Twitch & the Digital Community

Twitch, if you don’t know of it, is a live streaming platform where content creators stream their activities for a digital audience. While the most common activity to stream is playing video games, some Twitch streamers show themselves creating art, discussing politics, or directly engaging with their audience. This last one is important, because it’s central in our discussion of Twitch as a digital community, and in looking at the smaller content creator communities on the platform. 

What’s most striking in how folks talk about Twitch is the lack of focus on the platform where it concerns social media marketing and digital community building. I’ve yet to see Twitch mentioned in my social media marketing coursework; Hootsuite Academy’s Social Marketing Professional certification doesn’t mention the platform, and neither does University of Toronto’s Foundations of Digital Communications Strategy and Social Media course. It’s possible that I lack the industry knowledge to understand that the platform isn’t market viable, and it may be my inherent Gen Z bias, but I believe that Twitch can be the perfect platform from which to build a digital community and create traction for a product. 

It’s important to add the warning that the viability of Twitch as a marketing platform will depend entirely on the target audience and the product itself, but there are clear examples of a campaign working spectacularly on the platform. I’ll be breaking down one of these later, but today I’ll be focusing on social media marketing tactics on Twitch.  

The Twitch Community 

I talked before about speech genres, or ways of speaking that are specific to a given context. While speech genres are defined by their social contexts, they can also build a sense of community through defining in-groups and out-groups by manner of speech. This is important in speaking of the Twitch community because Twitch’s chat function is tricky to grasp when first coming on to the platform. This social barrier to entry creates a sense of exclusivity that strengthens the community. You either get it or you don’t.  

This is true for the wider Twitch community, who has a way of communicating that’s typically characterized by using a personal voice, repeating the same jokes, and using a set of emojis that’s specific to the platform and has narrow use cases. It also extends to each content creator’s own community, which may use emotes specific to the content creator, and may have different chatting rules. 

The result are tight-knit communities that harbour a sense of belonging for those who take part in it. Each of these communities may also be subsets of larger communities, such as those that relate to specific games. They also tend to be part of the larger gaming community, and the Twitch community at large. This is where Twitch may shine for content marketing, because these same communities are self-defining interest groups. If a community matches your target audience, the opportunity may prove to be the mainstay of your marketing campaign.  

A perfect example is the recent release of the video game Fall Guys. Fall Guys used Twitch during their invitational open beta to create traction for the game, while also making use of communities that would respond well to the game’s design and concept. The result was a surge in popularity that averaged over 120k players in the month of the game’s release. I’ll be writing about Fall Guys’ marketing success in my next article, but even this brief look should give a sense of the potential of Twitch as a platform for marketing.

“If a community matches your target audience, the opportunity may prove to be the mainstay of your marketing campaign.”

Twitch Marketing Tactics – Paid Tactics 

The same tactics that apply to social media and content marketing can apply to Twitch. Paid, earned, shared, and owned tactics are all viable on Twitch, and while it may be difficult to point to specific examples or statistics, a breakdown of each type of tactic should create a clear path towards marketing on Twitch. When it comes to paid marketing, there are at least two tactics that have seen success on the platform.  

The first paid marketing tactic that has been used on Twitch is using content creators to directly promote your product. Twitch content creators are the platform equivalent of social media influencers. Many content creators have a following both on Twitch and on other platforms, and these fans are dedicated. Where many influencers might not see proportionate interaction with their content given the size of their fanbase, Twitch content creators actively engage with their fans through chat and other means, making them particularly valuable in converting marketing to engagement. Treating Twitch content creators as influencers is the best way to approach this tactic. 

Another paid tactic that can be applied to the platform is in using product codes to spread the use and demand for your product. This is similar to what Fall Guys did when they sent beta access codes to influencers which would then be raffled off. This may be considered a paid tactic when the product code gives full access, but the resulting hype and demand should net positive returns.

Twitch Marketing Tactics – Earned Tactics  

Earned tactics apply to Twitch as they would anywhere. Many content creators will actively speak about what product they’re using, whether it’s their computer, keyboard, chair, or software. Having a product that content creators can actively speak to because the quality warrants promotion is just as effective on Twitch as it is in other media.  

Combining paid and earned tactics is especially effective on Twitch. A product key can be given to a content creator to use and promote while more keys can be raffled off by the same creator once it’s been proven to be worthwhile. This combines added demand and hype with earned promotion through having a strong product.  

