LA-based esports and gaming organization The Guard competes across multiple games like Overwatch, Call of Duty, Valorant, and Apex Legends through their three teams: Los Angeles Guerrillas, LA Gladiators, and The Guard. In 2022, The Guard started working with Blinkfire to track, value, and report on sponsorships across social media and streaming. Blinkfire’s VP of Marketing, Alexis Prousis, sat down with The Guard’s Head of Content, Adam Schortman, to talk about the organization’s overall video strategy, including TikTok, content creation, and ways they use Blinkfire.
What is The Guard’s overall video strategy, and how does it change based on the platform?
We produce content that fits into three main buckets: 1) Help: Tips & tricks; 2) Hype: announcements, promotional; 3) Hub: Anything else (gameplay-driven and in real life).
Horizontal video (16×9) content only goes to Twitter and YouTube. We generally make cutdowns of longer form content for Twitter that drives people to YouTube. We will sometimes post the same long form videos to Twitter and YouTube, depending on the context of the piece – but generally try to keep Twitter videos under 3 minutes.
We sometimes reformat long form videos into cut downs for TikTok and other vertical video platforms, but it’s rare to see those videos perform well. Our Vertical video (9×16) is produced specifically for TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts.
Short clips are an engaging way esports teams show highlights from a tournament. How do you select video highlights of a stream or event?
Any pop-off plays that happen on stream. Usually any funny or notable moments from streams that have been shared — our social media folks are professional clip sniffers. People also love to hear in-game comms. This is most of what helped us grow our YouTube channel in 2022.
What content have you found to work best across your social channels?
Valuable content works best. If users can find value and are getting something from it, we will see big gains in amplification. This is our quickest way to build a following – this is why “help” content trumps everything. High quality — great content rises to the top. Consistency – uploads should be intentional and follow a cadence.
Where do you think esports clubs do a good job with video and in what ways could they improve?
Esports generally do a good job of finding inspiration in content within esports. There are three to four organizations, including MAD Lions, G2, Team Vitality, and Team Liquid, that consistently raise the standard year after year. These organizations are investing more money into productions — think computer generated imagery, feature film quality writing, and set production, such as expensive cameras and big film crews plus well-thought out and beautifully written scripts.
We’ve always seen esports organizations emulate or draw inspiration from pop culture, film, advertising, music videos, traditional sports, and viral YouTube content. More recently we’ve seen the gap between quality of the content close.
I think we, as an industry, have a ways to go on the actual production value and level of innovation, but some of the more recent content we’ve been seeing from some of the top organizations has been looking and sounding better than ever.
More and more esports teams are using TikTok to engage with their fans. How has TikTok become part of your social strategy, and what helped the LA Gladiators and LA Guerrillas see such growth towards the end of last year?
TikTok as a platform has been a dominant social media platform and a major driver for popular culture, but we more broadly identified short form vertical video content as a key area for growth going into 2022. There were three key ways we increased our TikTok followers, most notably in Q4 of 2022.
- We began posting on video a day — consistent daily uploads helped us earn continuous growth.
- We also figured out that the Overwatch community liked memes. That didn’t work as well for the other games, just Overwatch.
- It helped that both Overwatch II and Warzone II came out in Q4, which was most likely the biggest driver. Since both games are free to play, there was a huge demand for that type of content which we were producing.
What was it like when your team first started using TikTok?
We went in blindly with the intent to calibrate based on our results as we went along. It was a trial and error approach, leaning mostly into the star power of our pro players. We realized quickly that short, to the point videos that are made specifically for vertical video platforms are most effective.
Do you have a team devoted to TikTok — anything from posting, strategy, and partnering with influencers etc.?
Yes, we have dedicated social media managers and coordinators for each title and esport that we’re involved in.
Let’s talk about TikTok content. What content performs best, and how does TikTok differ from other social platforms?
For starters, TikTok doesn’t work well as an “in the moment” platform like Twitter. For example, if a team is playing, multiple live updates from a game without any additional context may not work as the scroll feed doesn’t always prioritize content in chronological order.
People want to be served what they find enjoyable and familiar, whereas with Twitter or even Instagram, you are always fighting for the next best thing.
TikTok is built largely off of sounds and posts are expected to follow the respective pattern of a meme. It has a lot of cut and paste of video concepts — and it seems to be heavily rewarded.
