How to Grow Your Gaming Community by Engaging Influencers
Influencers provide a lot more credibility than traditional forms of marketing, such as banner advertising or television commercials. Influencer marketing is also one of the fastest ways to grow your gaming community and achieve widespread visibility.
Let’s explore how influencer marketing can turn your quiet corner of the web into a thriving online community of brand advocates and influencers.
What Is an Influencer?
An influencer is anyone with the power to influence the purchase decisions of others. Influencers come in a multitude of profiles, from curators on Steam to global sensations like YouTube’s PewDiePie. These are the people who marketing teams refer to as influencers because they’re known authorities in their respective industries As trusted sources of knowledge in the world of interactive media, they are the people that players look to for tips and advice when purchasing their next game.
Although influencer marketing is a relatively new term, influential people have always had the power to drive purchase decisions. Influencer marketing traces its roots back to celebrity endorsement, which has been a staple of traditional marketing for decades. But there’s more to it than a movie star advertising an unrelated product or service on television. Today’s digital superstars are a very different breed – they’re self-made experts who use their knowledge and experience to build strong reputations.
There’s another fundamental difference between an influencer and a celebrity. For starters, you don’t pay influencers to paint your brand in a positive light. To do so is akin to bribing them and it won’t be long before your target audience sees through the charade. Genuine influencers won’t put their reputations at stake in such a way, either. As such, influencer marketing demands a quality product and a solid community infrastructure that welcomes growth and active participation. If you have a bad game, influencers won’t promote it.
Why Contact Influencers?
Though it’s obvious why influencers are important to the success of your game, you may wonder if reaching out to them is a pointless endeavor. After all, if they’re so deeply involved in your industry, then surely they’ll find you, right? This is not likely to be the case unless you’re a AAA studio with an established reputation and are capable of generating enough hype beforehand. Even then, reaching out to influencers yourself still offers some major benefits.
As a game developer or publisher, your reputation rests in the hands of your players. While any player can leave reviews and participate in your online community, it’s the player-influencers who are the most powerful. Regardless of the size of your studio, contacting influencers will increase visibility and improve your brand’s image and sales. You may also have the opportunity to develop lasting relationships and strong partnerships with some of the biggest names in the industry.
For larger studios, which already have established reputations, actively reaching out to your influencers is also a matter of transparency. It shows that you are confident in your game and prepared for constructive feedback – even when that feedback isn’t good. It also gives you something to share with the rest of your community, and you can never have too much value-adding content to add to your lineup. Imagine, for example, getting a Let’s Play of your video game in front of the 64-million-strong audience of YouTuber PewDiePie or getting a great review in a major publication like PC Gamer or Rock Paper Shotgun.
Perhaps the most obvious reason to have an influencer outreach program is that they need to learn about your game in the first place, and that’s unlikely if you don’t already have a strong reputation. Influencers tend to be busy people, and they may not always hear about upcoming games – particularly if they’re in development or in the process of being crowdfunded. Once you have something tangible to offer, be sure to let your influencers know.
Where to Find Your Influencers
Some influencers in the gaming sector have become household names due to their enormous fame and fortune. Others, however, may need a little hunting down since you must target not just the biggest influencers, but also the most relevant. If you’re not sure where to begin, reach out to your community.
According to Forbes, the top 10 influencers in gaming have a social media reach of 228 million, so it shouldn’t be hard to recognize the benefits of having a slice of that immense audience.
Unsurprisingly, the first place to turn is the enormous YouTube gaming community. With more than a billion active users, the video-sharing platform is one of the most visited websites in the world. Its popularity has completely transformed the world of entertainment.
Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, has the most subscribed channel of all, with a population equal to that of the entire UK! Other YouTube influencers include Vanoss Gaming, Markiplier and KSI. Many channels specialize in defined content formats, such as reviews, tutorials, let’s play walkthroughs and competitive gaming.
Some influencers on YouTube focus on specific niches, so you must take that into consideration when reaching out to them. There’s no point, for example, in telling a YouTuber who specializes in survival horror and action video games about a hidden adventure game aimed to an audience of children.
While YouTube enjoys the widest reach by far when it comes to gaming influencers, other social networks have a large enough impact to include in your outreach program as well. The second-biggest is Instagram, which isn’t surprising given its visually-oriented approach towards social networking. Many of the famous YouTubers are also active on Instagram – PewDiePie, for example, has 13.5 million followers there.
