Credentials in the Digital World

2020 confronted students with a revolution in digital learning. As learning was taken fully online, both students and educators had to adjust to new tools, techniques, and standards for teaching and learning.  

Part of the changes that folks faced was in evaluating the cost and value of their education. In tangent to this revolution in further education, digital learning unaffiliated with colleges and universities has been on the rise.  

Websites like Lynda, LinkedIn, Coursera, and plenty of others all offer courses that can significantly improve a learner’s skills while quantifying their achievements through a digital certificate. Some companies including Hootsuite and Microsoft also offer digital certifications evaluating competencies with their software. Interestingly, Microsoft has taken the avenue of offering digital certificates on multiple platforms. Some of these certificates are paid and go in depth. These include those offered by Microsoft on their website, and cover topics related to Microsoft’s software. Others are free and cover the basics of using software like Office 365, with the option to pay for a certificate at the end of the course. But how can we evaluate the quality and value of these certificates when so many exist, and no overarching structure exists to compare them? An interview with a professional in the field may help clarify this.  

Q&A 

My friend Jake works at Microsoft. He’s one of the smartest people I know, to the point where I get him to go over most of my written work, including many of the articles on this website. I brought him in to ask some questions about digital learning and online certificates.  

I’ve personally taken some courses on LinkedIn Learning, but even there the quality and depth of courses varied too much to know how employers might value them. On the other hand, I’ve taken courses directly with Hootsuite, and in being quantified by the company itself, I felt like these were more valuable.  

Here’s some of what Jake had to say:  

I wouldn’t be calling you an industry professional if there wasn’t a grain of truth in that title. Can you talk a bit about what you do and how it’s changed in 2020?  

Jake: When the lockdown began in March, I was working retail at the Microsoft store – where selling computers was secondary to building the company’s brand by offering tech support and free training. Once the lockdown shock wore off though, we were reorganized into remote stores; I was put into a training group, and my full-time job since then has been delivering remote training on all sorts of Microsoft products. So in a way, the core of what I do hasn’t changed all that much; I’m still responsible for adding value to the brand by making sure companies, schools, and governments know how to use the tools that they’ve already purchased. Despite Microsoft’s monolithic status in the computer world right now, they’re still playing catch-up when it comes to awareness. 

From your point of view, how do employers value the different levels of digital certificates?  

Jake: It really depends on the company, and sometimes it comes down to the individual who’s reviewing your profile. Something like a LinkedIn Learning certificate might only be of note to someone who is familiar with it and what the certification process entails. This is symptomatic of the awareness deficit I mentioned earlier – while LinkedIn is certainly well-known, it’s by no means ubiquitous. And since there are so many certs on LinkedIn Learning (over 16,000!) it can be hard to know exactly what kind of work someone had to put in to earn the badge.  

Now, if you’re looking at industry specific certs, and especially company specific certs like the ones offered by Microsoft directly, there you see a larger interest from employers. Those certs are custom tailored to their environments. If an employer sees one of their own certs on your resume, they have a much better idea of the kind of work you had to do to earn it. 

You mentioned badges, which I think is an important part of this discussion. Can you tell me more about badges?  

Jake: Right, so a badge in this case refers to anything that signifies your proficiency in a product or service. It’s almost interchangeable with ‘certification,’ but not quite; the point of the badge is that it’s partially a reward you can display on a profile or landing page that says to everyone: “Hey, I’m proud of this achievement and I want you to see it.” A badge allows you to measure your growth visually and display that growth on a virtual shelf for others to admire (and take note of, in the case of employers). 

Badges 

I’ll take a moment here to expand on badges. A digital badge can be defined as: 

“A clickable graphic that contains an online record of  

  1. an achievement,  
  1. the work required for the achievement,  
  1. evidence of such work, and  
  1. information about the organization, individual or entity that issued the badge.  

This definition is taken from Lemoine and Richardson, 2015, but I’ve quoted it from the UNESCO report on digital credentialing. One thing that the report does well is outline the distinct types of digital credentials out there, as well as what the benefits and risks might be of each level of digital credential.  

Badges, as can be seen above, are useful in their ability to point to specific achievements or the completion of a course. As Jake puts it, badges point to something important in a visual manner. It’s about as tangible as it gets when it comes to digital certifications.  

As they become more widely implemented, badges will also be able to hyperlink to both the course and the test required to earn them. Not only will this help make digital certifications more transparent, it will also break down some of the barriers that exist in transferring skills and certifications internationally. Being able to see the full process behind a credential makes it clearer to see whether it’s like a different course or test. But let’s get back to our expert.  

Q&A 

If you think about Microsoft itself, do you get a sense of how the company would value digital certificates?  

