Have you ever seen something, or heard an idea, and you knew it was significant, but you also knew that you didn’t fully appreciate why it was so important? I’ve spent a LOT of time with Twitch streams the last couple of years. The content creators are highly entertaining, and the best ones are great marketers, so I enjoyed watching the streams from that angle as well.
First, let’s back up a minute. What is Twitch? In short, Twitch is a site where people go to watch other people play video games. I know, on it’s surface, it sounds ridiculous. Why would anyone watch someone else play a video game, when they could play one themselves? But if you have children who play video games, it’s a safe bet they have spent time on either Twitch or YouTube watching people play those same video games. Often, people start out watching Twitch streams because they want to learn how to get better at playing a particular game. Twitch has functionality to let content creators stream themselves playing video games. But additionally, Twitch has chat functionality, which lets streamers talk to members of their chat inbetween games, and sometimes even during games. In fact, Twitch streamers can talk about (almost) any topic with their chat. You can go to Twitch and subscribe to a content creator’s stream, and this gives you access to join the streamer’s chat room and talk to other subscribers, as well as the content creator.
So I began to spend more time watching streams on Twitch over the last couple of years. I could tell all along that there was something bigger happening that I really didn’t fully grasp. So I kept watching, until one day, something clicked. I noticed that that the streamers kept referring to their chat as ‘chat’. As if the entire chat (and we are talking millions of followers in most cases) were a real person, and more importantly, ONE person. It’s common to hear streamers playing and then say things like:
“Chat, you’re doing that thing again!”
“My chat is saying the same thing.”
“Chat, I’m not playing that game, just stop!”
Now this may seem insignificant, but what these Twitch streamers have done, intentionally or not, is they have found a way to connect ‘individually’ with millions of people, at the same time.
They’ve found a way to scale their ‘personal’ attention from one person, up to millions at a time.
The biggest problem in dealing with traditional influencers is that their personal attention can only scale so far. If you’re wanting to work with an influencer on Twitter or Instagram, they can’t individually connect with more than a few dozen people. After that, it becomes problematic. This is why brands have begun to work more with microinfluencers or T-Shaped Influencers in recent years, because even though these influencers have much smaller followings, their networks are typically more niche and they have a much better ability to connect with their followers on an individual level. Which is one of the key drivers of true influence.
Twitch is different
A problem with traditional social media is that influencers lose the ability to connect with and influence individuals as their network grows. Twitch is different because it effectively lets the influencer livestream around a topic that the network is already interested in; video games. Chat functionality lets the streamers/content creators stay engaged with individuals and the content creators can even play games with the members of their network. All of this helps streamers better connect with more people. If you think about it, this is similar to a radio talk show. The host can take calls from the audience, so that gives them another layer of engagement. But with Twitch, they can talk in chat with the streamer, or the streamer can play a game with them, and they can talk directly with the streamer while playing the game with them.
These multiple layers of engagement make it easier for a streamer to build and hold influence with its audience. Think about someone on Twitter with say 250k followers. They can tweet, post Fleets, and livestream. But most will only tweet. They can interact directly with with individual followers, or with multiple followers via a hashtag. But the Twitter platform doesn’t lend itself to engagement at scale like the Twitch platform does.
What’s the key lesson here?
What is influence? My definition is that influence is the ability of a person or entity (such as a brand) to create a desired change in behavior in a person (likely a customer) or other entity. We need to trust someone to be influenced by them, and a key way to achieve trust is interaction. This is where the traditional influencer model of one to many breaks down at scale. But, the functionality built into Twitch (chat room, being able to play games with subscribers) helps the content creator/streamer overcome the influence at scale issue, to a degree. So if you’re vetting influencers to use in your marketing campaign, one of the key factors to look at is the platforms they use, and each platforms ability to help the influencer achieve one-to-one interactions with its network.
Another way to look at this is if you are a brand that creates content, how can you best one-to-one interactions with as many people as possible? Maybe you do a sponsorship working with influencers on a platform like Twitch, or maybe you try using these platforms yourself.
Just focus on creating as many positive interactions with each member of your desired audience. That helps facilitate trust, which helps create influence.