Friday, January 25, 2019

Gain Your First Followers Using the Power of Celebration!

You're motivated about your channel, hopefully you have a few streams under your belt already, and you're wondering how to actually gain followers. Of course as the saying goes, "If you build it, they will come," but is there some way to guarantee that more followers will come quickly? A way to optimize your follower count? You may have told your friends, family and neighbors about your channel and artificially boosted your numbers (though if you listened to my previous post about Building Your Channel Like You're A Secret Agent, you will NOT have done this) but now your channel needs to grow on its own merits and it's not clear where to go from here.

"Ugh, my less than ten, less than fifty, less than a hundred, less than five hundred followers are so measly," you sigh to yourself. "Surely anyone coming to my channel will scoff and turn away immediately."

Here's how to get more followers: STOP being self-conscious about how many followers you have!

Once you're proud of your follower count, you can really start growing your channel. After all, every person who decides to follow your channel has done so because they enjoyed your stream and want to see more of it. They're all rooting for you! You need to be willing to celebrate every new follower you gain, but more importantly, celebrate the followers you already have.

You should be approximately THIS happy when someone follows your channel.
Though consuming mushrooms on stream is not advised. 


Let's say hypothetically you have three followers and you're looking to get to 100. There's a pitfall I see small streamers falling into in their quest to complete this task and it looks like this: 
You brush off any mention of your follower count, too embarrassed to ever bring up your channel numbers for fear of ridicule. Having so few followers seems so unprofessional after all, how could someone take you seriously? The corner of your screen shows a follower goal of 100, your three followers filling a tiny sliver on the left side of that bar. If you do end up having to talk about your follower number, you make excuses for the low amount and act defensive. "Yeah, I only have three followers right now, but I just started my channel and I had a cough the other day so I missed a stream, and my internet cut out all day yesterday, and I used to have more followers but two people UN-followed. Ugh!" 

What's the problem here? If you don't respect your current followers, you don't deserve to have new ones.

Think about it: if you're embarrassed about the three people who currently follow your channel, new people certainly aren't going to feel welcome. They know you'd be embarrassed of them as well, were they to join your ranks. If you treat your followers coldly, you don't deserve to be treated with anything but coldness in return. New people will be less likely to want to join your community. Existing followers, noticing they're not appreciated, will wither and drop off, only worsening your problem. It's not a good way to grow your brand.


Instead of lamenting your low follow count, own it! Celebrate those three followers like they're the second coming. Make it clear to everyone who watches your shows that you appreciate them and that you hope to see them again for more streams. And if you want to really attract new people, set a visible goal that's appropriate to your channel size.

Make the people in your community feel appreciated.
If you have three followers: "THE ROAD TO 5 FOLLOWERS!" is a sufficient, if uninteresting, goal. It's attainable, and since you already have three, the bar is already half full from the start! It makes people feel like there is forward progress. Set a deadline but don't make it ridiculously short, like a single day. Put it one week in the future, or however many days it takes you to make 3-5 more streams. When you're coming up on the deadline, hammer harder about your follower goal, and how someone could be the deciding factor in hitting that goal! It's more fun when viewers are a part of something, when they can tangibly help you, rather than just passively watching. If they do follow, celebrate! Do a little dance, tell them about your channel, make them feel welcome. If there's anyone active in the chat, encourage them to say hello to the newest member of your community.

How about when you've reached that goal for your first five followers? What's the next logical step? You might say 10 makes the most sense, but why wait? Have fun with it. Your follower goal could look like these:



And then, before you know it...


Now with 10 followers you have a solid base. You can move forward from there using the same techniques, making the goal slightly higher each time, but always making it extremely attainable. Maybe your next goal is 12 instead of 11, for example. But if new people see you getting excited and doing fun stuff on your stream all the time due to your fun follower goal celebrations, they're more likely to come out of the shadows and follow as well.You don't have to do the exact activities I outlined above, and you don't actually have to set a goal for every single follower you gain at the beginning, but why not? Treating follower goals as a celebration rather than a soulless number means you're not only attracting new people, but adding entertainment value to the show people are already watching. It's a win-win scenario for everybody to enjoy, not just an accomplishment for you.


This should be you with your followers. Except, y'know, metaphorically.
On my personal streams I celebrate everything. I've grown enough now that I can set larger goals, but I will never stop appreciating my followers, both old and new. I stop everything I'm doing to personally welcome each new follower, make them feel loved and encourage everyone in the chat to welcome them to the fold as well. I give them a short pitch about the channel, tell them what activities they can do in my chat, and ask them about their day. It's only about thirty seconds overall, but people usually mention that they appreciate the fanfare. At the end of every show, I take time to thank everyone who joined and wish them a wonderful day. The way I look at it, someone following my channel should immediately feel like they made the right decision, not that they're just a drop in the bucket who will never get noticed. 

