3/18/24 · Communication

Twitch, the platform with the potential to get young people interested in politics

Experts from UIC Barcelona and the UOC analyse how Spanish political parties use the platform
Twitch and politics

Twitch (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Could Twitch become a political communication tool that contributes to reducing disaffection among young people? This is a question to which Núria Roca-Trenchs, researcher at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (UIC), and Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) researchers Alexandre López-Borrull and Ferran Lalueza, all three of whom are members of the UOC's GAME group, have sought an answer in the article Twitch as a political communication tool: analysis of potentialities, recently published in the Chilean academic journal Cuadernos.info. The three researchers have analysed how Spanish political parties with seats in Spain's Congress of Deputies have made use of this platform to date (only Vox currently has a presence there, since 2021, after the PSOE ended up shutting its channel down) and have evaluated the platform's potential and challenges for connecting with young people.

Twitch is currently young people's preferred streaming platform, as shown by the statistics. Some 34% of users are between 25 and 34 years old and 29% between 18 and 24, according to Statista (2021), and it is the leading streaming platform in Spain, with a share of 56%, ahead of rivals such as YouTube Gaming, Facebook Gaming and SteamTV. According to Statista (2023), the platform registers 88 minutes of daily use in Spain. Twitch's strong penetration amongst the young, said the authors of the analysis, means that it has become "a social media platform that builds its content from new narratives, languages and formats to which political players must adapt," as they have done in other social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.


"Political players are dealing with an unknown dimension"

Despite the platform bringing together many users from the population's younger members, the analysis shows how little use Spanish political parties make of it, with content that does not meet the expectations of the platform's audience. "It is used irregularly," explained the authors of the study, which analyses how the political parties that have registered with the platform have used it: Vox, with a channel that remains active, and the PSOE, which, during the period in which the investigation was carried out, ended up deleting its profile. "Political players are dealing with an unknown dimension. When a new social media platform appears, it always makes sense to use trial and error and carry out an assessment of it to ascertain whether the proposed discourse is successful or not," argued the authors of the analysis.

The researchers refer to studies that propose exploring Twitch's potential in the field of political communication. These potentialities lie in the fact that the platform encourages and facilitates interaction between the streamer and their public, establishing real-time chats and thus differentiating itself from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, where there is a prevalence of delayed interaction or a perception of absence of any interaction at all. With livestreaming, viewers feel heard, can express themselves freely and create a new form of political participation and activism.


Twitch's great appeal: its audience

The authors of the analysis highlighted how "Twitch's great appeal is its very audience, an audience that is very difficult to access through other avenues and more traditional channels." They also point out that one of the challenges is to turn the platform into "a tool for young people who are not very politicized or who are but basically in only two areas: climate emergency and gender, either for or against."

The incentive to use Twitch in political communication is precisely to be able to reach an audience less interested in public affairs, and this is something that must be done using a strategy that fits the platform. "Political parties' social media managers must take this into account, as they cannot simply replicate content used on other networks, such as YouTube and X. Instead, they need to seek a different narrative," warned the experts, citing as an example Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the US House of Representatives, who has used the platform to play online games. Additionally, if these managers decide to make use of the platform "they must have continuity, rather than open a channel and fail to provide content. They have to think about content for the audience that is there, consider what type of broadcast could make sense with regards to making candidates more approachable, and think about how to do this in a way that makes sense."

For now, and as the analysis published by experts shows, the use made of Twitch by the world of politics in Spain "is still very much in its infancy." There is a great deal of scope if advantage is taken of the platform's potentialities, such as the two-way communication it allows, to a much greater extent than that of a traditional political rally. "Rallies could be kept on as rituals to address true believers, but in streaming there will be the possibility of attracting and retaining new supporters and combating the disaffection of younger voters, who are the ones who can make a difference in a context of technical tie arising from today's great polarization," explained the researchers.


A change in the audiovisual consumption habits of young people worldwide

The rise of Twitch has been linked to a change in the audiovisual consumption habits of world youth. The platform encourages intermediary-free interaction and makes political issues more digestible by mixing them with entertainment. This forces political representatives to understand the platform's language, which is basically audiovisual, less serious and more informal. Will this lead to a change in political profiles? Experts believe that, for a long time, politicians "have shied away from excessive seriousness, as they have understood that voters are often governed by emotional factors rather than rational considerations." According to the researchers, Twitch would therefore be "simply a further step – albeit a very decisive one – towards the 'mediatization' of politics, a step that can fully propel us into the world of 'politainment'" (a portmanteau of the words 'politics' and 'entertainment'). This "may lead to the emergence of new leaders in political formations who are particularly skilled in the art of streaming, rather like how the emergence of television made being telegenic a practically must-have quality for candidates harbouring any real hope of success," they concluded.

Experts UOC

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