TikTok in general has shown that quality is greater than quantity. While we have consistently posted daily, we don’t do this at the sacrifice of quality. We’ve seen endless examples of great videos being the drivers for large growth spurts.
Are there similarities to the videos you post on TikTok and Instagram Reels? What’s been working and what doesn’t?
For the most part, yes. Our takeaway is: just because content can be cross-posted doesn’t mean it should. For example, tips and tricks have been doing very well on YouTube and TikTok, but they underperform on Instagram.
Things that are extremely timely to current events work best on Instagram — like game updates and news, but not on TikTok. We’ve found our Instagram knows our players/figures a bit better, whereas TikTok is more likely to be seen by a more random user group who are less familiar with esports.
What specific KPIs are you tracking on TikTok?
When it comes to TikTok, watch time and finish rate are driving factors towards getting us on the For You Page. By keeping track of this metric, we have been able to pinpoint the exact fall-off point, which is the ideal duration for each category of content.
One data point we’ve found is that videos which hover around 15-30 seconds have been the sweet spot for amplification. Amplification rate (shares and comments) is what is ultimately driving engagement; it helps us identify our key opportunities for growth.
What type of content have you identified as “key opportunities for growth” on TikTok?
For us, each scene behaves a bit differently – each game has its own community of followers who come to our channels for specific things. We start with what we know the community likes — we see memes, we post memes. We see people asking “how do I play this agent?”, so we post that tip to help them. From there, the team and I adjust what we do based on engagement.
Across the board, “How To” content is the biggest driver of our views/growth. The content we post is influenced by audience reactions – (we read all of the comments). If the audience doesn’t like a concept or a style, we pivot it. For example: class builds during the MW2 beta. We posted about it, people hated it, so we halted for a bit.
LA Guerrillas’ Call of Duty TikTok channel focuses on more “help” content. For our LA Gladiators Overwatch channel, it’s more about memes. The Guard Apex is mostly gameplay highlights with some help content peppered in. And TheGuardgg TikTok mostly leans into the starpower of our Valorant team, with some help content mixed in.
Check out this esports TikTok playlist we made featuring posts from all four accounts.
How has Blinkfire helped you create new social strategies around content?
Blinkfire has been instrumental in keeping track of new social strategies in two ways. First, we have been able to closely monitor our own social performance and being able to gather first-hand data on which type of content is performing well and, more importantly, on which platforms. When it comes to keeping track of social strategies for other channels and competitive teams, we have extensively utilized features like playlists & advanced search to be able to keep track of certain content categories that other social channels may be producing and helping that educate our knowledge of overarching trends.
Another feature that we have started to implement and found highly beneficial is the API access. By using that, we have been able to build our own BI dashboards and start to correlate data points amongst platforms.
The knowledge of these strategies have been built into our content strategy through regular reporting as well as constant monitoring. By utilizing features such as the playlists, media kit and advanced search, we have been able to create our own workflow of weekly reporting which not only highlights our internal growth patterns but provides a concise way to review overall trends on social platforms, as well as within our industry.
It is much easier to compare the platforms and make decisions with Blinkfire – stuff that is tanking on one but soaring on another could still be worth it for us
Are you more focused on specific social media channels or certain content now versus before Blinkfire?
At the moment, we are most invested in vertical video content – it was a key part of our strategy before implementing Blinkfire (and will continue to be going forward in 2023), but Blinkfire’s insights have helped reinforce the importance of this type of media. It has helped shift strategies for each platform based on seeing week over week results for us and other teams.
What video content are you most proud of? Can you walk us through how video content is created – from ideation to filming to posting?
There have been a few areas that we’ve improved upon over the last year.
- During the Valorant Challengers Tour, we leaned into our 3D universe and developed a fictional Guard character who became the face of the organization. We have an in house 3D team who storyboard and pitch concepts for short form horizontal content, and execute.
- We consistently put out premium hype content – we put a lot of time and effort into our announcement videos for all of our esports teams and influencers. For this type of video, we develop a look and a mood board, scout locations, hire a crew and put several weeks into post production.
- The Los Angeles Guerrillas vertical video channels have exploded in popularity from our Warzone content – amassing us the largest following of any franchise team in the CDL. For this type of content, we ideate at the beginning of each week to monitor trends and meta updates in the game, review what folks are looking to learn, and optimize our help content strategy based on that. We record the concept in game, then write the script, record the voiceover, edit in Premiere and After Effects, and upload.
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