Since Twitch launched in 2011, the live-streaming platform has evolved beyond its gamer origins into a viable social media marketing tool. That said, Twitch is no Instagram or Twitter. While some brands may find it incredibly valuable and lucrative to leverage Twitch as a means of building brand awareness and generating leads, others won’t.
In this post, we’ll learn the platform’s ins and outs—plus how Twitch works for business and whether or not it fits your brand.
Starting a business with Twitch? Make sure to create a website for your brand and direct Twitch audiences back to your owned-and-operated channel.
What is Twitch?
Twitch is an Amazon-owned, live video-streaming platform. While the most popular content created on Twitch falls into the video game category, creators stream out other genres of content as well.
The main categories of content include:
IRL (In Real Life)
However, individuals and brands alike can live stream content related to topics like music, web design, product unboxing, DIY, animals and fitness.
How does Twitch work?
The Twitch.tv platform works as follows:
Twitch streamers create branded account pages. At the very top of the page, users can see if the streamer is currently online or offline. While offline, the streamer can choose to embed a recent stream for users.
For example, the Netflix Twitch account page looks like this:
Users can peruse information about the streamer, view recent broadcasts, watch select videos and look at the upcoming streaming schedule.
They can also follow the streamer from this page. Some channels also allow followers to subscribe for a fee. In return, the subscriber gets special benefits such as ad-free streams, exclusive chats and special badges.
Twitch creators can stream videos that last anywhere from one minute to eight hours.
When streamers go live, the video broadcast takes up the majority of the user’s screen. For example, a broadcast from TheStockGuy looks like this:
In many of these broadcasts, the streamer appears in a small box in the video’s corner so that users can watch them as they talk. This format is common in gaming and other visual-forward content.
Other broadcasts look more like YouTube or Instagram’s video streams. Here’s a good example from the tominboston account:
If users want to focus on the broadcast, they can minimize the two sidebars. The one on the left shows recommended streamers and the one on the right contains the stream’s chat.
Like other live streaming services, Twitch creators can engage with anyone watching their live streams via the chat box. Users can also interact with other users—replying to and sending emoticons.
However, Twitch allows streamers to enable and create custom Emotes (i.e. emoji) for their audience. You can catch a glimpse of one of these Emotes in the chat box beside Maya’s live stream:
When you click on an Emote a user shares, more details appear about the Emote:
You can see that these Emotes are unique to Maya’s channel and that only Tier 1 subscribers can access it. Calls-to-action for following and subscribing appear as well.
Who uses Twitch?
Back in 2018, Business Insider reported that, on average, about 1 million people tune into Twitch at any given moment. That put Twitch on the same level as major cable platforms like Fox News, ESPN and MSNBC.
According to Twitch Sales in 2022, roughly 2.5 million concurrent viewers and about 31 million pass through the platform every day.
This is likely because Twitch streams to many devices, including:
Streaming devices (like Roku and the Fire stick)
According to TwitchTracker, Twitch users have watched 841 billion minutes of streams in the first eight months of 2022.
In terms of Twitch users, the audience breakdown looks like:
75% of Twitch users are between 16 and 34.
65% of users are male.
Users stream Twitch content in 35 languages.
English is the most commonly spoken language. Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, and Korean are other popular languages.
In sum, Twitch tends to attract a young, multicultural and heavily male audience that use the platform for building and engaging in community.
How to use Twitch for business
The massive number of highly-engaged number users make Twitch one of the best marketing strategies for businesses. Twitch Sales reports that its users have a special relationship with advertising:
They believe that ads enable streamers to continue creating free content.
They tend to buy from brands they’ve seen advertised on Twitch.
They’ll buy products or services to feel a greater connection with a community.
If you can use Twitch for your brand, you’ll market to an audience that’s receptive to marketing and advertising. In return, you’ll boost brand awareness, enhance your lead generation efforts and increase sales.
Businesses use Twitch in three ways:
01. Become a streamer
Brands, both large and small, have their own streaming channels on Twitch that lead back to their website via captions. GameStop, for instance, streams a video every Friday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.:
GameStop has extended its in-store brand experience online. Some videos give previews and highlights from video games while others show content like unpacking videos or how to build a custom PC gaming system.
Smaller brands and entrepreneurs become Twitch streamers, too. For example, Jeff, a personal trainer, runs the FitForPurpose account:
Monday through Thursday, Jeff livestreams new videos on the channel. His goal isn’t to push his personal training services on anyone but to instruct and inspire his community.
To succeed as a streamer, you must have something valuable, entertaining or educational to share with your audience—and not ask for anything in return.
02. Run ads
Streaming isn’t a viable marketing option for many brands. Creating content, engaging with the audience in real time and building a community around a channel can prove to be too time-consuming.
If streaming isn’t for you, you can boost your brand’s presence through paid media. Similar to YouTube’s advertising model, you can run video or display ads on Twitch. Both Twitch creators and their followers understand the necessity of mid-stream ads—especially when the content is free.