Jake: As you mentioned, Microsoft has two different streams of certs it looks at: LinkedIn Learning and Microsoft Certifications. LinkedIn courses are generally seen by Microsoft as snacks – little bonus certs that can prove basic competencies and speak to goal alignments between the employer and prospective employee. The real deals are those MS Certs, which involve proctored exams and intense study over weeks or months to prove mastery of the content. Those are more valuable because they demonstrate a much more thorough and practical understanding of skillsets relevant to specific streams of employment – data science, software engineering, administration, and so on. 

Ed: I like that you call them little snacks, I think it paints a great picture of the differences that exist between those Microsoft Certifications and other online courses that you can find anywhere. I think it also rings true in other industries. I know that something like a PMP is going to be a lot more impactful on a resume then simply having taken a LinkedIn Learning course about project management. At least, no one has reached out to me since taking that LinkedIn course! 

What about when the certificate is related to one of Microsoft’s product?  

Jake: That really depends on the job you’re after. If you’re applying for a cloud engineering position and you have great Excel skills but no Azure certs, they’re not going to be overly impressed. Conversely, if I were applying for the job I have now, having LinkedIn certifications for the basics like Microsoft 365, Power Platform, Public Speaking, and Social Selling would have way more of an impact than the highly technical certs. It’s all about targeting your effort toward the certs that align best with your goal.  

One last question for you Jake, how do you see digital credentialing involving into 2021? What role do you think digital credentials will play?  

Jake: If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Microsoft during this pandemic, it’s the importance of reskilling. Their whole retail division has been turned on its head, and the new responsibilities that have thrust onto its workers have in some ways demanded that they rapidly reskill to keep up. For many, that means collecting certifications as quickly as they can. And I think that really shows the dynamism of some industries that rely heavily on credentialling; in a post-Covid world, where people have become more cognizant of the weaknesses and gaps in socio-economic safety structures, the ability to reskill and to prove that you’ve acquired new, usable knowledge will be even more valuable. Companies are paying more attention, and some, as we’ve seen with Microsoft and LinkedIn, are making certifications more accessible. 

Conclusion 

I think Jake said it best. Reskilling is becoming more commonplace, which is great for folks ready to move on to greener pastures, but it’s important that reskilling doesn’t become an expectation from the part of employers. It’s not because of the availability of digital credentialing and developing new skills that this should be done without cause. It still is a lot of work to take classes on a topic, especially if the end goal is to become quite good at whatever the class is about.  

While the future is unpredictable, digital credentialing, micro credentialing, and digital badges all present unique opportunities for future learners. It’s an exciting time for everyone involved in academia, and as both a current and former student, I look forward to see what learning opportunities are available to me in the future.  

Notes 

Lemoine, P. A., & Richardson, M. D. (2015). Micro-credentials, nano degrees, and digital badges: New credentials for global higher education. International Journal of Technology and Educational Marketing (IJTEM), 5(1), 36-49. 

Digital Credentialing – Implications for the recognition of learning across borders 

Further reading here, as well as here 

NakeyJakey & the Millennial-Zoomer

NakeyJakey is a YouTuberTwitch streamer, and musician. More so, NakeyJakey is a mouthpiece for the strange intergenerational gap that exist between Millennials and Zoomers. These not-quite-digital-natives were born at a time where internet and digital culture was blossoming but not established. They saw the rise of video games as a major part of the entertainment industry but weren’t born into an established video game industry. They grew up with cassette tapes and VHS, knew how to use their grandparents’ rotary phones, but have grown into fully digitalized adults. This peculiar combination of experience is highlighted in many of Jakey’s videos which cover nostalgia focused topics like scholastic book fairs, as well as the emergence of digital trends that are weird even to these would-be Zoomers, like the rise of esports.  

I want to examine some of ideas behind Jakey’s videos while further framing the conversation through the lens of experiences that this intergenerational group lived through. To do that, I’ll be breaking down the media that shaped that shared experience: music, movies, TV, and video games.  

Music 

It’s difficult to frame the exact experience that folks have had with music. Music is an inherently cultural thing, and experiences with music will be influenced by where someone might have lived while changes were happening. Much like Jakey, I lived in a smaller, semi-rural town growing up, and my experience with music was influenced by my ability to go to a larger city. For me, that meant virtually no concerts growing up, as well as an almost constant delay with what was trending.  

Despite this, many of these pseudo-Zoomers grew up with analog technology around them. It would have been common to see cassette tapes around the house, and their parents might still have had their Walkman despite the CD having been around for a while before the 90’s. This puts our Millennial-Zoomers in the middle of the revolution from analog music to pseudo-digital-CDs, which were physical despite being transferable to computers. These would in turn become MP3s – both the file type and the music player.  

