Whether you’re a gamer or not, you cannot deny the momentum esports are gaining in the entertainment industry and beyond. You can already place wagers on esports competitions, you might soon be able to support your home nation’s esports team in the Olympics, and you could even look at securing your place at university on an esports scholarship. Yes, these are very real things that are happening.
The esports industry is growing at more than 40% every year, coming to a total worth of an eye-watering $500 million and set to become a $1.7 billion market by 2021. If that wasn’t enough to convince you of esports’ inevitable rise, the total Twitch viewers now surpass the audience numbers of news sites such as CNN. One study even showed that more unique viewers watched video game content than Netflix, HBO and ESPN combined (!!!!). For example, the Intel Extreme Masters in Poland has double the viewing figures of the 2017 NBA finals.
Streamers are the new influencers
We touched on how popular gaming streaming services are becoming, but with new platforms come new influencers. The most popular Twitch streamers are watched by millions and millions of people every day – so what better platform to showcase a new product or campaign, than a captive audience who love watching video games? Influencers play a vital role in the social media ecosystem; they fuel the platforms by connecting brands to consumers. Simple as that. Streaming influencers aren’t anything new: look at make-up tutorials, how-to videos and reviews. However, streaming influencers are exploding within the esports industry thanks to platforms like Twitch. So surely the sponsors aren’t too far behind?
Traditional social media influencers don’t get a penny from the platforms they use and rely on sponsorships and endorsements from brands and organisations looking to expand their reach. But with Twitch, esports players can actually make money through integrated ads, donations and subscribers. One of the most popular streamers right now, Tyler Blevins, reportedly makes over half a million dollars every month through subscriptions alone. Then, if you think about what that amount would equate to if we considered sponsorships and Twitch Bits, that’s a hell of a lot of money for playing video games in your bedroom in front of a webcam.
How social media launched esports
All sports fans love social media (Twitter, in particular) for their immediacy and ability to constantly update. It was thanks to Twitter many years ago that esports made its drive into the mainstream. Before the days of Twitter, online forums and in-person meet-ups were the only real point of communication between members of the community. Even today, these outlets and publications become the holy-grail of esports news and content. Twitter played a huge part in bringing the esports community together. While forums and websites remain a solid centre for everything esports, social media leads as a source of breaking news, opinion and rumour. Shorter, concise messages are easier to break down and digest for the wider audience and, as a result, players from across the globe are more likely to be heard.
One huge factor that has helped the esports industry progress is the level of intimacy that social media offers. Players, teams and brands are able to interact on a more personal level through social media. Twitter provides the ultimate platform for daily and breaking news communications, as it is a fast and easy way for fans and major players in the industry to communicate – creating a more personal experience for the individual (did you know that 42% of total conversations surrounding live gaming events occur on Twitter?). When we look at Facebook, it offers a chronological insight into the lives and world of your favourite players and brands as well as future plans. Meanwhile, Instagram offers an intimate and exclusive look into the daily lives of players and brands. Fans want to know as much as possible about who they support and as they often idolise professional esports players and teams (who wouldn’t – they’re getting paid to play video games); uncovering their human side is the definitive way of relating and resonating with other esports fans. If you can make your hero seem like a regular human being – you’re able to visualise yourself in their position and maybe think that video game stardom is attainable after all.
When you look at the individuals within the esports industry, although it may be on a games console – these (e)sports stars are now taking over the biggest names in sport. For example, let’s look at the social interactions from April this year. Cristiano Ronaldo, probably the most famous football player in the world, managed to net 139.3 million social interactions throughout the month. However, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins racked up over 150 million social interactions in April 2018. This just goes to show the power of social media within the industry. If you asked a hundred people if they knew who Cristiano Ronaldo was, I would put ten quid on more than 90% knowing who is or at least his name. On the other hand, how many people do you know who would even have a clue who Tyler Blevins is? This just shows the power of social media within the esports industry, not only how it brings the community together, but because of how players can interact and connect with their idols.
