More than a game: How the experts are measuring Twitch activations

Marketers are learning what to look for on the platform, which often outdraws cable TV audiences.

(Source: Getty Images)
(Source: Getty Images)

Twitch is no longer just a destination for the gamers among us. It’s entered the mainstream, as evidenced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) stream on the platform that quickly became the most viewed individual stream in the platform’s history with more than 435,000 views.

Brands, too, are seeing opportunities on the platform and not just for young, male-focused gaming campaigns. Everything from esports to arts and beauty are finding a home on Twitch. Yet understanding how successful a campaign is on a new platform can be daunting. How do you measure the effectiveness of a campaign? And what does success look like?

In some ways, measurements on Twitch look pretty similar to those that would be used for other social media channels. According to Eric Tsai, senior strategy director of We Are Social New York, his firm looks at key metrics like views and followers, as well as engagement in the chat function of the platform. 

Eric Petersen, SVP of platform strategy at Weber Shandwick, works similarly, noting that one option is to report on familiar key media metrics like impressions, clicks, video views and completion metrics. However, he notes that “some programs may have their own set of unique engagement measures that help prove the success of a campaign.” These include total stream views, peak viewership, average concurrent viewers, unique views, minutes or hours watched, average minutes watched, chat interactions, emote usage and other engagement and sentiment-related metrics.

Some of these other metrics are unique to the platform because of its focus on live content. “[This focus] makes statistics around the retention of viewers and chat interactions significantly more valuable,” Petersen adds.

PR pros and their clients largely obtain these figures the same way they would for other social channels: via a mix of in-platform data and third-party platforms. Teams at Weber use tools ranging from DCM and Innovid to “measure the effectiveness of their traditional and display ads” and pair this with Twitch internal data “that will help tell the story of how many users have viewed and engaged with a specific brand or influencer campaign,” Petersen says.

Similarly, Tsai notes that We Are Social uses some third-party platforms, but “Twitch’s own data within their Dashboard has been quite robust and useful for us.”

Yet some of the most important insights may not be derived from hard numbers. Andre Smith, who leads Telescope, APCO Worldwide’s proprietary practice that maps global digital environments, suggests that in today’s climate it is increasingly important to strike a balance between “leveraging data analytics” and “understanding your audience.”

“This unprecedented year has brought on a resurgence of accountability, authenticity and a ‘putting money where your mouth is’ mindset from consumers,” Smith says. “[These are] aspects that brands must factor in from campaign inception through ongoing measurement.” Therefore, APCO seeks to “align meaningful communications metrics with reputationally-based KPIs,” he says.

There’s one other metric that is unique to Twitch: Twitch Bits. According to Twitch, “Bits are a virtual good you can buy and use to Cheer. A Cheer is a chat message that uses Bits, and includes animated emotes to amplify your voice in chat and celebrate the moment. Cheering is another way to support partners and affiliates, similar to subscribing.” Tsai thinks this monetization component of the platform is compelling, suggesting that there are interesting ways to leverage it.

So you’ve acquired the data. What now?

That largely depends on the type of program or campaign you’re running and what the brand or advertiser’s objectives are, and there are many options.

Petersen notes that activations can vary in both size and scale “from traditional advertising programs that incorporate standard video and banner ads on the site, to bespoke branded programs that include influencer activations and custom commercials throughout the site and within specific streams.”

The influencer activations encompass a number of options, such as streams that feature gameplay and unique product placement to live Q&As that feature anyone from a streamer to a more traditional celebrity.

“For more awareness-focused campaigns, total stream views, peak viewership or average concurrent viewers may be the KPI,” says Petersen. “Additionally, brand mentions in the chat and comment sentiment should also be considered for streamer activations to check for brand affinity with the audience.”

“Other brands using the platform from a consideration and lower funnel objective will use Twitch banner ads as a traffic driver to send users to buy products on their website or other online shopping destinations,” he continues.

Smith calls for using these data-driven insights to guide a campaign’s overall strategic approach.

“We’ve found that starting with the insight—that illuminating truth—paired with data, should be woven throughout strategy, communication and content development, culminating into an activation that authentically reaches the right audiences to engage with your campaign or  activation in the mediums they trust,” he said.

This piece of reaching the right audience in the right way is essential, as demonstrated by some of the livestreams We Are Social has observed. On one hand, the agency’s team in Australia found that at any given time, there are nearly 3,000 livestreams on the platform that have no viewers.

“So by having more popular streamers use the Raid feature, we brought their massive followings to the streams of those with no one watching,” Tsai says.

On the other hand, he notes that “Burger King recently caught some negative attention to their activation that turned the donation feature into a marketing campaign. It’s important for the activations to feel natural to the behavior of the platform in order to have success.”

Experts agree that the platform is ripe for opportunity, but question marks remain.

“The platform is geared towards a more intimate connection between streamers and their audience, which can lead to increased authenticity and engagement,” Smith says. “With the number of users on the rise, early adoption is paramount for brands looking to not only stand out in an oversaturated digital space, but [also] build a more intimate relationship with their audience within the medium they’re gravitating towards.”

Tsai notes that “for many brands, Twitch is still uncharted territory and success there isn’t like what they see on other channels.”

“So, for now, we see success as engaging properly with the community and building brand awareness without alienating the audience there,” he says.

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