With all parties receptive to advertising, consider this avenue if you have the money for it. Twitch doesn’t actively publish its ad rates on the site, but there is a contact form that asks for your budget. The smallest budget range is Less than $50,000. The highest budget range is Greater than $1,000,000.
This high cost can explain why companies like McDonald’s can afford to run ads on top Twitch channels like VALORANT’s:
Granted, brands can walk away with huge benefits. VALORANT has over 3 million followers and streams for hours every day. That means huge boosts in brand awareness (and sales) for brands whose ads appear during the broadcast.
03. Partner with streamers
Your last option for using Twitch for business is influencer marketing. By partnering with an established creator or sponsoring their content, you can get your brand in front of a large audience.
Depending on how actively the streamer promotes your brand, it could bring you major leads and revenue. That said, a popular streamer doesn’t need to name-drop a brand to influence their followers. A visual brand placement can effectively reach viewers as well.
For instance, Monster Energy sponsored a cristijAn stream, and placed their logo atop the streamer’s window:
Twitch influencer marketing costs often depends on the following:
What category they create content for
How many followers they have
How many views their videos get
How frequently they will promote your brand
What type of partnership or sponsorship they run
Whether they want payment, free products or free services in exchange for promotion
Just as with other types of influencer marketing, if you want to get the greatest ROI, your Twitch partner should relate to your brand. For example, CristijAn’s channel centers around gaming; energy drinks are popular with gamers, so the partnership works.
Note: Entrepreneur reported in 2022 that Twitch had plans to cut streamer earnings from subscriptions. Estimates put the earnings reduction between 50% and 70%. While streamers who depend on user subscriptions are furious about this decision, this opens up a massive opportunity for brands.
For starters, you likely don’t care about subscriber revenue as you’re using Twitch to build brand awareness and gain leads. So if streamers start abandoning the platform, that’ll make room for brands like yours to revolutionize the content that gets noticed there.
Also, if streamers don’t make as much money from subscriptions, they might take on more advertisers, partners and sponsors. This could mean partnering with smaller, unknown brands they might not have previously considered.
Is Twitch right for your brand?
When brainstorming types of marketing, you may want to consider if Twitch fits your brand. Consider the following:
01. Is your target audience there?
Twitch tends to skew younger, male and international. If your brand targets a broad range of users, then you might be okay using Twitch. However, if your brand happens to attract older users or operates in a more traditional or conservative space, then you may not find Twitch to be a worthwhile investment.
02. Does your brand fit with Twitch's vibe?
You don’t need to be a gamer or influencer to fit in with the Twitch crowd. All that matters is if you can naturally convey your message in a live video.
For instance, have you ever considered starting a vlog or podcast for your brand? Think about how you’ve used video or audio in your business and see if you can translate it for a Twitch audience.
Dr. Drew, for instance, has a channel on Twitch where he airs hour-long "Ask Dr. Drew" episodes:
03. Will your content be entertaining enough?
Back in 2014, Slate contributor Seth Stevenson asked why anyone would want to watch others play video games on Twitch. After spending some time watching various streams on the platform, Stevenson came to an interesting conclusion:
“What about those low-key channels where it’s just one dude gaming, and shooting the breeze with his thousands of viewers? Well, those viewers are finding a community of like-minded souls, they’re engaging over a shared interest, and they’re getting tips from superior gamers on how to win at the games. How is this different from watching a cooking show that mesmerizes you while also teaching you how to make a soufflé? Or, for heaven’s sake, watching a show about remodeling nondescript houses in suburban neighborhoods?”
Unlike reality TV programming or YouTube channels, Twitch allows users to engage with creators and other users in real time over their shared interests. Does your brand (or even just you as the face of the company) have something entertaining or edifying to share?
TheCrossFitGames is a good example:
CrossFit, in general, is known for its community. It can also produce content around its Games for others to watch and enjoy.
04. Do you have the time to devote to it?
If you choose advertising or influencer marketing, you’ll devote minimal time designing Twitch ads or promoting your live stream. However, if you want to create, you must invest a significant amount of time.
First, you’ll need to design your channel’s artwork, come up with content for the About page and maybe even customize Emotes for your subscribers. Second, you’ll have to produce your content, create a schedule, promote it on other channels, film the live streams and engage with viewers.
Your broadcasts must not only be super engaging, but also well-managed. Planning and organizing has allowed Twitch brands like NASA to amass over a million followers:
05. How much money can you realistically invest in Twitch marketing?
Streaming is an affordable venture. By Entrepreneur’s estimates, it could cost about $100 to buy a bundle of live streaming gear. That includes things like a tripod, an extender and lighting.
Advertising, on the other hand, will likely cost your brand thousands of dollars a month. You may cut costs through influencer marketing—especially if you exchange product for exposure—but it’ll still cost your brand money.