Whatever size your channel, you could likely be doing more celebrating. Are you reaching for a follower goal that increases your channel size by more than 5% in a single week? Then you should either scale it back, or shoot for smaller goals that get achieved more often. Followers aren't just a number on the top of your channel, each of them is an individual person with a personality, stories to tell and love to share. Give yourself more chances to get excited with your followers. If someone followed your channel, they want to see the community grow just as much as you do!

Plus, who doesn't love celebrating?

So give it a shot: try gaining your first followers using the power of celebration!

Friday, January 18, 2019

Build Your Twitch Channel Like You're a Secret Agent

Want to know something seemingly out of left field that has helped my mindset for streaming more than anything else? I never make New Year's resolution posts on Facebook. I also never tell people over dinner about my big ideas before I've started on them, or hint to people that something big is coming down the pipe. In fact, I never tell anyone about my goals, plans or projects at all, until they are COMPLETE. Telling people about your goals is not only a waste of time, but a hugely destructive activity, and if you do this I think you should stop immediately.

Don't go shouting about your goals to anyone who'll listen,
like the guy from Final Fantasy XII
I find that this rule holds true in all aspects of life, but it certainly helps on Twitch. I want to make sure it gets through to you, because oversharing is a bad habit that can destroy your streaming career before it even starts. Throw a rock at the Twitter feeds of the Twitch community and you'll find any of a dozen long posts on a given week about how someone hasn't been streaming consistently in the past, but will now start streaming on some new and untested schedule, promising grand plans for weekly or daily content releases. Most of these plans will fall through. If this strategy doesn't work for those more established channels, why should it work for yours? Don't go around telling people about your big idea to do daily morning shows, or bi-weekly but more highly produced longform streams. Just do the shows instead, and build your Twitch channel like you're a secret agent.

I know it might sound harsh and more than a little bit lonely to build your channel like this. But I can tell you firsthand that this is one of the most crucial mindset changes I went through on my path. I ask you to at least hear me out, see if you've ever gotten caught in the following pitfalls like I have, before dismissing this entry as a fluff piece. "But how does sharing my goals interfere with my ability to play games on the internet?" you might be asking. "They seem completely unrelated!" It's not a technical problem to be solved on your channel, that's true. It's in your mind.

The problem with sharing your goals too early can be broken down into two things: motivation and accountability.


Most people have heard about how TELLING someone you plan to do something releases the same chemicals in your brain as actually DOING it. You can see how this would make it difficult to stay motivated, if you're constantly taking the wind out of your own sails by getting that instant gratification. If you're still having a hard time wrapping your head around this, think of why you're REALLY telling people about this weekly, or three-times-a-week, or daily schedule for your channel. Is it because you want to make sure it fits with your viewers' schedules? That's a non-point, because no scheduled times could accommodate every viewer (and if you're starting out, you don't likely have any viewers anyway). Do you want suggestions for what content to make? There's no reason you can't ask for suggestions after already MAKING a bunch of content and correcting later based on what people like to watch (see my earlier post about how to start with as little money and prep as possible). Is it because you want to seem professional and reliable? Nothing screams unprofessional and unreliable more than missing your own scheduled shows. The reason you tell people about your plans is to make YOU feel better about NOT doing them.

We Happy Few is about a society where people are forced to appear happy,
rather than actually be happy. Don't worry about keeping up
appearances, just make something great!

Think about it- if your friends, family or followers chime in and wish you good luck, that's a tangible and positive effect that came from this quick moment of sharing your plans! "Wow, that felt really good- everybody believes in me!" you might be saying.

Now think to the dozens and dozens of hours you'll spend trying to build your channel. In order to get the same gratification you got from those two seconds it took to share your goals, you'd need to spend weeks and months working hard on Twitch. That doesn't seem like a fair exchange. So you keep telling people about your goals instead of actually working towards them, and you slowly start to slip out of your routine until you aren't streaming at all anymore, and you've taken the dreaded "indefinite break." 


Some say telling others of your goals helps keep you accountable, that the weight of knowing someone else is out there watching your progress will prevent you from stopping. I personally have never found this to be true. But maybe you have way more aggressive friends than I do, who call you out on your crap immediately if they sense you slacking. Here's the thing: when you tell no one, there's nobody holding you accountable but you. And you are your own biggest critic. You are much more likely to call yourself out on your B.S. than anyone else is. And while your friends may put you on blast in some cases, they'll likely soften the blow, which will in turn make you more complacent. Don't give yourself the luxury.