This revolution in the way that music was kept would be pushed further with the parallel growth of the digital space. Jakey has a video outlining the experience of downloading music  online, often illegally. This experience shaped many and would in turn pave the way for media streaming.  

Another line of parallel growth that spread popular music, pirating culture, and a common shared experience was MTV and the Warped Tour. This was of course the later MTV, just near the end of its music era as grunge left the spotlight. This explosion of skate and pop punk would emerge just as early Zoomers became teens, and their shared angst would come to a head when even wholesome family cartoons like Scooby-Doo would get a pop-punk makeover. This would-be rebel attitude would break down the moral barriers to pirating music, all the while popularizing pop, punk, and related genres.  

“The band Simple Plan is strongly connected to What’s New, Scooby-Doo?. They perform the theme song and appeared as themselves in the episode ‘Simple Plan and the Invisible Madman’. Two of their songs appeared in chase scenes: ‘I’d Do Anything’ in the episode ‘It’s Mean, It’s Green, It’s the Mystery Machine’ and ‘You Don’t Mean Anything’ in ‘Simple Plan and the Invisible Madman’”

This is an important event to underline, as it marks the beginning of Gen Z’s viability as consumer market that can be catered to. Eventually, music streaming would become… mainstream, and Millennial-Zoomers would turn to platforms like Spotify and Apple Music to listen to their favourite albums, music groups, and songs. This is still the status quo, although something can be said for the niche movement to return to analog media. 

Movies 

The 90’s relied heavily on VHS. While DVD was invented halfway through the decade, most movie collections were VHS, and most Millennial-Zoomers grew up watching VHS rather than DVD. It was a slow process to begin amassing a DVD collection, and this always came after the initial costs of upgrading the television set and buying a DVD player. Because of the slow transition and the unavailability of certain films on DVD, many families had both VHS and DVD players well into the 2000’s. A key event for these Millennial-Zoomers is the integration of a DVD player with the Sony PlayStation 2, which came out in 2000. This would provide them a way to watch movies on their consoles, something that would eventually become more commonplace.  

Along with the transition from VHS to DVD, early late Millennials also experienced the second wave of Star Wars fandom. With the release of The Phantom Menace in 1999, many of them would be taken to the theatre for the first time. Even late bloomers would be able to find Star Wars in their theatres as late as 2002, when Attack of the Clones released. This would spark an interest in going to see movies in theatres, but the rise of the home release would balance this out soon enough. The role of theatres has certainly changed in the last few years, and with the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, their existence in the future is uncertain at best.  

One of the issues that movie theatres faced in the early 2000’s is the rise of formulaic movies. Jakey speaks of Disney Channel Original Movies as being a staple of his childhood, but one that wasn’t very engaging despite the effort being put in the production of these movies. In parallel to Disney Channel Movies came Hallmark Channel Movies, which would churn out formulaic Christmas feelgood movies to the present day. As movies lost their charm, Zoomers lost interest in going to theatrical releases. Folks kept amassing DVDs and would develop a culture of watching movies at home when there was nothing else to do. This was similar in nature to the hoarding of CD’s, with the remnants of the trends appearing at garage sales everywhere since.  

This brings us to the current era of movie watching. People have gotten used to watching movies at home and the appeal of the theatre has gone down, especially in these pandemic times. This has also allowed movies to adapt to smaller budgets and more experimental takes, as their core revenue isn’t from box office releases anymore. Overall, the culture of both watching movies and going out to movies has changed significantly for Millennial-Zoomers. They’ve seen the rise and fall of plenty of genres and styles, and this has made them sceptical of future trends.  

Cartoons and Television 

It was Millennials who saw the change from cable to network TV. Being able to access channels from all over made television more interesting than ever. Television was already established as an essential in every home, but this greater diversity in programming only worked to reinforce that trend. In turn, kids and teenagers would watch shows that would cater to them, and these would become classic of their childhood. This is certainly true for Millennials, who saw the rise of accessible cartoons, cartoons that would also become classics like the Simpsons.  

Zoomers saw a similar pattern emerge through their experience with television. Cartoons improved in quality and became more commonplace. Zoomers had access to a plethora of new shows covering new topics, and new heroes would shape their childhood form the 90’s well into the 2000’s. One notable trend was the rise of anime. Millennial-Zoomers would be the first generation to see the widespread distribution of anime to their television sets and shows like Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, and Cowboy Bebop would demark themselves as classics for that generation.  

