1. Improve Something Every Week
Building a PC, configuring OBS, firing up your game and hitting the “stream” button is just the beginning. The ACT of streaming is simple. Having a successful stream on the other hand, takes a lot of hard work. There’s a reason that out of 1,500,000 unique broadcasters only 10,000 are partnered. Now, not everyone has partnership or full time streaming as a goal. Streaming to a few friends for fun is great too. But if you want to grow your channel beyond that, you have to be willing to work on upping your quality and standards.
I’ve seen my fair share of rough quality streams. One thing I hear often is “I’ll get a better camera and microphone when I get more viewers”. The truth is, configuring the camera or microphone you already own can often boost your quality for free. I’ve said it before: I would rather watch a streamer who has a cheap microphone configured well, than a streamer with an expensive mic they put no time into setting up.
Most people can benefit from a noise gate. A noise gate essentially mutes your microphone when you aren’t talking, to get rid of the ambient hiss cheaper microphones have and block out background sounds such as computer fans or mouse clicks. There are plenty of informative guides out there to help you set one up. In OBS settings, you set the close threshold above your non-speaking sound and then set the open threshold a few decibels higher. Your audience will thank you for this.
My Noisegate Settings.
That is just one example of a free improvement. The point is, there’s a lot more to tweak and upgrade if you look for it. Add some panel information to your Twitch profile, fiddle with your webcam to adjust image quality, put some more lights in your room, Add some new scenes to OBS to use when AFK, Set up notifications…the list goes on and on. Set goals for yourself such as watching your “Uh’s” and “Um’s”. The point is, there’s always things to improve. Keep moving forward. Don’t stagnate.
The last thing I want to touch on regarding stream upgrades: I firmly believe you shouldn’t rely on your audience to upgrade your stream. If someone wants to get into racing, they buy a car. If someone wants to get into acting, they take acting lessons or get head shots. If you want to start streaming, be willing to at least invest the bare minimum. I’ve seen some low quality, rough sounding streams with big donation goals on screen like “Blue Yeti Mic $0/130″. That’s just tacky. Spend a couple bucks on a cheap USB mic to get your sound sorted out first. You need to give your audience a reason to stay and invest in the channel in the first place. You may have a genuinely awesome personality, but most people won’t stay long enough to notice that if your channel’s frame rate looks like a slide show and your microphone is buzzing loudly. I get that not everyone has money to spend on streaming. But if it’s something you’re passionate about and want to succeed at, a small investment will go a long way.
2. Set a Schedule
You don’t have to stream full time to get good growth. Sure, it helps to stream often…but to stream CONSISTENTLY is the key. Look at your day to day life and figure out the times you can stream. Write up a schedule and post it in your channel info. This way, people who enjoy your channel know when you’re live. If you can’t nail down specific hours, at least offer a time frame such as “Friday nights after 6pm eastern”. I also like to plan out what games I will play and post them on my schedule. Not only does keeping a schedule make you look more professional, it helps your dedicated viewers plan accordingly…and one of the biggest things that helps channels grow is dedicated, regular viewers who are willing to show up and support you. If you are going to be late or miss a stream, let people know by sending a message from your Twitter account or a Steam Group notification. Keep people informed of changes. Speaking of Twitter:
3. Use Social Media and Be Active in Communities
You need to have a presence online. Make yourself known. When I first got into streaming I had a Facebook account and that’s it. I always felt Twitter was kind of silly. After I started streaming however, I realized how important it was to be able to fire off quick updates. Also, social media is great for advertising and networking. You want to give people as many ways as you can to get to know you and connect with you. The following are great services you should start using:
Twitter: Tweet when you go live, Tweet updates to your schedule, Tweet thoughts on recent gaming news and events. Follow some streamers YOU enjoy and see how they operate.
Facebook: This may not be for everyone. For privacy reasons I recommend making a separate “Group” page under your streamer name. Use this for posting longer messages and updates as well as links to articles or blogs you enjoy.
