Twitch is a strange puzzle for many marketers and brand managers, both inside and outside of the games industry. If you are a game developer, getting traction for your game on Twitch is now one of the cornerstones to successfully launching a new title. If you represent brand trying to engage the gamer audience, understanding Twitch is a platform is just as crucial.
After all, the platform now boasts an average of 1.2 million concurrent viewers. Major brands like Red Bull and GEICO are making big investments in marketing that rely partially or entirely on Twitch. Esports are thriving on Twitch as well, and brands like Puma are there too, reportedly making investments in the range of “eight figures.”
When any business--gaming or otherwise--asks how to leverage Twitch, we recommend this high-level process that we vetted with our own games and with our own clients:
1. Define how and why your brand intersects with gaming.
2. Think deeply about who your audience is and where they might be on Twitch.
3. Consider influencers with a range of following sizes.
4. Cover the basics of product and logo placement.
5. Treat influencers well before and after your campaign.
6. Craft campaigns that are interactive and driven by engagement.
7. Have a process for gathering, measuring, and interpreting campaign metrics.
This is an engagement-first mentality to building your Twitch strategy. As you might have guessed, there are some big questions hidden in these steps, and your brand is better off answering them before your campaign begins.
There is a difference between talking at and talking to gamers. For a brand like GEICO, the surface level of the brand seems like it would have nothing to do with gaming beyond the coincidence that gamers also happen to need insurance products. Instead of simply slapping the GEICO Gecko on a bunch of “gamer” swag, however, they built a full-fledged eSports arm of their marketing department.
Now, when GEICO goes to events, their booth is an attraction that provides real value to attendees. You can go to the booth to watch eSports pros showcase their skills, or you can be a competitor yourself, or you can simply hangout and enjoy playing one of the dozens of game stations they have set up. Being at the GEICO booth is fun because the brand was deliberate and thoughtful about becoming a part of the community. If you are a member of the gaming community and have experienced this, seeing the GEICO logo on a Twitch stream now has a deeper meaning because it is organically associated with the gaming community.
A game developer answering this question is deceptively simple. Yes, you make games, but there a multitude of micro communities under the gaming umbrella that should help you define the values and connections you aim to build. Do you have a retro ethos? Are you building on the spirit of tabletop roleplaying? There are plenty of directions you can take here, but it is important that you think more about the gaming values of your team and how those values are expressed.
When you think about target audiences, you should think about Twitch much in the same way that you think about Facebook or Instagram. These platforms are massive and are home to thousands of subcommunities with varying degrees of overlap. When you market on Facebook, for example, you use the platform to target the right customers for your products, and you should think about Twitch in a similarly. You should have an idea of who you want to reach and then identify the influencers, communities, and games that attract that audience.
As it stands now, this is unfortunately not as easy on Twitch as it is on more traditional social media platforms since the bulk of your targeting will be driven by the streamers your brand chooses to work with. You might not be able to click through a demographic checklist the way you can on Facebook, but you can identify target communities by evaluating the following:
The audience data for the games a streamer typically plays on his or her channel
The demographics for the social causes a streamer regularly supports (such as a specific charity)
The nature of the streamer’s content (is the performance geared toward children or adults?)
The available data on the streamer’s audience outside of Twitch, such as on Instagram or Twitter
The insights and metrics available from a third party
Note: There are several tools available for gathering data and insights from Twitch. PowerSpike is one of our favorites.
For an example of how this played out in practice for a real brand, Intuit has a similar story to GEICO with their TurboTax product. Yes, gamers also need to do taxes, but that’s a farcry from the escapism and camaraderie that makes gamers a passionate audience. When they engaged PowerSpike to run a Twitch influencer campaign, they were able to identify the streamers with audiences who might need tax services (specifically more adult audiences).
By selecting the right streamers with the right audiences, TurboTax was able to be the center of a real conversation around the frustrations usually associated with taxes and how a solution like TurboTax solves them. When you have an adult streamer with an adult audience, this is a very natural, human conversation that doesn’t feel forced. At the same time, it plants the seeds for TurboTax both in terms of exposure and in terms of the recommendation from a trusted tribe leader--the streamer.
