There is no doubt that social media is the very lifeblood of esports. It is the place tournaments are broadcast. It is the place teams and players can connect with the millions of fans the sport commands. Most importantly, it is the place fans can connect and engage with each other. This kind of any-time-any-where engagement is the very thing that makes esports tick.
Besides the cornerstones of Facebook and Twitter, esports is followed on all forms of social media. From the live streaming and commentary on Twitch, to the endless pages and threads of Reddit, it’s everywhere. Of course with esports being a global sport, other foreign platforms such as the Eastern European VKontakte and RenRen, the ‘Chinese Facebook’, are rife with esports chatter as well.
But what are all these fans saying on social and which platform should brands look to in order to engage them most strongly.
100% of the esports audience is on some form of social media.
Rewind back to 2014, when esports was beginning to gain traction on digital (particularly on Twitter and Facebook), the idea that gamers could watch each other playing and chat about the action was the catalyst of its huge burst in popularity. It meant normal, everyday gamers were discovering the concept of esports, which then triggered the snowball effect we see now. The huge global community of gamers were being brought together by this concept of competitive gaming and gaming tournaments that featured teams and players you could support, just like any other sport.
Cultural barriers that once split the gaming community into native enclaves are now being torn down through social media platforms, most notably on Twitter. Online forums that are overcrowded with several different languages are slowly making way for the 140 character count giant. Twitter’s translation tool worked wonders for fans communicating with each other from Beijing to Birmingham. Twitter is now also the one stop shop for all the latest esports news, updates and gossip, and recent announcements revealed that over 1,500 hours of esports content will be streamed on the platform.
The introduction of live streaming of tournaments on Twitter has of course exposed esports to even more would be fans. With fans and newcomers able to watch a game of CS:GO on their Twitter feed now, and with Facebook following suit, esports has never been more accessible to those interested in following along.
Having a successful and effective social media marketing strategy was not always a top priority for some esports teams. Winning the Dota 2 International tournament with its massive $20 million prize pool, or the $5 million League of Legends World Championships always remained top priority, which for obvious reasons could seem fair enough!
However, we are now starting to see that with some of the big esports teams, winning titles and tournaments isn’t the be all and end all. Their success is now defined by how big their social media followings are and how high their post engagement levels are. To see this, you only have to look at FaZe Clans YouTube bio, which highlights the fact that they are “the world's most subscribed gaming team”, rather than their position as “MLG Pro League Season 3 Playoff winners”, which is one of their actual esports achievements.
What makes a successful esports social strategy is not just taking the easy route of a bog standard Twitter account that tweets live updates and team announcements. Teams have to work for it. This is no different from any other social strategy. The key is good and unique content, such as behind the scenes documentaries that outline a day in the life of the team, exclusive insight, or player/manager interviews.
FaZe’s ‘Official House Tour’ is a prime example of effective esports social content. They are offering their fans unique content they can’t get anywhere else, and it’s paid dividends, with the video attracting over 3.2 million views. It is important to note that the team with the biggest social media budget isn’t always going to have the best social approach. Silly memes, GIFs and pre/post game banter go a long way in boosting engagements, after all, esports fans love a good GIF!
Well-considered and executed social strategies have worked for three of the biggest esports teams - FaZe, Fnatic and Optic Gaming - and other teams (as well as brands looking to get involved in esports) should take note.
One thing that makes esports stand out against other sports is the fact that professional esports players are for the most part, normal everyday people. Their pursuit of a professional esports career was born out of the love of gaming. Hour upon hour has been ploughed into honing their gaming skill to near perfection, thus placing them at the top of the game and giving them the chance to compete for huge cash prizes.
All players have their own social profiles with their own army of followers but without a doubt, the most popular esports player out there is FaKer. Sang-hyeok Lee from South Korea is the best League of Legends player of all time and that is no mean feat! If you’re looking for a more well known comparison, he’s like the Leo Messi of esports! With 1.37 million Facebook likes and 736K Twitch followers, he smashed the hourly viewership record on Twitch for a single player. Most esports fans haven’t actually seen him play his deadly mid-lane game on LOL in person, but they know who he is.
Without social media, esports would be a shadow of its current self. As stated in ‘Field of View’, our free esports guide, the current global esports audience stands at around 385 million and is expected to rise to 589 million by 2020. One of the best ways to connect these millions upon millions of people around the world is through social media, so brands looking to do so need to analyse the various platforms and work out which works best for them.
The future is esports and the future is social media.
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