Twitch.TV is a streaming platform popular among the wider videogaming community since 2011. Twitch has not only made the insular world of eSports easily accessible to a larger audience but has opened the possibilities for professional gamers to stream their content, get paid for it (via sponsorships or donations from their fan base), and connect with their viewers in real-time. Major brands from Lenovo to Cadillac have sponsored content on the site for marketing.
The platform was featured in Marketing Dive last month for its plan to diversify its gamer-centric content to include a wider array of live-streamed content, such as concerts, travel, and cooking classes. While Twitch has been slowly growing its variety of available content over the years, this new push in diversifying the platform seeks to bring more opportunities for consumers and sponsored brands, alike.
Curious about what game-loving Twitch viewers might think of this, I asked an avid Twitch viewer and gamer in his 30s what he feels about the change in direction. In his view, “Twitch’s innovation has never been about games, it’s been about the chat.” Ever the anthropologist, I saw an opportunity to gain insight and probed for more. He described the draw for many Twitch users is not the platform’s streaming content it’s the relationships built with the community and the streamer in the chat box on the channel. He explained further the pleasant experience spectators have at live events becomes amplified by the ability to not only relate with everyone in the audience at the same time, but also achieve a sense of community with the performer. “That’s what’s important about Twitch to me is the chat and the community that’s built around watching things together,” he says. “It’s about seeing everyone’s reactions.”
Our February Theme of the Month** at W5 discussed RELATIONSHIPS. We discussed the construct of relationships, the various types of relationships in our lives, and how the ways we relate to others make up a significant part of our individual and collective identities. Reflecting on this theme, I see how important relationships are to consumers on Twitch and how valuable it is for brands to remember this point in their marketing strategies. A 2018 ethnography by Nicole Suganuma explored the value of relationships on Twitch.TV through the social and economic capital built and exchanged on the platform. In fact, Suganuma found that even streamers were more drawn to stream by the social capital built by relationships with others online than the economic rewards.
While both Suganuma and the gamer mentioned the various consequences having a closer relationship between streamer and viewer can have (i.e., harassment, trolling, heckling, etc.), both sources acknowledge there is great potential in convening so many like-minded individuals in one virtual place. Brands can do well to keep this in mind in their efforts to appeal to the ever-expanding community on Twitch.TV.
** November’s Theme of the Month post on EMPATHY, Exercising Empathy from All Angles
** September’s Theme of the Month post on MOTIVATION, Embracing Cultural Adaptability
Sources for this blog include an informal one-on-one interview as well as: