Social Media And The Indie Game Developer

By Keith Andrew

How did you end up here Many of you will have clicked through from [a]listdaily‘s front page. For a large chunk of you, however, you’ll have found yourself digging into this piece thanks to social media.

Almost every writer in this field has become both accustomed to and, in the best cases, positively embraced the propagation of articles via Twitter, Facebook, Reddit et al. Case in point: I can pretty much guarantee that, minutes after this article goes live, everyone from friends and close family through to distant relations and even my milkman will have seen a link to it pop up in their feed before the day is out. It’s both to the benefit of a writer and that of the site it’s hosted on that this article get eyeballs.

Developers are in the same boat. As much as social media has become a vital cog in the wheel for the games press, so too is it an increasingly core element for games developers — and the reason why is essentially identical: gamers use social media just as much as anybody else. For the developers whose lives are just as invested in the major social platforms, it’s been a boon.

“It basically started as a way to waste time while waiting on level data to build while employed at other people’s companies,” the man behind indie hit Thomas Was Alone, Mike Bithell, told quite candidly. “I found out later that I was annoying the hell out of folks I worked with for tweeting so much. But, hey, it seems to have worked out in the long term.”

Mike Bithell

Indeed, task anyone with citing an indie developer in the UK who is known for having a grip on how best to utilise social media and, chances are, Bithell will come somewhere near the top of the list. Though he notes Thomas Was Alone made its debut “before I had much Twitter visibility”, he’s also acutely aware of the kind of advantages a prominent place on social media afford him. A privilege which, in years gone by, could have been out of his reach.

“I love to be able to speak to my peers and players in a direct way, not relying on third parties – PR or news sites — to filter anything I want to convey to players,” he added. “The day I realized a news announcement made direct on Twitter got more eyeballs than some of the mid tier games sites…that was the day I realized the power and opportunity Twitter holds for me.”

Despite Bithell’s enthusiasm for direct contact with his fans, there are PR agencies that have utilised social media on behalf of developers to great effect. Natalie Griffith founded PR specialist Press Space in May 2013 after stints at other agencies and 12 years at Blitz Games Studios, establishing the firm’s PR and marketing department in the process. It’s experience she now uses to underline the importance of social media to the studios she works with today.

“For me, social media activity isn’t a bolt-on function where a third party can simply push out pre-defined messages,” opined Griffith. “It’s an organic, reactive process that can only effectively be done by someone heavily involved in the studio and really clear about its strategy and vision, so I only take on social management for another company if I’ve that level of involvement with them.”

Of course, the very fact that Bithell, Griffith and others find it necessary to make the case for social media in games development is because that, without naming names, there are developers aplenty that either use Twitter and other platforms in a perfunctory manner, or simply not at all.

Natalie Griffith

“The main failing I see is not one of tone but one of understanding the strengths of each different channel,” continued Griffith. “I know it can be hard for small teams to fit social media time into the hectic schedules, but there’s really no excuse these days for simply hooking up your Twitter fed to automatically dump every tweet into Facebook. They’re very different beasts and if you’re going to have a Facebook account then use it in a bespoke way.”

Fellow PR guru Stu Taylor of Dead Good Media also notes that many indies take a rather cold approach to their use of social media, failing to take advantage of their independence and, instead, tweeting in a very ‘corporate’ manner. “From an outside perspective, it might be a case of thinking that’s how they should do it, because the big corporations tend to be very dry and robotic so as not to upset share holders or end up sparking a social media drubbing,” concluded Taylor, noting that even active social media studios sometimes fail to understand how to best measure its impact. “I still remember a developer years ago being obsessed with Facebook ‘likes’ and judging the success of our PR campaign based on how many more likes they received on their game page every time we put out a press release. The fact that these were two wildly different things and audiences was clearly not of interest to them.”

One thing Taylor, Griffith and Bithell all expound is a sense of honesty. There is of course a danger of a developer revealing too much about their personal life – or simply boring their audiences with status updates focusing on what ready meal they’re eating for dinner that night – but one studio that has made the most of the ability to be open with the audience afforded by social media is Vlambeer. Indeed, right now the Dutch studio is developing its latest release, Nuclear Throne, under the watchful gaze of its fanbase — via regular livestreams on Twitch.

