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It’s not uncommon for brands to utilize popular online personalities and videogame streams have become a hub for such partnerships, both endemic and non-endemic alike. While not all marketers have the budget to recruit Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, they still have the opportunity to reach talent at a pivotal moment in their career journey. This is the concept being explored by Razer, which through its streamer program, is attempting to discover the next big talent by way of nano-influencers.
Rather than partnering solely with established talent, the new Razer Streamer program targets those who are just starting out. These streamers are divided into three tiers based on modest follower counts ranging from just 50 to 1,000+. The lowest tier includes integration with Pipeline, a site that offers streaming mentorship and other career-building tools.
In the meantime, streamers can earn rewards like Razer products as well as commissions on products sold, essentially turning each of them into the brand’s own personal army of nano- and micro-influencers.
A micro-influencer is an online personality with a small, yet engaged audience. The exact size of this audience varies depending on which marketer you’re talking to (anywhere from 1K-1M), but the goal of partnering with one is the same—intimate, authentic brand engagement.
Taking the idea even further, marketers are now turning to “nano-influencers” with less than 1,000 followers to connect with smaller, even more, intimate audiences. In other words, even 50 followers can plant the seeds of a fruitful consumer relationship.
Nano-influencer audiences tend to be made up of people he or she knows in real life, making interactions a peer-to-peer experience. As a result, brands represented by nano-influencers are often deemed more authentic, according to Mike Lu, CEO of video social network Triller.
When something thinks of an “influencer,” selfies on Instagram and endorsements by Kylie Jenner may come to mind. According to a 2019 Global Influencer Marketing study by Rakuten Marketing, however, micro-influencers (defined as those with less than 30K followers) make up the highest percentage of influencers used by marketers.
The same Rakuten study found that gaming influencers were the most popular type followed by men, at 54%.
It may seem counterintuitive for a brand to partner with any streamer whose audience is smaller than its own—Razer’s Facebook community alone is over 9M—but the brand is thinking more long-term, according to Razer’s Senior Manager of Global Product Marketing Jeevan Aurol.
“The objective isn’t just to sign a bunch of people up as Prospects (≤ 50 followers) and then six months later, they’re all gone,” Aurol told The Esports Observer. “It’s to get all those signups eventually to the Almost Famous tier (over 250 followers) and then we’ll have hundreds if not thousands of very known or recognizable game streamers in our pool.”
As Razer and Pipeline seek to nurture tomorrow’s streaming talent, it doesn’t hurt to build relationships with these gamers from day one.
Case in point—Stephen “Snoopeh” Ellis, CEO of Pipeline, developed an affinity for Razer products early in his esports career with SK Gaming and Evil Geniuses.
“I am still using the very same Razer setup that I was using in 2011,” Ellis told The Esports Observer, “Long live the DeathAdder! I’d say my loyalty was formed with them as they deeply support the esports ecosystem. In my pro days, the tournament edition Blackwidow was a game changer—I used to hate traveling with massive keyboards around the world.”
Ellis founded Pipeline in April of 2019 as a way to give up-and-coming streamers the support he never received.
“The [streaming] infrastructure is there to support you when you’ve made it but not the journey and I feel like that’s when you need it most,” said Ellis. “We want to help earlier in that journey to give the best shot of making it as a streamer by learning from those who have been there—and teaming up with brands like Razer to accomplish that.”
Streamers enrolled in Razer’s program can compete for rewards by completing a monthly list of gaming tasks called “Razer Quests.” In addition, Razer will select a group of streamers to be featured on the company’s official Twitch and social media channels. Rather than lean on an influencer’s social following, Razer is lending its own.
“The big boys like Twitch and Mixer have their own partner programs and there are other software and gaming companies that you can work with as an active promoter,” said Aurol, “but I believe we’re one of the first to do it as a manufacturer partner.”
In an age where political strife and brand boycotts are commonplace, Razer is cognizant of the risks they assume partnering with unknown talent. Members of Razer Streamer are not technically sponsored by the company, but rather participating in a platform, Aurol explained. This offers Razer a small level of separation from any controversial content.
Razer is also encouraging participants to use the tools provided by Pipeline, including advice on speaking about brands and “content cleanliness.”
“We don’t really screen them or determine who is qualified by scrubbing all their data,” said Aurol. “We’re taking a certain amount of risk [because] we don’t own their content. When we get to the point with Razer Quest where streamers will be featured on Razer Live, we’ll do a quick check of their content to make sure we’re dealing with someone who’s on the up and up.”
Aurol noted that program participants are encouraged to speak freely about things they like or dislike about a game but are not allowed to direct negativity toward a person or group. Streamers are also bound by Razer and Pipelines’ independent terms of service agreements.
“We don’t want to be police here, but the Pipeline partnership is meant to help us navigate those subtleties in producing good content that’s friendly for an audience that allows them to grow,” added Aurol. “Part of that mentorship will be to teach streamers that controversial content is not a long term play. You‘re not really going to maintain a consistent audience.”
“Brand friendliness” is one of the first things that Pipeline touches on in the “Foundations” section of its Playbook and reinforces the lessons during live mentorship sessions, Ellis explained.
“Established streamers have found their reputations tarnished over a single ill-advised outburst,” says the Pipeline Playbook. “Don’t be afraid to be yourself, but take a second to think before you say something that might be controversial.”
Razer will use several different metrics to measure the success of its new program that includes the number of sign-ups, people who have moved up to higher streamer tiers, and the sale of products.
“Since we’re issuing a discount code, we’ll know everything that’s been sold through the program,” said Aurol. “We have different sales goals for the different streaming equipment as well as general Razer gear.”
Lastly, Razer will use social media metrics to track hashtags and engagement. Aurol said that they have tools to monitor streams and capture the moment a Razer product has been mentioned.
Pipeline’s goals are a bit more ambiguous, albeit optimistic.
“As a new or aspiring streamer, the barrier to entry is really high,” said Ellis. “We measure our success by how well we support those much earlier on in their journey and the success they find.”
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