1. Introduction

Conventional media like television or newspaper has already been replaced by modern media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, or Youtube. Teenagers and young adults are continuously looking for innovative outlets to get their information and entertainment from. One big name in this segment is often overlooked, regardless of its massive potential for both the entertainment and marketing world. We talk of course about Twitch, who managed to combine all the known media into one platform.

Twitch is a streaming platform that hosts millions of streamers and allows them to connect with their audience for free. With an internet connection and a little bit of software and hardware, you can reach people from all over the world. Viewers love live streams, as live streams provide them with the chance to interact with other users and the hosts themselves. This small and simple fact makes all the difference. Suddenly, you are no longer consuming video content in a passive form (like on your regular television), but interacting and maybe even controlling the broadcasted content.

So far, the platform was mainly hosting gaming content like gameplays or events. This trend is about to change now, as talk shows and other formats are on the rise. This indicates that the huge potential of this format has not been unlocked yet and that there is still time to get on the bandwagon. Whenever a platform is reaching and entertaining so many people, you really have to keep an eye on the potential the platform can have for you and your business. Twitch offers some serious marketing opportunities for almost every brand, assumed that they have an elaborated strategy and plan.

 

2. Streams and Twitch as a medium

2.1 Streams as a medium

Live Streaming has the power to connect the streamer (the broadcaster/moderator) with the whole world through an audio-visual output channel and an interactive chat. Its hybrid nature unifies the most popular media of the last century into one!

Marshall McLuhan famously once said that:

“The Medium is the Message”

 

This means that the medium shapes the content and defines the form of human association and action.
During the corona lock-down, when public life was “canceled”, the Golden Age of live streaming was at the horizon. History has shown that in times of crisis, people have an even stronger need to be entertained to stay mentally sane. Imagine watching a TV show, where you can interact and chat with other viewers, and the hosts and actors of the tv show in real-time -> Welcome to Twitch.

The most important parts of a stream/channel are the chat, the streamer’s profile, and of course, the main content (video). Often the streamer also has an active webcam to interact with his audience better. But this is totally up to you and not a must.

2.2. Twitch as a hybrid medium

Twitch is the most popular (gamer-oriented) live streaming platform in existence. The lock-down resulted in a popularity boost of the “Just Chatting”-section on Twitch, which only got introduced to the platform in 2018. For once, the dominant gaming-themed streams were outnumbered by the real-life streams.

A significant change lies in the usage of mobile phones and tablets to watch the streams, against the traditional desktop computer setup. A Twitch stream is generally orbiting around a streamer’s personality. The streamer’s activity is often just the decorum to create an easy entry and relatable topics. The livelihood of Twitch is fueled by the live interaction of the chat which connects the streamer to his fans.

The chat is likely to become the main content of the stream, and every Twitch chat channel has its own ecosystem. This ecosystem includes inside-jokes, general rules, and guidelines, that can be both unique to a channel or well-known on the whole platform.

According to McLuhan’s theory, Live Streaming on Twitch is a hot medium. It exposed viewers to high-resolution content without the need of high mental involvement. Yet, chat rooms are typically a cold medium, since there is text only which needs the active involvement of the viewer to make the experience meaningful.

In regard to classic media theory, Twitch effectively is a hybrid medium.

 

 

The “original” in the case of Twitch is the streamer and his room.
The webcam transmits the audio-visual content of the “original” 1:1 without viewer participation like a TV show. (hot media)
The chat, however, is designed for viewer participation. It creates 1:1000 engagement through the chat. (cold media)
Both features are given for Twitch: the chat can influence the audio-visual content of the stream and vice versa.

At this point it’s also extremely important to know about one crucial detail of the Twitch chat: Emotes. Twitch emotes would actually make for an entire different article, but if you want to have a brief look already: here’s a quick guide to the most popular Twitch Emotes.

 

3. Advertisements and Marketing on Twitch

When we think of advertising on other video platforms, regular video ads and banners are the first things that come to our mind. Even though Twitch does offer advertising in these formats, the real value of the platform and community lies elsewhere. Generally, we would differentiate between two approaches:

1) advertising on the platform (video and banner ads)
2) advertising through channels and streamers

Twitch doesn’t offer advertisement in every country. Make sure to get in contact with Twitch first to check for availability.