“I think that a very central theme to Vlambeer is to try and be open and transparent about the realities of game development, In that regard, it was almost inevitable that social media would be central to our studio,” Vlambeer’s Chief Executive of Business and Development Rami Ismail told “In fact, the first time the name ‘Vlambeer’ was ever used in any official capacity was when we opened our Twitter account. At that point we hadn’t even registered a website or a company.”

To Ismail, being open is an advantage and helps build trust with gamers as it “makes you accountable, and that means you don’t get to get away quite as easily with delays and nonsense.” He continued, “There’s an inherent responsibility to having a podium, and I think making sure that people are aware of the implications of their words is not too much to ask of those that benefit from their social media. As an example, I quickly learned not to tweet about how great ‘dropping out of school’ was, because my tweets are also read by people in countries in which education is literally the only thing that separates kids from a life of homelessness and poverty.”

Rami Ismail

The other ‘risk’ is that the games press, ever eager for a quick story, can pick up on seemingly innocent tweets and spin them into some sort of declaration. Bithell notes that the fact that his tweets have routinely ended up forming the basis of stories on games sites has made him “more conservative and careful in what positions I make public.”

“More than one a buddy has messaged me privately saying ‘ah, so that’s pissed you off, right ‘ in response to a more diplomatic public tweet,” he continued. “I also have to remember the risks of bringing negativity to the feed, I’m in a position to really do damage to other indies if I publicly argue with them, so I try to take any of that sort of thing away from public spaces.”

More serious has been occasions when public spats on Twitter have had a direct impact on a developer’s business. In 2013, a now infamous confrontation on the social network between Fez designer Phil Fish and Marcus Beer of GameTrailers not only resulted in the (temporary) departure of Fish from Twitter, but also the cancellation of his latest project. The recent rise of GamerGate — which, amongst other things, alleges an all too cozy relationship between games developers and journalists — also has the power to taint a developer’s reputation. It’s, perhaps, understandable why many indies simply don’t want to get wrapped up in the world of social media. Negative messages can spread just as quickly as positive ones.

“I am very transparent in my working relationships and disclose early and often,” added Bithell on the subject. “Integrity is very important to me – no one wants to be seen as a jerk. Also, games journalists sort of rock, they are nerds who like games. I’m not going to apologize for chatting with them in a public space.”

“I think there’s no faster way to learn about the implications of your words than to have people respond to your statements,” added Vlambeer’s Ismail in sober fashion. “I guess in that way, social media has been a tremendous source of education to me.”

Social media, then, undoubtedly isn’t 100 percent win-win — the risks of making a foul up in public that can spread across the Internet in quick time are real. Developers who use it fully are always likely to make mistakes – mistakes that, owing to the power of the web, can spread across the world in a matter of minutes. But as Ismail notes, said mistakes can make a developer better at his or her job in the long run. So, if we accept that investing in Twitter and the like is, in the broad scheme of things, to an indie’s advantage, how best can they utilize it

“The best indie accounts for me are the ones that strike a balance between professional and casual,” stated Griffith, “The awesome thing about the indie scene is that people can finally get to see behind the curtain and get to know the personalities and the stories behind the games they love. So sharing that journey with people, the peaks and the troughs, the lessons you’ve learned, as well as the fun non-work stuff that builds up a picture of who you are, will create something that people will really warm to and want to engage with. Bottom line is, it’s about being a genuine and generous person and making sensible judgments about how to engage with people. In the immortal words of Will Wheaton, don’t be a dick.”

Stu Taylor

Taylor of Dead Good Media agrees, claiming that effective use of social media “isn’t rocket science.” He continued, “It does make me smile how people can make a fortune selling social media courses and tuition – fair play to them. I think a lot of it is common sense and just having a basic understanding that the smallest thing can make a big impact, good or bad.”

For indies that are reluctant to embrace social media for whatever reason, the suggestion that using it effectively has not only changed the way the games industry works, but helped form entire studios and games that, without it, may not have existed may be one suggestion many find too radical to swallow. Nevertheless, ask Rami Ismail where Vlambeer would be if the studio didn’t use social media and you get a succinct reply: “Vlambeer would not exist today.”

And his response when questioned as to what he would say to developers unwilling to use social media is equally eloquent. What advice would he give How would he convince them to take advantage of the opportunity We’ll never know. As Ismail puts, quite simply, without social media he’d “have a hard time reaching them.”