While some Millennial-Zoomers were too young to enjoy shows targeted for adults like the Simpsons, King of the Hill, and other weirder shows of the 90’s, some shows would still come to revolutionize the genre well into the future. Genndy Tartakovsky would be a major driving force in this revolution, creating what I would call the most distinctive animation style of the 90’s, characterized by shows like Samurai Jack, The Powerpuff Girls, and Dexter’s Laboratory. The 2003 Star Wars: Clone Wars series would also fuel the flames of the Star Wars fandom reignited since 1999.  

One show that deserves particular mention, both for me personally and as an important steppingstone towards the absurdist Zoomer humour I mentioned in a previous article, is The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. The Grim Adventures would feature the iconic Tartakovsky style but would also deal with topics that other cartoons would avoid. These darker themes would create a sense of understanding between Millennials and Zoomers, an understanding founded in the dark shows of the 90’s like The Ren & Stimpy Show and Rocko’s Modern Life.  

In turn, these darker topics would become staples of later Zoomer shows that would rely heavily on a certain absurdism. These shows would present a certain nostalgia to Millennial-Zoomers and would come to be classics in their own right. Shows like Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, Steven Universe, and of course Rick & Morty all call back to a certain brand of confusion based in the 90’s, and there lies their appeal.  

Video Games 

The last key to understanding the media that would shape intergenerational Zoomers is video games. Zoomers and Millennials both see video games as an essential part of their childhood and teenage years, and this remains the case to this day.  

To understand the importance of video games, we have to go back to about 1995. While this date coincides with the intergenerational period between Millennials and Zoomers, it also marks the release of the first PlayStation console. One year later, the Nintendo 64 would come out. While the release of these home video game consoles would mark the childhood of Zoomers and Millennials alike, it would be internet connectivity that would change everything.  

With the internet came a new brand of video games. As computer fluency was on the rise, young animators and creators began creating short video games that ran on Adobe’s Flash Player. These flash games would be the introduction to video games for many Zoomers. It would also become a major source of entertainment through the sheer volume of games and content being created. Unlike television shows which still suffered from long production periods, new flash games would come out each week, ready to be enjoyed by all. Jakey also speaks at length about the importance of flash games during his childhood.  

Next, consoles would be internet enabled, and the video gaming experience would connect Millennial-Zoomers to create a global community of like-minded teens. While this would shape digital communities forever, it would also shape the collective understanding of the gaming experience for those that would take part in it. With the release of the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, all Zoomers would garner a sense of what it means to find friends online, and this would pave the way for the viability of digital friendships.  

With video games already being a pseudo-digital medium, and with Zoomers consuming an increasing number of media over their internet connection, it was only natural for the two mediums to combine. YouTube was rising as a platform at the time, and the result was a digitization of television onto the internet in the format of Let’s Plays. Let’s Plays would in turn become live streaming, but we’ve talked about Twitch already.  

Now, video games, movies, television, and music all take place online, and all these media can be live streamed for entertainment. While trends have involved over time, it still is unclear whether the future will follow suit or if new methods of entertainment will be developed.  

Lessons 

Growing up, Millennial-Zoomers were exposed to a large amount of rising technology, and they would help shape the functions of this technology towards their needs. Not only did this role define their childhood through the way they interacted with technology, it would also pave the way for how technology is used now.  

If it weren’t for Millennial-Zoomers unique experience with television, movies, music, and video games, the entertainment and media industry of today would be vastly different. The rise of the internet and the interconnectivity of media would play a vital role in the development of modern technology, and the response by Millennial-Zoomers would create the necessary framework from which things like digital streaming could happen.  

It’s important to reflect on the past 20 years as being some of the most important in shaping how we view technology now. It’s also essential in understanding rising trends in technology and media. If there’s ever confusion about a trend, it’s easy to look back on how Millennial-Zoomers grew up to see the root of the trend, and why it might still be market viable today.  

*It’s difficult to remain consistent in what we’re calling “Millennial-Zoomers” because of the range of experiences being covered in the article and the range of folks that overlaps with those experiences. I apologize if this make the article confusing, but this confusion is inherent to the topic.  

Positivity Online

In my previous article about Fall Guys’ marketing campaign, I mentioned that it’s important to understand what you bring to others on social media. While I wrote this in the context of brand marketing, the question applies to people just as much as it applies to companies. There’s a lot of toxicity on social media, and I see no reason why someone would choose to add to that. 

Today, I’ll be taking a deeper look at social media trends and bringing to light reflections on positivity, wholesome content, and you guessed it, how to bring folks together to create communities of positivity. 

Current Trends

2020 started with plenty of predictions on what trends would soar on social media. The internet was abuzz with talks of rising platforms and unsteady trust. But the COVID-19 pandemic upset all predictions when it radically changed how social media is used. Digital socializing becoming the norm also worked to change attitudes about social media. 

