Do esports players use social media enough?
By Michael 'axtremes' Harmse
This has been something that’s come up frequently with a number of the tournament organizers I’ve worked with in the past. There’s a general feeling of frustration with some of the players participating in their tournaments. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with their behaviour online (Eds – although that’s certainly a topic for the future) or anything that they’re doing wrong per se… It’s more that players in general tend not to be very active on social media about the very matches they’re playing in.
An esports player’s personal brand
It seems like quite a basic thing. Surely you’d want your fans and followers to know when you’re playing so they can tune in to support you? Apparently not, it would seem, for many of SA’s players. This of course doesn’t apply to everyone. There are those players that are very good at posting regularly, building their personal brands and letting their fans now when and where they can see their magnificence on display. But that almost seems like the exception rather than the rule.
It does seem like there is a general lack of effort that players tend to put into engaging with their followers and building themselves as a brand. As a player, if you want to be the first name on people’s lips when a spot opens in a top team, being highly visible in the public space can only be good for you and your career. Having a loyal following means fans will be on your side if anything ever goes awry with your team/team owner in the public space. There are no negatives to becoming a brand in and of yourself as a player, aside from the few minutes extra a day it takes you to look after your social media platforms.
It’s all about the viewership!
Why is this issue such a bugbear for tournament organizers (TOs)? The main way TOs can quantify the return of investment to their sponsors is with their broadcast viewership metrics. In other words, unique views for the duration of the event and average concurrent viewership. The more eyeballs land upon the broadcast, the more people see the sponsor’s brand name and the happier the sponsor is with their involvement in the tournament. It’s a return on their substantial financial investment as a marketing return. As an example, if we want a second Samsung Galaxy CS:GO Championship from Mettlestate, Samsung have to be satisfied that enough people watched and saw their name attached to the broadcast to make their spend worthwhile. That keeps the TO’s going, which in turn keeps the MGOs (Multi Gaming Organizations) or teams going. Without the broadcast aspect, there’s very little that would interest tournament or team sponsors.
Sponsors and TOs aren’t looking to dump substantial amounts of money into the bottomless pit of esports purely out of the goodness of their hearts. They have to be getting something in return from it. Even the person at the lowest, southernmost tip of the metaphorical esports ecosystem needs to contribute. This contribution finds its way to the top of the esports ecosystem eventually. Everyone’s contribution matters. I feel that it’s important that players, team managers, coaches – literally everyone involved in an MGO – do their utmost to promote the matches and tournaments they are participating in. We all want the esports ecosystem to grow, to be sustainable and for sponsors to stay involved. It’s hard to see that sponsors would invest enough into MGOs for decent player salaries to become the norm until the viewership of tournaments increases. Everyone involved needs to do their best to get as many people as possible watching. Every viewer counts.
I’ve seen a lot of talk in the past from players, ironically on social media, about how they feel they shouldn’t be bound to contracts without getting paid. I can totally agree with that sentiment. Of course a lot of the reason for the existence of contracts in their current form at all was the advent of VS Masters, but that’s a story for another day. But, in the same breath, players need to do more from their side to promote themselves, their team and the matches they are playing in. Professional sportsmen in any discipline are required to partake in brand activations and signing sessions to promote their sponsors. That includes using (or sometimes giving over) their social media to promote their sponsors. It cannot just be about practicing and showing up for matches on time. Players need to do their part for the sponsors, tournament organizers and team owners. Everyone’s contribution makes a difference.
Q&A with αlpha-Renji and Anthrax
I spoke to a local tournament organizer, Mettlestate’s Barry “Anthrax” Louzada, and a local MGO owner, Aperture Gaming’s Theuns “αlpha-Renji” Louw, about their perspective on these matters.
axtremes: Do players need to up their social media game? Would it help viewership if they tweeted and posted their matches?
αlpha-Renji: Most definitely. Not only will it help them build their own brand, but it will help viewership and in turn grow the entire scene.
Barry “Anthrax” Louzada: Yes absolutely we are in a space in South Africa at the moment where we need EVERYONE to commit to making esports a success. The simple truth is all we have at the moment is word of mouth and the community itself using every means possible to make every game being played known about. Whether it is the game their team they are playing in or not.
axtremes: Do you think MGOs should require players to be active on social media and post their matches to get their followers to support and watch?”
αlpha-Renji: Making it a requirement is something that I feel is fair. If we are ever going to get onto proper salary level play and not just incentives, then we will need to create value which starts at building an audience.
Barry “Anthrax” Louzada: I do agree to a certain point but at the same time then MGO’s should be responsible to train or at least help their players in social media training on what to do and not do on social media. In esports social media is an extremely powerful tool and if used properly can literally make or break a player or a team.
For me as a commentator and journalist in esports, more viewership is essential for what I’m doing over the long term. For players, higher viewership means increased sponsor interest and therefore more money being available to MGOs, which means getting paid for doing what you love is suddenly possible. Don’t let it just be the TOs, MGOs and broadcast talent spreading the word about matches being broadcast. Players, take responsibility for getting your followers watching you play at every opportunity. Build your brand and your following. Let’s work together to build this esports thing. Let’s preach the professional gaming gospel. Let’s do our best to make this a reality for ourselves, together.