Republished from Be sure to read and subscribe to their newsletter to get the latest in game industry news and insights.

140 Proof Unveils Socially Conscious Mobile Video Ad Tech

By Sahil Patel

Mobile ad-tech startup 140 Proof has unveiled a new product designed to improve mobile-video ad targeting by relying on users’ interests and actions across their social media accounts.

With its Blended Interest Graph technology, 140 Proof says video content can be selected for like-minded users based on public data about who they follow, what they like, where they “check in,” what they share, and other activity on social platforms. These ads, which are autoplay enabled, are then delivered across an app network that 140 Proof’s tech is plugged into.

Founded in 2010, 140 Proof now claims a distribution reach of 62 million monthly uniques across its network of apps and mobile websites.

This article was originally posted on VideoInk and is reposted on [a]listdaily via a partnership with the news publication, which is the online video industry’s go-to source for breaking news, features, and industry analysis. Follow VideoInk on Twitter @VideoInkNews, or subscribe via for the latest news and stories, delivered right to your inbox.

CREATIVE: William Shatner Sings ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ In Travel Ad

Life’s tough for a one-eyed bear, getting dragged around and having to endure the wash cycle countless times. Then, quite unexpectedly, the teddy bear is whisked off to a beautiful place where the sun shines warmly and he meets a special unicorn. All of this is to the tune of William Shatner’s cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” from his album Seeking Major Tom from 2011.

If those seem like two elements that should not be together, you should see how seamlessly British travel company Thomson Holidays weaves them together to relate the now-fortunate bear’s story into something everyone — young or not — can’t help but smile at.

Source: AdWeek

Steam Introduces Discovery Service

As a video game player, sometimes you want to find something new to play, but can’t quite nail down specifically what you’re looking for without a little browsing. The problem with that, though, is rooting through the stuff you’re not interested in when trying to find it.

Valve is looking to make this process a little easier, thanks to an update added into its PC-based Steam service.

The company has unveiled a new “discovery” update, which serves as one of the site’s biggest updates in the past few years. With it, users will not only be able to discover games that are better suited for their style of play, but publishers will also be able to shine a spotlight on their products, which could otherwise be overlooked in a highly overloaded game market.

By looking through their queue, users of Steam will be able to see a number of recent game listings, along with a reason as to why they’re recommended to begin with (like if they played a similar game in the past, or have an abundance of titles in the genre in their game library). Users can then shop through said titles, and if there isn’t a game that suits their fancy, they can easily hit an “I’m not interested” button and move on to the next selection.

A new block of the service is also devoted to curators, which are put together by moderators in any Steam community group. With it, a certain recommendation list can be followed with ease, if a user wants to see what their friends have been playing, or what’s particularly popular in said community.

The mixture of recommended titles will include old and new games alike, should gamers be looking for a nostalgic favorite or something new. For instance, if platforming action games are being sought out, recommendations can go anywhere from Sonic Generations to the recently released Shovel Knight, depending on preference.

This model could pave the way for other game services to utilize in the future, making it that much easier for game players to find what they’re looking for — without rooting through file after file.

The update should be available to all users soon, if not already.

Source:  Ars Technica

YouTube Top Spot For TV Shows

When people look to watch TV shows, they can usually find them through online hubs, as well as specialized services like Netflix and Hulu, depending on the network and the programming. However, one place that’s become an unlikely source for viewing certain shows is none other than YouTube.

A research report by firm Frank N. Magid Associates shows that, out of the 2,400 consumers surveyed, approximated 38 percent actually visit YouTube to watch these TV shows, a higher number than Netflix with 33 percent, Hulu with 17 percent, and Amazon Prime Instant Video at 14 percent. That’s a surprising statistic, since YouTube is considered more of an outlet for original programming by online users, as well as other video content.

YouTube does provide the option to purchase episodes of select TV shows, both old and new alike, but they don’t usually run in the general video-on-demand services.

Though the study didn’t cover which shows were specifically watches – whether episode-based user content or popular clips from such shows as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon – Magid president Mike Vorhaus clarified that there was a “ton” of content available. “I am not saying every consumer is always right about where they saw something or what they watched,” he said. “if you look at YouTube you will find a huge array of TV shows — some recent U.S., some older, much older, some foreign, some full-length compilations.”

The “TV related content” portion of the site has been growing quite a bit, according to Google. This content has managed to grow 35 percent over last year along, and time spent viewing said content increased 65 percent over the same time period.

Promoted shows like The Ellen Show and The Voice seem to be getting the biggest push, with an estimated 69 percent increase over last year alone. And you can bet late night shows and other programming are taking a decent chunk of that as well, especially with highlight clips.

Who knows, YouTube just might boost even further with the addition of episodes and clips. For some, that’s easier than turning on the TV itself.

Source: Variety

Retailers Focusing On Digital Marketing Priorities

Ahh, the holidays. A perfect time for retailers to prepare for a marketing blitz and provide a number of unbeatable deals that customers will eat up – especially when Black Friday comes around in November. However, the real question is what kind of marketing will take top priority.

According to a study from eBay Enterprise released earlier in the week, it appears that digital will be taking the top spot. The 2014 Holiday Retail Audit report, which surveyed over 1,000 retailers online across the board, showed that 63 percent would use online tools more than any other marketing strategy during the holiday season. Social media will take a strong focus on this, according to the report, with possible “flash deals” and other specials. Email promotions followed in second place with 22 percent, while search engine optimization was close behind in third, with 12 percent.

Even though it’s deemed a “competitive weakness,” 32 percent of retailers said they planned to utilize mobile commerce over the course of the season, but didn’t mention specifics. Half of that percentile will be trying it out for the first time – a possibly risky move, but one that could pay off reaching out to the right audience.

Customer data, however, will retain a huge focus. Nearly 90 percent of retailers believe they’re prepared to capture customers’ data in-store, while 54 percent were a bit concerned about keeping said data protected. A majority of those seemed to be larger retailers, who expect anywhere from $50 to $250 million when it comes to online revenue. Considering the recent breaches with Target and Home Depot over the past few months, data protection is a high concern with these companies.

In comparison to Amazon, a big competitor in the holiday season, 60 percent of retailers feel that their mobile commerce doesn’t quite stack up. However, Tom Barone, head of North America omnichannel operations for eBay Enterprise, believes that they can keep up simply by increasing delivery speed. “Multichannel retailers can optimize their brick-and-mortar locations as distribution points to fulfill orders closest to customer location, reducing shipping times and cost through inventory and order management solutions,” he says.

It’ll be interesting to see what approach these retailers take in the months ahead. The shopping madness is about to begin.

Source: Clickz


Major League Gaming Gets Own Arena

With the growth of the eSports community and the gaming leagues surrounding it, it was only a matter of time before eSports managed to get its own gaming space in the United States. This week, Major League Gaming confirmed said space, and the city of Columbus, Ohio may never be the same.

The league announced that it will open the Arena in Columbus, a 14,000 square foot venue with bleacher seating that will house quite a few fans for forthcoming eSports events. The arena is set to open this October, when the league will host the Call of Duty: Ghosts Pro League playoffs, where teams from around the world will take on one another for $75,000 in prize money.

This is just the latest move in the growth of competitive gaming. Valve held a tournament in Seattle called The International, which drew in Dota 2 players around the world, along with an $11 million prize pool. The event drew an online audience of over 20 million, along with those in attendance. This, on top of League of Legends‘ continued success (32 million viewers and rising from its last tournament) shows that eSports has come a long way in just a short amount of time.

“MLG’s mission is to promote e-sports globally through premier competition,” MLG chief executive officer Sundance DiGiovanni said in a statement. “[And it is] to deliver premium gaming content to viewers anytime, anywhere through our global streaming platform, MLG.TV. With the MLG Columbus Arena, we now have a flagship venue built to showcase the best as we continue to expand our global footprint.”

The only question now is why Columbus was chosen for the arena, instead of a larger city. It comes down to MLG’s history in the city, according to MLG Properties executive vice president Adam Apicella. “Columbus has hosted some of our most successful events to date,” he said. “With 62 colleges in the Columbus region, hundreds of thousands of university and high school students in the 11-county area, and close proximity to our audience on the East Coast, Columbus is a great location for our MLG arena.” Of course, buying an arena in Columbus is certainly going to be much cheaper than an arena in California or New York.

Best wishes to the league on its new home. Here’s hoping they have plenty of energy drinks for the forthcoming tournaments.

Source: VentureBeat

Top Googled Brands Sorted By State

Each state is different when it comes to specialties and preferences — and a new report from Direct Capital indicates just how this works.

