Twitch & Brands: a marriage that feels just right

Twitch

Alberto Guevara
Academic coordinator at the MSC in Marketing UPF Barcelona School of Management

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past almost seven years, chances are you have heard about Twitch; a social media platform acquired by Amazon in August 2014 that relies on the power of a robust community of engaged users, many of whom happen to be involved in the gaming world.

What is Twitch?

Twitch's beginnings go back to 2007 when its founder, Justin Kan, launched Justin.tv as a streaming platform based on channels that allowed users to share content among several different categories.

In 2011 the company launched a rebranded service called TwitchTV to focus on gaming content, and then it started a journey that will make it the household name for streaming platforms.

Nowadays, Twitch's content is mainly related to video games. However, more and more other categories are available as the platform has managed to offer great features for content creators to monetize their audience through their content.

What is so special about Twitch?

The uniqueness of Twitch is heavily based on the generated content its users share online. Twitch has become the main scenario for esports competitions, gameplay streams, talk shows, video podcasts, and more.

On the one hand, the platform makes it easy for users to find videos or live streams about specific games, in which the audience can interact in real-time with the streamer or gamer with an enhanced messaging platform that rewards users among the audience who are willing to spend money to support the streamers' channel.

Streamers usually are highly skilled gamers with engaging personalities and can deal with the most challenging missions, parts, or events on a specific game. Thus, it is easy for viewers to become engaged to the content published by gamers, which may become influencers among their supporters.

Twitch by the numbers

Twitch is the second leading platform for gaming video content worldwide (22% market share), with YouTube being third (18%) and Huya first (60%); this last one comes from the Chinese market, so they leverage on a stronghold of Chinese users that do not have access to other alternatives to watch videogame streams.

Zooming in, Twitch is the number one for the number of hours of content watched on any live streaming platform worldwide. It surpasses its competitors' alternatives.

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Hours watched on leadingLivestream platforms worldwide during Q1 2021 (in millions).

The reason behind this? One single word: Engagement.

The fact is that Twitch's users are highly engaged with the content streamers post on the platform, and this is not limited to "just watch" videos and live streams, but to comments, shares, and overall involvement during the live sessions.

This transforms Twitch into an excellent opportunity for brands to reach out and engage with potential customers, leveraging the loyal audience of well-established streamers.

How can brands take advantage of Twitch?

The first thing we need to understand about Twitch is the audience profile; the latest data by GlobalWebIndex (2019) shows that 65% of its users identify as male and 35% as female. So, the gender distribution is unbalanced, which makes it interesting when on the lookout for niche topics, categories, or channels where this statistic can be flipped.

Twitch is not a social media for the US only; in fact, only 24% of its users are based in the United States, and countries like Germany, Brazil, and Spain have seen a surge in the popularity of this platform in part because of how streamers are taking advantage of live streams to talk about topics that are not in the videogame niche.

Champions League matches and other sports competitions with commentaries from famous streamers have amassed great interest from users, generally Gen-Z and Millenials, but not limited to them. Showcasing the true power of this type of content.

So, coming back to how can brands make the most out of Twitch, let's try to number some steps they'll need to follow:

1.Comply with the rules of engagement. It is clear that the reason why users are so engaged with Twitch's channels: entertainment. So we need to be laser-focused with the content we create so that it can satisfy this need.

If we head back a decade, an excellent example of how this can be applied is the Will it Blend? Series of videos by blender manufacturer Blendtec. In those videos, they managed to entertain by pulverizing tech gadgets like iPhones while at the same time proving how potent their products were.

Back in those days, it was YouTube, so what is important now is to understand how this can be adapted natively to Twitch's way of doing things.

OldSpice showed us how to nail this back in 2015 when they launched the Nature Adventure. An interactive experience where a "human" released in the middle of a jungle had to follow the directions and instructions given by viewers on the Twitch chat. A clever way to connect your brand with the tech features of the platforms for the sake of entertainment.

2. Take advantage of the locals

This would apply to any platform where a brand would like to venture in. Just like being guided by a local when visiting a new town, Twitch's influencers will be the best partner anyone looking to reach an audience there can have.

The important thing about this, however, is to pick the right kind of streamer that would:

  • Reach your target audience.
  • Connect in some way with the brand's values and personalities.

Some tips to help streamline this are to focus on the audience they have, the topics or genres they cover, and most importantly, viewers' relationship with the influencer. We should partner with someone who speaks to the audience we want to reach through engaging topics and have communication reciprocity; comments and UGC (User-generated content) are just a couple of indicators we could use to understand this.

An example of how non-gaming brands can take advantage of this is how Hershey's used a collaboration between two well-known Twitch influencers; Dr.Lupo and Ninja, to launch its new chocolate bar that mixed Hershey's chocolate with Reese's peanut butter.

They streamed for 12 hours just before TwitchCon2018 (one of the most significant events for content creators) and mentioned, showed, and referenced to the candy bar several times not only on the live stream but in some of their other channels as well.

The great thing about this example was that it felt natural; for anyone playing video games for extended periods of time, eating treats is part of the routine, so it did not feel intrusive nor out of context.

3. Keep your eyes open and be responsive
The best thing about implementing marketing actions on live streaming platforms is that there is no delay in the response from the audience. Thus, for this reason, brands must have their eyes open to whatever happens online during these marketing actions.

There is so much opportunity for brands to use real-time marketing here:

  • Interact with messages from the viewers.
  • Let the brand loose to be part of the crowd.
  • Identify and promote opportunities to boost UGC.

 

4. Set your expectations straight
As with any marketing activities, having SMART goals is a must. However, every time we work on a strategy for online marketing, things may start to get a bit fuzzy.

That is why it is essential to know what we can achieve with platforms like Twitch and, to what extent, can serve us in an instrumental way to get us closer to our marketing goals.

Twitch can help brands to raise awareness about their products or services, gain relevance among potential customers, convert new customers, and even delight those who are already customers through the content and influencer's connections.

So, is Twitch good for any brand?

The short answer would be: yes and no.

Yes
    
Yes, it is good if you find a way to generate content either with an influencer partnership or standalone. The example of WildEarth, a channel hosted by expert zoologists from Australia, is excellent because it proves that there is space for streaming content that does not have to be limited to an in-home studio-like.

This channel streams live feeds of animals in the wild as an opportunity to bring people closer to nature. Like this, any channel that could offer entertaining content can even serve as educational and still be engaging.

No

If the brand is not up for the challenge of finding a way to communicate more dynamically and innovatively, Twitch is probably no the right place for that brand. But beware that in the near future, nor will be no other platform on the internet.

The paradigm of digital communication changed almost two decades ago. Twitch is just part of the wave of platforms that disrupt the typology of content being shared online and how users interact with one another.

Discord, Reddit, ClubHouse. If these names are not familiar to you or your brand, you may be losing great opportunities to connect with your target audience in more effective ways. Yet again, these are just a handful of platforms available to engage with people, so I am sure that there must be a "place" that will be a good fit for "almost" any brand.