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With the impending doom that’s sure to come with the inevitable Google (or other mega-corporation) acquisition of Twitch, a lot of us in the GeekyAntics and AllGames communities are looking to step up our game on Twitch or at least keep our options open. After all, if we can cement ourselves as Twitch partners (certainly not the best or only growth path) and featured channels, why NOT do it on the “ground level”? Unfortunately, Twitch streamers, like many social media enthusiasts, are looking for the magic bullet.
The magic bullet does not exist.
DISCLAIMER: These are my opinions based upon my experience as a NISM-certified social media strategist (I sit on their board of advisors too) and personal observations. I do not pretend to have all the answers nor is this guide the end-all on your quest for social media success.. but it’s a darn good start! It’s also worth noting that I am not partnered on Twitch because it has not been the focus on my network BUT having the #1 Twitch marketing/growth article out there should lend some credibility. *smirk*
Sure, there are some shortcuts and tips but it all comes down to the basics. We’ll get into that but here’s what one streamer recommends after becoming a Twitch partner in about a month’s time (this is very rare, by the way):
This is solid advice. Obezianka, like many of us in #TheGANG, really believes in the value of authenticity and engagement. Sadly, there is more to this puzzle than what is mentioned here because tons of people have high production value and consistency, yet they struggle to break 100 concurrent viewers; heck, some days 10 viewers is a blessing, amirite?
Even worse, people only see value in followers and views but there’s more to success than that. Heck, there are tons of unremarkable channels that hit high numbers consistently yet have nothing special to offer. It all comes down to this: What is success to YOU? What REALLY drives you?
Let’s dig deep here. We’ll go through the best practices and the tried-and-true strategies we have uncovered from analyzing top streamers and first-hand experiences alike. Let’s do this!
What Does Twitch Look For In Partners
Advertising is a roughly 40-billion-dollar business and it is projected to grow into an 80-billion-dollar industry in two to three years. Twitch makes a big chunk of their money through ads. The Twitch Partners program has a very selective yet subjective process but, to understand it, all you need to know is this:
- They want people that can bump up ad impressions.
- They tend to favor women because there are not enough of them.
- They like niches if it means they can target ads better.
- They LOVE established personalities – INSTANT street cred!
Contrary to popular belief, Twitch does not have a set criteria for who they partner, which is why there are plenty of questionable partnered channels out there while other, more deserving channels remain overlooked and unpartnered. Twitch staff believes that “they know great content” but don’t let their lack of appreciation or vision discourage you. You can succeed without their blessings!
This is why you might see people with subscriber buttons or featured channels even though they do not meet the minimum Twitch Partner requirements. Think of these requirements as guidelines, not hard numbers. There are a few things that are pretty much non-negotiable:
- Stream at least three times a week, preferrably with a set schedule for consistent results.
- Partners must illustrate a proven track record in social media and/or consistent streaming efforts.
- Smoking on-stream is severely frowned upon (BOO).
- You should have at least 100 Twitch followers.. Or close to it.
- Sexual inuendos or pornographic material are a NO GO but, contrary to what Twitch says in their TOS, sex does indeed sell and is one of gimmicks (i.e. cleavage) one could employ to fast-track their growth.
- Hacking and exploiting bugs will get you denied.. and banned (but don’t worry about others viewbotting you so long as you are not condoning such behavior).
In many ways, Twitch treats their partners like brand ambassadors and PR people. They want folks that will not create a conflict of interest with their brand or their advertisers and affiliates. It’s quite simple and less daunting when you look at it this way.
I have found that the Twitch Partners team will make exceptions if you have a great personality and a solid growth plan. How will you grow your audience? How will you stand out? Those are the sorts of questions you must answer for the Twitch team and yourself. Just don’t take it personally if you get denied, even repeatedly, because luck is part of it.
Be realistic and honest with yourself: if you can’t commit to a schedule or put in the time, partnership may not be for you.. Yet.
Consider that the changes, risks, and administration necessary to grant someone partner status are significant. Twitch mainly wants to make sure applicants are more than hobbyists because then they will produce quality content and events that will help them expand their reach. Here are some things that you’d want to highlight on your Twitch Partner application:
- Sites you contribute to regularly.
- Teams or networks you are an active part of.
- Social media and marketing skills you possess.
- Your channel growth plan.
- Established personalities who can vouch for you.
- Audiences and metrics you are proud of.
You get the idea. You may not have a massive YouTube or Twitch following yet but you might have a captive audience or a highly-engaged group of followers who you could rally given the chance. If you build a strong enough case, Twitch might make the gamble.
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Getting Noticed Amidst All The Noise
The first real hurdle to face as a Twitch streamer (if you’re going to go beyond casual/hobbyist status) is getting people to your channel. All the talk about having good video quality, an engaging personality, and/or tons of skill in any given game are great but how will people know to even venture into your channel? Typically, the Twitch streamers with tons of viewers any time they stream ) have the following going for them:
- They are women (not to be chauvanistic but it’s proven that female streamers attract more viewers naturally).