3.1 Twitch as an advertising and marketing platform

As already mentioned, this type of marketing and advertising is per se possible on Twitch. It can be an alternative for you if you don’t want to invest the time to build a relationship with streamers or start your own channel. BUT it is not the way that we would recommend most businesses and entrepreneurs to engage this platform.
For completeness, we are going to show you which possibilities Twitch offers, and when they make sense.


Native ad placement:

On Twitch, you can choose between a variety of native ad placements. Some of the offered placements aren’t actually for you as an outside advertiser, but for streamers.

bounty board:
In a nutshell: Streamers can activate bounties on their channel to receive a reward (payment, e.g.) by the advertiser. One example would be playing your game and following certain rules and guidelines or watching your trailers. The streamer has to earn the bounty with this task actively, and therefore advertising the product in question.
Also, the bounty board is an invite-only program for partners and affiliates with high-performance stats and metrics on Twitch.
It doesn’t make much sense to explain the bounty board in-depth because the format isn’t being frequently used and didn’t receive any noticeable updates over the last year(s).
Though, with the recent changes on the advertising platform, Twitch might be breathing new life into the bounty board.

 

homepage carousel:
This is an example of placements that are used by streamers only. The carousel is a highlight of ongoing streams on Twitch’s main landing page. You can pay to receive a highlighted spot of your live-broadcast with a short introduction text to lure viewers to your channel.

 

homepage headliner:

This is an example of a homepage headliner banner. The ad lies behind the carousel that highlights streams to visitors on the main page. Usually, it is the first ad that visitors see if they join the website through the main landing page. This placement makes sense for big games and brands targeting a broad audience, like new games or gaming products. It makes less sense for smaller brands or niche products, just because the Twitch audience doesn’t suit that kind of ad. In case your products are related to gaming, or if your audience is overall connected to gaming, this method might be worth a try. Otherwise, we recommend engaging Twitch viewers in another way.

 

medium rectangle and super leaderboard:
These are simple banner ads that are placed on the browsing pages of Twitch. Similar to other websites, these ads work if you have a catchy ad. This format is most likely to make sense if you have a broad audience and products that appeal to the majority of visitors.

 

video ads:

Additionally, you have the possibility to run video ads on Twitch. Usually, they play at the beginning of a viewer session (when first starting a certain stream). Some streamers also run ads during short breaks (mid-stream) or before they finish the broadcast (end-stream).

On September 15th of 2020, Twitch tweeted that they are testing automated mid-roll ads:

Before this, only the streamer could start mid-stream ads on his channel. Usually, streamers run those ads when they take a little break. This way they get a little ad-revenue and the viewers are not missing actually content of the stream. Automated mid-roll ads are the exact opposite of this. They will randomly begin in the middle of the stream. What might be good for the ad-revenue as a big streamer, can be devastating for the viewer-counter of smaller streamers, as usually 30% of the viewers leave a stream, once ads pop up.

Video ads leave room for diversity and can contain content from various different industries. The downside is that in some countries the minimum advertising budget is set to 10.000$ right now. This makes the entry difficult or impossible for many small to medium businesses.

Apart from that, we would only suggest this type of advertisement if you manage to run greatly produced campaigns or potentially viral content. Otherwise, you are risking to spend too much money on meager results. People on Twitch are used to seeing entertaining content. Therefore mediocre ads will leave the users unimpressed. Be sure that your content fits the general audience and characteristics of the platform or channel.

DHL is a great example of video advertising on a channel done right. DHL is an official sponsor and partner of the ESL (Electronic Sports League) and runs ads that combine their services with e-sports live events and merchandise logistics. They connected their services to the interests of an audience that, at first glance, doesn’t look like potential clients.

 

3.2 advertising through channels and streamers

In our opinion, this is where the unique potential of Twitch really lies in your marketing strategy. There are many ways in which you can use channels or streamers to advertise your products or brand. There are probably more ways than we can think of right now, and certainly more than we are able to illustrate in this deconstruction.

