As we were forced indoors by the COVID pandemic, a few apps gained a lot of momentum. Companies like Netflix, Hulu, and social media apps, in general, all saw surges in new users over the past year-plus. Notable amongst them was the growth of one platform in particular – Twitch.

The year 2020 was a watershed moment in the history of consumer behavior. You are unlikely to see many other moments when such a dramatic shift occurred in how we consume content and interact with the world. And for many of us, it was also the year of the crash course in digital literacy. Many of us have become quite skilled and developed our talents in tasks like ordering stuff from Amazon, timing our DoorDash deliveries, and finding ways to avoid wearing pants during Zoom meetings. These are things that people were not doing before 2020.

Several experts questioned whether these new digital habits were sustainable or merely a reaction to the current conditions. And while it is a short-term observation, the numbers suggest that the trends are here to stay. We have indeed gotten a taste of the good life on the internet, and there is no going back for many.

Twitch, the uber-popular livestreaming platform, is one of the many beneficiaries – and in some ways a catalyst – of how content is consumed in 2021. On Twitch, people livestream themselves doing all sorts of things, but its roots in gaming certainly define the app. The platform originally took off as a place where gamers livestreamed themselves playing various games. Today, it has a whole array of streamers who live stream everything from music performances to cooking, and so much more. Though gamers still dominate the userbase, the other domains are growing at a rapid rate. 

The recent jump in downloads for Twitch is not an aberration. In fact, we think the momentum that Twitch has gained in the past year is far from over. Here’s why brands should be taking note. 

 

Give Me The Numbers

The first quarter of 2021 saw Twitch clock an astounding 22 million downloads, a 62% jump from the same period the previous year. The trend is across the board in most geographies and stretches back for the majority of 2020. The US saw a 91% jump in installs, while in countries like India, it rose astronomically, up over 588%. Numbers from Q1 2021 also support a similar trend in the rise seen in new downloads. 

It’s not just new users getting on board with the trend driving this growth – there has been a surge in engagement numbers, too. In fact, monthly average user numbers climbed 69% in comparison with March 2020. The number of hours watched per month also trended upwards, unsurprisingly, and currently sits at 1.645 billion. 

 

Why We Think This Trend Is Here To Stay

The onset of the pandemic may have spurred the rise in numbers, but the reasons Twitch gained steam over some of the other platforms have a lot to with reasons inherent to Twitch. 

A Quest For Variety

Our content consumption habits have changed massively over the past few years, and COVID only worked to accelerate the process. Before the pandemic, Twitch was already a very popular platform, which is not much of a surprise given that video is a massively popular medium. But game streaming had a relative niche audience until platforms like Twitch came around. Once long lockdowns left people looking for variety in the content they consume, Twitch’s already existing strong video content scored big.

Games are inherently very entertaining, and watching experts play takes this to another level. While many streamers already played for an audience, the general growth in Esports and the restrictions of pandemic life brought many more people onto the platform, where they could discover engaging, highly entertaining content.

Though mainly gaming-focused, Twitch still has a lot to offer in other areas as well. You find a lot more mainstream content creators like travelers and chefs making their way onto the platform, but with content tailored for live audiences. 

It’s Engaging

If you ever find yourself on Twitch, you can see popular streamers getting tons of engagement from viewers. There are many different ways to engage with streamers on Twitch, with options like chats, tips, and much more. One of the exciting things about livestreams is that something is always going on around you, even when the game is going through a slower or less entertaining phase.

This level of content engagement means that people spend more time watching these videos, and even better – they’re returning day after day. Twitch has created a product that allows enterprising streamers and content creators to engage with the fans and help them grow their fanbase while monetizing their content. 

A Lower Barrier For Content Creators To Monetize

This may be one of the primary drivers behind why many content creators are flocking to Twitch. The platform is designed to give the best streamers and content creators a chance to monetize their content. There are multiple ways in which they can do this, with donations, brand partnerships, and merchandise representing some of the most common methods. Additional tools like subscriptions, ads, virtual cheers called “bits,” and game sales are also ways to leverage the reach of a channel.

Many streamers focus on creating content for their followers and giving subscribers exclusive content and benefits. Twitch also allows you to enable video ads from various brands that display pre-roll adverts or ads that play in between streams. 

All these options mean that Twitch attracts the best streamers to the platform – not just in gaming, but increasingly in other areas as well. Creating high-quality streams is critical to ensuring that more users come to Twitch and consume content. Many of the users who stream content rely on other platforms like Facebook and Instagram to build an audience for their Twitch streams, bringing in more people. 

Our Habits Are Changing

The surge in downloads that Twitch has experienced in recent months is also strongly propelled by our changing habits. Now that we have become somewhat desensitized to being stuck at home, we are much more comfortable consuming content online today than we have ever been before. Consumers are increasingly loosening their wallets on the various apps and platforms. This means that platforms like Twitch are becoming credible alternatives and fierce competitors to today’s many popular platforms.

It’s also worth noting that we are also increasingly compartmentalizing our sources of content. Today, we have Netflix and a host of apps for shows and movies, YouTube for general entertainment and even education, and so on and so on. With this rapid rise in usage, Twitch has a chance to be a strong contender for the role of default live streaming app. 

 

What’s In It For Brands?

The surge in popularity and the diversity of content has positioned Twitch as a great platform for brands and influencers. There are several ways in which you can leverage Twitch to market your products and services. 

Sponsorships & Brand Partnerships

This is perhaps the most straightforward approach to take if you want to not rely on ads. But finding the right streamer is the key to successful execution. Twitch has a very skewed demographic, with almost 80% of the users being teen males. Locating the right streamers relies on your ability to find creators whose audience falls largely into this demographic.

Once you locate the right influencer, you can engage with them in a variety of ways. Many brands depend on product placement, with streamers using their products in their livestreaming content and giving users the chance to buy these products from the stream itself. Brands can also consider options like co-branded merchandise, branded stickers, and more. Twitch offers an array of opportunities that leave brands with enough options to engage with consumers efficiently. 

Advertisements

Similar to the state of most popular platforms, the conventional option is to rely on ads. Twitch allows brands to advertise content in several ways, including pre-roll ads, and several brands have relied on this form of advertising to drive awareness and conversions. 

If you are using ads, making them contextual is the key to driving value out of your Twitch campaigns. Indeed, the job search platform, recently executed a campaign where the company ran contextual ads about how streamers found help on Indeed to assist them in making their streams better. These types of contextual ads consistently outperform generic campaigns.

Content Creation

Creating brand content is also a great way to attract the attention of the Twitch audience. One of the best examples is Wendy’s, which regularly streams popular games on the platform. Beyond gaming, Twitch is also seeing more content being created in the form of talk shows, interviews, and live events. If livestreaming is an option for your brand, and you want to target a younger audience, Twitch is a very promising platform.

Tournaments & Events

Tournaments and live events are quite popular on Twitch. Gaming tournaments happen regularly here, and many other live events can be hosted on Twitch, opening the door for seemingly endless possibilities. Brands can sponsor these events or run events themselves to attract an audience.

 

Final Thoughts

Twitch has created a space for itself in the domain of live streaming, especially among the younger demographic. And if the past few months is any indication of the future, the platform is poised to skyrocket in popularity. The younger generations are more digitally integrated than their predecessors, and they are growing up quite familiar with platforms like Twitch and YouTube. While the pandemic gave it a push, Twitch has done great work capturing the interest of these new users and keeping it. This creates an experience that makes users want to come back for more and keep coming back. 

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