of course, With 25,000 gaming channels on its site, YouTube is still a hugely popular channel and provides more casual gaming content than Twitch. At the end of 2019, YouTube also launched its shoppable paid ads just in time for the new year, providing more opportunities for brands to target specific audiences on the platform. 

When it comes to channels across the globe, there’s a range to choose from depending on a brand’s target market. According to Strive, the most popular streaming channels in China are YouTube, YY and Douyu. In South Korea and Japan, YouTube, afreeca, niconico and TwitCasting are the channels of choice (source: Strive Sponsorship, Akamia, North Asia Esports Report). 

Related Read: Esports: The New Sport on the Scene

Looking at the gaming marketing social channels, the situation seems relatively unchanged. However, these channels are anything but stagnant… As the world of gaming continues to evolve, using social to make authentic connections with gamers will become increasingly important. For more on the future of the gaming sector, make sure to download our latest report ‘Gaming Marketing 2020: Trends to Stay Ahead of the Game’. 

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Natalie Thomas
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