YouTube: Most people I speak with feel that YouTube is best used as an additional platform to make content for. I don’t think burying subscribers by exporting every single stream from Twitch is the way to go. I personally export only quick 1-2 minute highlights from my streams. I’m in the process of learning how to edit videos correctly to post unique content there. Use YouTube to expose new people to your channel. Many larger streamers edit and export entire streams to YouTube, but that is because they have the demand for it. Starting out, I would instead focus on making NEW content for YouTube specifically.
Steam: If you’re on PC, you probably have Steam. Create a Steam Group for your channel and use it to send out important announcements. I like to send a Steam announcement when I start playing a new game I haven’t streamed before. I try not to bombard people with Steam announcements though because by default, they pop up over user’s screens in the bottom right corner. I also pick from people in my Steam group when playing multiplayer games.
Forums: Find a community you enjoy, become a part of it and be active! This is a great way to get to known other people with similar interests and get your name out there.
There are plenty of other services out there as well such as Tumblr, Imgur, Pastebin and Reddit. You want to use every tool at your disposal…but also make sure you’re using them well. Make sure you keep them updated and post relevant content to them frequently. It’s better to use one service to the best of your abilities than halfheartedly maintain five.
4. Stream the Right Games
First and foremost: Stream games you like. Don’t stream a game simply because you think it will generate views. Your audience can tell if you’re not enjoying yourself. That said, some games are absolutely better at generating new viewers than others. I like to to play games from what I call “The Mid Range” of the Twitch games list. When you click “Browse Games” on Twitch you will see all of the games being streamed, sorted from Most Viewed to Least Viewed. At the top are your e-sports and competitive games as well as new releases. What you want to look for are games with 500-8000 viewers, towards the middle of the list. These are often niche games with dedicated communities or “new releases” from the month before who’s popularity on Twitch is dying down. With certain exceptions, these are the good games to stream for growth.
Games at the top of the list often have hundreds if not thousands of streamers broadcasting them. Unless you already have a significant audience following you over from YouTube or something, you will get absolutely buried in the listing. If you look at League of Legends, you can see that even streamers with 50+ viewers are buried low in the list. If you are looking to grow your channel, these are not good games to stream all the time in my opinion.
The games in the middle range are great to stream because even with no viewers watching you, people don’t have to scroll down too much to find you. You are competing with far less streams for attention. Sometimes one big streamer will be streaming a typically unpopular (on Twitch) game and elevating it to the middle part of the list…if it’s a game you also enjoy as well, stream it. You may catch some of their viewers when their stream ends. It may feel like a cheap tactic, but if it’s a game you like then you have every right to stream it as well. Regardless, most 500-8000 viewer games are good to stream to attract new viewers.
Dark Souls 2 has a dedicated community.
Now, I’m not saying NOT to stream those popular games at the top of the list. You have to have fun. I personally divide my stream time in half. For half of my stream I stream popular games I enjoy that generate new viewers, the other half I play whatever the heck I want. It’s not impossible to grow streaming games from the top of the list…you will gain a viewer or follower here and there and eventually it will add up. Viewers tend to snowball, the more you have – the more you get. However, if you’re looking to grow your channel quickly there are better games to play. There are exceptions to this though. If you are an incredibly skilled League of Legends player, you can probably make decent growth streaming only League of Legends. Same goes with speed runners. However…
5. Not All Growth is Numerical
It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers of Twitch. While Overall Views, Follows and Current Viewers provide a rough metric to analyze your success, they don’t paint the whole picture. A frequent thing I see are people taking their total views and follows and calculating a “retention rate”…that is the number of people who viewed the channel and then decided to follow. The problem I have with this is that there are several other variables at play. E-sport games like Call of Duty have a lot of viewers who quickly browse channel to channel, inflating the overall view number. If I were to stream a smaller, less popular game that has a devoted community I would likely get far less views and more follows on the account of being one of the few people streaming it. At the end of the day, I don’t think these numbers mean a whole lot.