"So you just play Fortnite all day and people watch you?"
As an added bonus of keeping your stream goals under
 wraps, you'll avoid a lot of awkward conversations!
The accountability aspect is doubly dangerous because you may PERCEIVE that people are holding you accountable to your planned streams and feel trapped. Let's say you promised to do daily morning shows. An ambitious goal! But after going for a few days or weeks you find that you're really not a morning person. Well, you promised your viewers that you'd do a morning show, so now you're in a lose-lose scenario: you can either back out on your word and change the schedule, or you can keep doing the morning shows and hate what you're doing. Or you can give up. And if you hate what you're doing, you're much more likely to pick Door Number Three. Don't let it come to that!


When building your channel like you're a secret agent, you don't tell people your plans for anything. You don't tell your family and friends about your big ideas for your channel, you don't tell viewers about your planned schedule of shows, or which games you're going to play on which day, you just make the streams. For weeks and weeks. And you know what? You'll arrive at those goals anyway. Once you've been doing streams an hour after work each day so you have time for dinner beforehand, or starting at midnight because that's when you perform best at Call of Duty, or noticing the most people watch when you're playing X game at Y time, you can lock that schedule in. AFTER doing the streams and establishing a routine.

I find that the best motivator is forward progress. If you notice a little improvement in the amount of people chatting, or your view count, or your consistency of streaming over the course of days and weeks, that's what makes you want to go live again the next day. Not setting an unreasonable goal and getting instant gratification by telling people about it. Twitch is about the long haul- if you're constantly revealing plans about your channel and then not following through, you need to reassess whether you actually want to be a Twitch streamer or if you just want to be perceived as a Twitch streamer.

Be like Commander Video. Just keep going. Don't worry what others think.

On one of the previous channels I ran before starting my current Twitch channel, I made this mistake all the time, announcing a schedule on my shows and then apologizing every time I missed a scheduled day. It was VERY hard to grow a following when people couldn't even count on my promised shows happening. Once I made a conscious effort not to share my long-term goals or set an unrealistic schedule on my newest channel, everything turned around. If you're worried about trying this, realize that viewers are smart enough to notice the trends: if they usually see you live around dinner time for example, they'll know when to keep coming back. You don't have to make promises about it.

But when do you tell friends and family about your channel? Unless it's a single person who can directly give you the right kind of motivation, don't tell any of your friends and family for a long time. When did I tell any of my friends and family on Facebook that I had my current channel at all? After I hit 1,000 followers. Try building your channel without telling anyone about it, see if it works for you. You can always decide to announce your channel on Facebook later if this strategy doesn't get you results, but I think you'll find that you get a lot more work done when nobody else but you is expecting success.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: build your Twitch channel like you're a secret agent.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Start Your Twitch Channel with NO MONEY

There's one critical moment any would-be Twitch streamer faces, and that's the proverbial 'blank page.' You've made up your mind, you're going to dive into streaming, or at least to dip your toe into the water, but where do you start? You don't have a capture card or a high end PC, you don't have a camera or fancy microphone on a jib arm like you see so many of your favorite channels using. Even the decision about which piece of equipment to buy first can be enough to make you sigh and put streaming off until that fatal and nebulous day called "someday." Don't get caught in this trap. (And while you're at it, never use the term "someday" to describe anything you plan on doing, at least not if you ever plan on actually doing it. But that's a story for another post.)

Here's an important thought for anyone who is burdened with the idea of launching their channel:

Start doing it. Right now. Without buying any equipment.

It's really that simple. You don't need the professional cameras, capture cards, microphones, or newest games to get your start. The secret? When you start your Twitch channel, it's likely that nobody will be watching. Many might see this as a disheartening concept, but I find it very liberating.


I've always been fascinated by tech companies, their strategies for growth, and the trials they faced on their way to greatness. As it turns out, the world of the Silicon Valley startup harbors one of the most important pieces of advice I've ever encountered for tackling creative (or even personal) endeavors:

MVP: Minimum Viable Product.

If you've seen The Social Network, you know that Facebook
started humbly as a tool for college students.
The idea of a minimum viable product is to start with as simple, barebones, almost intentionally ugly of a product as possible, and move up from there. As long as the MOST BASIC idea of the product is in place, customers can give their honest opinion of the product itself without being distracted by its bells and whistles, and the company can change their course accordingly. Because they didn't waste their money and time perfecting the look of their app, marketing it to every demographic, or throwing some lavish launch party, they can pivot almost everything about their company with minimal financial loss. I guarantee you've NEVER used the MVP version of any successful app you currently use, but for months or even YEARS before you or any of your friends discovered Facebook, Snapchat, Uber or Paypal, they were fine-tuning their product in front of as few people as possible. Being in front of a minuscule audience is a huge advantage.