It’s also worthwhile keeping up-to-date with the biggest gaming groups on Reddit and Facebook, as well as following leading influencers on Twitter. Keep a close eye on those who routinely rack up shares or upvotes on Reddit. Maintaining an active presence in these communities is important not just for staying visible, but for driving more people to your community.
Gaming magazines and other publications routinely publish reviews of new titles as well as previews of upcoming games that show enough promise. Some also publish walkthroughs and other content. By getting write ups in leading publications like PC Gamer and Game Informer, you’ll greatly increase your exposure. Just make sure your title is ready for receiving feedback! Other publications you should target include platform or genre specific ones, such as Rock Paper Shotgun for PC games and the Official Xbox magazine for Xbox games. Aside from major online magazines, it may also be worth reaching out to smaller and more specialized gaming bloggers.
This one is platform-specific, but for any studio or publisher planning to release a game for PC, Steam is the number-one choice. As such, it’s also a go-to resource for influencer outreach. Steam curators are individuals or companies who help others discover interesting titles by making recommendations and writing reviews. Some of the biggest include Cynical Brit Gaming, PC Gamer and Just Good PC Games, but there are many more who specialize in particular genres.
How to Engage Your Influencers
Once you’ve compiled a list of relevant influencers to contact, you’ll be ready to start the outreach process. This step accounts for most of the work, since it’s about building relationships and participating in their communities. The first step is to subscribe to online publications in your niche and follow relevant social media channels. Before you reach out to your influencers, you must familiarize yourself with their challenges and industry focusses, since a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to earn much attention.
Remember, influencers aren’t there to serve you, regardless of how big your studio is. They’re not agencies either, so don’t even think about offering them money to give your game a great review. What’s more, influencer marketing is a time-consuming process, so don’t expect results overnight. It’s all about building good relationships. Once you establish them, the rewards will be enormous.
Start by researching the most popular influencers. Once you’ve subscribed to their channels, become active members of their communities by sharing their posts and commenting on status updates.
Make every effort to get to know other active members of the community in the hope that they will join your community too and show an interest in your games. In fact, your influencers’ communities are exactly where your target audiences hang out, so this is not an opportunity you want to miss. Just make certain to avoid any promotional content, since doing so will likely get you banned from the community in no time. Remember, influencer marketing isn’t about advertising – it’s about relationships – and that’s what makes it far more genuine and trustworthy than any other kind of marketing.
Another important first step towards building relationships with influencers is to send them letters of introduction. This is a great way to achieve results quickly, rather than relying entirely on inbound marketing to get people to come to you over time. When sending LOIs to your influencers, be sure to use a light and conversational tone, and identify with the challenges they gave. Provide a brief and clear explanation and ensure that your letter stands out. Remember, influencers receive tons of emails and messages on social media every day, so getting noticed can be a challenge.
Adapting to the Needs of Your Influencer
Influencers aren’t there to do you a favour, nor are they available for hire. They’re trusted and respected among their communities because they’ve developed reputations for being impartial and offering good advice. Their job is to recommend games they think their audiences will enjoy and help them get the most out of their purchases. They do this through things like Let’s Play video walkthroughs, written tutorials and even modifications. Furthermore, they’re looking for relevancy when it comes to evaluating different games, so you’ll only humiliate yourself if you reach out to the wrong influencers or fail to use the right approach.
It’s your job to adapt to the needs of your influencers – not the other way around. Therefore, different platforms and content formats will have a profound effect on your influencer marketing strategy. You’re not going to achieve anything by using exactly the same outreach method for a top YouTuber and a leading magazine publisher. Even in the same platform, there are different types of influencers and content types. For example, YouTube is home to Let’s Play influencers, live Twitch streamers, eSports professionals and even rising talent looking to boost recognition and become leading influencers themselves.
Influencer marketing is a time-consuming endeavour, but there’s no better way to lend credibility to your brand and build up a strong community of your own. For your strategy to succeed, however, you must have a rock-solid product in place or at least a game in development that shows a great deal of promise.
You’ll also need to reach out to the right influencers, which means spending a significant amount of time researching them. If you do that well, influencers will be happy to represent your brand, thus driving more people to your community.