For 17-year-old Jake Webber, it was an adventure. He was flown from his home in Kansas last month to join his friends and fellow Vine stars Sam Golbach and Colby Brock for a live-streamed Mario Kart 8 tournament at YouTube Space LA promoting the launch of Disney XD’s new series “The Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything.” All Webber had to do was make posts on Snapchat about the goings-on — something the average teen in this situation would probably be doing anyway — and he got paid to do it.
For the pros at Disney XD, it was a frightening leap into the unknown. The kids channel had never done a live social media promotion for one of its properties, and there was a lot that could go wrong, especially for a family-friendly brand like Disney.
It’s not like a Super Bowl telecast with a five-second delay allowing censors the opportunity to mute profane comments or cut away from a halftime show nipple slip. With social media, once it’s posted, it’s free to go viral. Snapchat posts disappear after 24 hours, but they still put marketers just a shared screenshot away from career-destroying controversy.
“Obviously, we want to be very careful,” said Jill Hotchkiss, VP of marketing and creative for Disney XD at Disney ABC Television Group. “We always want to push the envelope at Disney XD, but we want to be different within the Disney parameter.”
The job of finding the appropriate social media personalities to live Snapchat the event (dubbed “Gamer’s Guide to #Winning”) fell to influencer marketing technology firm FullBottle, which worked with Disney and ad agency Starcom on the promotion.
“Disney has a really rigorous process — probably more rigorous than most brands out there — in terms of who is appropriate for that particular project,” FullBottle co-founder and CEO Reed Berglund told VideoInk during an interview on the Firetalk stage at VidCon 2015. “So you’ve got general demo information, from the engagement rate per post to follower count, and you’re looking at that ratio. But then [you’re] also looking at have they posted content in the past that has anything inappropriate, whether it’s curse words or you can imagine what can possibly pop up. So you’re really vetting the account in that respect.”
Disney XD’s primary demographic target is boys, ages 6 to 11, which makes a Snapchat promotion a little awkward, given that users of the platform are supposed to be no younger than 13, per the terms of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
“We know that our demo is on Instagram, Snapchat and Vine, but we do have to be very careful with the way we talk to those specific kids and that we are technically talking to a kid who’s 13-plus,” Hotchkiss said. With this promotion, “we wanted to be engaging and inviting for all kids, but we do use language that’s just a little more… it’s not adult, it’s just 13-plus.”
The advantage of a live promotion with digital influencers on platforms such as Snapchat and Periscope is that it creates an intimate connection with fans, as well as FOMO (fear of missing out).
“You’re being pulled behind the velvet rope, so to speak, and that content will only exist for the duration of that live broadcast,” Berglund explained.
To measure the success of the promotion, Disney XD is looking at related impressions, views, shares, likes and Tweets.
“We know that live events have this surge, and then there’s an even bigger surge after the fact,” said Kristin Parker, senior marketing manager at Disney XD, on the day of the event. “We just hope that the conversation continues.”
Unlike Snapchat, television has an accepted metric for success, the Nielsen ratings. And, by that measure, “Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything” has done well, earning Disney XD its first #1 series debut among its primary demographic (boys, 6 to 11).
As major brands like Disney get more involved in social media promotions, it opens up opportunities for young digital influencers like Webber. Brock and Golbach used the cash generated by their careers as digital influencers to finance a move from Kansas to California in June, and they now share an apartment together in Studio City. Webber is contemplating a similar move.
The ability for other social media stars to cash in is dependent on the size and the dedication of their audiences, according to Berglund.
“The number one thing to look at is [the] engagement rate per story or per post, depending upon the platform,” Berglund said. “As you look at the follower count or subscriber count on YouTube, really, that’s more of a vanity metric, and the important thing is how many of those followers are active on a daily or monthly basis… So there’s a chance to make money. Does it replace a standard income for an adult? I don’t know.”