The other thing: Gaining new viewers isn’t the only way to grow your channel. Perhaps more important is getting to know the viewers you DO have. Some of the best advice I’ve heard is to worry about the viewers you have, not the one’s you don’t. If you have 5 people in your channel, those are 5 people who took time to come see you and the game you are playing. Get to know them. Interact. These are the people who are going to support you and help create a community in your channel. Give 5 viewers the same show you’d give 100 people. You don’t want your channel to consist of 50 new people every time you stream, you want regulars who you can get to know and be friends with even. I’m fortunate to have a great group of people who come by to hang out regardless what game I’m playing. They aren’t even necessarily there for just me, they are there for the community that has been created in my channel as well…the other regulars. Unless you’re a pro player who needs to concentrate on their game 100% of the time, you want to help foster a positive community. THIS is the best kind of growth in my opinion.
Other Quick Tips for Streaming on Twitch
Besides the general advice above, there are a few other quick tips I can give from my short experience and research…some of the following are just my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt:
Let lurkers lurk: Don’t shout out people who aren’t talking. Maybe they don’t speak your language well, maybe they are eating and don’t feel like talking, maybe they are just shy. The point is, not everyone WANTS to interact. I’ve never heard of someone leaving because they WEREN’T talked to while lurking, but I’ve seen plenty leave who were.
Keep your overlay clean: I personally don’t like streams with huge, cluttered overlays that have tons of non-essential information in them. I’ve heard many people say the same. I’ve seen overlays with sections covering up the game that have words like “Don’t forget to follow!”. Don’t worry, people will follow if they want to. No need to obscure the screen. I personally run with a webcam and a small semi-transparent logo in the corner. Some games work well with fancy overlays, but for the most part I think a minimalist approach is best.
Keep the atmosphere positive: Don’t get dragged down by trolls. Ignore them, ban them and move on. Stay positive about both the game you are playing and streaming in general. Keep chat focused and make sure you are promoting the kind of atmosphere you want.
Get Moderators: Even if you think you’re too small to need moderators, get some anyway. It’s good to have people who can help you out. They will help guide chat in the right direction and take care of people who are out of line. I don’t know what I would do without my mods to remind me of stuff and help out with the stream. Share your vision of what you want for your stream with them. Let them know what will and wont be tolerated in chat so they can handle it.
Use, Don’t Abuse Bots: Chat bots like Deepbot or Nightbot can be great tools to enhance your stream. Don’t let them run wild though. Make sure your bot isn’t spamming chat every few minutes. Personally, I have Deepbot set to advertise my Twitter every 45 minutes. I have other commands I can trigger manually when appropriate. I personally don’t like the chat mini games but some people do, so your mileage may vary.
Talk Often, But Don’t Jibber Jabber: Try not to talk for the sake of talking. Try to ensure you actually have something to say. There’s a difference between good commentary and rambling on and on. I’m guilty of falling into patterns of screaming the same obscenities at the animatronics in Five Nights at Freddy’s over and over again at times. While a little entertaining, people will probably get a bit bored or irritated at hearing you say “Get Wrecked” for the 100th time in an hour.
NETWORK: This is super important. Pretty much none of the top streamers got where they are on their own. If you want to grow your channel, make some friends in the community! Twitch isn’t a competition, there is strength in numbers. Do dual streams with a fellow streamer. Hang out in their chat and help drive discussion. Retweet their tweets. Host eachother. Talk and share ideas. Telling your viewers about a fellow streamer doesn’t mean they are going to leave your channel and never come back. Get involved.
I hope some of these tips help you to grow your Twitch channel. Twitch is a strange beast when it comes to success. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to why one channel does well and another does not. Do some research of your own, hang out in streams and make note of what YOU like. Like I said, I’m by no means an expert…a lot of this is just my experience with Twitch and MY preferences. Best of luck with your channel and remember above all: ENJOY YOURSELF.