What if you had absolute control over your audience?
What if no matter how much you were "winging-it", you continued to gain followers?
What if your content was described as raw, authentic, genuine and real?
Welcome to the controversial, often sordid and always cultish world of IRL - In Real Life. What is it? A dedicated channel on Twitch that has launched professional streaming as a career. Described as "designed specifically to allow you to talk to your community and share your thoughts, opinions, feelings, and everyday life" - anything goes in IRL, as long as it makes for "good content". At last count, this community boasted 2.5 million followers, 50k viewers at any given time, and more than 10k channels.
Professional streaming has its origins in 2011, which is around the time that Twitch launched as a video game streaming platform. First the streamers were all avid video game players, who were showing off their skills and giving tips on how to beat the best games around. Many of these streamers were personable, people identified with them easily, and it wasn't hard for them to start building communities. Many of them are still active today with massive audiences. Soon, however, Twitch realised that there was an appetite for watching live streams, for good content, not just for gaming skills. And thus in Dec 2015, they launched IRL.
There are 2 experiences in particular that attracted me to IRL as a content marketer.
Meet RajjPatel. 200k followers.
RajjPatel was the first streamer to make me look at this type of content seriously. He streams almost everyday, and the few times I joined, he had a community of guests who would co-host with him. During one of the sessions, Rajj was hosting a Twitch competition. He would choose random channels, and give them 10 minutes to perform something for his audience (of roughly 10k). The winning channel would then win a "raid" - which meant that he instructed his audience to move over to the winning channel as he signed off. For the winning channel, this had a very real monetary impact - as the new 8 - 10k audience members would donate/subscribe, often giving a bump of hundreds of dollars within minutes.
What I found interesting here was - an audience was now being treated as a transferrable unit, who could be moved between channels. And that they actually listened.
Meet Ice Poseidon. 600k followers.
My second experience was with one of the biggest IRL celebrity: Paul Denino, who goes by the name of Ice Poseidon. Ice has since been kicked off Twitch for violating their policies, but has made Youtube his new home, amassing more than 600k followers, called the Purple Army. At any time, he can boast a viewership of more than 10k, and he doesn't even have to be doing anything special at the time.
Recently, Ice sponsored an RV trip with some of the biggest professional streamers around. There was endless streaming of partying, drama, sleeping (once literally for 8 hours straight and even then there were 2k people watching!) as they drove to Texas. Ice professed that he was on a mission to create the next generation of streamers, and he wanted to give a platform to launch as many people as possible, as long as his community liked them.
There were names like Bjorn, Mexican Andy, Hampton Brandon, Tracksuit Andy, ERobb, Marie - and many many more. The episodes (and summary videos) that this generated could rival the best reality show. And all along the way people were donating to these streamers, nearly constantly.
Again, what I was found interesting was how there was a loyal audience, but also they felt part of the journey that these streamers were on. They weren't just watching, they were participating.
So why does IRL do so well? And what can a brand/content marketer learn from this?
4 things. And with them, a question you ask yourself every time you create a piece of content.
1. Consistency (or in the case of IRL - constant). IRL works to your schedule, because well, it's always on! So whenever you're in the mood to watch your channel, just log in and see what's going on.
So ask yourself, when your audience wants to engage, are you always available in a meaningful way? And is there content to support that?
2. Additive - one of the strongest selling points of IRL is the chat that runs alongside it. The streamers react to what is being said there, and therefore, the audience is part of the show. This means they are in control of where the content goes. This is a good and a bad thing, because there is never a dearth of idiots or racists on the Internet. The performers take that risk and open to door to anything, which makes the audience feel part of the journey.
So: do your audience feel like they are in control of the narrative? Or are they being talked at?
3. Raw - this is why reality TV became an instant hit in the 90s. There was no script, and the audience felt like they were just watching ordinary people in extraordinary situations. IRL is reality TV 2.0 - where the script and content is even more raw, rough and unscripted than ever before. This can sometimes take a dangerous turn, as there are some streamers that would go to any length to gain an audience. However, in the long term, such desperation is identified easily, and these types of streamers fall behind.
Question: does your content come across as extremely polished and flawless? Is that coming at the cost of your audience not being able to see the real you?
4. Entertaining - there's no doubt that the content on IRL is generally in the entertainment camp - if it was food, it is more likely to be a greasy burger than a 4 course Michelin dinner. But you know what they say - if you're going to do it wrong, do it right.
It's hard to say whether IRL will expand into other types of content but for now it is engaging because it doesn't need you to think much, just consume, participate, enjoy - and be yourself.
So the final question for the marketers out there - how engaging is the content, regardless of mindset? And how much concentration is required before that content becomes engaging?
Thanks for reading! If you're looking for more insights, head on over to the blog. And if you're ready to go on your own content marketing journey, click here for a free 30 minute consultation with our experts.