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How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy for Gamers
You know games are important — not as a niche subculture, but as a fundamental shaper of and forum for popular discourse. You know they’re big money, to the tune of almost $140 billion in 2020, a 12% year-over-year increase (per SuperData). You know that over half of U.S. residents (55%, per SuperData) turned to games last year and that some of these people either are your customers or should be.
You know there’s an opportunity here, in other words. In fact, you’ve sold your boss and your boss’ boss on this fact, and they’ve greenlit some budget for you to create a content initiative marketing to gamers. “Okay,” they said, with maybe a hint of skepticism in their voice, “go do this games thing.”
Now comes the scary part: Actually putting pen to paper (metaphorically, we hope) and making content for gamers.
Let’s start with an example of what you might be working towards.
The Intel Gaming Hub
We started working with Intel a few years ago to develop a content initiative for PC gamers. From the outset, we could rely on Intel’s sophisticated audience research, which let us focus on just a few segments within the much broader field of PC gamers (some of whom would likely not identify with the term “gamer”).
We wanted to appeal to the DIY and enthusiast crowd – folks who would appreciate the power of Intel’s best-in-class processors – so we spent a lot of time looking at the wealth of great, up-to-the-minute content available on YouTube, as well as the super in-the-weeds subreddits around things like mechanical keyboards and custom liquid cooling loops.
This tipped us on the language, concerns, and interests of our target audience. When it came time to execute the content, though, we looked to best-in-class content initiatives like REI’s Expert Advice and Bank Of America’s Better Money Habits. The result is a multi-year collaboration we’re proud of, with impressive year-over-year metrics in organic traffic and lead generation.
This type of gamer-specific content hub is within reach for your brand as well.
Where to start?
The good thing about content strategy is that it’s methodical. Google the term or buy any 101-style book, and you’ll have a series of steps that, if followed closely, will yield something that is, at base minimum, strategic. Define some clear business goals, do whatever audience research you can, run a content audit, pick some formats, and start coming up with ideas. Publish them. Evaluate the performance metrics, adjust strategy, repeat.
Do this, and you’ll be fine. You can defend this strategy to your boss and your boss’ boss, no sweat. But why not fast-forward through a few cycles of failure and iteration? Here are a few learnings we’ve advised our clients to adopt on their first round rather than their fifth. These should lead to more engaged readers and happier boss’ bosses.
Your audience is more nuanced than just “gamers.”
We spend a lot of time at Twofivesix talking about the difference between “gamers” and people who play games. The former is a self-contained ecosystem of self-identifying fans, the people who stay up on industry news and breathlessly anticipate new trailer releases. The latter is much, much larger, composed of anyone who has a go-to mobile game or dabbles with major console releases on the weekend.
For the purposes of this article, consider the two categories above just a starting point for your audience investigation. Try to slice much tinier sub-categories within the monolithic block of “gamers.”
If your brand is aggressive and edgy (Harley Davidson, Red Bull), by all means, align yourself with esports, loud streamers, and battle royales — that is, the sorts of branding typically associated with self-described gamers. On the other hand, if your consumers are conspicuous consumers (Whole Foods, Outdoor Apparel), look into literate and more design-focused indie games. Depending on their age group and income level, they may be more apt to play free games — but what kind of free games? The demographics may suggest that they’re into easy-to-pick-up mobile games or hardcore, billion-hour multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs).
The point is, your persona is not just “gamers.” It’s something closer to “indie-game obsessives” or “VR evangelists” or “mid-tier streamers” or “console-playing parents.” Narrowing in early will help with a lot of your decisions downstream.
Your content audit should reach further than gaming sites.
Your content audit is another place to apply some muscle. Even if you’re primarily doing written content, look outside of purely editorial outlets. Gaming pubs tend to be written toward a narrow slice of the gaming audience (are you seeing a trend here?) rather than all of the many types of people who play games.
If you visit any major gaming website, you’re likely to see coverage overwhelmingly skewed toward a specific subset of games: shooters, action-adventure games, and RPGs, typically by a handful of major publishers. (You’ll also probably see a lot of stuff about Marvel movies, but that’s the internet.) These outlets appeal to folks who not only play a lot of a few types of games but also want to know up-to-the-minute industry news and hyper-specific PR rumors.
The conversation about games is much wider than what’s represented on these sites. This is why we’d recommend spending just as much, if not more, time researching forums and social networks. If you’re pressed for time, focus on Reddit, YouTube, and Twitch, where the conversations that wind up on gaming sites often originate.
Follow the narrower segmentation we advised above toward the subreddits and influencers that will resonate with your specific community. If it’s a hardcore gaming audience, you’re going to want to be conversant in the same lingo and news threads they are. On the other hand, if it’s a more casual audience, they’re getting recommendations from friends, not gaming sites. While there are some great gaming websites out there, they may be a minor component of your audience’s media diet, if present at all.
The core takeaway is that different groups of people talk about games differently, depending on their fluency with gaming culture. If you want to talk to your audience as people who play games, it makes to learn how they talk about games.
Your production team should look outside of games media.
When it comes time to produce content, don’t narrow your sights to the competitive set described above. It’s time, finally, to open things way up: You should be taking inspiration from best-in-class content initiatives from outside the world of games. This is because gaming publications are typically run by and for fans, much like the forums and social networks we advised you to investigate above. But you’re not an everyday gaming fan, you’re a brand, and gamers are an intelligent, media-literate audience. You don’t want to be Steve Buscemi showing up with a Call Of Duty t-shirt, saying “Hello, fellow gamers.” Your voice needs to be authentic to who you already are, not some RGB-lit gamer version of it.
Now go forth and create content.
Hopefully, these tips help guide your early strategic work. Ultimately, the real test is after you hit publish and you start to learn how your audience is responding to your work. If you hit a snag on the way or need help understanding your data, reach out — we’d love to help.