Why marketers should be paying attention to Twitch
Why should marketers care about Twitch? Columnist Chris Kerns takes a look at the growing live-streaming phenomenon and how marketers and brands can take advantage of the channel.
Before you market to an audience, first you have to find them. Most marketers have their favorite channels — ones that have worked for them in the past, or where they feel most comfortable with the lingo and standards. But as time and technology push forward, the places where people spend time change along with them.
Recently, I plopped down on the couch to see what my kids were playing on the family iPad. My kids are huge Minecraft fans, but as it turned out, they weren’t playing the game that morning. They were watching someone else play Minecraft.
After doing some research, I quickly learned that my kids weren’t the only ones growing obsessed with this genre of entertainment, and that the movement of live-streaming (for video games, hobbies, and more) has the potential to be one of the next big media destinations, stealing eyeballs and hours of viewing time from more traditional sources.
So let’s talk about Twitch
Twitch is the biggest destination hosting channels for live streaming today. It began as a video game live-streaming platform and was acquired by Amazon in 2014 for just under $1 billion.
The viewing experience is full of information and features to hold your attention; in most cases, you’ll see a live feed of a game environment, with a smaller window in any given corner showing a view of the gamer at work, sitting at their monitor with headphones on and microphone at the ready.
But Twitch isn’t just about the gameplay. Popular streamers are adding a constant voiceover to the gameplay, sometimes giving more of a talk-show vibe than a gaming experience.
The Twitch environment also has another huge thing going for it: it isn’t just about broadcast; it’s a deeply social channel, with public live chat on the right rail of every stream.
Content creators interact with their audience as they are playing, and on the most popular channels, the conversations fly by at a fevered pace. Content creators get paid by number of viewer subscriptions (plus tip jars), and many of the most popular hosts have created an audience large enough to give up their day jobs and enjoy the life of a full-time streamer.
As Twitch has grown, the company has expanded its offerings to diversify beyond video game streaming. “Twitch IRL” was recently launched to allow for all sorts of video bloggers, including creative channels for cooking shows, art and programming tutorials and social eating (where hosts live-stream themselves eating meals, which is apparently a thing.)
So, to an outsider, Twitch seems like a nice niche player. Why should marketers care about this little sub-genre of the world?
Because it’s gigantic.
The biggest media destination marketers haven’t heard of
Twitch, per recent numbers the company released, has over two million creators on its network. It sees 100 million monthly viewers on the network, and those viewers are downright addicted to the service. How much so? On average, viewers spend more than 1.5 hours per day on the network. A quick peek at social data can help demonstrate Twitch’s success to date.
When I checked Twitter mentions of the channel vs. the biggest platforms in the gaming industry over the last three months of 2016, it became clear that the live-streaming brand is very much top of mind, easily keeping pace or beating mentions of the biggest players in the space.
But I’d encourage you to think of Twitch as bigger than just a player in the video game space. It’s pulling attention away from other media sources more and more every day.
If we change our focus away from gaming and toward the media landscape, things get very interesting. Here’s a look at Twitter mentions for Twitch over the last three months of 2016 compared to some media brands that you probably recognize.
That’s right: Twitch is, month-over-month, keeping close pace with Netflix, and eclipsing social mentions of big brands like iTunes and Spotify. This isn’t a new phenomenon — it’s happened consistently throughout 2016. So what is Twitch doing right, from a social perspective?
A culture of sharing
Twitch’s community of creators is made up of users who not only know how to entertain, but are also hyper-sharers when it comes to their content. By default, most people willing to live-stream parts of their lives are more inclined to share pointers to that content, and Twitch users are no different.
When I mined Twitter profiles for some of the top terms people use to describe themselves, links to Twitch channels were right there in the running for top terms. Twitch creators aren’t just sharing links to their individual streams — these constant profile links show that Twitch has become a large part of their digital lives, and one they are excited to share with the world.
How can brands get involved?
So, we’ve seen that Twitch already has a huge, growing presence with live-streamers and viewers. How can brands take advantage of the channel, and what are the best ways for groups to get in on this growing phenomenon?
Identify influencers while it’s still early
With every channel, finding the right pockets of influence is key to getting a marketing message out. With Twitch, we’ve got data on subscriptions, video views and activity to help gauge the reach of each Twitch creator.
The biggest streamers have sponsorship opportunities — whether it’s paid placement on their pages, branded signs or hats in the video feed, or audible shout-outs. But before you just follow the numbers, spend some time watching each creator’s catalog of content to make sure the voiceover and approach are appropriate for your brand.
Create your own content
One tactic to consider is creating your brand’s own creator channel. Again, Twitch has grown to encompass more than just video games — cooking, computer science, art and crafting and more content categories are growing in popularity each day.
You’d need to make sure you have the right on-screen talent and enough content to get a good series of videos together, but it’s a unique way to find an audience hungry for fresh content.
Old Spice did exactly that back in April 2015, dropping a live-streaming adventurer in the middle of the woods and allowing the Twitch comment stream to direct his actions.
Target the Next Generation
Beyond working directly with live-streamers, Twitch also has a good variety of ad products (including standard IAB display, video media and native opportunities) available. If you think the Twitch demographics match with what you’re looking to target, ping their team and start testing placements.
As attention shifts, so should you
It’s natural to grow comfortable working in a channel or industry for a long time. Experience gives us the chance to find the right metrics to measure success, grow used to the interface, understand the opportunities of the platform and build a reasonable expectation for performance. We’d be silly to not make the most of every channel as we learn what works, leveraging our experience for (hopefully) greater returns as time goes by.
But as marketers, we can’t let the comfortable pull of familiarity keep us from taking advantage of new opportunities. If we work to not only maximize our performance but also push ourselves to keep our eyes open to new opportunities, that’s when we’ll truly be innovating.
The live-streaming space may seem foreign to many, but the data shows that it’s a real player, deserving of real attention — not in six months, not next year, but now. The more adaptable you are to new ideas, new channels and new opportunities, the more your marketing will stop looking like everyone else’s and have a greater chance to get ahead of the pack.
But if you’ll excuse me, I need to stop pulling data and finish up my latest Skyrim sidequest. Vampires — vampires, everywhere.