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Live Streaming for Social Good: How Twitch is Transforming the Charity Fundraiser

Few live streaming services have captured the attention of online audiences quite like Twitch. Launched in 2011 by Justin Kan and Emmett Shear, the online video platform is comparable to sites like YouTube or Vimeo, except that it focuses exclusively on live video. In the beginning, Kan broadcasted his life in real-time using a live video feed - a lot has changed since then.

Amazon acquired Twitch in 2014 for $970 million and today it’s widely regarded as the online home for video game enthusiasts. 15 million users tune in to watch an average of 1.5 hours of Twitch live streams each day. When they do many watch gaming live streams, which typically feature an individual playing a video game from the first-person perspective. Audiences watch the stream as if they’re playing the game while the streamer offers running commentary. Twitch’s most popular gaming streamers, such as Ninja and DrDisRespectLIVE, offer two things: (1) world-class gaming ability and (2) the charisma of a talk show host or TV personality.  

Twitch as a Marketing Tool

As Twitch has grown, marketers in both the private and nonprofit sectors have come to recognize its power as an advertising channel. Much like a sponsored video on YouTube or a paid post on Instagram, Twitch streamers advertise goods and services in a way that connects with Millennial and Gen Z audiences--they endorse products from the position of an inspirational friend. Twitch also self reports that 81% of its users are male and 55% are between the ages of 18-34-years-old. The platform therefore gives advertisers access to a highly targeted demographic. In the past five years, brands among the likes of Gillette and Snickers have partnered with Twitch gamers to advertise their products during Twitch live streams.

Unlike today’s other popular social media sites, think YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, Twitch also offers a new level of authenticity. It’s hard to maintain a facade if you’re streaming for seven or eight hours at a time, which many Twitch streamers do. In the age of the “influencer,” Twitch streams feel less polished or curated in comparison to Instagram posts or prerecorded YouTube videos. Consumers feel that they know Twitch streamers and in turn trust their product endorsements. 

Twitch Fundraisers: How Nonprofits are Leveraging Twitch

Outside of the private sector, Twitch has also reinvented the charity telethon. Either from the comfort of their own home or at the world’s largest gaming conferences, gamers stream for hours or days to raise money for charitable causes. A charity stream usually functions as follows: a streamer hosts a live stream dedicated to a charity or nonprofit organization and during the stream discusses the issue at hand and encourages viewers to make monetary donations in real-time. Increasingly, streamers and charities have built on this basic model to make Twitch fundraisers incredibly engaging to viewers.

Fortnite Streamer, Ninja, Raises $2.7 Million for St. Jude Children’s Hospital

Each July, the Florida-based gaming conference Guardiancon unites members of the online gaming community. The multi-day event includes panels, gaming exhibitions and charity live streams. Historically, the conference has been tremendously successful at raising money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital through a series of charity blitzes.

GuardianCon '18 [Annoucement #1]

During a charity blitz, a gaming streamer has a limited amount of streaming time, often 30-90 minutes, to reach a set donation goal. During the abbreviated stream, the streamer often engages in unique challenges to incite viewer donations. For instance, once a streamer has raised $30,000 during a blitz they might lose the ability to use a weapon. Escalating challenges that correspond with money raised push viewers to donate to make the live stream more exciting.

At Guardiancon 2018, gaming streamer Tyler Blevins -- aka Ninja -- participated in a charity blitz and raised $2.7 million for St. Jude. A few of his escalating challenges included getting a tattoo and dying his hair. His status as one of Twitch’s most high profile streamers and the act of combining a charity live stream with a popular gaming conference created a perfect environment for a successful charity stream.

Twitch as a Tool for Social Good

As Twitch's popularity as a streaming service continues to grow, so does its potential as a social good tool. As more nonprofits begin to use the platform, it's clear that the involvement of high profile gamers and large gaming conferences makes for successful charity streams.

The success of Twitch and its targeted demographic of young adults caught the Ad Council's attention and we're excited to announce our first partnership with the platform later this month. To coincide with Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, the Seize the Awkward campaign will be running a three-day Twitch event to raise funds for their mental health work. Tune in September 18th-20th to support the campaign and see a charity live stream in real-time. 

September 18th

September 19th

September 20th

*All times are ET.