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All Aboard the Hype Train: Live-Streaming as a Strategic Communication Tool

Stephanie Viggiano is a marketing consultant currently pursuing an M.S. in Strategic Communication. Her research interests include cultural production in digital media, strategic communication, fascist aesthetics and critical media theory.


As we live in a digital world that craves video content, it’s no surprise that live streaming or “streaming” is an evolving media type and emerging workforce. This buzzworthy medium has turned heads with politicians, professional sports leagues, and even state governments utilizing live streaming in their communication strategies.

Live streaming is when a content creator, or “streamer,” broadcasts video on a platform, for instance, the popular Amazon-owned (Twitch) for gamers. There is plenty of opportunity for interaction during a stream; the audience interacts with the streamer by chatting, using custom-made emotes, and donations are gamified. You can start a “Hype Train” to encourage others to donate, or you can cheer on your favorite streamer with “bits,” a unique currency. To promote the stream, most content creators have a private community on Discord and utilize channels like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter to feature clips from their streams, fan-art, merchandise, and viewer-generated content. Streamers are often tapped for influencer marketing opportunities as community sizes range from hundreds to the millions.

Why Live Streaming?

Live streaming communities are powerful social forces. Influenced by sociologist Erving Goffman’s dramaturgical analysis, the streamer “performs play” as they narrate their streaming performance (Pellicone, 2017). Whether it’s a “thank you” for a subscription or a donation read aloud, these engaging moments allow for direct interaction, where for at least a few seconds, the stream could be about one viewer. In these streams, parasocial relationships, or one-way relationships, form between the viewer and streamer, allowing for meaningful community growth (Lin et al, 2019).

Streaming Platform Breaks Records Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

Due to the effects of coronavirus, Twitch saw a remarkable increase in traffic and viewership. According to Stream Elements, there was a 67% year-over-year increase of viewership as millions continue to be a captive audience, socially distancing during the pandemic. In an ever-evolving workforce that is now remote, there is new opportunity and demand for streaming content.

B2C, Nonprofits, & Government Transparency

Organizations from myriad industries stream use Twitch as brand touchpoints, where the viewer can chat or play a game with the brand and enter giveaways.

  • B2C campaigns from Ally Bank and Biden for President jumped into the world of Animal Crossing: One of the top video game releases during the pandemic, simulation game, Animal Crossing launched in March 2020, as COVID-19 lockdowns slowly were implemented in the United States.
  • Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez plays “Among Us”: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Representative Ilhan Omar played a few rounds of viral “mafia” game, Among Us, to get out the vote for the 2020 election. The Congresswoman’s stream garnered over 400,000 views, making it the third highest traffic spike in Twitch history.
  • NFL partners with Twitch streamers for Monday Night Football: The league partnered with streamers to host Monday Night Football watch parties with their viewers.
  • Charity Streams: Perhaps some of the most popular content are streams that are dedicated to charitable causes. Streamers will team up with organizations to raise money for diverse causes.
  • States like Pennsylvania utilized live streaming during the 2020 presidential election to ensure transparency during vote counting.

Internal Communication Opportunities

Strategic Communication Lecturer, Ethan McCarty of Columbia University School of Professional Studies, said that internal communications no longer only follow linear storytelling. Through emerging, interactive mediums like live streaming, Professor McCarty emphasizes that “[mass] audiences transform into audiences of one through micro-targeting and personalization.” This is exactly the benefit of streaming for internal communication strategies—a chance to bring the personal into the professional, to humanize and engage with employees. Below are some examples.

  • Gamification of the hiring process: In the 2016 Deloitte report referenced by Professor McCarty’s course, gamification is used by the Navy to match potential candidates in the cryptology field using a game called “Project Architeuthis.” 
  • Training and language learning: Activities like classes and language learning via live stream provide excellent, digestible opportunities of growth for employees.

If you do venture into streaming, it’s important to remember to be true to your brand— your first live stream just might be a consumer’s introduction to your organization.

In our ever-changing world, it is necessary to refine our strategic communication outlook to include emerging mediums like streaming. Needless to say, media scholar Marshall McLuhan’s “medium is the message” has never been so prophetic.


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Woodcock, J., & Johnson, M. (2019). Live Streamers on as Social Media Influencers: Chances and Challenges for Strategic Communication. International Journal of Strategic Communication13, 321–335.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any other person or entity.