Guest Post: The Meet Group’s VP of Livestreaming talks ‘Twitch for Dating’

Guest post: Lauren Hallanan is a former professional livestreamer, the host of the Stream Wars and China Influencer Marketing podcasts, and is currently VP of Live Streaming at The Meet Group (NASDAQ: MEET). She lived in China for 8 years, is fluent in Mandarin, and acquired 300K followers as a professional live streamer on MOMO.

Twitch for Dating

Twitch for Dating … it’s not as crazy as you think. Live streaming is so much larger than video games. As a media form, I believe it is destined to rival traditional television media. In the United States, Twitch is today the largest of these nascent live streaming networks, but in the near future, I believe the live streaming space will support different Twitch-sized opportunities for different verticals such as game shows, talent competitions, the news, and, yes, even dating.

Twitch, undoubtedly, would like to be the Twitch for Dating and the Twitch for Everything Else, just like Amazon, its owner, started in books and then added everything else. But the history of social media suggests that the Twitch for Dating will almost certainly not be Twitch itself.

The Allure of Twitch

Founded in 2011, Twitch is a live streaming video platform, which was acquired for approximately $1 billion by Amazon in 2016. With 15 million daily active users, the platform is known for attracting some of the top video game streamers in the world.

In recent years Twitch has been working to diversify its content, developing IRL or ‘in real life’ talent. However, the vast majority of viewers and broadcasters still use the platform primarily for gaming and esports.

But unlike watching a streaming show on Netflix, people don’t use Twitch solely to view or stream content. Twitch reduces loneliness. It is as much about consuming media as about human connection.

The Loneliest Generation

It is clear that, despite our hyper-connectedness, or maybe because of it, loneliness is an epidemic. In a study published earlier this year, global health service company Cigna and the market research firm Ipsos found that Generation Z is the loneliest generation–with 46% of respondents reporting sometimes or always feeling lonely.

Loneliness has been shown to contribute to various ailments from diabetes and heart disease to depression and substance abuse. “People hunger to be known authentically,” according to Former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, “and far too many people feel invisible right now, and that is that the crux of our loneliness epidemic.”

While we often hear about famous Twitch streamers earning millions of dollars, most streamers on Twitch and other live streaming platforms will never earn any real money. They don’t use it to earn money. They use it to satisfy a deep human need: connection.

A Verge article from earlier this year featured an interview with Richárd Szélesy, a Twitch streamer who has spent the last few years broadcasting games to almost zero viewers. “The reason I started streaming was that I was kind of looking for human connections,” Szélesy said, “[I streamed to] escape loneliness and depression.”

While he mostly streams without an audience, occasionally someone stops by, and that makes all the difference in the world. The feeling that there are other people out there, that we are all in this together, is the very definition of the opposite of loneliness.

Twitch has hit on something universal. Live streaming is much bigger than video games.

Live Streaming and Dating

Chat-based platforms like Tinder aren’t enough to combat loneliness. These apps are utilities, promising users the perfect match in a short amount of time. When there are not enough inbound chats, which there can never be when most chats go to the most attractive users, the result is even more profound loneliness.

And that’s why dating combined with live streaming has such incredible potential. Live streaming reduces loneliness when users don’t have enough chats. I believe chats and live streaming are complementary, providing 24/7 opportunities for entertainment and connection.

Earlier this year, we ran a survey asking 6,000+ users of our social dating platform MeetMe if MeetMe helps them feel less lonely. It turns out, the response depended crucially on how much those users used live streaming. The more users reported using the live streaming feature, the less lonely they felt. Live streaming is authentic and raw. Viewers watch streamers think in real time, they see their visceral reactions. What you see is what you get.

Source: MeetMe Internal Survey. September 2018. 6,800 responses.

The Twitch for Dating

It is natural for Twitch to want to be not only the Twitch for gaming but also the Twitch for dating and the Twitch for everything else too. That’s, after all, the Amazon way. But social is not like selling books and adding kitchen appliances. People use brands to manage different facets of their identities, and they always have. That’s why there is a LinkedIn for your business persona; why there is a Facebook for your family persona; why there is a Tinder, for your dating persona. These personas don’t mix; they never have; and the history of social suggests they never will.

Let’s look at what qualities the Twitch for Dating must have. It must be welcoming to women. But often Twitch is called out for being the opposite. Twitch’s biggest streamer, “Ninja,”, is quite public about the fact that he doesn’t stream with women, explaining that “it’s just not worth it.” By going full-Pence, Ninja is sending a message to the Twitch community that engaging with women leads to problems, thereby further isolating the women on the platform.

Well, what about Tinder? Let’s look at what other qualities the Twitch for Dating must have. It must be open; where users feel comfortable dropping in on streams. And of course it must emphasize video. I don’t believe Tinder can do either of these naturally.

Tinder users expect to only chat with people who mutually swipe right. It is the opposite of an open platform, and they are going in the direction of making it less open by copying Bumble privacy features. Additionally, Tinder’s owner, Match Group, isn’t likely going to do anything to disrupt the golden goose. It’s even been suggested by some Wall Street analysts that Tinder is the lion’s share of Match’s growth. Tinder is too valuable for Match as the utility it is to try to make it something it is not.

But there will be powerful live streaming dating platforms.

Chinese dating behemoth, MOMO, was among the first, creating a multi-billion dollar live streaming dating business in China. The Meet Group entered the fray in 2016 by launching live streaming first on our US-based app MeetMe, and we grew to a $48 million business (annualized) from scratch in less than a year. Dating juggernaut Badoo followed. I believe live streaming and dating are poised to take off in the West, as it already has in the East, and for the same reason: it is an antidote for loneliness, it makes us feel … we are all in this together.

Scott Harvey

Scott is the Editor of Global Dating Insights. Raised in Dorset, he holds a BA from The University of Nottingham and an MSc from Lund University School of Economics and Management. Previously he has written about politics, economics and technology for various online publications.

Global Dating Insights is part of the Industry Insights Group. Registered in the UK. Company No: 14395769