Like many American families, our household once had a rabid gamer.
My son played several video games growing up, but he absolutely loved Call of Duty. He and his high school friends would take every opportunity to play together.
Like many serious gamers, he wanted to improve his play and climb the gaming ranks. So, he’d watch videos of pro-level players on what was a much less widely familiar platform in the mid-2010s – Twitch.
Twitch was introduced in 2011 as an alternative streaming platform for video game content creators, steadily gaining a niche following before Amazon purchased Twitch in 2014.
A lot has changed since my son’s high school days. As of this posting, Twitch averages over 2.2 million viewers per day, thanks in no small part to the explosion of esports since COVID.
And a lot of schools have taken notice. In our conversation with Jim Carr, President and CEO of the NAIA, on the Higher Ed Marketer podcast, he spoke about the booming esports scene on college campuses:
“Back in 2016… we knew of six institutions that were jumping in to start esports as a varsity sport… Fast forward to today, we have about two hundred member institutions.” — Jim Carr
I’ve seen firsthand how this digital pastime has become ingrained in Gen Z culture. Even after graduating college and starting their careers, my son and his old buddies still get together virtually to play in their free time.
I believe Twitch is an underutilized resource in spreading brand awareness for colleges and universities. But first, let me explain why higher ed marketers should care about one of the largest untapped demographics in Gen Z – gamers.
Gen Z: A Generation of Gamers
With the steady advancement of gaming technology, playing with friends and strangers alike is more accessible than at any time in history.
And its popularity has scaled exponentially since its meteoric rise in the early 2000s. In 2022, the global gaming market’s value is estimated to be over $195 billion.
Millennials were the first age group to embrace multiplayer gaming on a grand scale. But according to a YPulse study, Gen Z has surpassed the original gaming generation in online immersion.
Aside from family and friends, 43 percent of the Gen Z participants said they found a sense of community in video games. That number exceeded every other conventional space, including school organizations and social media.
Gen Z flocks to video games more than any other digital or physical community outlet.
Of course, video games as a stand-alone medium are incredibly immersive, so they tend to partner poorly with real-time marketing exposure on an individual level.
However, from a purely marketing perspective, we also know that video and influencer marketing have each taken social media by storm.
Therefore, this unique blend of live streaming and influencer collaborations makes Twitch one of the ultimate digital hangouts for Gen Z.
Twitch: A Platform for Passions
Twitch now markets itself as a community hub for content creators who want to build their personal brand. That content can be an experience, like a video game stream, or informative, like a cooking channel.
Of course, you can find archived content on these topics almost anywhere. But it’s the live interactions between creator and audience that make Twitch communities special in the eyes of Gen Z.
Live Video Content
YouTube may be the king of consumable video content, but Twitch is exceptional in that its primary offering is live streaming.
Not only do 80 percent of consumers prefer live streaming over written content, but experts expect the live streaming market to triple by 2025.
That’s because while post-production can give video content a more professional tone, live streaming has two significant benefits.
First, live streaming is more authentic. Free of the luxury of editing, live content creators give their audiences an inside look at natural imperfections and improvisation. And those displays instill a more human connection between the creator and their audience.
Second, creators can interact with their viewers while streaming.
For example, below is a screenshot of Asmongold, one of the top streamers on Twitch, playing the popular video game Elden Ring. On the right, you can see the live chat box in which he can read messages from viewers so he can interact with them in real-time:
Not only do stream chats allow Twitch users to interact with their favorite streamers, but they can also build relationships with each other. As a result, live chats reinforce a sense of community unique to live streams.
In a previous blog, I laid out my reasons why influencer marketing is a legitimate strategy in higher ed marketing:
- Your prospective student has changed how they make decisions
- Influencers talk like prospective students, not corporate reps
- Influencer marketing allows you to tap into different watering holes
As with any other marketing vehicle, weigh your investment before taking the plunge. Partnering with an influencer can involve considerable cost and effort, especially for someone with millions of followers, like Asmongold.
However, it can pay tremendous dividends. On average, businesses see over a 500 percent ROI in influencer marketing.
The logic is simple: audiences view streamers as peers, not spokespeople.
And with over 8 million active monthly streamers on Twitch, you may even have a potential influencer among your students!
For example, The Verge published a great piece about three students at different colleges and universities taking advantage of live streaming to help pay their tuition. As each student streamed their content, viewers gave cash donations to support their goals.
Imagine if those schools had partnered with their respective students as influencers. Or, even better, had trained them as student ambassadors.
Streamers constantly have organic conversations with their audiences. So, it would be consistent – even natural – to talk about their school experiences.
In short, you don’t have to break your marketing budget to break into influencer marketing. You just need to find people who exemplify your brand.
Twitch Content is Diverse
I’ve talked at length about Twitch’s reach in the gaming community. But today, their content bandwidth covers much more than video games.
To capture a broader audience, the company launched Twitch Creative in 2015.
Twitch Creative blew the doors open on the platform’s streaming categories, ranging from cooking to art to cosmetics.
Also, Twitch launched a new category, Just Chatting, in 2018. This category allows creators to hang out with their audiences and have distraction-free casual conversations.
The most popular Twitch category in 2021? You guessed it – Just Chatting.
If you’re reluctant to ask an influencer to help you spread brand awareness during a chaotic Fortnite match, then I would look at these other options.
Expand Your Reach on Twitch
With top social media platforms like Twitter and Snapchat limping into 2023, higher ed marketers must always watch out for the next big thing in digital marketing.
And with several schools – especially community colleges – struggling to retain young male students, a marketing plan for the gaming community may be just the shot in the arm your enrollment strategy needs.
As long as Twitch continues to dominate the live streaming space, it is a viable opportunity for influencer marketing and brand messaging.
Consider partnering with an active Twitch streamer who reflects your school’s brand and speaks to your target audience.
If you’re not sure where to start, we can help. Reach out today!
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Featured image by Drobot Dean via Adobe Stock