One of the biggest lessons social media marketing has taught us over the last decade is that highly specific targeting is often more impactful than a big, broad reach. This same philosophy should impact how you think about marketing via Twitch. Yes, the reach of a mega streamer like Ninja is attractive for obvious reasons, but you should not assume that audience size is the most critical metric in how you choose which streamers to engage.
Depending on your goals and your budget, you might find more success working with smaller streamers. Here’s why:
They will have fewer sponsorship obligations dividing their attention, which means that your brand gets much more attention and thought.
Their chat engagement may be more personal and interactive than a large stream. At a certain point, a Twitch following can be so big that reading and reacting to chat comments is almost impossible due to the speed and volume of new messages. Smaller streamers have the advantage of being able to build more meaningful relationships with their audiences because they can actually talk back and forth.
The total reach of your brand may actually be bigger. It may be more affordable to work with 10 streamers with 1000 concurrent viewers a piece than one streamer with 10,000 concurrent viewers, and that’s especially exciting when you consider that your brand’s placement might be better on the smaller streams as well.
You have more data to learn from. When you engage multiple smaller streamers instead of one big one, you can A/B test messaging and compare and contrast engagement metrics. You might discover that one streamer with a specific approach has significantly more ROI than another, and that’s a big win for the success of every campaign that follows.
You can target multiple corners of the same community to build deeper roots. Twitch users often follow many players of the same game, and when they see your brand supporting several of their favorite streamers, that can be meaningful.
A key note here is that while the size of the individual streamers you engage may not matter in the ways you initially assume, the aggregate does. If you have data that says that you usually need X amount of impressions to generate X amount of website visits to generate X amount of revenue, you should bring that math to your Twitch efforts and build a campaign that reaches a meaningful audience size for your campaign.
As critical as it is for you to be creative in finding a way to make your brand stand out on Twitch, the fundamentals matter and too many brands overlook them, ultimately hurting the potential impact they could have had. The groundwork for your Twitch campaign should include:
A package of streamer-friendly logo files. Provide your logo in multiple colors and in high-res file formats. Your streamers will need to integrate your brand into their layout, so having logos of varying dimensions (square instead of a rectangle, for instance) will make that easier.
Resources like brand-based GIFs and videos if rich media is going to be a part of your campaign. Even if this is not an explicit part of your streamer agreement, providing it can inspire the streamer to be more creative and more generous.
Twitch-focused landing pages and social media support surrounding the campaign. If you engage Twitch streamers, promote that activity on your other platforms and have messaging prepared that speak directly to the gamer-minded audiences you are targeting.
Provide streamers with products and gear in a timely manner. That sounds obvious, but many brands begin campaigns without considerations around fulfillment and shipping times.
If you wanted to go above and beyond, you could build resources with OBS (Open Broadcast Software, one of the most common tools for managing a Twitch stream) in mind and also provide streamers with Photoshop and Illustrator files to support their stream customizations. Even better, you could provide personalized files that give a nod to the culture of the individual’s stream, perhaps incorporating their custom emoticons or the other design touches that have become staples of their streams.
Full-time streamers are professionals, and you should treat them accordingly. Even with the popularity of influencer marketing reaching new heights with each passing day, we still meet brand leaders who don’t quite understand how what they do behind the scenes with an influencers impacts a campaign. If you want a streamer to promote your beer to their fans, for example, send them a case or several. Not only do you want the streamer to have plenty of product to show off on stream, you want the relationship to get off to a positive start.
Yes, we’ve heard of brands asking streamers to buy their products, and we have also heard of brands sending along the bare minimum amount of product, like a single can of a beverage. That’s bad form, and the genuine excitement you hope to inspire in the streamer and their fans will be less likely to form.
For game developers, this lesson means being generous with game codes, providing swag and other goodies well-ahead of launch, and helping streamers enable giveaways to their audiences.
Once your campaign concludes, keep the relationship with the streamer alive. Small touches like a care package from time to time (if you deal in consumer products) and shouting-out the streamer on your social media occasionally (such as a throwback to a video of the streamer promoting your product) can spark more organic conversations around your brand and set the stage for a more successful follow-up campaign if you hire the stream again in the future.