- They are established personalities from other networks, professional gaming teams, or video platforms.
- They have a unique gimmick or stream niche content.
As a frame of reference, those streaming Twitch casually might consider 20 viewers awesome but they’d be lucky to get 5 unless they stream often for two or more hours at a time. So we could say 100-200 viewers is solid, 500-1K is awesome, and 10-100K is uber. When you consider the massive gaps between these tiers, it can be a bit intimidating but fear not – you can do it!
I recommend experiencing Twitch as a consumer as much as possible, even if you’ve built an audience already. What draws you into a new channel? Here’s what I first notice:
- Is the broadcast titled in a unique, descriptive, or exciting way?
- Does their avatar or channel banner look unique, exciting, or at least well thought-out.. or is it lazy and generic?
- Are they part of a team, group, or sub-network on Twitch?
- Do they have a webcam? Do they look engaged or bored?
- What information do they make available in their channel description and profile (besides excessive rules)?
- How many viewers are in there right now?
Typically, I skip the channels that have tons of viewers. They don’t need my support and they rarely engage their audience.. Because they don’t have to. Most people in these channels are there in hopes to siphon some of their audience, find love (LOL, or collaborate somehow. Everyone wishes they could fast-track success but it’s rarely that easy, folks.
Contrary to popular, success on Twitch is much more about what you do before and after streaming. Simply staying on the grind, having the right equipment, and producing “quality” content is not enough because you will be buried amidst a lot of strong competition. Obezianka, a.k.a Ana, recommends involving your friends and family. That is good but, be warned:
Friends and family can sometimes be the most brutal or lazy when it comes to supporting unconventional methods.
People don’t get Twitch and why it’s a big deal so there will be pushback. To outsiders, it’s a silly hobby and nothing else. In general, people may react like they would to a network marketing opportunity or hard sales pitch. Self-promotion makes people uneasy a lot of the time and those close to you may think you are “using” them. I’ve heard this a lot from content marketers, community managers, and social media gurus. It’s okay if you share a lot of random crap, so long as it’s not “yours”. Errrmmm?
Here’s my advice on how to prime the pump:
- Meet new people with similar interests.
- Target communities where people are interested more in consumption than production (marketing to other marketers is a hard sell).
- Promote others more than yourself.
- Tweet, share, blog, and do all the social media promotion you can to build up anticipation.
- Share special events and themed streams to entice potential viewers and give them something to talk about.
- Promote for longer for bigger events, especially 24-hour marathons and giveaways.
The more serious you take your efforts, the more serious others will. By the time you get into more of a routine, your friends and family will be more receptive, no matter how lazy or skeptical they may be (bless their hearts). I see Twitch streaming like most social media initiatives: an opportunity to network and make more friends!
Towards the end we’ll talk about how to deal with trolls and toxicity. Entrepreneurs and online marketers alike will tell you that those close to us will often be our toughest critics, especially if they do not understand unconventional means of revenue generation. People tend to understand traditional jobs and career tracks but, when you say “I work from home”, they hear “I’m lazy”. Strong work ethic is the only way to combat this, especially if you intend for Twitch to be your main or only “thing”.
The Many First Dates
Marketers and salespeople may know the term first date. As the name implies, this term refers to the process of wining-and-dining and showing you are likeable (i.e. worth their time and attention). It’s all about attention to details and making connections that last a long time, hopefully forever.
The smaller your audience, the more important each follower and viewer is. Heck, everyone matters at any level but, naturally, one-on-one engagement and collaboration is a must when you are starting from zero. You may have a big audience but it won’t necessarily convert 100% to Twitch so assume you have to work within the ecosystem to cultivate a new following.
So, once you get people to join your channel, how do you get them to stick around?
First impressions are a tricky thing. With all the options we as consumers have, we can be picky and impatient. Twitch streamers need to understand the delicate nature of their viewer-broadcaster relationships. Here’s what you can do to keep viewers happy:
- Acknowledge and welcome your viewers.. Provide an immediate next step to keep them engaged (i.e. request a song).
- Involve your viewers with votes/polls, questions, giveaways, multiplayer games, and post-stream activities.
- Make yourself vulnerable – share a bit about yourself and embrace your flaws.. Be human and approachable.
- Provide quality levels that accomodate mobile users, high-end computer users, and everything in between.
- Be transparent – share your contact/social media information and off-Twitch relationship building next steps.
- Implement prestige systems to incentivize deeper engagement/collaboration – appoint moderators, do shout-outs, and feature your top supporters and favorite broadcasters.
- Allow a little self-promotion so long as it doesn’t become spam.. HINT: Everyone likes to talk about themselves.
