“Six to one on the kills now, make that seven”, “IG need to find a way back into this game”. The commentary sounds like a soccer match, but the game in question is a live stream of the popular multiplayer game League of Legends. Since 2011 this match, and countless others like it, can be watched on the social video platform Twitch. Connecting gamers and fans, the live streaming platform has grown in size and significance since its early days, and is showing no signs of slowing down. With its massive community and roots in online gaming, Twitch presents advertisers with the opportunity to enjoy huge returns, if they are able to connect with the right influencers.
Introducing Twitch, the Live Streaming Platform
Twitch is part of a larger esports ecosystem. Perhaps still unfamiliar to some, e-sports is not just some niche interest. Competitive gaming has a potential audience of around 1.4 billion, including the gamers, viewers, and manufacturers in the gaming ecosystem. Massive audiences connect around tournaments dedicated to specific games, and the payouts for winning players rival the earnings of professional athletes. Precisely this market was in mind when Justin.tv, a website dedicated to live streaming, decided to launch Twitch.
A Haven for Gamers
Twitch did not begin small. Launched in June 2011, the branch-off was designed to cater to the large gamer and esports audience. More than just a viewing experience, Twitch also offered users the chance to monetize their passion from the start. Members of the Twitch partner program earn by sponsoring ads in their streams or through subscriptions to their channel.
In its early days, Twitch offered the gaming community a unique haven. Other services, for instance YouTube, could not offer content targeted solely to their tastes. Being first on the scene might account in part for the fantastic growth Twitch has enjoyed: growth bolstered by investment rounds until finally being bought by Amazon.com in summer 2014.
Growth and Competition
Currently, the live streaming platform boasts an impressive user base, reporting over 1.7 million broadcasters and over 100 million unique monthly viewers. Numbers like these speak for themselves, telling the compelling tale that both engagement and potential remain high. But, Twitch has not decided to coast on the back of this success, and has begun to add different content avenues to its offering: food channels, music festivals, and broadcasting conferences live. This diversification makes the platform relevant for an even broader user base, but with ever-fiercer competition in the streaming market, it begs the question: will it be enough to stay ahead?
In summer 2015 YouTube launched its very own platform for gaming, YouTube Gaming, to capitalize on the gaming audience. Since then the platform has grown rapidly in popularity. A major determinate of YouTube’s success is its focus on recorded rather than streamed content, a choice that has forced Twitch to partially revamp its offering. In order to stay in step with YouTube, Twitch has introduced its own non-streamed options, such as Chat Replay, which enables its viewers to watch on demand including the chat feed. Beyond these service expansions and upgrades to its live streaming platform Twitch also launched its very own conference, TwitchCon. At the inaugural event in 2015 there were over 20 000 visitors. This staggering attendance rate speaks again to the impressive communities around online gaming.
Advertising Dollars Follow Users, as Usual
Communities built around platforms like Twitch are of growing interest for advertisers, who are partnering with key influencers to activate entire demographics. Since 2015, influencer marketing has established itself as an invaluable strategy, set to grow in importance in 2016. Behind this method is a simple principle: consumers are more likely to follow up on recommendations from trusted sources.
Beyond the immediately measurable reach that influencers bring to the table, the secondary reach generated through their networks is ripe with potential for advertisers. Influencers attract other influencers with significant followings, meaning advertising campaigns can remain effective long after their launch. The earned media values generated by an influencer endorsement are often far greater than more traditional marketing methods.
The true potential of social platforms for advertisers and influencers alike is only beginning to become clear. Twitch will likely remain the leading live streaming platform for gaming, and the proliferation of competition only diversifies the channels available for influencer marketing. There is no question that 2016 will see an increase in budgets dedicated to such efforts. As such, advertisers will need to develop strategies for accurately measuring the impact of these activities,s well as for the effective management of influencer relationships. Most available influencer marketing offerings focus predominantly on brand benefits rather than measurable results. In contrast, performance models such as Voltu have measurable results as their primary focus. Voltu’s CPI model and detailed analytics mean that brands know exactly what the ROI of these activities is, as well as enjoying the typical brand benefits.
The influencer marketing terrain may be unfamiliar, but there is serious money to be made. What advertisers should really be asking themselves is: how much longer can they afford to stay out of the game?