6 tips for building a thriving digital community

June 21, 2021 | By: Heather Eng, Sr. Editorial Lead

Here’s a quick trivia question: How many minutes of content did Twitch viewers watch in 2020? A) 1 million minutes. B) 1 billion minutes. Or C) 1 trillion minutes.

If you went with C) 1 trillion minutes, you are correct.1 At any given minute, more than 2.5 million viewers are watching Twitch,2 the interactive livestreaming service and global community for content spanning gaming, entertainment, music, sports, and more.

What’s the draw?

It’s live, which makes for can’t-miss viewing. And it’s interactive. But beyond that, community is at the heart of Twitch. People from around the world come to Twitch to create and share what they love. That’s why, every day, an average of more than 30 million users gather on Twitch to connect with like-minded creators and viewers.3

“Twitch has long been popular among the gaming community, but non-gaming content like music, sports, and Just Chatting has quadrupled over the past three years,” says Sarah Iooss, VP, US Sales, Twitch. “People come to Twitch to connect with others who share their passions. And this brings a strong sense of community—one that is virtual, but very real in helping people build friendships around the world.”

Twitch’s immense popularity comes at a time when digital communities have taken on new significance. During the last year, people around the world were separated from their families and friends. Connecting virtually was the only contact many had with their loved ones. Brands, too, had to rethink how they engaged with customers in meaningful ways via digital channels—and many discovered the value in creating immersive, live, digital experiences that brought together consumers from around the world.

At Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2021, Iooss hosted a conversation with three Twitch creators: Jay-Ann Lopez, CEO and Founder, Black Girl Gamers, a collective dedicated to heightening Black Women's voices in gaming; and Alexandra and Andrea Botez, sisters and former competitive chess players who host BotezLive, a chess show on Twitch.

Jay-Ann Lopez, CEO and Founder, Black Girl Gamers; Alexandra and Andrea Botez, hosts of BotezLive

Here, Lopez and the Botezes shared six insights and tips that brands and marketers can use to connect with audiences and build their own thriving global communities.

Foster interactivity with shared goals

Part of the magic of Twitch is that it’s live and interactive. But creators still need to develop hooks to connect with audiences on a deeper level.

We want the audience to not only be emotionally invested in the creator, but the content as well.– Andrea Botez

With their background competing in chess tournaments, high stakes motivated the Botezes to perform. But when playing casual games, like on Twitch, they became more relaxed. “That's when we started coming up with creative ideas,” says Andrea. “A great way to get the audience to interact more is to get them on the same page with our goals.”

Recently, Alexandra and Andrea held a 30-day challenge to increase their bullet rating, a rating system used for live chess matches under three minutes, by 200 points. If they didn’t, then they’d both shave their heads. The challenge went up to the very last day, and viewers tuned in each day to see their progress.

“When we reached the goal, everyone in the chat celebrated,” Andrea says. “We experienced this and felt [relieved] together. That type of bonding is very meaningful.”

BotezLive, Alexandra and Andrea’s Twitch channel where they have more than 836,000 followers.

Bring good, positive energy

When Alexandra and Andrea first started streaming, their audience was several hundred viewers. At the time, they could interact one-on-one with others in the chat. But as their audience grew to several thousand, it became harder to keep up the personal interactions, and a smaller percentage of viewers were chatting.

“Now we focus a lot more on the energy we're bringing to stream. We’ve realized who we are as creators and individuals, [and that] really shapes our chat,” says Alexandra. "People want to enjoy watching. So we make sure that we're always bringing positive energy. We also ensure that we have moderation so people feel welcome in our community, and we create spaces for people to hang out after our stream.”

Stay attuned to your community’s needs

Lopez created Black Girl Gamers as an online safe space that also advocates for diversity and inclusion in the gaming world. As such, she’s also attuned to what her community needs. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, Lopez was concerned that her community may have been isolated and experiencing a whole host of emotional or physical challenges.

“So we had a couple of weeks called ‘Wellness Week,’ which allowed all streams to play very calming games, and just allowed our audience to come and relax,” Lopez says.

Engage and elevate your community

“Black Girl Gamers has been a space where we've created a narrative,” says Lopez. “We've also challenged narratives that exist within the gaming industry, and we’ve launched events that are unique on Twitch to drive that forward.”

In July 2020, Lopez held the Black Girl Gamers Online Summit, which was sponsored by Twitch. The event drew thousands of attendees and featured sessions about navigating the streaming world as a Black woman, creating an impact in the gaming industry, and exploring careers ranging from product management to voice acting.

“This event was one of the first of its kind,” says Lopez. “It was less about the story of how we've gotten to this state of low representation, but focusing on how we can increase that. We provided insights and advice to people that they'd never heard before, that they could take away and implement it in their personal lives.”

A session from the Black Girl Gamers Online Summit, which included talks about navigating the gaming world as a Black woman, and breaking into the industry through different career tracks

Collaborate with brands that share your community’s values

When it comes to advertising collaborations, Lopez and the Botezes agree that the brand should align with their values.

“We are a community that represents Black women, women who are LGBTQ, mothers,” says Lopez. “We have to make sure that we're [collaborating] with an organization that understands that we are a very vocal community and we won't be tokenized.”

In addition, Andrea Botez seeks to work with brands that give creators control of the content.

“On Twitch, people get to know you very well since you're live so many hours of the day. They can tell when you're not being yourself and you're not being authentic,” she says. “If a brand says that you have to post this exact video, say these exact words, and you don't get to be your true self, then it's not [marketing] to your audience as well.”

Get to know your community on a personal level

Meaningful connections made between creators and viewers have always powered the Twitch community. Not only have those relationships pushed the boundaries of what’s possible for live interaction and engagement, but they have been especially crucial during times of social distancing.

“We'd often get messages about how being able to hang out and feel like they have a friend on the other side of the screen has been really helpful,” says Alexandra. “On top of that, so many people in our community, had this one common topic—our stream—that they could discuss, and they went on to create friendships by themselves.”

“My community has definitely been a family during this time,” Lopez says. “You get to know people by name, you get to know their personal lives. I think a lot of people who aren't gamers have turned to gaming because of its ability to help you remain social while socially distanced. For me personally, working on Black Girl Gamers Online Summit or a Wellness Week helped me keep the community at the forefront of my mind. I realized that it's not just me feeling like this. There are others who are feeling like this, too. So we need to provide something for them to feel welcomed and recognized.”

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1-3 Twitch advertising audience