In the report, the company broke down just what the top brands searched for in Google are per state — and, as you can see in the map below, they vary quite a bit.

For instance, Seattle — which serves as home base to some of the company’s studios — Microsoft rules the roost, while in California, Yahoo! shows clear dominance.

It’s not all about technical companies, however. As you can see, Pepsi has a tight grip in Colorado; Jose Cuervo and Patron have left their mark in Arizona and New Mexico, respectively; and Nevada shows quite the allegiance to the Ferrari brand.

The company also published results for second and third popular brands per state, as you can see. They vary quite a bit from the first results. California, for instance, shows MTV as a popular second brand, and Samsung as a third. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, companies like Philips, Johnson & Johnson, Beefeater and Dunkin’ Donuts have a very large preference on the list.

This just goes to show the varying tastes when it comes to search result, either by looking up current promotions offered through said company, or trying to seek out new information should a new location be opening up in the area. This could be especially true for Dunkin’ Donuts, which are launching new locations on a monthly basis, quickly becoming a preference for those looking to feed their donut urges.

Food and beverages also play a big part in searches, along with popular brand names, adding an interesting mixture when it comes to looking up information. Alcoholic brands are playing their part as well, from Bailey’s Rum to Budweiser to Grey Goose. What’s more, the locations appear to mix quite randomly, rather than one specific state looking for brands.

What do you think Is your state about right when it comes to Google searches, or do you feel something’s a little bit off if, say, your peers are trying to look up Kentucky Fried Chicken

Source: Adweek

Science Inc. Acquires Upsight’s PlayHaven Ad Network

The fast-moving mobile landscape continues to change with the deal announced today, where Science Inc. is acquiring Upsight’s PlayHaven Ad Network. Science Inc. bills itself as “a disruptive media, marketing and brand building company” located in Santa Monica, while Upsight is “a leading enterprise analytics and marketing platform” for mobile apps. The deal involves an undisclosed amount of money, and the PlayHaven Ad Network personnel will remain in San Francisco to form the nucleus of a new San Francisco branch for Science, Inc.

PlayHaven is one of the top mobile game ad networks, with a span of more than 18,000 games, 245 million monthly active users, and more than 5.7 billion monthly sessions. Lauded among brands and advertisers as a transparent ad network with premier game publishers, PlayHaven counts Gaia Online, Phoenix Age (now Kabam) and Glu Games Inc. (creators of the Kim Kardashian: Hollywood game) among its clients. Science will immediately merge Chirp Ads, its mobile marketing unit, into PlayHaven. The combined company, which will take the PlayHaven name, will help mobile-focused businesses and developers acquire and monetize users with ads.

Jason Rapp, Science Inc.

“The PlayHaven Ad Network has a reputation for its high-quality user base and exceptional customer service. Science has a proven track record of building world-class digital marketing firms and is the right team to carry that flag and continue growing the business,” said Andy Yang, CEO of Upsight. “With complete focus on our SaaS business, Upsight will aggressively invest and expand into new verticals and quickly launch new analytics and marketing products that help our customers bridge the gap between insight and action.”

The deal is an interesting one from an industry perspective, showing several trends converging to make this transaction important both for the companies involved and for how it highlights what’s happening in mobile marketing, analytics and advertising. Advertising on mobile platforms is still in its infancy, at least when you look at the relatively small amount of advertising and marketing dollars flowing into mobile platforms relative to the immense number of people (and minutes) engaging with mobile platforms every day.

Mobile developers and publishers are presented with an increasing array of ad networks, analytics, marketing tools and options that can be overwhelming even to experienced marketers. For small developers, many of whom have little to no knowledge of marketing or sales, it’s a vast ocean of uncertainty with dangerous weather and the possibility of monsters, but also the lure of great riches. Getting the monetization correct on mobile title can increase revenue by an order of magnitude or more, but finding that path requires a skilled navigator. Businesses like Upsight and Science are thriving because they offer help in setting a course for mobile products towards greater revenue.

The [a]listdaily spoke with Jason Rapp, managing director at Science Inc., and Josh Williams, chairman and CTO of Upsight, about the deal and what it means for both companies.

