Influencers, be they esports players or YouTube personalities, are attracting huge groups of fans. That makes them a tantalizing target for marketers looking to engage their young audiences.
But no so fast! You can’t just hire an influencer to shill your product and expect a good result. At least that’s what we learned from three people who know all about influencers at our GamesBeat 2016 conference in Ranchos Palos Verde, California.
These included Ryan Gutierrez, known online as Gootecks, who has commented for some of the biggest fighting game tournaments, including the ESPN-broadcasted EVO. He also works at Cross Counter Training, which teaches people how to be better fighting game players. He was joined by Noah Whinston, a 21 year old who works as the chief operating officer for the esports team Immortals; and Corey Rosemond, who works as the business development director at Plantronics, which often creates partnerships with influencers for its line of gaming headphones.
“We look for authenticity,” Rosemond said when discussing what kind of influencers his company likes to work with. He doesn’t look for just the largest reach — he cares about engagement. Rosemond urged advertisers not to look at influencers as “the talent.” He said that you have to leverage their strengths and personality and not just try to make them fit your needs. It requires more planning.
He finds influencers by looking not just at people who are popular online but are also personable on camera. He noted that some can become to big to effectively engage with fans at conventions, which is important for many companies trying to sell a product.
Gutierrez started by creating audio podcasts back in 2007, a time when few people were making content targeted toward fans of competitive fighting games. He has looked at the WWE for inspiration on how the esports scene should grow. Both are unique forms of entertainment that are not easily understood by outsiders. Gutierrez realized that esports and content about it needed to not just provide quality competition, but compelling entertainment. According to him, 70 percent of what he does is entertainment, while the other 30 is educational.
Whinston left school early to start Immortals. He also noted that both of his parents are professors. “That was a popular choice,” he said at the panel. Although not an influencer himself, he is a sort of influencer of influencers as the person who runs an esports team. He explained that marketers need to be smart about how they use esports players. They cannot force a product or a strategy on an influencer that doesn’t work with their plan. He used movie star Adam Sandler as an example. You can use him to sell a comedy, but no one would try to have Sandler sell an action movie.
All three also have had different struggles with their parents understanding what they do. Gutierrez said that his parents realized what a big deal his job was when they saw him on ESPN. For Whinston, that moment came for his parents when they attended a large tournament at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Rosemond’s family still doesn’t understand exactly what he does, just that he works in the gaming industry.