My.com, an international video game publisher, announced Skyforge, Armored Warfare and World of Speed, its first AAA free-to-play MMO games in the US in 2014. During our pre-launch, we set out to drive brand awareness and beta subscriptions in niche gaming audiences through various channels. With 73% of gamers watching online videos, we decided to leverage the power of YouTube Influencers and started building long-term partnerships in this highly emerging space. In less than six months we achieved more than five million views on YouTube – all without paying for advertising.
How did we do it? Strategy.
We established long-term relationships with each YouTube Influencer, allowing us to reach our core audience of online tank and MMORPG players. The Influencers published 150 videos on more than 30 video gaming channels, resulting in millions of views in five different languages. The conversion from views to beta signups reached a rate of 10% for some of our campaigns. Moreover, Influencer-generated videos appeared at the top of YouTube searches through branded keywords and generic terms. Influencer videos also outperformed our strongest competitors.
In this article, we will share some secrets we learned along the way.
Secure the Right Influencer
There are many factors to consider when choosing the right Influencer that go far beyond the number of subscribers and views. Does the channel cover your competition? Does it publish relevant content on a regular basis? How engaged is the channel’s audience on YouTube and other social networks? How are the channel’s videos ranked in search? How well are channel’s videos promoted in related/recommended videos?
There is a lot to consider, but thankfully there are many paid and free tools that utilize YouTube APIs to provide key insights into channel performance. One of the free tools I especially like is a Chrome extension called VidIQ. VidIQ monitors the frequency of comments and shares, predicts video`s likelihood of promotion in Related Videos, Search, Recommended Videos, provides access to historical data on video performance and offers more insight into any YouTube video.
I previously covered other tools in greater details in my TechCrunch article entitled, “How to find the right YouTube influencer for your brand?”
Think Small for Better Conversion
At first, it may appear that a popular channel with millions of subscribers would yield the best results; however, this is not always the case. Small and mid-sized Influencers often work with a highly targeted audience, resulting in higher conversion rates and quality traffic. Besides, smaller channels are highly motivated to get new content. They are willing to establish long-term partnerships and are much more flexible. For example, one of the videos published on a mid-size but hardcore channel resulted into 270K views, 52K leads, and 23K conversions within a couple of days. Another reason for expanding beyond big names is diversification: smaller channels often attract an audience that doesn’t follow the large established stars.
Aim for Partnerships, Not Views
At My.com, we searched for Influencers who could become our long-term partners, leading to more views overtime rather than immediate gratification. There are several things that make a target channel a good long-term partner:
- The channel has a highly relevant audience – in our case, the channels that cover our closest competitors
- The channel has a sincere interest and excitement about your product
- The channel has strong potential for growth – it doesn’t necessarily need to have a huge number of subscribers today, but it should demonstrate an ability to expand. (This is easy to evaluate by looking at historical data and trends.)
The majority of the channels we worked with showed significant increase in views and subscribers during the six months since we first made contact. Our content helped Influencers keep their audience engaged, as well as acquire new visitors. Their success is our success. Their surge in users also results in an organic surge in our users.
We learned that repeated experiences through multiple activations with the same Influencers not only allowed us to share news with active users and re-connect with lapsed ones, but also helped us reach new users as they join our partners’ channels.
Send An Email (Yes, It Works)
Each industry has its own expectations, and it’s worthwhile to learn about them. Mike Rose, who presented at GDC 2015, researched where YouTubers look to find information about new games. The top three places they look for information are the press, emails and social media.
“How YouTubers and Twitch Streamers Can Help Sell Your Games”, Mike Rose, GDC 2015
Mike shared that although email is a popular way for YouTubers to learn about games, they surprisingly do not receive a lot of them. So don’t assume YouTubers’ email boxes are overwhelmed with proposals. Email is a great way for you to reach potential Influencers and get their attention.
Mike also researched what YouTubers look for in the first email from a developer/publisher. His findings are pretty straightforward, and can be used as a checklist for your pitch email.
“How YouTubers and Twitch Streamers Can Help Sell Your Games”, Mike Rose, GDC 2015
Promote Authenticity and Built Trust
I realize there is significant risk in approaching Influencers while a product is still in beta, as the Influencer could potentially highlight weaknesses in the product before it is finalized. We did provide some guidelines, asking Influencers to avoid featuring obvious bugs or uncompleted functionality during our first tests. That being said, we let Influencers voice their true opinions, even if they were not 100% positive. This approach allowed us to build trust with our growing community, and helped YouTubers remain true Influencers: independent opinion leaders for their audiences.
According to Google’s research, during the game pre-launch stage, fans mostly watch content released by the brand, such as announcements, gameplay demos, and launch videos. After launch, attention switches to more detailed information about the content and engaging with the game’s community. The most popular types of the post-release content are walkthroughs, how-to’s, game powered entertainment videos like Let’s Plays, parodies, analysis, and tutorials. We relied on these findings but went a step further, expanding content ideas. For example, we launched a “Top 10 Features” video with one of the channels, which kept the top search position for a long time.
Quick Tip: According to Tubular research, presented this year at VidCon, YouTube videos with “Top 10” or “Top Ten” in their title get 531% more views/video.
Share the Love
YouTube channels need new viewers and subscribers just as your business needs new customers. Think of all the possible ways you can help your partners to achieve their goals, and by helping them you will help yourself. We started a weekly digest of user-generated content where we shared the latest videos across our owned social media channels. Uploading the best videos to your own YouTube channel is another win-win approach.
Integrate if Possible
Try to leverage the impact of Influencers across marketing and PR channels. We used multiple methods of integration, such as content re-distribution on owned social channels (community), publishing video on industry media outlets (PR), and inviting Influencers to company events. You can also use Influencers’ channels as a part of your media buys strategy. Or take it a step further and promote the most successful videos on YouTube using paid methods. All these strategies enhance relationships with Influencers and make partnerships mutually beneficial.
We gather a lot of data about each channel’s and video’s performance. This allows us to compare the success of particular Influencers, the type of content, timing, messaging, promotion approaches, etc. We track everything from video view to website visits and subscriptions. This helps us to make informed decisions about future campaigns and recruit the best talents for our brand. When researching brand penetration via an online panel, we asked our respondents about the first time they heard about our product. YouTube Influencers were among the top 3 options after friends and social networks. YouTube Influencers outperformed industry blogs and forums, as well as other traditional marketing/PR channels, demonstrating the power of YouTube Influencers and why they are key when launching a new game.
The Bottom Line
With 97.5% of all views for the top 20 game videos coming from fan-made videos, YouTube is now a primary online network for gamers. YouTube has the power to shape a game’s future and significantly impact the bottom line. To leverage this powerful network, focus on video and streaming Influencer strategies and adapt to this exciting new world where companies play a major role in facilitating consumer content creation.
The original post was published on [a]listdaily on August 31st 2015