“We were looking for a top-quality, fully transparent mobile ad product with a list of the highest-quality publishers, so we were very impressed with the PlayHaven Network,” said Rapp. “We really liked it because they’ve got SDK integration into a high-quality group of publishers, and these publishers rely on them for monetization. We are bullish on the mobile game market and believe that, through our sales capabilities at the Science level and through our product development capabilities we can continue to help the PlayHaven business grow, adding new advertising products, new units, and expanding their publishing network.”

The basic issue confronting mobile advertising is that mismatch between time spent on mobile and ad dollars spent on mobile. Can Science, Inc. find a way to close that gap, and will the PlayHaven Ad Network help to do that “That’s the perfect question, because we look at that trend a lot,” said Rapp. “It’s up to us as product developers to innovate and think about ad units that perform well and that are engaged in by consumers. They need to monetize for publishers and the engagement converts into business needs of the advertiser. That dynamic that we see supports our investment thesis. We’ve seen that same dynamic in the gap between time spent with media and advertising share from the desktop-based consumer Internet versus television and other media, and that gap has narrowed dramatically. The evolution of advertising businesses on new media follows a pattern where the consumer leads the way. That gap will close on mobile, it will close in part because it’s an inefficiency in the market, and it will also close due to product improvements.”

“PlayHaven will continue to operate as its own unit,” said Rapp. “All the team is going over, we’ll start making additions to the team. First and foremost, it’s build that core business and improve on it. Science Inc has a set of resources on the sales side, we call it Science Growth Labs, essentially a sales and marketing organizations that looks across all of the different solutions that Science has created. They look at our YouTube, Pinterest and Vine marketing, and in this case what PlayHaven can offer, and as they talk to brands they can think broadly about solutions for them and potentially bring in more advertisers for the PlayHaven Network.”

“Similarly, as a mobile publisher we have some insights there and can potentially help bring more publishers into the network,” Rapp continued. “And we have a set of companies that are trying to attract consumers, and it’s possible we can bring more business into the PlayHaven Network that way. All that will be nice if we can do it, but when we buy an asset as sizable as PlayHaven our first consideration is that they have the resources to grow and can continue on their path to success.”

For Upsight, the deal had two major strategic drivers behind it. “The primary drivers for us are focus and the other that is also important to us is that we remain neutral in this space,” said Williams. “We wanted to make sure we can help our customers as they deploy ads across any ad network and as they publish ads from any ad network. That will certainly include PlayHaven going forward, as its one of the top networks in this space. It’s really focus and neutrality on our side, and we have more resources now to continue to invest in our stat platform, which is really exciting.”

Josh Williams, Upsight

“Part of the reason developers come to Upsight is we not only help them understand their users, but also centralize some services,” continued Williams. “There are dozens of SDKs that app developers need to instrument and include, dozens of services and APIs they need to figure out how to work together with their mobile business. That’s another problem we help solve for folks. By combining analytics and marketing tools and simplifying how you can work with ad networks, we really help people operate their mobile business much more easily. That will be an important area of continued focus for us after this sale.”

While Science and Upsight are both pleased with the deal, neither company is relaxing. “It’s a complicated market that moves really quickly,” said Williams. “What we find more and more is that customers are demanding more and more sophisticated solutions, and simultaneously demanding solutions that are more centralized, working with fewer providers. That’s why we we want to focus on making our data platform even stronger.”

Williams cited Upsight’s Data Mine tool as a key factor for the company. “We continue to enhance products like Data Mine, which is a really differentiated tool for us, no one else in the analytics or marketing automation space has something like it. You can run a query on all your raw data to understand your user behavior really deeply in a way you just can’t get through reports and charts. It’s the first solution that combines analytics with business intelligence, along with marketing tools and marketing automation capabilities.”


Sharing Life On YouTube And Working With Brands With ‘The Nive Nulls’

The Nive Nulls are a young and creative YouTube family with over 165k subscribers (or Internet family members, as they like to say) who follow the family in each vlog, watching the Nive-Null children grow from wee little babies to toddler-aged kiddos. Major landmarks of their lives make it to their YouTube channel, from the birth of a new child to moving from Kansas City to Los Angeles to follow their dreams.

[a]listdaily spoke with Austin Null, one-fourth of the Nive-Null family to talk about what inspired them to throw themselves into vlogging, making a living on YouTube, and advice for brands on how to leverage YouTube effectively. The Nive Nulls have previously worked with such brands as Listerine, NBC, Pepsi, Audible, the NFL, MTV, Naturebox, Ford, and Hulu as well as being part of the ION community, a growing network of online trendsetters. Find out more about The Nive Nulls by checking out their YouTube channel here.

