This post originally appeared as part of Chartboost's quarterly Power Up Report which, this quarter, focused on the impact of influencer marketing on mobile games.
Yesterday’s mobile game marketing strategy of building audiences through paid acquisition has pushed costs into the stratosphere. Today, even great games are finding that they need a more innovative marketing strategy to compete. And for many, the most powerful new tool is influencer marketing.
The path is well-established. Over in the PC gaming space, YouTube and Twitch influencers have been a force for more than three years. Mobile has been slower to follow because its players are newer to the hobby. But as mobile gamers have become more experienced, they’ve learned to venture outside of the app stores—finding tips, strategies and new game recommendations through outside services.
In many ways, mobile is even more primed than PC for influencer marketing: video content, not written, is the primary way that mobile users explore content. Across YouTube, mobile devices account for over half of all views and mobile gamers are an important segment of these views.
Here are the four trends driving the growth of mobile influencer marketing:
1. Traditional user acquisition channels are crowded
The two “traditional” channels for mobile user acquisition have been the app stores and mobile game ads. As the value of being featured in an app store has declined and mobile UA costs have risen, many developers have responded by narrowing their releases to a few profitable genres. But this is a strategy with no long-term future: gamers love variety and originality.
The problem to date has been that attempts to create app discovery outside the app stores have failed. Mobile video is the first channel that has provable traction, with games like Agar.io or Clash Royale getting millions of views as a reward for their fresh and entertaining gameplay.
2. Video has an engaged and growing mobile gamer audience
YouTube is quietly becoming great for mobile gaming. The network’s statistics show that 90 percent of avid mobile gamers head to YouTube for gameplay tips and app discovery at least once a week. Streaming is also growing quickly, with mobile-only sites like Kamcord and Mobcrush seeing rapid expansion in views and channels.
None of these sites are breakout hits yet. While the most active mobile gamers are regularly visiting video content sites, less engaged players are slower to arrive. But it’s likely that by the end of 2016, one or more of the streaming sites gain a lead in mobile.
3. YouTube is where gamers go shopping
Mobile gamers tend to play only a few games and they aren’t always looking for new games to play. Ads for mobile games have to fight for attention against this basic reality, which is why most mobile video ads are short and punchy. But on YouTube, mobile gamers are engaged and open to seeing something new—as long as it comes from one of their favorite video creators. The effect is that gamers see and decide to play new games, without ever making a conscious decision to do so.
YouTube also acts as a useful research source for gamers to take a look at games they’ve heard about or seen elsewhere. Let’s Play and gameplay videos serve as long-tail advertisements for the games they cover, convincing gamers to play for months or years after they’re created.
4. Paid campaigns lead to organic coverage
Paid marketing on YouTube can defy expectations. Where developers might expect that players would put less value into a paid endorsement, the reality is that fans see their favorite YouTube creators as people like themselves and trust their recommendations.
YouTubers deserve this trust: those that are smart and hard working enough to build a large channel know better than to undermine their work by covering a game that bores or annoys their audience. Typically, YouTubers accept paid campaigns for games they like, which is why they often follow up paid coverage for a game with free coverage later.
The long-tail effect to paid campaigns provides an ongoing discovery effect, proving YouTube is more than a short-term promotional technique. Roostr, a marketplace that connects gaming influencers with mobile game developers, found that 30 percent of views come after the end of a paid influencer campaign. Influencer marketing is a channel with staying power, as will be seen in the months and years to come.