During an influencer marketing panel at GameDaily Connect USA, Tankee CEO, Gerald Youngblood, provided insight on taking a stand for kid-friendly content and appealing to a generation that's constantly 'on demand'.
Being a parent of a child in this content-heavy, digitally immersive age is an exercise in a combination of futility, exasperation, and overwhelm… and that's if you're fully versed in what's going on in the digital spaces that kids, tweens, and teens frequent. If you're not digitally-savvy, it's even more difficult. There are so many platforms that kids use that are shoddily moderated or outright aren't family-friendly.
Gerald Youngblood, CEO of Tankee, created the platform because of the way he saw his own 10-year-old son interacting with YouTube and Twitch celebrities.
"[I was] seeing that [my son's] celebrities were influencers, versus the sports figures and movie stars when I was growing up," Youngblood noted. "I wanted to watch and experience with him and I quickly realized that all the good content for kids is next to all the bad stuff on YouTube and on Twitch on other platforms."
Youngblood is right, of course. There have been numerous instances of inappropriate content finding its way onto YouTube Kids. YouTube has recently claimed to have fixed their kids section, however. Tankee's intent is to ensure that parents can step away from what their kids are watching with the knowledge that the platform is curated and tightly moderated.
"And so I was like, 'Oh, there must be a Nickelodeon for influencer content,' and I couldn't find it," he noted. "So we built Tankee. We're a family-friendly platform that offers streaming content, works directly with influencers and with brands to bring that content to kids and give parents a chance to do laundry and other stuff as opposed to hovering around the devices in their home."
Back in January, I wrote about the problems with letting kids run wild on platforms that aren't meant to have children as part of their audience:
"There have been a number of instances over the last several years of inappropriate content making its way through the supposed "kid-safe" controls on YouTube Kids, including violence, disturbing representations of popular children's characters, and outright unsettling videos that have no place on a child-friendly platform. Even Elsa isn't safe."
Streaming platforms like Twitch, and yes, even Mixer, aren't necessarily safe for kids without parental supervision. Even though Mixer does a great job at ensuring that content is locked behind age gates (family-friendly, teen, and mature) along the way, Tankee takes it one step further by ensuring that the entire platform is dedicated to content that's appropriate for kids.
The way that kids engage with content continues to shape the way that Tankee works with influencers and streamers. Youngblood describes kid as the "on demand generation," which means that the proliferation of devices ensures that content is their king at all times. Working with influencers on Tankee means that these kinds of campaigns are speaking in this generation's language of hands-on engagement.
"We're dealing with an on demand generation that now has screens with them all the time," Youngblood explained. "So, it's the way that they want to engage, not just with their brand but with the rest of that community. And so in working with influencers in a streaming environment, it's dynamic but it's also the language of the next generation. It's not necessarily that [a campaign or stream] needs to be scheduled -- it needs to be an organic part of their day.
"6 to 12 year olds, they're very much about on demand. So like the live streaming is incredibly powerful … kids expect that the content works around their schedule a lot of the time. So I would keep in mind other things, even non-video things, other social platforms beyond live streaming, as part of that mix with influencers. Because being omni-channel and having different types of assets just reinforces the brand, as well."
What Youngblood means by "omni-channel" is diversifying where the streamer chooses to build their brand. Much like Pipeline.gg is about helping streamers grow their businesses without being tied to a single platform, Youngblood knows that Tankee isn't necessarily going to be the only place that a family-friendly streamer builds their network. Influencers, and therefore brands, need to be cultivating audiences on every relevant platform. Those marketing campaigns only work when audiences are ready to be engaged.
"Being part of an influencer's community and having their message and [a brand's] message align really allows [a brand] to have a quality engagement," Youngblood continued. "One of the things that's really important is the conversion rate versus the number of people watching is much higher, whether it's live stream or on demand, in that environment. And [a brand] gets so much more quality time, I think, to tell [its] message as part of [the streamer's] community."
If influencer marketing is going to be succeed with integrity, Youngblood is adamant that regulation needs to be a part of the conversation. When creating spaces for brands, streamers, influencers, and a young audience to ethically and safely engage together, there's no way around it.
"I think the regulations are a good thing," Youngblood asserted. "Regulations around privacy, like COPPA compliance, GDPR, as a parent, that's the right thing to do. So [Tankee is] very selective in terms of the types of brands that we work with, the types of activation, because I think just blindly automating advertisements that hit kids is not a good idea."
While YouTube is certainly starting to clean up its ways, it may not be enough to regain trust among parents and family-friendly content creators. Youngblood was firm that Tankee doesn't take any cues from the troubled video network, especially in its lack of regard to its youngest viewers. What Tankee is adamant on, and continues to build into its platform, is a dedication to parents, as well as children. Influencers may have become a mainstay of a video game's marketing strategy, but Youngblood needs Tankee to continue to be a "Nickelodeon" and not compromise the platform's integrity to net a streamer or a brand that doesn't align with the platform's mission and ethos.
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