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Direct vs. Agency: The Complicated World of Influencer Marketing

So, you want to get YouTubers and Twitch streamers playing your game, but aren’t sure where to start? Knowing whether to go Direct or through an Agency is a big question and depending on your situation, there might not be a clear-cut answer.

Michelle Shaw, Blogger

September 12, 2017

4 Min Read

This article was originally posted on Kongregate’s Developer Blog.

So, you want to get YouTubers and Twitch streamers playing your game, but aren’t sure where to start? First off, you should ask yourself if your game is YouTube-able.

Think you’ve got that covered and want to get started, but aren’t sure if you should get an agency or try reaching out to influencers directly? Then you’re in the right place. Knowing whether to go Direct or through an Agency is a big question and depending on your situation, there might not be a clear-cut answer. So here are some of my tips for knowing what’s best for your situation.

1 vs. 100: Are My Emails Falling into a Black Hole?

You’re on a shoestring budget, but want to get your game out there? That’s not a problem, but be prepared to invest a lot of hours into outreach and relationship-building.

First things first, influencers hate spammers. Don’t pull a list of 5,000 influencer email addresses off the internet and send them a mass email. YouTube and Twitch are very tight communities and they do talk to each other. Don’t be the person that they complain to each other about. Instead, do your research. Invest several hours into watching content to see which influencers are really right for your game. I generally start by looking for influencers who play similar games to mine. If you have an RPG, search for people playing Elder Scrolls or The Witcher; if you have a CCG, see who is playing Hearthstone and Duelyst. Actually watch their videos and read the comments. Make sure that the influencers you’re reaching out to will like playing your game and their viewers will enjoy watching it.

Once you have a more curated list of influencers (50-100 is a good place to start), you can start your outreach. There are many ways to reach out, whether through email or social media, but the most important thing is to try to connect with the people you’re reaching out to. Don’t just send them a message asking for their rates. Let them know that you did your homework and know about the different shows they have on their channel or about their cute pet or about their new _______. This step is the hardest and the most discouraging, as you can easily reach out to 100 people and maybe only get 1 or 2 responses. But keep going. The influencers who do respond will be very engaged and excited to work with you.

And lastly, once you’re in contact with the influencers you want to work with, start building a relationship with them. Add them on Skype or Slack or whatever messaging platform they use. Meet up with them at conferences, whether that’s influencer conferences like TwitchCon and VidCon or gaming events like PAX and E3. Send them updates on your games, free download codes, and branded items. Make sure they associate your brand with you, not a faceless email that they can ignore. And when it comes time to negotiate for paid content, they’ll be excited to work with you.

$100 CPMs: You Want HOW Much Money?

But not everyone has that much time to devote to influencer marketing. If that’s the case, you might be better off working with an agency, generally known as an MCN or Multi Channel Network in influencer marketing. Agencies are great. They’re (generally) extremely reliable, they deliver on time and with brand-friendly content in an industry where you’re working with influencers who have a wide range of professionalism. They have access to a huge roster of talent that they can quickly motivate to deliver great video content for your game. But for all that reliability and accessibility, you’ll pay roughly an additional 20% on top of what the influencer is making. And depending on the size of the agency, they might also have a minimum budget size, which can range from $20k up to $200k depending on the network.

To wrap things up, if you have some budget and want to get content live ASAP, go through an agency. If you don’t have budget but have some time to invest in outreach, go direct. But if you can, I suggest a mix of both Direct and Agency.

As Senior Brand Marketing Manager at Kongregate, Michelle is leading the charge in Influencer Marketing as well as a host of other Marketing-y things. She loves Mexican food, cheesy action movies, & city building mobile games. When not in the office, she likes to watch far too much TV and the latest MMA with her hubby and their squishy-faced pup, Gizmo.

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