“It’s easy to be put off by exorbitant prices for the top-tier talent” – The true value of influencer marketing

Jagex’s developers visit us from RuneScape’s Gielinor to talk about their latest adventures. This month James Day, head of community management & social media, identifies the true value of influencer marketing

Using influential people to promote your brand isn’t a new thing. While footballers and film stars still hold massive pulling power, social media has allowed anybody to become influential. Gaming has been at the forefront of this change. The 30 top gaming influencers have more than 340m subscribers across the major gaming platforms

Influencer marketing works because it’s authentic, and putting a value on its effectiveness was something we wanted to examine in more detail for our Old School RuneScape influencer campaign. We worked in conjunction with Google to see how best we could accurately measure the results.

Bringing a classic game to mobile

RuneScape and Old School RuneScape have enjoyed a long and illustrious lifespan and are supported by incredibly dedicated communities. We’re renowned for producing high-quality PC games, but in October 2018 we brought Old School to mobile as one of the first fully-fledged MMORPGs to offer the same immersive experience on both mobile and desktop.

More than 270 million accounts have been created across our games and, unsurprisingly for an 18-year-old game, many of these players have moved on from PC gaming.

Our task was to use mobile as an opportunity to welcome them back to the game using influencer marketing. Our advantage was that many creators began their careers producing RuneScape content, enabling them to tell credible and emotive stories across the campaign.

Measuring the impact of influencer marketing is tough. Initially, we attributed two main key performance indicators (KPIs) to our campaign, one focused on reach and brand awareness, and the other on conversion.

While we found that these KPIs often ran at odds with each other, these goals formed the basis of our success criteria – a £45 cost per thousand views (CPM) and £4.50 cost per install (CPI); both comparable to our digital marketing benchmarks.

Working to identify the true value of influencer marketing

While tagged and tracked download or purchase links in influencers’ content can tell you some of the story, it is often not the whole picture.

Our initial cost-per-install KPI measurement was based on a link-tagging methodology. One month into campaign, and after 25 YouTube activations, our CPI was tracking at almost double the cost of our
target KPI.

However, we knew the link-tagging results did not provide the whole story – there were undoubtedly players watching the influencer videos, heading straight to the Play Store and App Store to download the game without touching our tracked links.

We were finding that while link tracking is a good start for measurement, it by no means can be considered to be an accurate measure of all of the downloads and spending that resulted from watching our videos. Here you can see our initial findings, from a sample of seven of the 25 activations.

Tracked installs
(across Google Play and App Store)
Creator A 2,538 £4.65
Creator B 407 £5.79
Creator C 357 £1.97
Creator D 28 £98.12
Creator E 562 £20.11
Creator F 17 £46.18
Creator G 1,255 £2.19
Total 5,164 £6.28

After speaking at length with Google about our experience, they invited us to collaborate on a pioneering study designed to bridge the gap between the limitations of a tracking link and the true value of influencer marketing.

By looking at anonymised cohorts of signed-in Android users and their journey across YouTube and Google Play we strove to discover if there was an incremental upside to influencer marketing nobody had been able to quantify or prove thus far. As it turned out, there was.

Working with Google, we were able to track and understand which cohorts had watched a video and downloaded the game on Google Play within four days, but had bypassed the link-tracking.

Below are the findings after adding those who had watched a video and downloaded the game on Google Play within four days.

This tracking had a profound impact, increasing App Store-attributed downloads by 357.6% overall. Some individual creators saw an uplift of over 1,000% compared to original tracking. It lifted our so-so CPI down to a very impressive £2.78 – putting it on a par with comparable digital marketing practices for this campaign.

While our sample size was relatively small, this rang true with the results Google discovered with other developers.

It is also worth pointing out that within this study, 50% of users downloaded the game within 30 minutes, indicating a direct behavioural change not attributable to other marketing touchpoints. Small-to-mid-tier creators tended to work harder and proved better value based on spend.

Tracked installs
(across Google Play and App Store)
Original CPI Original Play Store
Additional installs
(4- day, tracked by google)
Total installs
(App Store and Play Store)
% increase on original
Play Store downloads
New CPI* (across App Store and Play Store)
Creator A 2,538 £4.65 1,751 800 3,338 45.70% £3.53
Creator B 407 £5.79 319 935 1,342 420.70% £1.75
Creator C 357 £1.97 220 501 858 227.70% £0.82
Creator D 28 £98.12 25 35 63 140.00% £43.61
Creator E 562 £20.11 386 4,078 4,640 1056.50% £2.44
Creator F 17 £46.18 7 22 39 314.30% £20.13
Creator G 1,255 £2.19 678 4,176 5,431 615.90% £0.50
Total 5,164 £6.28 3,386 10,547 15,711 357.60% £2.78

The enduring appeal of creators

This campaign had a profound impact with how much importance we place our relationships with creators – both organic and paid – and has gone a long way to improving our own forecasting and attribution models for influencer activity.

While it is difficult to measure the true value of influencer marketing, it has huge potential for all-manner of companies. It’s easy to be put off by exorbitant prices for the top-tier talent – but with a clearly-defined strategy, effective outreach and proper diligence, you can get one-of-a-kind, enduring content for a captive, engaged audience that drives and changes a customer’s behaviour.

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