The desperation and depression that 2020 has brought in has combined with existing trends to make this year extremely dark for social media. The internet had previously embraced darker content relating to depression, suicide, global economic collapse, and the destruction of the environment, but the events of 2020 have worked to expedite this content to a wider audience. 

With echo chambers and recursive feedback cycles being an important part of content distribution on social media, the result has been a slow growth of absurdist content on the internet. While the current state of the world may be bleak, I think it’s important to approach social media with more positivity than ever before to support one another. Rather than try to break the cycle of negativity, which may help some people cope, I think the focus should be on bringing more positivity to social media. 

Being Positive 

What does it mean to be positive? This is an important question, but I thought it best to avoid definitions for the sake of pointing to human elements instead. Rather than looking at positivity itself, here’s a look at the importance of positivity to us. 

For starters, searching the web for a simple question like “how to be positive?” will get you a ton of results. Notably, you’ll find posts from the Positivity Blog, the existence of which already points to positivity being a complex topic where some might need help. On finding help to be more positive, you’ll also find a WikiHow post. And while the main topic of this article isn’t to focus on quantifying our need for help in being positive, I think any topic in which people need help with is complex enough to warrant talking about it. The last article on positivity I’ll point to is from Healthline. I thought it was important to link it because it itself links to studies exploring the impacts of positivity on our health. 

However, while trying to channel positivity, it’s also important to try and remain authentic. Authenticity is a huge driver of positivity, so prioritizing authenticity both in person and online will help you remain positive. Authenticity is already being prioritized online, so, the positivity that you can bring to others through being authentic while adding to your own positive feelings is something to keep in mind.  

In a study by Baker et al. on authenticity, researchers found that being authentic in your interactions with others would accurately predict your positive feelings. While this prediction can’t directly corelate positivity with authenticity, it does point to a pattern of increased positivity when being authentic. In an earlier study, Reinecke and Trepte had found that the interaction between authenticity and positivity also exists online, at least on social networking sites.  

The focus on social networking sites is of course key to adding positivity online. While some websites and apps are more positive than others, it’s important to also understand the most effective way to add positivity to those websites.  

Platform Specific Positivity  

LinkedIn is often seen as a positive place, but this has also been problematic at times. The difficulty is in balancing positivity and authenticity. The nature of LinkedIn doesn’t make this easy as users try and balance their normal attitudes with their focus of landing a job or a promotion. The result is that LinkedIn is filled with positivity that ends up feeling inauthentic. That being said, it’s easy to add positivity to LinkedIn by focusing on your own actions and your own authenticity. Speaking of your struggles and difficulties as well as your successes will help others understand that the veil they’re exposed to on the website isn’t all there is to life.  

Facebook is another platform that struggles with positivity. Facebook has always been the sort of catchall for folks and posts, but this has lately become problematic as both marginalized and radicalized groups flocked to the platform. The Social Dilemma did try to touch on the topic, but the approach was less about fighting negativity than it was about denouncing tech giants. Adding positivity to Facebook is tricky, but my take is that you should try and support those who are looking for it while not adding negativity yourself.  

Twitter is probably the most notorious platform for negativity. The combination of pseudo-anonymity with the ability to message users at will creates a disastrous recipe. But based on the research above, users who act inauthentically on Twitter are also adding to their own negativity. It will be difficult to tackle the issue itself, but, reiterating the lessons above, being positive and authentic will help you stay positive and add to the positivity of others.  

Finally, I wanted to speak a little bit to negativity – often called toxicity – in online gaming. I’m a big fan of this topic, and it’s one of the reasons I’m so interested in digital community management. Unfortunately, the solutions that can be put forward to the whole industry are limited. Developers themselves must find ways to remove toxicity from their games while supporting their player base. What I’ve found works best for me and to prevent me from tilting is to remember that video games are still just games, and everyone playing is just trying to have fun.  

Notes 

Fall Guys Marketing Article 

Absurdist Millennial Comedy 
Potential Benefits of Suicide Memes 

Absurdism is a theory that came from Albert Camus. In our discussion of absurdism’s relationship to suicide, I’m happy to link to the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which outlines the relationship better than I can. On that note, keep in mind that asking Camus’ fundamental question is dangerously close to suicide ideation. If you’re asking the question, you may want to find help

Authenticity on Social Media  

Baker, Z. G., Tou, R. Y., Bryan, J. L., & Knee, C. R. (2017). Authenticity and well-being: Exploring positivity and negativity in interactions as a mediator. Personality and Individual Differences113, 235-239. 

Reinecke, L., & Trepte, S. (2014). Authenticity and well-being on social network sites: A two-wave longitudinal study on the effects of online authenticity and the positivity bias in SNS communication. Computers in Human Behavior, 30, 95-102. 

