Parasocial: Twitch and the new normal of online relationships

The Drum 04 May 2020 02:48
By MJ Widomska-04 May 2020 15:48pm

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Livestreaming platforms like Twitch offer unprecedented interaction between creator and audience. Most of the biggest livestreaming stars found success by building a direct relationship with a budding audience. Here, YRS TRULY’s creative director MJ Widomska explains how marketers need to pay those relationships the respect they deserve.

Have you ever caught yourself forming a bond with an online creator? Maybe you were watching their film review on YouTube and thought it could be cool to grab a beer with them. Perhaps you followed their make-up tutorial and felt like they're speaking directly to you, sharing details of their day while teaching you how to blend eyeshadow. Perhaps you replied to their Instagram and got a bit annoyed they never replied.

Parasocial relationships aren't new but these one-sided interactions have really come to thrive on social media. There's an illusion of access to your favourite creator. They're not quite a Kardashian, so you might just get through to them.

It's not hard to believe you really know someone when you've spent tens or hundreds of hours interacting with them. But, you're not getting their real self. It's just their social media persona, broadcast to you and millions of other viewers worldwide. The relationship is an illusion.

Sites like Twitch amplify this illusion. Professional streamers create content live, and it’s a bit like a video chat with a friend. It feels far more personable than a pre-recorded vlog with high production value. Their success as a streamer largely depends on how well they interact with their audience.

Even though there are hundreds, if not thousands of fans in the chat, it doesn't feel that one-sided anymore.

Real consequences, virtual platform

First of all, make sure ads are clearly marked. If you're asking an online creator to review a product, make sure they mention they were given the product for free or were paid to create content about it. If your sponsored content lives on Twitch or Mixer, create a company account and be present in the comments, answering questions and interacting with their audience.

Yet, we have an obligation to understand how our influencer campaigns impact fans of online creators and avoid exploiting them, especially on live streaming platforms that intensify parasocial bonds.

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