The Twitch Phenomenon: Why Live Streaming Is Worth Your Time
It's safe to say that streaming video content online is quickly becoming the most accessible way to consume entertainment. The way we enjoy our favorite movies and television shows has been increasingly shifting towards uninterrupted (and possibly unhealthy) periods of ‘binge watching'. Easy and affordable alternatives like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go offer the option to forego traditional cable services altogether.
As the online video streaming movement grows, the concept of live streaming is also gaining popularity, and both these trends make a convincing case for considering a video-based content strategy to reach your target market. By far the best example of this is Amazon's newest acquisition, Twitch.tv.
What is Twitch.tv?
Unless you happen to be an online gamer or addicted to TechCrunch, you may not have had much experience with the site. It is a platform for gamers to broadcast their gameplay live online while others watch and actively participate with chat.
If you haven't heard about the site's boast-worthy statistics you may be wondering why you should even care. You're not wrong to be skeptical; gamers watching other gamers play games online most likely has nothing to do with your business or marketing.
However, the conclusions that can be drawn from Twitch.tv's annual reports about the future of online and video marketing are worth some level of consideration and provide some evidence that live video streaming could be the next big channel for engaging with your audience.
Why should you care?
Here is a quick breakdown of Twitch.tv's engagement from their 2014 report.
Pretty amazing stats when you consider that they launched in 2011. Even when you take into account that the main demographic of users are web-savvy online gamers, those numbers are impressive.
This statistic from their 2013 report, though, is what I find most interesting. Incredibly rapid engagement growth from 2012 on top of an unbelievable average user time on site (106 minutes watched each day). From a marketing perspective, this is what I consider to be a big opportunity.
The following chart shows the average time on site for other top social media sites. To come anywhere near the numbers from Twitch, it would require a significant number of repeat visits (20+ average) at these rates:
Since these two reports are not directly comparable, I thought it was valuable to translate some data gathered using Google's DoubleClick Ad Planner from back in 2011 to show some sort of comparison. (Granted, these have been converted from unique visitors' monthly time spent on Facebook (15.55 hours) and YouTube (5.83 hours). (source)
Now, you might be thinking that these statistics are not all that surprising for a site focused on live experiences. After all, we've known for some time now that a live broadcast will often produce a significant increase in viewership. By virtue of its unpredictability alone a larger audience is something to be expected. And let's be honest, it's one of the main reasons why TV news is so interesting.
How can I win with live streaming?
Entertainment is by far the most common live stream focus. Gaming, sports, music, tv shows, news, and events are found often, but there are also channels for technology, education, and even religion. There are also plenty of live animal streams. Mostly puppies and kittens, but also wildlife streams that might make good communities for environmentally focused marketing goals.
Coming up with creative ways to implement live-stream content into your marketing strategy might be difficult, but it is certainly not impossible, and you might just be surprised with the results. Keep in mind that the scope of your broadcast can start out small (just like any other content strategy), and the content of your feed could be just about anything that can be translated into a video format. Even this post could be converted into a live stream as a simple discussion. For the most part, all you need is a webcam and a good microphone. To get started, take a look at these options for producing live stream content for your business.
YouTube is probably the easiest and most well-known platform to use for integrating live stream content. It offers solutions to quickly set up a live stream through your channel as long as it is verified and in good standing. There is a live chat feature that can be disabled if you so choose, although most live streams really do go well with an engaging live chat. YouTube is the perfect place to start up a live stream project at little to no cost. You most likely already have a channel and an audience to which you can start broadcasting.
Another option worth considering is Livestream.com, which is great for broadcasting any kind of live event. For the most part, I have seen high quality productions on this site. Consider this one if you already have a video-based content strategy and a sizable following that is eager to consume your broadcasts.