Positivity Blog 
Positivity WikiHow 
Healthline 

LoL World Championship

I’ve mentioned before that I’m currently enrolled in the Foundations of Digital Communications Strategy and Social Media course at the University of Toronto. As part of the course I’m supposed watch a live event and post about it on Twitter.  

I originally meant to stick pretty close to the assignment parameters and not expand too much on those tweets. But, after taking part in the event, I feel like there’s a lot to say about context and how I feel after contributing more to the Twitter community. Without further delay, let me take you through my tweets following the League of Legends 2020 World Championships quarter finals last game.  

Note: If you really don’t know anything about League of Legends, you should watch a game before reading this article.  

I mentioned in my first tweet that I haven’t played League of Legends (LoL) in many years. I usually tell people that I haven’t played since Riven came out, and that’s how I figure it’s been about 9 years since my last game.  

I do watch a fair amount of LoL esports though. I’m not sure what initially got me interested in watching, but there’s always a crowd, it’s exciting, and it’s really the closest I’ve ever been to following a sport. With the cancelation of live events because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was really the only thing I could think of talking about for the assignment.  

One thing that bothers me is the inconsistencies that exist between the different professional leagues of LoL. It’s great that every league feels different. That difference is achieved through having league-specific casters, events, sponsors, and streams, but one thing that I can’t get over is bad UI design.  

As I watch games during the LoL Worlds Championship, I’ve become increasingly bothered by how little effort seems to be put into the viewer interface. I tend to watch mostly the LCK, which is the Korean LoL league. In trying to figure out why that’s the case, I found one reason to be that the LCK emphasizes its interface.  

I mentioned in the above tweet that I wish they showed the names of champions as they were hovered by players. I know that this frustration comes in part because I’m not as familiar with the game as most other viewers, but I think there’s something to be said for all the viewers that are like me and watch games because of the esports aspect of it rather than out of an inherent love of LoL.  

I spend half my time in this blog talking about community. Setting up an interface that’s friendly to new viewers is an obvious step in building community for esports. There’s no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t have kept watching the LCK if the barriers to understanding what was happening were as high as they are during the World Championship.  

Like any burgeoning sports fan, one of the things I had to do while watching the game is to pick a team to root for. Because I tend to watch the Korean LoL most, I figured I would pick the Korean team in this matchup. It was a little unfortunate, but no less fun, that the team I picked couldn’t perform at the same level as their opponent in this match.  

One of the things that happens in esports, and particularly in MOBAs, is that some characters end up getting picked more often than others. This becomes the “Meta” of the game, and the result is that games end up looking like one another.  

The above tweet was a funny moment in the match between GenG and G2 and outlines the fact that there tends to be a lack of originality in how teams draft their champions. There’s plenty to be said about the reasons for that, but I do appreciate folks pointing it out as I think it’s good for the long-term growth of the sport, especially if it’s to become more viewer oriented.  

I already mentioned community, but it was special for me to feel like I was contributing to LoL’s community despite not playing the game. It was great to see everyone on Twitter post and talk about the games as they were happening, and it really opened my eyes to what Twitter can be used for.  

More than ever before, I see value in the way that Twitter presents conversations happening on the platform, and it’s great to see that everyone can have a voice despite the number of people commenting. It’s rare to see that on social media because popular voices usually drown out others.  

I was up at 0300 to watch this match take place. I was tired but also excited to be taking part in the event. When the second game ended and G2 was in the lead, I was happy at the thought of being able to get more sleep once the match was over, but also sad that it would be over so quickly. 

Another advantage of Twitter is being able to retweet things that are relevant without having to know the entire context behind it. I don’t actually know who Azael is, but I knew he worked for Riot Games, the folks behind LoL.  

The reason I retweeted this is that it points to an interesting aspect of esports. Despite LoL existing as an esport for a comparatively long time, it’s still new. Statistics like the fact that there had never been a reverse sweep until this World Championships highlights the idea that even though hundreds of professional games have already been played, esports is a new thing.  

For me, that reflection is exciting because I can’t wait to see what happens in the future for esports. It’s also strange because I fully realize that my interest in esports is almost entirely rooted in my generation and my other interests in video games and digital communities.  

I retweeted Sandy because she said everything that needed to be said about the end of the match in fewer words than I would have.  

Sandy is also in the same course as me, so it was nice to see us two as the smallest subset of our #digitaledu community within this bigger event. To me, this speaks to the interconnectivity of all internet communities.  

This tweet was important to me because it recognizes the work that the casters do in making esports fun and engaging. Even though I watch the Korean league, I can still keep up because of English casts. It’s what helps make the community feel so close.  

Usually I’m happy to listen to LS and Atlus, but I felt that Vedius and Medic did an amazing job at engaging me as a new viewer. It also felt special for my tweet to be liked by both casters, because it made me feel like I belonged in the community.  

This sense of belonging is my most important takeaway from taking part in the event, and it made it clear why an assignment like this one is so important in trying to understand social media. I would never have seen this side of Twitter if I hadn’t actively engaged with an event and a community like I had to here.  

I wanted my last tweet of the event to be thankful. I had a wonderful time and I’m hoping that by putting out positivity I can convince others to join the community and discover a new passion.  

It’s also incredible to me that esports find so many viewers. For an event that took place early in the morning in North America, it still had a crazy turnout. We’re also talking about a single platform here, and there were probably more views coming in from YouTube and maybe even Facebook.  

Watching LoL esports is a great way for me to relax, and I’m honest when I say I can’t wait to see what’s next for the game, for the sport, and for esports overall.  

Notes

I framed this article differently then I usually do. Because so many elements were directly embedded into the article, I wasn’t sure whether a notes section would be needed or not. I decided on adding one because I could plug all the folks I mentioned once again and provide you with easy links.  

People I mentioned:  
LS@LSXYZ9 
Atlus@Atlustv 
Vedius@RiotVedius 
Medic@MedicCasts 
Azael@RiotAzael 
@Sandy_McGill3 

Check out these organizations:  
LoL@lolesports 
GenG@GenG 
G2@G2esports 

Further readings:  
Multiplayer Online Battle Arena 
Game “Meta” 
League of Legends 

Fall Guys’ Digital Campaign

Last week, I mentioned Fall Guys’ Community Director, @OliverAge24, and his role in making Fall Guys go viral. While the discussion started in relation to using Twitch as a marketing platform, more can be said about Oliver’s role in promoting Fall Guys across multiple social media platforms and the results of that strategy.  

Fortunately for us, Oliver outlined the core points of the strategy through a series of tweets. While this presents me with an opportunity to outline what made the strategy unique and effective, it’s also important that the conversation begins with a disclaimer:  

I didn’t write this strategy. I think it’s an amazing look at how to market products into the 2020’s, but the genius behind it is really Oliver’s. I’d go as far as to say that I feel bad for reusing this much content towards my own writing. On the other hand, the brilliance of the whole thing ought to be outlined further than it has been to date. I’ll be linking each tweet I’m using as the source of the discussion and I’ll try and keep quotes to a minimum. I’ll state again that this strategy isn’t mine, and I’m just hoping to promote it as a great strategy for its own sake. My contribution will be in breaking it down and highlighting parts of it.  

I can’t break down each slide of the strategy, so I’ll be focusing on the ones that were most relevant and are the most original. The focus on community building is at the centre of that, but I’ll also be speaking to winning tactics given the size of the team that worked on Fall Guys and the overall feel that the strategy went for.  

Scaling Small Teams 

Small teams are becoming more commonplace as developers and entrepreneurs find new sources of funding. Crowdsourcing development has become more common in the gaming industry, as has early access for fundraising during development. This is a similar environment to many startups, and this tactic is transferrable across industries. 

Oliver focused on taking a personal approach to the marketing of Fall Guys. This meant treating the entire marketing strategy as if only one person was promoting the game. The result was a personable approach; folks that saw Fall Guys’ marketing felt like they were being spoken to personally because all the marketing efforts were coming from a single voice.  

Further to this, Oliver was doing things that larger marketing strategy can’t do. Actively interacting with fans that asked questions, engaging with the content that was posted to Twitter, and promoting a tight-knit community would only be viable for a time. As the community grew, those tactics would have to be abandoned in favour of focusing on larger marketing goals.  

This allowed Fall Guys to come across in an authentic way. The small studio would reach out to people personally to talk about the game they were passionate about. Community content came pouring in, and the marketing team supported it by creating channels that would promote interconnectivity with other players. 

Platform-specific Strategy

This slide is the one I used in my last article. The basic premise is simple enough and is widely understood in marketing circles. But what Oliver emphasized was more than just the voice of each platform; his strategy focused on understanding user trends on those platforms.  

The voice you use on Twitter should be different than the one you use on Instagram; this is essentially back to speech genres. But to go the extra mile, you have to understand how your audience uses those platforms. This is different than how many companies approach social media marketing. By empathising with the user and supporting them in how they want to use the platform, you validate their point of view. You enable them to continue taking part in the conversation in a way that’s accessible to them. You’re no longer framing the conversation to control it; you’re letting the fans create a community.  

What Oliver did is look at the content that Fall Guys players put out and validate it by centring the strategy around it. This established Oliver and Fall Guys as valuable members of that platform’s community. Trust could be built up from there, and folks felt enabled to take part in a conversation that’s usually driven by the marketing team instead of by the fans.  

The result was an authentic voice that drew people in. Fall Guys as a brand seemed to actively listen to its fans and responded in a way that made sense for each platform. They met their fans where they already were but did so in an honest way.  

Trust the Experts 

Referring to my previous article about Twitch, I mentioned that content creators are great at engaging with their communities. While Oliver framed this slide around the lessons that can learned by watching content creators go to work, I think the strategy also emphasized letting content creators promote Fall Guys in a way that worked best for their community.  

When it came to influencer relations, Oliver took a backseat to let the experts promote in a way that would work with their community. Because Oliver didn’t have a complete understanding of how each content creator community operated, he let influencers take charge.  

That’s not to say that Oliver wasn’t there at all though. An important part of engaging with content creators and their community is taking part in those communities. Instead of giving out beta access codes to influencers and watching the player base grow, Oliver joined the communities where codes were being given. 

He was active on Twitter and on Twitch talking with creators and establishing a connection with communities. He talked in Twitch chat when he could and showed a very human side of Fall Guys’ marketing. At the same time, he was never overbearing, and never told content creators what to say about the game or how to distribute beta access codes.  

Building Community 

One thing that I can’t stress enough, and it’s bled into all my other talking points so far, is the importance of building and maintaining a community around your product. In the case of Fall Guys, the community was set up and given various platforms on which fans could get in touch and connect with each other.  

This multiplication of platforms is important in community building because it enables fans to define sub-communities around each platform. In the same thread as the slides, Oliver breaks down the strategy behind each platform used. By allowing fans to have defined communities for new players, for asking questions, for hanging out, or for posting memes, Oliver ensured that the wider Fall Guys’ community would stay tight-knit.

A product’s community is what determines its appeal in the long run. Other games from similar-sized developers have managed to stay relevant by relying on their community for support. A community can support your product by helping with marketing and outreach, but also by welcoming new community members.  

Creating a cycle where your community can actively contribute to the growth of itself is an excellent strategy to increase user retention. It also promotes your organization as community-driven, authentic, and friendly. Oliver actively engaged and promoted the Fall Guys community, and the game’s popularity increased as a result.  

W H O L E S O M E 

One thing that not enough organizations figure out is what they’re bringing to social media. Are you bringing positivity? Laughs? Are you just another corporate voice? What value does your social media presence bring to your fans and to all the users of the platform?  

Oliver made the decision that Fall Guys would bring positivity to social media. This blended well with the game’s vibe, but also helped support the concept of Fall Guys’ community. In fact, I’d say that bringing positivity to social media (and especially Twitter!) is a great strategy regardless of your brand’s usual voice.  

By focusing on positivity, Oliver emphasized everything that Fall Guys stood for while supporting every other aspect of the marketing strategy. No criticism can be made against being too nice, and this helped grow Fall Guys as a game that actively fights toxicity.  

Lessons 

There are five lessons that can be found in Oliver and Fall Guys’ marketing strategy:  

  1. A strategy can be focused around the resources at your disposal. Oliver managed to create hype for the game by interacting with players and taking part in their discussions. The campaign was honest in portraying just how small the studio is, and fans answered with support. 
  1. Ironically, Fall Guys didn’t game the system. Oliver just had a good grasp of how gamers would respond to social media marketing and didn’t try to steer things in a direction that was counter to that. He met players on their terms.  
  1. Oliver trusted content creators to engage their own communities about Fall Guys. All he had to do was get influencers involved, and then the Fall Guys community would speak for itself. This lesson plays into the first lesson in that this could all be done by one person.  
  1. Oliver ensured that there was more to Fall Guys than just fun gameplay. He worked to set up an active community of players that would support each other. This acted as value added to the game itself and helped keep Fall Guys relevant well after its release.  
  1. Oliver looked at what Fall Guys could bring to social media as a whole. Given the game’s emphasis on friendly competition and a fun environment, the decision was made to keep Fall Guys social media presence as friendly and wholesome as possible. It’s important to figure out what you’re bringing to social media; ask yourself how your brand can bring added positivity to platform users.  

NOTES & Links  

Without overdoing it with the praise, I hope the above helped break down why Fall Guys was so successful at launch. I also need to stress Oliver’s role in that success, because it’s clear that a lot of effort went into thinking up this marketing strategy.  

It might be too self-congratulatory, but I think that hiring folks who actively engage in emerging trends is the best way for brands to stay relevant.  

Thread 

Scaling Small Teams 

Platform-specific Strategy 

Trust the Experts 

Building Community 

W H O L E S O M E