 

a) advertise on existing channels and streams

This is probably the most common approach because it is less time-consuming than building your very own stream and audience.
Loosely speaking, you have to look for one or more streamers or channels on which you are going to advertise. Depending on your budget and goals, you have to decide whether you want to go with a big and famous streamer or a relatively small and niche stream that fits your product and brand.

It is essential to know that today 10% of the streamers host over 90% of the viewers on Twitch. This makes it hard to find big accounts that aren’t already partnering with other brands. Luckily, you don’t really need a streamer with thousands of subscribers to successfully implement Twitch into your marketing strategy. You will be able to find thousands of smaller accounts that have a very loyal and authentic viewership.


(The highlighted users are subscribers that financially support the streamer. They usually are the heart of the channel communication and care a lot for the streamer and his opinion. Every streamer has at least a couple of core-fans that come back regularly and susceptible to marketing/advertising on the channel.)

 

What makes those communities so valuable for you and virtually every marketer is the fact that the viewers essentially appreciate sponsors and advertisement. This means that the audience actively and voluntarily consumes ads and product placements to support the streamer. Where else can you find this kind of customer behavior nowadays? Every other platform and medium would kill to have audiences that are willing to consume ads to this extent!


product and ad placement on channels & streams:

Once you found the right channel and streamer, you have to decide how you are going to advertise on the platform and on their profile. You will now be confronted with a variety of options, which might be overwhelming at first. In the final analysis, this variety is the exact reason why we think that Twitch is such a powerful marketing platform.

On the one hand, you could place banners and icons on the streamers channel, similar to regular banner ads on the website. This could look like this example of Summit1g’s channel:

Our red boxes mark all ads and affiliate links/ads from brands that advertise (or partner) through Summit’s profile and streams.

This approach is widespread, and pretty much every full- or part-time streamer has at least one sponsored icon in his channel description. Streamers are particularly interested in adding these affiliated links and graphics to their profile if they help them generate an additional income.
In case you don’t know, an affiliate link informs the seller how the buyer stumbled upon the product. In our example, if you were to click on the G-Fuel link on Summits profile and buy something or use his promo-code, G-Fuel would know that you entered their homepage through his channel and thus will pay him a commission.
Even though this is a standard procedure, you don’t necessarily have to limit yourself to this kind of ad placement. Both you and the streamer could stick your heads together and find other creative illustrations and ways to profit from each other—the more extravagant, the better. At least on most channels.

Another possibility is advertising directly on the stream. Again this option comes with a bunch of alternatives. You could, for example, get some visibility directly on the video itself, via integrated logos or slogans. Simplified, you could compare this to the placement of sponsor logos right on the screens of the visitors. The viewers will see the logo all the time in this scenario, whereas they will only see the icons and links if they go to the channel description.

 

Or if your products allow it, have the streamer place items in the room around him so his viewers can see it in his stream. Fans often ask streamers about all the objects around them and what he or she likes to use. This creates opportunities for the streamer to talk about your products if this is part of your partnership. The streamer then has the chance to give some further explanation of the products. If your products or services aren’t self-explanatory, this is an excellent option for you.

An additional common strategy is to have the streamer talk about your products. If you ask us, this only makes sense if the streamer really buys into your product or service and is able to deliver his sincere conviction to the audience. The streamer directly acts as an influencer that is using and praising your brand. Be aware, though, that followers know their favorite streamers pretty well. They will instantly spot the difference between sincere mentions or advertisement that was only done because the streamer was paid a lot.
The followers love to copy the streamers and buy the stuff that they have, but this is generally only true if they see that he or she identifies with those products and actually believes that they are great.
Or you could send streamers your products and let him/her use and review them. But bear in mind that the feedback and review don’t necessarily have to be positive, like this example shows:

sponsoring of channels:

Also, you have the ability to sponsor a streamer or channel, either by supporting him with money or streaming equipment. Such a sponsorship could maybe be part of an awareness campaign to make your name circulate around the platform and possibly get other streamers to approach you when they need sponsors for themselves. As mentioned earlier, you can combine sponsorships with a logo or ad placement on the channels, but you don’t necessarily have to. Furthermore, you have the chance to communicate that you are actively investing in streamers and thereby show to the outside that you support this trend and online development. Every audience likes appreciation, and this is especially true for gamers and Twitch audiences in general.