This site is a bit different in that it offers solutions for a variety of high-quality live streaming options, even production services and a video advertising platform focused on lead generation. There is a variety of content with categories like sports, gaming, news, music, and general entertainment. Ustream has a wider range of content than livestream; you will find streams for technology, education, religion and even wildlife here, among others. Ustream also offers a basic ad-supported broadcasting option which would be perfect for an organization that is just starting to develop live stream content.
Streaming through Twitter
If you are already using Twitter for your online marketing strategy, you should consider using something like Periscope or Meerkat to develop live-streaming engagement with your followers. These services are also a great way to kickstart the use of Twitter in your marketing arsenal and start to build a following if you haven't done so already.
You can give exclusive previews of products, how-to tutorials, a quick tour of your facilities, or show off your services. And, of course, you will have the potential to respond in real time to feedback from viewers. At the moment, both Periscope and Meerkat can only be used on iPhones, but Meerkat is developing an Android version.
Focused streaming sites
Let's not forget about the more focused platforms. Online communities that are ready and willing to engage with live streams do already exist outside the realm of gaming. They are worth exploring if you are working to promote something relevant to your customers interests.
Picarto.tv is for artists and graphic designers to show others how they do those amazing Photoshop things they do.
Chew.tv is a platform for DJs to play live sets to other DJs and music lovers.
Livecoding.tv is fairly new but given the nature of programmers there are almost always a few live streams on. This is a great place for newcomers and seasoned programmers to learn about coding by watching the experts in action.
Talktochef.com is a really cool site that lets people engage directly with experienced chefs. If you have anything to do with the food industry, there is likely value to be gained from using this site.
Cookstream.tv is also just getting started, but seems like a promising venue for those within the food industry.
Not ready to start live streaming? You can still gain insights by participating!
Even if you're not ready to live stream your own content, you can find value by doing a little live stream research or even getting involved in a relevant broadcast. Here are some things to think about during your search:
- Get insights into popular topics just by scanning for high viewer count streams. If you market for or create content about anything related to animals, you might consider producing some blog posts about eagles; for some reason people seem to like watching them, as I found a number of eagle nest live feeds, some with over a thousands viewers at a time.
- Take advantage of relevant live streams that receive significant viewers and get ideas for creating similar content in any form. Topics that resonate with viewers on live streams will most likely be easily translated into pre-recorded video or written content. If I were marketing for anything related to billiards, for example, I would check out the Accu-Stats On Location channel at Ustream that have over a thousand followers and had achieved over 250,000 views. Just from watching a few minutes I noticed that while they stream a live pool and billiards tournament they are also constantly raffling off prizes. A great idea for some social media content might be to create raffle targeting people who are interested in pool and billiards.
- Listen to what viewers are saying on relevant streams. Broadcasters provide great insight as to what sort of content you could be creating but the viewers do as well. Part of the beauty of live streaming is that the viewers are constantly engaging via live chat while they watch. This provides a great way to get direct insight about your target audience. Chatting with viewers can provide a direct line to potential customers. Just make sure to follow the channel rules and avoid blatant promotional spam.
- Live streams also offer opportunities for outreach to their broadcasters. Just as popular industry bloggers make great influencers, so do broadcasters. You could try to get in touch with a broadcaster to discuss some form of collaboration; this would likely work in the same manner as a collaboration with an industry blogger.
Start researching & streaming
I like to think of online marketers as masters of the interwebs, and as such I feel it's important to be at least aware of (if not knowledgeable about) every realm. It may not be as popular outside of the gaming space, but I anticipate the near future will bring live streaming growth in other focused markets. As this content becomes more prevalent, the applications toward online marketing will become more and more obvious. By learning how to navigate and identify relevant live stream communities you will be ready to get involved and apply them to your marketing efforts, whether that means starting up a broadcast of your own or collaborating with existing broadcasters.
Lastly, and there may not be much in this on a marketing level but I thought it was well worth sharing: Definitely one of my favorite streams so far, if this doesn't convince you that live streaming (and Animal Planet) is awesome, nothing will...
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