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Influencer Marketing Has Matured… Now What?

Sandy Smith, Game Marketing Lead | Yodo1

Table of Contents 

  1. The Authenticity Factor
  2. Finding Overlap
  3. Putting It Into Practice
  4. Diversifying Your Strategy
  5. Key Metrics

I get it – as game marketers and developers, we’re all fighting for those precious eyeballs and downloads. And sometimes marketing campaigns (i.e., traditional UA) can feel like dropping a pebble in the ocean…and an expensive pebble at that.

But influencer marketing? It’s a big opportunity! It has become an important pillar of marketing, and in 2024, influencer marketing is projected to become a $24 billion industry with gaming as the second largest sector.

Yet, there are nuances, and many questions: 

  • How do I avoid overpaying?
  • Should I work with macro or micro-influencers, or both?
  • Which platforms and formats work best? 
  • What about cultural differences?

Patience! All will be answered. Let’s dive in. 


The Authenticity Factor

I’ve seen too many big-budget campaigns with huge influencers that completely flop. Why? Because if the creator doesn’t genuinely love your game, their audience can tell. Genuine enthusiasm draws people in like gravity. Remember the time your friend couldn’t stop raving about an amazing game they found? That’s the kind of word-of-mouth magic you want to replicate. It’s the force that drove the massive success of Palworld in early 2024. Lightning in a bottle.

Finding Overlap

A massive following means nothing if the influencer’s audience isn’t the right fit for your game. It’s like trying to sell Pokémon cards at a nursing home—not a good match. Dig deeper than surface-level follower counts. What genres and playstyles does a given influencer’s audience gravitate towards? Do their demographics overlap with your target players? Think of this as a Venn diagram, and do your homework on each influencer. Don’t just look at view counts. Look at engagement across an influencer’s content. 

It’s also worth noting that many micro-influencers have dedicated, highly engaged audiences. Recent data shows that micro-influencers have up to 60% higher engagement rates compared to macro-influencers, making them a valuable asset in niche markets.

Tip: You can sometimes use an influencer’s previous paid content as a benchmark to decide if they will be a good fit. With videos, for example, look at the difference in likes and comments between sponsored content vs. non-sponsored content.


Putting It Into Practice

I work with a game called Idle Slayer, a seriously fun incremental platformer on mobile and Steam. Going in, we knew a one-size-fits-all global influencer strategy wouldn’t work. For example, the Japanese influencer scene is its own beast—creators like detailed scripts, and explicit directions, and tend to appreciate structure. Different, say, from how an American streamer may prefer to just wing it. Both can work, but you need to know why you’re doing things one way, rather than another. 

In the case of the Japanese influencers, I also looked at how previous content with similar game mechanics and art styles had performed, as a proxy, and was very selective. Precision, as opposed to spray and pray. Also, doing my homework on the audience, likely outcome, and previous performance gave me a lot of clarity and negotiating power during the pricing discussions.

The Idle Slayer campaign in Japan resulted in a remarkable 3X spike in new installs over a single weekend, moving Japan from the 5th percentile to the 70th percentile in total installs! You can’t argue with results like that. The takeaway here is to be strategic, to never get blinded by views alone, and to find the influencers who are going to love the game and want to share it–with passion. 

Tip: While there is no magic shortcut to avoid overspending on an influencer marketing campaign, the most important thing is to do your due diligence. Evaluate potential ROI, and establish a clear budget going into any negotiation. Research market rates, negotiate based on data, and look into performance-based compensation.


Diversifying Your Strategy

As a marketer, never sit still and assume you’ve finally figured it out. It can be easy to sink into a fixed way of thinking, but as soon as you do, you’re stuck in a status quo. Instead, develop a mindset of constant experimentation, constantly trying new things. This is also a fantastic way to diversify your influencer marketing strategy. 

An example of such extermination may including something like seeding campaigns, which have emerged as a trending approach in response to the rising costs of traditional influencer marketing. The upside of these is that you’re generally working with micro-influencers, and offering them in-game benefits, rather than money. A big advantage is that it has a built-in authenticity mechanism. For an influencer to find your offer of in-game currency/items interesting, they need to actually enjoy the game. Otherwise, what you’re offering has no value.

I had a great conversation about this with Callan Saurma-Jeltsch on Behind the Game Podcast recently. Feel free to check it out. 

While this approach is generally more time-consuming, it is a great way to round out your overall influencer marketing strategy, providing a hedge against a single big-budget influencer campaign that underperforms.  

Again, the best way to get the most bang for your influencer marketing buck is to have more than one approach to lean on.


You Cannot Improve What You Don’t Measure

Track these crucial metrics to understand your campaigns’ effectiveness:

  • LTV (Lifetime Value): Focus on the long game. How much revenue do players generate over time?
  • UAC (User Acquisition Cost): How much is each acquired player costing you?
  • ROI (Return on Investment): Are you making more than you spend?
  • Retention: A high install count is meaningless if players leave after a day. Analyze retention rates to uncover what truly resonates with your audience.
  • Conversion Rate: While not always the end-all-be-all, tracking conversion rates for tracked links can help you iterate messaging and offers. 

Collectively, these provide a comprehensive view of your campaign’s performance, allowing you to adjust strategies and optimize results.

Toss the Playbook; Stay Scrappy

Influencer marketing is a fantastic tool, but the landscape is always changing. The key to success? Stay curious, experiment fearlessly, and measure everything. Always be ready to adapt your strategies and get creative. When you combine authenticity with audience overlap and sprinkle in some out-of-the-box thinking, you unlock the true benefits of influencer marketing for your game.

If you’re interested in game marketing conversations like these, check out the podcast, and let me know what other topics you would like to learn more about on LinkedIn!