- Set some rules in your channel description but don’t make them too restrictive.. No one wants a dictator.
- Speaking of rules, it may be wise to avoid the friendship breaker topics: politics, religion, and sports.
Sadly, some viewers have unrealistic expectations so they may leave in spite of your efforts, not because of them. Do not allow this to discourage you and, hey, you can always message viewers to thank them for stopping by. This is an opportunity a lot of streamers miss – even the big ones! Keep that viewer list popped up and pay attention – more people will lurk than will engage you or make themselves known.
Share A Bigger Pie (i.e. Share Your Audience)
Why do so many people desperately hold onto a tiny slice of pizza when they can share a giant pie with others? Most might think this is counter-productive BUT…
Share your audience.
The single most detrimental mindset people have is that they must do things alone (wrong) and should not share their friends, fans, and supporters. This belief will destroy you on Twitch (and any social media platform, really) because one out of every five users streams to some degree. They are paying you with attention, sometimes money and freebies, so there needs to be some reciprocation.
Embrace the Twitch culture. Understand that everyone wants to feel like they a part of something bigger. Communities thrive when there is many-to-many interaction as opposed one-to-many. Promote and follow others to encourage a spirit of collaboration.
Look at this approach as you would comment brigading. When you promote others, they will typically do the same. Twitch raids are a great way to do this: simply join another streamer’s channel and bring your audience. Make it a big event, get noticed, and feed the hype machine – in a good way! Not everyone will respond in kind but at least you will make it clear that it’s not all about you – it’s about the community!
If you want some background, I highly recommend reading Guy Kawasaki’s book Enchantment. I am not a big fan of Apple and his days as their proverbial cheerleader (hey, we all make mistakes) but Guy really understands people. He is one of the most approachable A-listers out there (hell, he has replied to me on Google+, and quite speedily too), yet there are virtual nobodies on Twitch that act like they are celebrities who should not be approached unless granted permission. Tsk tsk… Humility is one of the lessons in this book and, hey, we could all stand to have an ego check every now and then.
Share Your Knowledge
I find that hoarding of knowledge is even more common than hoarding of supporters and friends. It also ties into the overly-competitive attitude some take on. It’s unnecessary and self-deprecating when it all comes down to it.
Remember: there is enough pie for everyone!
We touched upon the importance of embracing the unique culture and ecosystem Twitch provides. With that, it’s important to do some homework. For starters, you may want to learn…
- The history of Twitch starting at Kickstarter.
- How to do Twitch emotes.
- What BM means and what is considered bad mannered.
- How to optimize OBS, Xsplit, or your broadcasting software of choice for your particular system and games of choice.
- Which games represent crowded spaces and which are still ripe for newer streamers.
Every streamer has their strengths and weaknesses. Some know the technical stuff inside-out but are clueless when it comes to customer service or entertaining. Others are great with people but miss the little details on the tech and marketing sides. No one knows it all, which makes sharing of knowledge even more crucial.
Be Authentic – No One Likes A Fraud!
Nobody likes a fake. Just look at ZileanOP, the Twitch streamer who got banned for pretending to be disabled. He milked his audience for around 20K (USD) in donations before he slipped up and got caught. Such shameful behavior.. But he is not alone!
The disconnect between stated message and living principles is a common thing. Just think about how frivolously the word “love” is thrown around in modern society. You may go into a stream, donate to a broadcaster, and be told you are loved.. But I bet you the moment you try to self-promote or ask for a tiny favor, you’ll get the boot or a stern talking to. It’s petty but it happens.
I believe in full disclosure. If you are truly an asshat, then present that right off the bat. Some people might like the grumpy old man bit and join you in the bitterness. If you say that you care about people, then show it in your actions, not just your words. Be consistent in what you do and make sure it is sustainable. We all have our limits and can only give of ourselves so much, after all!
There Are No Shortcuts
When I was first proof-reading this long over-due article, I was watching Obezianka, one of my favorite little-known streamers, go from 150 viewers to 325 and then over 600 in a matter of minutes. I was happy that her 24-hour fund-raising stream was working out but, alas, someone was sending her viewbots. Fortunately, she caught the issue and addressed it right away, thanks to the speedy efforts of RapidBot.
If there are rules in place, someone is sure to game them. Twitch streamers will try just about anything to attract viewers. This includes illegal and borderline illegal type stuff. Don’t fall into this trap because, eventually, it will catch up with you.
Dealing With Haters & Trolls
Recently we discussed the challenges gamer and geek girls face, but the truth is that we all face challenges. There may be some gender disparity but, if anyhing, women have it easier. I have never seen a female streamer with less than 5 viewers; meanwhile, there are countless channels where they are pretty much streaming for themselves. That is discouraging for us dudes. Of course, that is not to be salty about it because Twitch is a visual platform so eye candy is a very good hook. The question is: what will keep people coming back?
