Amazon-owned Twitch might be the ultimate social media platform that the average consumer has never heard of. Its specialism in ‘video games, pop culture, and conversation’ won’t appeal to everyone, but those that get it, love it, and that’s why by the close of 2017 Twitch was hot on the heels of the YouTube, boasting hundreds of millions of unique monthly viewers, with market analysts predicting the platform to be worth $20bn by 2021.

Twitch has transformed the live streaming arena by creating a more interactive and immersive user experience that has left YouTube, Facebook and Twitter scrambling to catch up. That’s why many users are not only subscribing to their favourite content creators on the platform (either through a subscription fee or via a fringe benefit of their Amazon Prime membership) but are also donating directly to them in increments that can range from $1 or $2, up to hundreds or thousands. “The deal that Amazon Prime and Twitch Prime have together is incredible,” said Ninja, one of the most popular streamers on the Twitch platform. “Twitch Prime allows people to claim loot and collect loot with specific games, and they recently did a deal with Fortnite, which is the hottest game out there, and that actually is one of the main reasons of an influx of subscribers to my streams.”

Authentic content

These users can’t get enough of Twitch’s unique blend of live video and group chat. The content is raw, real and authentic – a direct, unfiltered interaction between content creator and audience rather than the glossier, more stylized content you might find on rival platforms. The raw content combined with visually stimulating video games filled a need which broadcast television completely missed. What’s more, with the advent of Twitch Prime back in mid-2016 the platform gives them a chance to opt out of ads while they’re streaming in return for subscriptions to any content creator who has achieved ‘partnered’ status on the platform, creating a big opportunity for influencers to earn more based directly on their ability to meet audiences’ wants and needs.

This steady, projectible cash flow is driving even more influencers from platforms such as YouTube and Instagram onto Twitch. Popular influencers like H3H3, Markiplier and LuzuGames are finding new audiences on the platform, further burgeoning its engaged user base. New features such as direct purchase from channels will create further incentive for big creators to move to Twitch.

That’s not to say that Twitch cuts brands out of the loop. For starters, the very nature of having gamers live stream their playing time means publishers effectively benefit from a ridiculously long advertisement/showcase for each of their games that is played. Also, recent campaigns such as streamers introducing new Rainbow 6 characters into the arena, demonstrate how brands and influencers can go one step further and collaborate to deliver high-impact and mass engagement campaigns on the platform.

Viable opportunity

So to what extent does Twitch represent a viable opportunity for brands more generally? Well, the platform won’t work if you’re trying to target young, female beauty fans or 50-something homeowners. Currently, this is a platform for targeting young males, predominantly, so if you’re in food and drink, FMCG, clothing etc. then Twitch could certainly factor into your thinking – just take a look at the blossoming relationship between Gillette and Dr DisRespect. But while we’re seeing more brands dip their toes into the water, we’re also witnessing reticence from marketers concerned about the brand safety issues of working with influencers in this raw, unguarded live arena. Systems and processes are what ensure great execution and help insulate against this risk, and not understanding those systems and processes makes brands hesitant to dive in. This is understandable but could mean brands are missing out on accessing a hotbed for the freshest creative talent.

Working with influencers

Truthfully there’s no reason why working with influencers on Twitch should be seen as any more daunting than stepping into the fray with YouTubers. The factor remains that brands must cede some creative control when entering the live arena, and that means placing more trust in the influencers they’re working with. Well-defined, clear briefs are essential. Research into influencers’ previous content, to determine who is truly brand safe, is a must. Ensuring there is an appropriate disclosure that the content is paid-for – through on-screen graphics or verbal disclosure – also takes precedence, given that Twitch and its influencers sell themselves on their authenticity.

Brand safety

Adhering to the above, marketers should rest assured that Twitch does not represent an unnecessary brand safety risk and will actually see performance metrics soar. Of course, guaranteeing campaign effectiveness requires brands to go further and dive deep into understanding what content resonates best on the platform. For example, streams that last under 45 minutes rarely generate momentum, particularly on Twitch where there is no time-limit on content length. Streams need a critical mass of people to build up the hype, so a brand’s ‘big reveal’ needs to happen at least one hour into the stream. Some Twitch channels are literally 24/7 with influencers taking part in shifts. It’s a different approach and a different audience mentality for marketers to get their heads around. Brands need to let the influencers guide them to campaign success on the platform, and not to panic if the first half an hour of the stream feels somehow underwhelming compared to activity on other social platforms.

Despite its huge popularity, for now, Twitch’s gaming dominance means that it may still be seen as a niche platform for any brands that don’t have a close association with the gaming industry. However, the platform offers brands a network of loyal, engaged users that regularly interact with many different types of content beyond gaming. You can get reach anywhere, but the hyper-engaged consumer is unique to the Twitch platform. These are the internet savvy, brand advocates you want.

Twitch is not going to disappear any time soon, and with Amazon behind the scenes, at the very least it’s a platform that all marketers should be keeping an eye on as they continue to ramp up their influencer marketing efforts and look to broaden their campaign strategies.

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