Despite the growing number of social media networks, social media marketers remain focused, primarily, on the same core group. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the big ones; Snapchat is closing quickly; and YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Tumblr serve their specific niches well.
But one major network has flown beneath the radar, eluding the call of marketers despite falling nicely in the “niche” group. Its audience is large and growing, but despite attention from advertising behemoths such as Coca-Cola and Red Bull, social advertisers rarely mention it.
The network in question is Twitch, a popular live-streaming service that enables users to broadcast their screens as they play video games. It was launched in 2011 and acquired for $1 billion by Amazon in 2014, and one could argue its success inspired Periscope and Facebook Live into existence.
It hasn’t made the mainstream breakthrough of other networks, but with Amazon expanding its content presence (and making gaming a core piece of that development), its time might be coming soon.
Here are three reasons marketers should take notice.
1. Demographic Specificity
According to Twitch’s website, it has more than 100 million monthly users. Those users spend an average of 106 minutes per day watching video-game live streams, which are broadcast by an army of more than 1.7 million unique broadcasters.
Even lacking context, those numbers are impressive. But the key to Twitch’s potential lies in the hyper-specific breakdown of its audience.
Seventy-five percent of Twitch users are male, with 73 percent falling in the 18-49 age bracket. The network reaches half of U.S. male millennials, delivering better scores in the 18-34 demographic than top TV shows and (especially) TV networks:
All of this information can be found on Twitch’s website, so it’s not as if we’re breaking new ground. But it’s important to keep this in mind as we explore the growth and potential of Twitch’s service.
If your primary target audience isn’t millennial males, this might not be worth the investment. But if that is your primary audience, you’ll want pay attention, because those numbers are really impressive.
And they might just be the tip of the iceberg.
2. “Gamer” is a Good Thing
The stereotype of the gamer – pasty, reclusive, anti-social – has in the past made this a difficult target audience. Yes, it’s comprised of young males, but not every brand considers it the right young males for their product. It might be right for Cheetos, but not for us.
The gaming space, however, has started to trend a new direction. Millennials grew up with sophisticated video games, removing the stigma assigned by previous generations, and eSports (professional competitive video games) are one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. Two of last year’s four most-watched sporting events were eSports competitions, which explains why you’ll now see big tournaments on ESPN.
Gamers have officially gone mainstream.
“The most significant shift we’ve seen is that gamers are now becoming an extremely attractive target,” Anthony Danzi, Twitch’s senior vice president of client strategy, told the Wall Street Journal. “We’ve disproved or blown away stereotypes. Our conversations are no longer around ‘is this audience safe?’”
The article in which Danzi says that, published in October 2016, takes an optimistic but cautious view on Twitch, acknowledging the “barriers” of its ad platform. But those barriers have more to do with logistics than the audience. The key to unlocking Twitch is figuring out the best way to use it, not deciding how well its audience fits your brand.
If you want to reach millennial males, you want to reach gamers.
At this point, those mean the same thing.
3. Advertising Opportunities
Like YouTube, Twitch offers pre-roll ads, and like television, it offers mid-roll ads (commercials). Considering the notoriety of Twitch’s influencer channels, which reach as high as 2.4 million followers, there’s a lot to be gained from buying space there.
But the best way to use Twitch, as with most things, is to get creative. And because of its format and audience, it’s the perfect place to experiment with bold ideas.
Consider, for example, Snickers, which worked its “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign into live streams of top Twitch influencers, who slowly started messing up throughout the broadcast, then slowly changed their physical appearance, leaving the audience mystified, before biting into a Snickers and restoring to normal.
Or, more recently, Netflix, which promoted the smash hit Stranger Things by arranging for a group of Twitch influencers to stream from the 1980’s basement set of the show. During the live broadcast, users voted for creepy things that could happen to the gamers – things like flickering lights or ominous phone calls – and after the broadcast, Netflix streamed the first eight minutes of the pilot episode:
Social marketing is a complex endeavor, but if you had to distill the process to two main guidelines, it would fall along the lines of: (1) Create great content, and (2) Serve that content to the right people.
Point 1 has been around since the dawn of advertising, but point 2 is where social media differentiates itself, allowing brands to specify and reach the perfect audience in perfect ways.
For brands like Snickers and Netflix, it’s hard to imagine a better harmony between “great content” and “perfect audience” than the examples above. And as gaming continues to expand the size and diversity of its audience, even more brands will find opportunity on Twitch’s airwaves.
In the present, but especially in the future, this is somewhere social advertisers should be.