 

PR stunts:

Example MadMonQ

PR stunts come in many forms, which is why it is totally up to you how you are going to use the platform for your campaign.
A couple of years ago, we saw live how MadMonQ developed its marketing strategy on different Twitch Channels. They started to supply streamers with their “brain performance booster pills” and, in return, make the streamers talk about the positive effects the pills have.

Over the following months, MadMonQ planted communication-staff into the chats of the streamers and actively answered upcoming questions regarding the product. It was the first time that we saw a brand actively being a part of the chat ecosystem.

MadMonQ even gifted hundreds of subscriptions (1 subscription to a channel = 5$) to other viewers. This way they gave the community something back, instead of just spamming the chat for their own purpose. Because MadMonQ established this relationship slowly and took part in the dialogues, they were able to naturally be part of the conversations for quite some time. They understood very early how useful Twitch can be if you come up with a fitting marketing campaign.
All of this was, of course, arranged with the streamers. Otherwise, MadMonQ would have been banned in the chat rather quickly – so don’t try this unplanned.

Example Burger King

Even though this Burger King campaign wasn’t directly a Twitch campaign, it shows you how creative you can get with using streamers and games in general for your marketing purposes. In case you are interested check out this video to see how they used an unknown football club and gamers to get increased social media visibility:

b) create your own channel and stream

Besides all the mentioned forms of advertising, sponsoring, and partnerships with other channels, you could also create your very own channel and stream.
With the recent changes the platform saw, you don’t have to stream game-related content to be successful. We are convinced that you have a realistic chance to start a healthy stream around literally every topic you could think of. The “just chatting” section of Twitch is growing on a daily basis and this trend only just took off. There is plenty of time to jump on the bandwagon.

Right now the Just Chatting category has more viewers than any game. This should be enough proof of how powerful the platform has become in this regard.

Today you find webinars, public meetings, discussion-rounds, news broadcasts, and God knows what on Twitch. And starting your very own stream is not as complicated as you might think. All you need for a decent setup is a microphone, maybe a web and laptop. You can roll with affordable hardware, that you find in pretty much every specialist shop to start.

Once you got the hardware, you have to set up your account and software. You’ll find plenty of useful guides on how to do that online. In case you want to have a quick look, here is one.

You might ask yourself, what am I going to talk about? What strategy should I stick to?
Of course, we don’t encourage you to jump straight into the action without an actual plan. BUT on the other hand most famous streamers did exactly that. Try out different setups, topics, and formats and see how the few people that randomly join your stream react. Engage with them, invite friends, and maybe business partners and see if your tests gain any momentum. In the end, you are not losing anything but gaining new insights.

4. Conclusion

Interactive entertainment is a relatively new phenomenon that is gaining popularity by the hour. And after many years of being a niche-website for gamers and people that love to watch other gamers play videogames, Twitch finally evolved into a full-grown media platform. With chatting-only and tons of new formats and shows, Twitch, and streaming in general, is here to stay for a long time.
No one can really forecast how much potential Twitch and other alternatives have. Up until now, streaming platforms are still overlooked by most marketers. But this trend will end rather soon. The audiences got mature and diverse, which leads to more and more brands being interested in making use of the platforms and spending more money on specific Twitch marketing campaigns.

Whether you are looking to advertise in a traditional way or want to be creative and find new ways to increase your reach, Twitch might be the one platform that fulfills your needs. It is not too late to start your own channel or support existing channels and make a name in this industry. Start slowly by getting to know the platform and culture behind it, and see for yourself if it offers anything that could push your growth. Despite everything, we would highly recommend you to get in touch with experts and agencies that know the platform well and will be able to anticipate upcoming trends.



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