The social media breakdown – how different platforms support different things
The lowdown: Why esports brands NEED to use social media
Using social media allows brands to step away from the old-fashioned, stereotypical esports fans. They are no longer limited to middle-aged males; brands will be able to engage with people from more diverse backgrounds, preferences and ways of thinking. The geographical potential for social media also helps brands target individuals in a specific area with the same mutual interests.
Social media allows brands to acquire instant insights and trends about what the audience think and feel about a certain topic, but more importantly, all in real time.
It’s pretty straightforward (and something we do on the daily), but a strong presence on social media increases your SERP visibility through your shared content.
Social media allows the easy sharing of content, data and campaigns at super-high speeds. Being able to share your multimedia content and latest updates immediately to your audience, gets your content in front of the right people instantaneously. Social media is perfect as you can share practically any format of content, from GIFs, images, videos, surveys and games for example.
Having a strong social media strategy is essential to any brand but given how the world of esports interacts with social media – having a strong following and a strong presence online empowers the brand and increases their authority.
It’s pretty straightforward and often covered in GCSE Business Studies, but learning your competition and being aware of what others are doing in the industry is integral. Maybe they do something you like, or something that didn’t work? Either way, you can learn a lot from what your peers and rivals do online.
The most efficient and successful way of building a relationship with your audience is by directly interacting with them - everyone knows that. Below-the-line strategies have always been known to more direct and personal. With the power of social media, you can connect with the phenomena that is the millennial generation. And when this generation is also interested in esports, platforms like Twitter and Facebook are the go-to way of reaching out to your key demographics, not only on a personal level, but in real time, about a specific interest.
How are people talking about esports?
An interesting aspect to remember and one of the most important things to look at, is how people are talking about esports online. If social media is one of the main driving forces behind its popularity and launch into the mainstream, we have to look at how the notion or topic of esports is perceived online.
An interesting aspect to look at, is people’s opinions on brand involvement in esports, such as sponsorships and promotions. The sentiment analysis shows us that more than 50% of people from nations such as the US, UK, France and Germany see brand involvement as a positive thing for the world of esports, with just 5-8% of people have negative feelings about brand involvement. This is down to fans fearing losing the grassroots and community aspect of esports; most esports fans love esports and the players as they are normal people who just so happen to be really (really) good at video games, which is perceived to be easily attained.
In recent years, not only has the volume of conversations around esports exploded massively, but how people talk about esports has soared in positivity. The legitimacy and integrity of esports has increased so much in recent years; as mentioned earlier, the Official Olympic Committee not only sponsored an esports tournament in the run up to this year’s Winter Olympics, but there have been several promising notions of esports making their way to the official Olympic games.
At ICS-digital, we have our one of a kind, bespoke sentiment analysis tool in house that not only looks at the volume of conversations online, but it can look at how people are talking online. Everyone voices opinions in real time on social media and with the added protection of a computer screen, people can tell you exactly what they think.
Our sentiment analysis tool is capable of delving deep into the Twittersphere to analyse the way in which people behave on social media. Our algorithm can explore topics and keywords in multiple languages and can also uncover how people are talking about said topic online, whether this happens to be positive, negative, or something in between. It can look at the volume of things that are being discussed, the times people are talking about it, and where in the world they are - giving us and our clients an in-depth look at how their brand or product is perceived, enabling insights to be taken from the results and shape campaigns and content to ensure maximum engagement and reach, but also relevancy to the time and audience.
All in all, thanks to social media, esports are well and truly on the rise. Give it about a decade and we will be seeing esports on our televisions, at global sporting events and individual players will soon become household names. It is now the time for esports and iGaming brands to prepare for this growth and harness the power of social media, sentiment analysis and interactive content to improve their visibility as a brand, but also to continue to increase the legitimacy of esports.
Feel free to drop us a line if you want to learn more about our sentiment analysis tool and interactive content and what it can do.