What inspired you to share your family’s life on YouTube?

Austin Null: We started watching the first family of YouTube, the Shaytards. We started watching them a little over 4 years ago and we were like “we should do that!” and just started making videos– and we kept making videos– and here we are 4 years later.

What do you think your kids will think about the videos when they watch them when they’re older?

Austin Null: I think they’ll like them. I think they already do, though. My daughter is two and ever since she was born, she’s been in videos. She’s at the point now where she’ll ask “I want to watch baby Audri!” and she’ll go back and watch her when she was a baby. It’s also nice just to watch our timeline as parents. We like to go back and see the older videos and see what the kids were like when they were younger or what we were doing at certain times. So we can see what things were like when we aren’t able to necessarily remember it.

What social platform do you feel is most important to you in the future?

Austin Null: For us at least, for the kind of videos we make and who our audience is, YouTube is the most important. The other ones are like extra complimentary things. Me tweeting people doesn’t enhance the business per se, but it definitely enhances the community aspect, which we’re really big on. I like Twitter because it’s so easy to communicate with people, but I like Instagram because it’s another form of entertainment in a way, by creating a picture or a full video. I also like Vine a lot. It’s something I’m still trying to get used to, consistent at and good at, but I think Vine is actually really cool because it’s a way of creating different content, maybe different from the YouTube channel.

How do you introduce branded content to your audience?

Austin Null: We’re really open and honest with them. We’ll just straight up tell them that we’re going to work with this brand. We don’t try to hide the fact that it’s a brand deal in the integration. We’ll just straight up tell them. Like right now, we’re doing a 5-part video series with Listerine where we’re uploading a video every week on our channel. On our normal vlogs, we’ll tell them: “Tomorrow’s going to be a video that we’re doing with Listerine.” We’re just really open with them and for the most part, they’re open to it as long as the content is really cool.

What can brands learn from YouTube creators, as far as communicating with the YouTube audience?

Austin Null: Nowadays, with the younger demographic or millennials, you can’t just talk at people. You have to reach them on their level. A lot of brands will come in with all these talking points and just go on and on, paragraph after paragraph. I’m just like, I can make this work, but I have to talk how I normally talk and get the point across in a way that people are used to seeing. I think it’s hard for brands because this whole YouTube thing is kind of new, but I am hoping that they’ll learn to let [YouTubers] have free reign. We know what our audience likes. I’ve done a ton of brand deals and I know which ones the audience did not like and it’s because it was kind of forced around. When we get the ability to make our own, I get emails back and they’re like “Oh man, yeah, the response was really good on that! Everyone was checking out the linked video we were talking about.” For the most part, YouTubers know exactly what they’re doing and how to communicate and it’s not in the traditional form.

What do you like about working with brands?

Austin Null: When it goes well, I like that they offer promotions. It’s not really baked in as much, and it would be nice to do in a sense where we make a video, but they have a million followers on Twitter and a million Facebook likes.

It’s nice to do one-off shoutouts, but it’s nice when the brand is willing to work with you to create content that stands alone, which is what we did with this Listerine deal. It was pretty different that what we’ve normal done, but we did 5 videos with them and they had a whole team come to our house and we shot 5 videos in a day. Now it’s this whole series and it still has our feel a little bit and our personality, but it also stands out. It looks good for us and it’s also something that the brand can be like “Hey, look at this cool project we’re creating on YouTube!”

Whenever they’re willing to put a lot of effort into it and not just be like “do a shoutout,” which… it can work, I just don’t think it’s as effective.

What’s in the future for The Nive Nulls?

Austin Null: Oh man, I don’t know! I guess we’re just going to keep making videos. I kind of want to do some things and just branch out. I mean, we’ll always be doing the family vlog stuff but I’d like to be doing more, I guess you could say… acting. But I don’t know if I would say acting. I just want to do more creative [things]. Like yesterday we did a little video for ABC where we did this little skit to promote a new show. I want to create content that can stand alone and it’s not necessarily the vlog, but we’ll show our personalities.


Here’s a taste of some of the creative ways The Nive Nulls have worked with brands in partnership to create content: