thought leadership

Think Twitch is just for gamers? Think again

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Twitch is one of the world’s most underrated platforms. Marketers pay little attention to it, but it’s stealthily creeping up on the big guns of social media. 

Firstly, it’s huge. It accounted for 65% of the market share of streamed gaming hours in Q1 2020 (3.1bn hours, compared to YouTube Gaming’s 1.1bn) and broke its own record in Q2 with more than 5bn hours streamed. At any given moment, 1.5 million people are tuned in to Twitch, and over the course of a day, it attracts around 17 million visitors. 

It’s not all about gaming
Twitch has a ‘Just Chatting’ category where users can host live streams without playing any particular game, which is more popular than many of the games on the platform. And recently, the platform has been making clear moves into different verticals.

It recently launched a sport category; complementing owner Amazon’s live sports coverage, Twitch will allow sports fans to get up close and personal with their favourite sports, clubs and athletes.

The Premier League, UEFA Champions League, MLB, NBA and the MLS all signed up to push their content. F1 star Lando Norris is prolific on the platform, signalling the way for how sports stars could interact more openly with fans moving forward.

Options for brands 
While there are ‘standard’ ad options on Twitch, like banners and pre-roll ads, it’s also got some of the most innovative features of any social media offering that marketers can make the most of. Earlier this year, we worked Uber Eats on a Twitch campaign that made use of one of its most exciting features: raids.

Two stars of Twitch, Manny and Miniminter, used the raiding feature to drop in on unsuspecting gamers and open their feeds up to thousands of viewers (with action fuelled, of course, by Uber Eats). It was a joy to watch, with levels of excitement people very rarely get to see in advertising. Brands like Wendy’s and Old Spice have seen similar levels of hype and strong results from Twitch campaigns in the past. 

Influencer partnerships such as these are a good option for brands who want to tap into Twitch; many streamers will become brand ambassadors and partners in order to boost their income, via promoting products through ad reads, playing games on livestreams, wearing merchandise and more. 

Twitch also hosts a ‘Bounty Board’ where brands can place “targets” for multiple influencers to hit within an activation. This allows Streamers to choose which bounties suit their audience and is most commonly used by game developers and publishers promoting their next product. There have been other examples of its use, such as influencers doing watchalongs to trailers for upcoming shows. 

The challenges 
But it’s not all straightforward - Twitch can be a difficult place to get your marketing right. Unsurprisingly, the brands which tend to do well on the platforms are ones which are best fit for the audience on it. Sports, food and drink companies that all play to a younger audience are a natural fit on the platform, particularly when working alongside a relevant influencer.

The most important thing for brands coming to the platform is to not upset the equilibrium that currently exists within it. If a brand partners with an influencer and they are forced to do things they wouldn’t normally do (ie prolonged ad reads with scripts that don’t fit within their tone of voice), the lack of authenticity will be immediately felt by that influencer’s audience. It’s important that your presence feels like a natural fit and doesn’t disrupt the natural order of things.

And there are a few issues with Twitch as a platform. The first is that marketers stereotype it as consisting of a predominately ‘gamer’ audience. But those interested in gaming are not a niche group, they come from all parts of society. And entertainers from all walks of life have embraced the platform. Comedians, musicians, celebrities. All using Twitch for what it is. A platform to tell their story and engage with millions of people. 

It’s also true that many marketers are also scared of the unknown. The new is appealing, but risky. Most will leave it to others to test out new approaches, watch and wait until they decide it’s reached the critical mass required for them to jump on. And while Twitch is certainly high on the user number side, brands campaigns are still few and far between. 

Do your due diligence 
For those who are looking at Twitch as an option, the due diligence that applies to any ‘new’ platform (or new for your brand at least) applies. 

Establish that the audience make up is a good fit, and that the behaviours on the platform reflect that of your brand and its values, so you can be credibly involved. Take time to understand how people are using the platform and what’s resonating with them. It can be an intimidating prospect to jump into what are considered more niche platforms, so make sure you’re working with a team who really know their stuff. 

But get it right and it can be beautiful. What’s different about Twitch is the intimacy built between streamers and their audience. They are so much more likely to sit, watch, engage (and pay) for hours on end than any other platform. Streaming is all about community. And Twitch facilitates togetherness around passion points at a time when many people need connections more than ever. 

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This article was originally written for The Drum by our Executive Creative Director in London, Gareth Leeding.