On a seemingly endless wall of video options for thousands of viewers in dozens of languages, people do makeup, dodge buses and cook dinner. But mostly, they just sit and talk to the camera. In others, it’s business as usual for Twitch.tv’s flourishing Just Chatting category.
Twitch started as a home for video games, and that is still its core identity. But ever since Amazon bought the livestreaming website in 2014 for nearly $1 billion, the site has expanded into live sporting events and other non-gaming opportunities. The biggest non-gaming category is now Just Chatting—the cover photo of a latte and a microphone sitting among Fortnite, League of Legends and World of Warcraft as the most consistently popular categories on Twitch—which is helping entice brands to the platform.
Just Chatting was introduced in 2018 when Twitch broke its IRL (In Real Life) section into subcategories. Few of those categories have gained a foothold, and Just Chatting has effectively become IRL-lite, though it has been freed from the negative connotation often associated with the Wild West early days of IRL. It opens up opportunities for brands like MAC Cosmetics to connect with the Twitch audience, even when they aren’t as endemic to the gaming space.
“At our core, MAC is a culture brand, not just a beauty brand,” Cary Neer, MAC’s executive director of global integrated communications, said. “We tap into the communities of art, fashion, music and pop culture to create conversations larger than just beauty—and this really speaks to the Just Chatting category.”
At TwitchCon in late September, MAC Cosmetics had one of the largest displays. Two models stood in the middle, painted head to toe like they just walked off of James Cameron’s Avatar set. Around them, streamers received makeup tutorials from MAC makeup artists. Sophia “Djarii” White, a streamer specializing in makeup and body art, observed the display from the second floor of a nearby booth.
“Video games is still at the core of what Twitch does, but now that’s broadening into basically anything,” White said. “If you want to cook, or you want to do makeup or you just want to chat with your friends, you can do that. I was one of the first people doing makeup on Twitch, and now we have this flourishing community.”
Just Chatting was the only category on Twitch to increase in hours watched quarter over quarter in 2018, according to data provided by StreamElements, a company that handles many of the technical aspects of being a Twitch streamer.
“While viewership of every top game has fluctuated, Just Chatting is the only category to consistently maintain its upward momentum,” StreamElements CEO Doron Nir said. “It grew 36% since its launch a year ago, which is four times as much as Twitch’s overall growth rate in that period. This shows where Twitch is heading and opens the door to more non-endemic brands given that influencers who use the category are more conversational and provide more opportunities not tethered to game play.”
Watching a Just Chatting stream feels like a conversation. Streamers read chat messages while responding to monetary donations via subscribers ($5 a month) or “bits” (1 cent, usually given out in hundreds). Just Chatting streamers often play games as well, but many of them see higher viewership when they are just offering that personal connection. For brands, it’s a streak of gold begging to be mined. Promoting a product when playing a multiplayer shooter or taking down a raid boss is tough to do, but Just Chatting streams come with ample opportunities.
“The growth of the Just Chatting category is incredibly valuable for brands,” Scott Clark, svp of brand partnerships for StreamElements, said. “When a streamer is talking with their community it’s the perfect time to share an authentic endorsement of a brand partner given the more engaged nature of the fans and the full share of voice. Whether it’s playing a trailer, showing off a new set of sneakers or unboxing a new phone, Just Chatting is the best environment in which to do it.”
According to White, opening up Twitch should be the first thing a brand does if it wants to connect with this audience.
“I would encourage [makeup brands] to explore those creators and reach out to them, even a small thing like a makeup care package means a lot to these streamers because brands haven’t noticed them before,” White said.
The benefit is truly organic engagement. If a product is featured in a YouTube video, it’s a calculated choice made during the shoot, but the live nature of Twitch means brands enter the screen in a natural way, and there is no room for editing or reshooting.
“There are options there for people to be able to include brands in their content because you can do almost anything within our terms of service on Twitch,” Erin Wayne, Twitch’s head of community marketing, said. “These streamers are around their communities for hours and hours every month. So when a streamer says, ‘Hey, this deal is sponsored and I’m going to play this game,’ there’s an element of trust that’s there compared to ‘I’m edited. This product is great. Please use it.’”