How do you find the right opinion leaders and persuade them to promote your creative product? Here are some tips and a look at Stikbold!’s recent successful influencer campaign.
Influencer marketing might sound like the latest fad in a social media-driven world. It is especially attractive to independent players in the creative industries due to its lower cost. But these types of marketing campaigns have been around for longer than Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Instead of relying on advertising in an era where OTT television and ad blockers have become ubiquitous, many companies are now looking to people who in turn can influence other people.
Influencer marketing can be leveraged across a variety of channels and social media. The bigger the stars, the bigger their fan base and potential reach and the higher the potential costs.
Who are influencers and how can they be reached?
If you are beginning your quest to find the right kind of people to help you advertise your product or brand to the right the kind of audiences, services like peg.co are designed to help you out.
As explained by Nic Yeeles, peg.co’s CEO, the service is essentially a growing database of influencers, which can be easily searched on a territory or topic basis as well as based on the latest brands they have worked with. The platform also lists the number of subscribers (although Yeeles highlights this should not be the main decision factor) and the number of times their latest videos have been viewed. With the stats, Yeeles was quick to add that somebody with a smaller amount of followers can be much more useful when their audience is the right match.
There are benefits to using such a centralized platform. Influencers can make better connections and increase their revenue. And marketing teams seeking influencers are no longer left scouring various platforms in search of the right prospect.
It sounds very much like a transaction, and there are costs involved (more on that later). But Yeeles highlights that there needs to be an element of genuine interest on the part of influencers for them to take on a promotion.
“Unlike traditional celebrities, most of these cultural influencers such as social media stars and YouTubers are creators who have built their OWN audiences using their OWN channels,” wrote David Armano, Global Strategy Director at Edelman. “Consequently, to protect their reputations with their audiences, they prefer to collaborate and co-create with brands as opposed to endorsing and acting as spokespeople the way traditional celebrities have always done.”
Influencers expect to be trusted and won’t follow a script. They have worked hard to build their audience and they want to make sure they will not alienate it by associating with a specific brand or product. This runs contrary to the expectations of most marketing managers who are also fiercely protective of their brand. Trust is therefore very important in this kind of relationship marketing.
Here are Yeeles’s main tips when it comes to approaching influencers:
- Keep it ‘short and sweet.’
- Explain what you are trying to achieve.
- Offer details on why you chose them specifically. This is not about flattering them as much as it is about persuading them that your target audiences match.
- Suggest methods without however imposing them. You should include a ‘framework for an idea,’ but definitely not a script.
For more advice from Nic Yeeles, watch the interview below.
What are the costs associated with this marketing method? Yeeles says they can reach into the six figures, depending on a variety of factors. These include the influencer’s overall audience as well as whether an agent represents them and how in demand they are.
This is not just about a transaction; contacting an influencer directly and spurring their interest can significantly contribute to lowering the costs. However, if you have a great product and work in the indie sphere, it’s not unusual for some influencers to take your product on a pro bono basis because they love what you have done (see the case with Stikbold! and PewDiePie below).
How to implement an influencer marketing campaign
When they realised that Stikbold! (a Game Jam® project winner) had great potential for more, the team at Game Swing decided to invest its time and resources in the project. It realized early on that a significant challenge lay ahead to develop and distribute games and that the key to maximizing potential revenue was clever marketing.
With a limited budget, they decided conventional advertising was out of the question and instead chose to focus on creating a community around their game and leveraging influencer marketing (at the expense of traditional media). The influencer marketing outreach plan centred on the idea that Stikbold! would be released just one release, in its full version. All efforts were focused on generating a buzz around the game in time for the launch date.
Game Swing came up with a specific hit list of influencers to contact as well as a broader group in an attempt to ‘see what stuck’ in terms of communication. They were looking for people who were interested in this type of game and had an audience that would also be interested in it. For Stikbold!it was determined that the ideal influencers were YouTubers with family-oriented content.
Contact was initiated via email and Twitter as well as directly during events. In the first few months, it proved challenging to get a response but they did have some success by being open with providing access keys to early alphas and betas along with the game’s presentation material.
What is the fundamental piece of the (influencer) marketing puzzle?
“I’m tempted to say a beautiful trailer, but that’s not going to be worth much if you’re not using it to reach out to people,” says Martin Pedersen of Game Swing.
Here are Pedersen’s tips for implementing an influencer marketing campaign:
- Don’t focus primarily on the number of subscribers, but on the influencer’s target audience.
- Keep your first contact email as brief as possible if you want to have a better chance of the receiver paying attention to it.
- Provide the recipient with a way to sample your content (e.g., a key to play the game).
- Include trailers and screenshots, but leave it up to the recipient to discover the rest of the content (e.g., by linking to your website and the press kit).
- Include a personal touch and aim to create relationships that you can leverage in the future.
- Work with a publisher/PR firm for traditional media distribution (they have established contacts and influence), but keep interpersonal marketing and material design in house.
- Have a realistic plan and proportioned time and budget allocation for marketing early on—it’s essential.
Game Swing obtained roughly 1 response for every 10 influencers it contacted. The interesting thing about the strategy was that it kept on giving. There were some non-responders who still ended up covering the game on their channels later after the launch.
To track performance, the Game Swing team used:
- Twitter—as an audience approval measurement tool (i.e., to count the mentions the game or the company would receive and monitor inbound enquires for trial keys).
- Site analytics (Google Analytics)—to keep track of the number of people who visited the site and clicked to buy.
- Distributor reports once the game was published—to measure sales. (NB: Like with movies, there is a glaring sales tracking gap in the gaming industry. Sales reports from Sony, Xbox and Steam only provide weekly reports in which all sales figures are collated. That makes it very difficult to discern what activity led or did not lead to boosting game sales.)
The hard work paid off. PewDiePie covered the game on his channel and this proved to be an important turning point. Over the following two weeks, there was tremendous buzz around Stikbold!. This created a long tail effect for the influencer marketing campaign as people who had seen PewDiePie’s video reached out to request trial keys and feature the game. PewDiePie’s coverage of Stikbold! currently sits at around 3 million views on YouTube.
A key lesson here is that getting a major influencer like PewDiePie on board was instrumental to gaining traction with a whole suite of international influencers and a whole body of other publishers of which the team was not even aware.
With respect to costs, Game Swing’s influencer marketing push was time-consuming, but did not require financial resources. They partially attribute that to luck and to having a neat concept with a great story and design. What was more important was that they successfully identified the right people to approach and managed to convey their genuine passion for their game.