Sure, women have to deal with ignorance and generalizations like we see in this article but there are stigmas, trolls, and biases for all types. Twitch trolls tend to target players they feel are “posers” or simply suck in their games of choice. It can be annoying to have trolls hanging out in the chat but it could be worse. Heck, if you get a lot of trolls, that’s better than having no viewers at all. In fact, trolls and haters are inevitable as you grow or succeed in anything so see that as a good sign. The more visible you are, the more people will try to knock you down!
I am a firm believer in killing people with kindness. I laugh everything off because I know that someone who genuinely needs to feed off toxicity and pick fights over the Internet probably just needs to laugh and realize how unproductive their behavior is. Sometimes you could befriend a troll and turn them around so don’t give up on anyone. Of course, don’t return the negativity because that solves nothing.. Unless maybe snarky retorts are your thang (and this can be a fun activity to include your audience in)!
Create Your Own Unfair Advantage
Being a Twitch partner and getting featured really increases the professional appeal of your content, but it’s not a magical solution (heck, in some cases it may even be better NOT to be partnered). There are so many exciting ways to engage your audience and give them something worth talking about. Here are a few:
- Have your audience vote on follower goals/milestones, whereas you will do something upon reaching X amount of followers.
- Display the names of your top supporters and collaborators in fun, exciting ways (scrolling text, fancy boxes, pop-up windows, thank-you pages, #FollowFriday tweets, etc).
- Acknowledge EVERYONE – not just the biggest donators – and give everyone a chance to WIN!
- Do giveaways that drive follower counts and comments – just make sure it’s easy to track participants! Granted, there are caveats to giveaways but they do create opportunities when done right.
- Hold contests to have talented artists produce overlays, logos, watermarks, call-out boxes, and other goodies for you. Branding on Twitch is an awesome way to stand out – marketing, baby!
- Consider Patreon, crowdfunding, and other fundraiser events (e.g. streaming marathons) to raise seed money and reinvest into your efforts.
- Share your playlist.. People may not like certain games but if you give them something to look forward to, besides your winning personality, they’ll form a tighter connection.
- Be more vulnerable and transparent. Share some little-known facts or quirks about yourself that aren’t in your obligatory FAQ. Bonds are stronger when trust is created in smaller groups or, ideally, one-on-one.
Create your own unfair advantage. Don’t expect Twitch or any third-party provider to give you all the tools you need. You are your best asset so let your creativity run wild. You are only limited by the amount of time you invest and your passion!
Of course, I must reiterate that the best advantage you have is that there is no one like you. If you are reading this all the way through, you already have the humility and thirst that most lack.. That puts you in a class of your own. I KNOW you will be hugely successful!
By the way, gimmicks are not a bad thing so long as they are followed by substance. ShannaNina (a.k.a. NinaLoL) takes song requests any time someone subscribes or donates. She sings and plays her acoustic guitar LIVE. She’s the only person I know that does this and she does it so well. What’s more is that she is really laid-back and engaging. You may want someone with high-energy and hair-burning.. Well, there is an audience and a broadcaster for everyone. That’s the beauty of it all!
Maybe your approach might involve shiny things, pretty colors, and disco lights. It’s been done before but, hey, it definitely adds appeal. I see a lot of popular people with expensive headphones they show off on their face cam so it must work for them. This is a materialistic world, love it or hate it. Oh and be careful about wearing sheer materials and wet tees.. Just sayin.
Mind you, your thang does not need to be unique.. Just be authentic about it. Eventually, every idea has been done before anyway!
(And don’t forget us little people.)
Go Beyond The Stream
Realistically, you could expect $50-200 for every 10 hours you stream but the income can be inconsistent. Remember that your Twitch stream can be a home base but it should not be your only focus because, ultimately, you don’t truly own it. Twitch gets the most value out of the content we work hard to create so it’s best to give your audience some next steps beyond the stream.
Welcome them to your web site, podcast(s), a local meetup, or whatever else you have going on. The key here is to drive activity from event to event.. Never rely on Twitch or any single platform to take care of you and your audience.
One thing I would recommend is some sort of lead capture. Connect with your audience via channels that have longevity such as e-mail, Twitter, and snail mail. Notice I did not say Facebook. Well, I think Facebook has a limited shelf life but, for now, groups and fan pages are worth it since that’s still where people eventually end up during their busy days.
Do you have any Twitch tips to share? Maybe some favorite streamers? Share the love in the comments!
STAY TUNED! We’re assembling an official stream team for weekly pseudo-shows and podcasts over at the Geeky Antics Twitch Channel – and YouTube, too! This article is not by any means the final and most complete Twitch how-to resource so there will be more to come for sure!
COMING SOON: The tech you need (and don’t need) to start streaming.. And the economics of gaming. Are gaming PCs or consoles the better deal?