While earned tactics don’t typically see the same traction on Twitch as paid tactics, they can still work on the platform, especially when the product is directly relevant to a target audience or a content creator’s community. Because content creators actively engage with their audience, earning promotion from a Twitch streamer can result in a considerable popularity spike.  

Twitch Marketing Tactics – Shared Tactics 

Shared tactics are more difficult on Twitch because they demand an existing presence on the platform. It’s still possible to use shared tactics on the platform, especially if these will be partnered with paid, earned, and owned tactics.  

A good starting point towards using shared tactics on Twitch is to listen to content creators and see if anyone is already using or talking about your product. Social listening is common before launching a campaign, and the same applies to planning a campaign on Twitch. In fact, it may be more important to analyse the Twitch platform thoroughly because of its fringe case utility.  

Once it’s been shown that Twitch is right for a marketing campaign it should be simple to use shared tactics towards cross promotion. Specific content creators should have already been flagged and can start being promoted in brand channels.  

An important aspect of shared tactics on Twitch is focusing on community building. Since content creators will already have a community, becoming a part of that community will go a long way towards building a reputation. Adding value to existing communities will contribute to brand and product honesty and will help prove the value of the product itself. Eventually, the communities may overlap enough to continuously contribute to one another.  

Twitch Marketing Tactics – Owned Tactics 

Owned marketing tactics are the most daunting to undertake but may be the simplest to use once set up. On Twitch, the only tangible owned tactic is actively streaming content on the platform. This is why it may be difficult to set up. Most people would be hesitant to start streaming, and it takes a certain personality to want to stand in front of an audience, digital or not. That being said, it’s probable that an organization who’s actively creating marketing content will have the tools needed to set up a stream.  

Once a stream has been set up, it’s simple to plan content for it. Streams can be used to actively showcase your product or demonstrate how best to use it. Streams can also be used to create tutorials or answer frequently asked questions about how to use your product. You can also go over some hiccups that might have come up in trying to use it.  

Streams can be promoted on other platforms as an open discussion with the organization or product, and this can help bolster strategies on other platforms. Appearing before a live audience will strengthen customer relations and increase authenticity with your brand. Streams can also be saved and repurposed towards video guides, or even FAQ podcasts.  

One big question in creating and managing a Twitch stream as an organization is in dealing with chat. Twitch chat, if left alone, won’t typically cause any problems. Not engaging with chat is simple but will diminish returns on community creation and management. If chat is going to be used, it’s important to have it be moderated by someone you trust. Managing Twitch chat is similar to managing any platform where customers can comment but happens much faster and requires immediate attention.  

Finally, setting up a stream is useful where it allows for shared tactics through co-streaming. Actively participating with content creators that support your product will further foster your community and will speak to your brand’s readiness to engage with their customers.  

The Twitch Caveat 

I mentioned earlier that the viability of using Twitch for marketing purposes may be limited by the platform’s culture and average content. While the statement stands, it’s important to expand on it given what was written above and the recommendations made towards using Twitch for that purpose.  

Twitch chat is made up of anonymous users. Typically personified as “Chat”, they often use offensive language, and Chat tends not to self-censor. Chat also spams the same messages, either for laughs or for visibility. If your product isn’t compatible with this culture, it may be best to avoid Twitch.  

Twitch content creators all have a personal brand that may not be compatible with your product, or with marketing in general. Content creator communities are unique and may not be moderated in a way that enables useful discussion. Some communities aren’t moderated at all. Being familiar with a community and the chat of that community is the first step towards gauging viability.  

Finally, the barrier to entry to using Twitch successfully is high and will require considerable time investment. Understanding how the platform works and how it can be used towards a marketing campaign will take effort. However, Twitch continues to grow as a platform, and there is a significant audience there if the target demographic matches your needs. 

The best advice that I can give is in sharing the words of Fall Guys’ Community Director, @OliverAge24:  

“[Be] of the platform, not just on it. Speak in a similar language and tone to [your] audience, in a way that resonates best on that platform.”

Links and References 

If you want to read more about rising tech, 21st century societal changes, internet culture, and digital community building, I recommend you check out my other articles!

This link will show you graphs for Fall Guys’ player-base following the games release and marketing efforts.
https://steamcharts.com/app/1097150#1m

Also make sure to read Twitch’s terms of service before planning a campaign on the platform.
https://www.twitch.tv/p/legal/terms-of-service/

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