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The Marketer’s Guide to Gamers on TikTok
If you’re keyed into digital and social trends, you’ve likely run across TikTok on more than one occasion. The short-form video platform has been taking off since its worldwide launch in 2018. And TikTok just keeps getting bigger, reaching over 2 billion downloads as of April 2020 and ranking as the overall top downloaded app in February 2021. While the platform has certainly been making lots of noise, you may be wondering where–or even if–gaming fits into this ecosystem of bite-sized video, rapidly changing music trends, and viral dance challenges.
The good news: much like any social platform, gamers will always find a way to make the most out of the space. Here’s an overview of gaming content on TikTok for you to reach gamers where they are.
The Basics of TikTok
If you’re unfamiliar with the platform, the key thing to understand is that it is a short-form video platform. How short-form? Each video on the app has to be 60 seconds or shorter. These cues were taken from the original app it was built from, Musical.ly, which had a 15-second cap on content, and it comes off the heels of its spiritual predecessor Vine’s six-second loop (RIP).
The platform still maintains much of its DNA from Musical.ly; the prototypical video format on TikTok is a short video clip with a user lipsyncing, dancing, acting, or doing something to the backing of a music track. But there’s so much more to the platform than music. Content ranges wildly. Users can spend hours exploring the arts with fashion trends like #ClosetTour (3.8 billion total views), or discover niche creative communities like #RugTok (the fifth top niche community on TikTok in 2020). There’s plenty of educational content like gardening and plant care tips on #PlantTikTok (2.4 billion views), to health and wellness content like on the #ADHD tag (2.4 billion views). And, of course, there’s the plethora of ever-evolving memes and replicable content formats.
All of these tags and trends culminate largely on the main user interface: the For You Page (FYP). Discovery is a core part of the TikTok experience, and TikTok is built around a content recommendation system that is unique to the platform.
The For You Page provides each user with an infinite scroll of highly-relevant content. It even surfaces creators and tags that the user doesn’t follow but may have interest in, without relying on users to explicitly share things in the same way retweets operate. While users can follow specific content creators and tags and send each other videos via private message, the For You page mixes that personally curated content with recommendations sourced by algorithms and real-time machine learning.
A variety of factors contribute to the personalized feed, largely divided by user interactions and video data. User interactions include likes, shares, comments, and follows–your typical engagement metrics; and video information includes metadata, captions, hashtags, and audio usage. This contexture of data emphasizes the importance of shareable content; the more a piece of content can be passed around, the more likely it will show up on the FYP.
@mastiffwitha4yellow definitely sus #amongus #amonguscosplay #cosplay (im yellow, pink is @peachieteas , white is @tricksterkarkat , black is @/cinnabara on IG)♬ Doom Crossing Eternal Horizons by The Chalkeaters – THRED
So, where does gaming fit in?
Generally speaking, gaming content doesn’t look too different from the overall landscape — it fits right in. TikTok creators have taken the short-form format in stride to develop content in styles familiar to the platform while honing in on games, players, community, and broader gaming culture. Here are a few ways that gaming content has made its home on TikTok.
Tips & Tricks
Developing content in the extremely short time constraint on TikTok can be challenging. It may feel like there isn’t much space to cover any ground. One format that does particularly well within the time limit, however, is the bite-sized tutorial. While TikTok videos don’t accommodate the same breadth of detail that a YouTube video would, bite-sized instructions or hyper-specific how-tos can still get a lot of traction. Educational content like this can be somewhat surprising if you’re unfamiliar with TikTok, but this is also a platform where people fit whole recipe videos into one minute.
There’s also space for content that might be a little complex for a viewer. Remember that TikTok videos loop by default. By keeping each video short, specific, and focused, creators can still make meaningfully educational content that doesn’t rely on having to pause and rewind.
Breaking down tips into multiple videos is also an acceptable format on the platform. Complex topics can be divided into multiple stages to give each segment the right amount of detail and specificity. Splitting up content into multiple videos also gives users a reason to check out a page for each video in the series.
TikTok has also increasingly become a platform for streamers to cross-promote their channels. In the same vein that gaming livestreamers create a curated supercut of their streams to post on YouTube, consolidated moments can also be shared on TikTok to build and grow their audience. TikTok is the perfect place to highlight the most over-the-top, singular moments, and it may be easier in some ways than creating a longer-form summary of a stream.
@kruzadargroup’s first time with Valheim didn’t go smoothly 😂 #valheim #funnymoments #reaction #kruzadar #foryoupage #fyp #twitch♬ Send Me on My Way – Vibe Street
Clips are also already part of the streaming ecosystem: Twitch and Facebook Gaming have built-in clipping features on their platforms. Streamers can fairly easily adapt the content they already have. By adjusting their clips to be viewable in portrait to play well with TikTok’s infinite scroll interface, gaming influencers can extend their reach across platforms.
If you’re already working with gaming livestreamers, consider having them expand into TikTok as part of their channel mix.
In the same way that fashion has taken off on TikTok, cosplay — the intersection of fandom and fashion — also makes it home on the platform, and gaming-related cosplay is abundant. From major franchises like Overwatch and Pokemon to breakout indie games like Among Us and Hades, impassioned fans celebrate the games and characters they love in style.
@haleycosplaythis audio is meant for them #asheoverwatch #ashecosplay #overwatchcosplay #foryoupage #fyp #egirl #overwatch #ashe♬ original sound – hi!🍉💖
Gaming fans not only show off these impressive looks but also create content that playfully engages with the games they reference. These dedicated gaming fans showcase plenty of creativity and personality through original sketches and personal riffs on popular audio trends and challenges. If you’re looking for connecting with these content creators, you’re sure to find someone whose personality matches your brand.
TikTok also is home to a wide range of skits and sketches, creative commentary, and humorous takes on games and gaming culture. Some content is pretty specific, like the popular “POV” format that recreates particular situations. When applied to gaming culture, you might see some hilariously accurate simulations of being in the in-game chat lobby, or even a true-to-form expression of what Skyrim would look like in real life.
Gaming content can even permeate outside of the gaming-specific fandoms and demonstrate the impact of gaming onto the larger digital culture. One of the best examples is the Character Select meme, a viral format based on a remix of the Super Smash Bros. Melee theme by Jim Walter. While its origins are rooted in a specific game, nostalgia and easy comprehension of the premise led to a wide array of content branching far beyond the world of games. This particular sound (not including other variations and spin-offs) has been used in over 500k separate videos, and the #CharacterSelect tag has garnered over 1 billion views.
Gaming Organizations & Brands on TikTok
TikTok isn’t just a place for user-generated content. TikTok is still growing, so it isn’t a standard channel for the gaming industry just yet. But gaming brands and organizations have also been gradually making their way onto the platform. Riot Games, makers of League of Legends and Valorant, launched a campaign on TikTok to promote the 2020 World Championship finals. They created content centering their fictional music group K/DA, releasing special dance challenges and behind-the-scenes content.
Smaller studios also formed communities on TikTok. Kitfox Games, publisher of Dwarf Fortress and developer of upcoming Boyfriend Dungeon, has experimented with the platform to promote several of their upcoming games and engage with the gaming community.
Esports teams like Team SoloMid, FaZe Clan, and 100 Thieves have mixed gaming and lifestyle content on the platform, and esports group ESL ran a promoted campaign on TikTok that garnered over 2.5 billion views within ten days.
How Does Your Brand Show Up TikTok?
The gaming landscape on TikTok is wide and varied, and it’s likely to keep growing from here. There are plenty of opportunities to use TikTok to understand and connect with the gaming audience — social listening, community engagement, direct brand activations — so keep an eye on it. But if you need help navigating the rapidly evolving nuances of the platform, we’ll help you sort through it.