We have already talked at length about how what makes Twitch special is its potential for interactivity. Audiences feel like they are a part of the content being created live by their favorite streamers, and brands should look for opportunities to be a part of that experience in meaningful ways. A logo on a stream is great, but you can do so much more.
Your brand should be a participant in the stream. How you go about doing that should align with your brand personality, values, and products, but these ideas might help you get started:
Have a brand representative join and regularly participate in chat. Bonus points if this individual has a social following of his or her own.
Run contests or giveaways for stream followers so they feel like the brand cares about them and their favorite communities on a personal level.
Incorporate a channel bot into the campaign to share links and relevant information when your brand is a part of the stream conversation.
Tie rewards and giveaways to actions that benefit the streamer. For example, you could offer a product giveaway if someone donates to the streamer or upgrades their subscription, incentivizing both the streamer and their fans to talk about your brand.
Give your streamer a custom engagement-driven game to play with their fans. Twitch interactives enable a lot of dynamic content creation, and few brands have set sail on this blue ocean (more on this in the next section).
If you are launching a game, for example, you should have team members monitoring for new streamers playing your game, and your team should visit these streams to have real, meaningful conversations with the people playing and promoting your games, whether they are paid influencers or not.
The amount of interactivity available to brands on Twitch can be both exciting and intimidating. If you take the time to work through a creative process to craft a meaningful campaign, very cool things can come out the end, from more engaged prospects to viral content spurned forward by the memorable moments your brand helped to create.
The longstanding criticism of influencer marketing has been attribution. Platforms like Google Advertising, Facebook, and web analytics have spoiled us. We expect to have rich insights and in-depth tracking and attribution opportunities. Many influencer-based marketing campaigns produce data that is fuzzy at best.
For a long time, influencer marketing on Twitch suffered from these same shortcomings, but again, I have to plug PowerSpike here because of what their tech enables. You can track:
If you don’t take the high-powered approach with a platform like PowerSpike, you should at the very least use trackable URLs for each streamer, custom landing pages, and other attribution tools like coupon codes, lead magnets, and follow-up surveys.
The Future of Brand Engagement on Twitch
Based on the current trends we are seeing in the most innovative and engaged corners of Twitch--from top streamers to brands to nonprofits--the future of Twitch will be driven by stream interactivity. Audience participation has been the cornerstone of Twitch from the beginning, and that continues to grow. We are at the very beginning of game developers and Twitch marketers starting to leverage the Twitch API to create content that is truly audience-driven.
For our part, one of our first experiments in this realm was a Twitch-integrated game called Coffee Crisis (built for Black Forge Coffee House, a heavy metal coffee brand based in Pittsburgh). While the streamer brawls his or her way through aliens and monsters, viewers can spawn enemies, give or take power-ups, and transform the level in a variety of heavy metal ways, such as with blood rain or flaming skulls. All of that is perfectly on brand for Black Forge and for the heavy metal fans they wanted to target.
As this space evolves, we are seeing the early stages of other trends that brands should pay attention to:
Full-fledged premium experiences built around brand-specific content with deep Twitch integrations
Overlay games that can be added to any Twitch stream and played in the downtime between the primary game moments (waiting for a respawn in Call of Duty, passing the time playing a game with chat brought to you by this great brand)
Sentiment-driven games that use OBS effects, chat bots, and engagement analysis to unlock wow moments and unique content tailored to what’s happening on the stream
Procedurally generated content--from playable games to stream videos--that pulls from the streamer and his or her audience, such as incorporating top fans and their custom avatars as heroes in a story in real time
Perhaps the most exciting part of all of this--for a marketer and game developer like myself--is that the opportunities here are so open-ended that there are likely interactive opportunities that haven’t been thought of yet. This space will evolve, and your brand could be one of the drivers of that evolution.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MARSHAL D. CARPER, MEGA CAT STUDIOS
Marshal is a marketing author and the Director of Brand Engagement for Mega Cat Studios, a Pittsburgh-based video game development studio. From retro-inspired collectible product experiences to virtual reality, Marshal helps brands incorporate video games into their fan-engagement strategies to help them develop deeper, more meaningful fan communities.