To translate this to Twitch: I know you want to make a gloriously high-def, stylishly designed stream with freakishly skilled gameplay, but starting this way is not only unnecessary- it actually HURTS your channel's growth. At the end of the day, I don't care what kind of Twitch streamer you are, the "product" you're trying to "sell" isn't any of that stuff. It's you. You're the product. Not because you're asking people to pay you (though that will come into play once you're an Affiliate or Partner) but simply by asking people to spend time watching your stream. Do not underestimate how precious it is to have a single viewer choose to watch your stream for ANY length of time. They could be watching THOUSANDS of other channels, but they chose yours. They're not doing that because of your fancy camera or your mind-blowing sound quality. Not even the skill level- there's always someone more skilled than you are at any game they could be watching. They're watching your channel because they like watching YOU.

It's your unique flair that makes people watch your stream.
Don't value the technical stuff over your own worth.


With this in mind, the most important thing you can do if you're trying to start streaming is to DO IT. Test the waters. Before people start watching. Do you have a PS4 or Xbox One? Use their built-in Twitch integration. Have a PC? Do a stream using OBS (free software) and play one of your games for a bit. Have a headset with a microphone, a built-in laptop mic, a mic lying around for some reason? Plug that in and talk on your stream. Don't have any of those? Download the Twitch iPhone or Android app and stream from your phone camera just talking about your day. Don't advertise on your Facebook or Twitter that you're going live just to boost your own ego. Don't pick a great title, don't perfect your resolution or bitrate settings, don't do anything except BE LIVE ON THE INTERNET. But turn on Past Broadcasts for your channel so the show gets saved. Spend less than 30 minutes setting up, and even that's stretching it. Go live for maybe ten minutes, don't shoot for a masterpiece broadcast.

Then watch that stream yourself and see what needs improvement. I guarantee there will be technical issues you didn't expect. Before you start spiraling out of control and buying every item in Amazon's tech department, see if there's anything about your stream you can fix RIGHT NOW. Can't hear your voice? Change your audio mix. Maybe there's another microphone in your house you can use. Maybe just talk louder. Game looks choppy? Lower the graphics settings on your PC, or lower your stream settings (there are plenty of free resources online explaining how to do this). The point is, you want to find out what the core of your stream is. Without buying a bunch of stuff first.

If your audience needs Extendable Ears to hear you, that's a problem to address.
Don't buy a fancier mic though- adjust your volume levels!

You know what sucks? Buying a $150 camera before doing a few streams and deciding "Eh, I really prefer to do my streams with only my voice and gameplay." You know what else sucks? Buying a $200 capture card and realizing after a few months that you really only ever play PC games anyway, and didn't even need to spring for the extra hardware. You know what REALLY sucks? Spending dozens of your off-work hours designing stream graphics and layouts (or commissioning them) and realizing in a month that you want to change everything, but feeling trapped because you already spent so much time or money on your current graphics. If you're creating your stream from the ground up using the concept of the Minimum Viable Product, you won't make these kinds of costly mistakes. You'll be able to predict the problems before you waste money or time.


Upgrade your stream like an RPG. Don't buy everything at the start.
See how long you can go without buying anything. You might be surprised. Weeks, months, even years! There are Twitch channels with tens of thousands of followers that are so ugly looking that I'd be mortified to put my name on them. But people are watching them, and that's because they like the streamer- not the stream. True, you may not be able to do your dream show that flashes your bedroom lights every time you score in FIFA. You may not even be able to stream the exact games you wanted to stream from the outset. But you will be honing your craft. And that's what actually matters. The viewers will come. Let yourself make the biggest mistakes before they arrive, and let the show slowly get better as people start watching your channel. Then when you have a bigger following, you can very gingerly introduce new gear into your setup. Would you rather do that stream you always dreamed about while there are no viewers and no chat activity? No, you want people to get excited about the stream, to laugh, cry and be entertained! So don't spend all your time and money perfecting your first ever Twitch stream. Even your 40th Twitch stream. Just put yourself out there and START LIVESTREAMING.

I tried to enact these principles when I started my current channel, and I'm still implementing them to this day. Want proof? This blog is hosted on a barebones Blogger page, despite the dozens of prettier and more robust free blog solutions on the internet. Why should I waste my time perfecting the window dressing before anyone has shown up? You're reading this to find out how to make a good Twitch channel- the surrounding visuals won't convince you of whether or not I'm able to help you in that quest. If this project fails, I will know that I spent my time doing what actually matters, and that's writing the content that I think will help people. Not making a pretty website to boost my own ego.

In TV advertising, there's a phrase to describe a beautiful, expensive commercial that doesn't actually attract any customers: "It was a great party, but nobody showed up." Don't let that happen to you- focus on what's important before anything else.

Friday, January 4, 2019

How to "Make It" on Twitch: An Intro

How does one "make it" on Twitch? It's a difficult question to address because there isn't one definitive answer. Any number of factors can contribute to someone's success on the platform, but what I've found is that most people focus on the wrong criteria. Many look at the most successful channels and try to do what they're doing, but it leads only to self-doubt. There are so many hurdles in the way: look how professional their graphics are, how charismatic their persona, how skilled their gameplay, how crisp their audio and video! This rabbit hole causes people to give up before they even start, typically blaming their dashed dreams on a lack of time, money or skill.

Here's the good news: you don't need a lot of money, you have more time than you think, and you don't have to be highly skilled (or skilled at all) for people to enjoy watching you! Twitch is a wonderful platform because there's a place for everybody. You like to play obscure indie games? Great. You paint miniature Warhammer figurines? Awesome. You like to build controllers out of everyday objects and then play tough video games using your creation? Welcome home.

On Twitch, you don't need to be the best, you just need to be YOU.

Great, so you're motivated and you're ready to either start your channel, grow an existing but lapsed channel, or just optimize your already successful streams. But why do you need me in order to run your Twitch channel? Honestly? You don't. That's right, I'm going for the 'Wizard of Oz' route: you've had the tools to be a great Twitch streamer in you all along! What I'm here to do is share stories of how I grew my following, found my niche and built my brand, in the hopes that you'll gain something that helps you along the way. Maybe you'll learn some technique you never thought of, some way of dealing with negativity, combating lack of motivation, or squashing audiovisual tech issues, that you didn't think of before. Maybe you'll reach your first hundred followers, first thousand, first ten thousand that much faster. Or maybe you just like reading the stuff I write. Whatever the reason, it's your call whether you stick around, but I have a lot of thoughts to share, and I'm confident that at least one can work for you and improve your streaming game.


I started on Twitch fairly recently (roughly one year ago), but I've been in the livestreaming game for a long time (six years), the professional video production game longer than that (nine years) and playing video games the longest of all (since I could pick up a controller). During my career, I've worked extensively in social video, creating content optimized for large Facebook and Twitch brands, and broadcasting live to audiences of thousands of concurrent viewers. My personal channel is significantly smaller than what I've done in that realm, and of course it grows much slower, but that's what we're here to talk about. We don't all have thousands of dollars to spend on giveaways, advertising, equipment, and special guest appearances (at least I don't) so the ability to manage a personal Twitch channel with as little financial input as possible is more likely what we're all here to discuss.

Not all of us have money like Wario here.

I can't guarantee that anything I tell you will get you to your first thousand followers, and I can't cater to everyone's style of Twitch channel, making sure that your specific style of gameplay, commentating, camera layout, whatever, is covered and offered custom advice. What I can do is tell you what I did to get here, the tools I used, the challenges I faced, and most importantly, the mindset I employed to keep everything on track and always move in the right direction towards my goal. I encourage you to try to understand the meaning and logic behind my experiences rather than implement my strategies blindly. My channel's exact path may not work for you, but hopefully you will find the core concepts behind my advice effective.


I'm going to be up-front with you- none of this was easy. When I had a salary job working from 10-6, I would stream after work hours. Allotting some time for dinner, 8pm to 2am was my domain. When that wasn't enough, I added mornings to my regimen, claiming the hours of 6am to 9am in addition to the night time shows. It's not just about the time spent streaming either- what most people don't see is usually the most important. I'd estimate that for every hour of streaming I do, there is another hour of behind-the-scenes work happening- whether that's to improve the channel, analyze my hosting style, tweak video and audio, update social feeds, engage with my community, or any of the other endless items on my massive and ever-expanding checklist. It's A LOT of work. You may think me excessive for sleeping four hours per night, and streaming during almost 100% of my time not spent at the office, but I was prepared to make sacrifices for this dream.

This was me every morning and night for MONTHS.
Sitting at a computer and working, with no days or weekends off.
Nobody is going to hand it to you- even if your significant other has their own community and shares it with you, or a giant channel drops a thousand person raid in your lap, whatever growth you get from this doesn't scale. You need to be prepared for the worst days and weeks, when things move like molasses, when it seems like nobody is watching or chatting in your shows, when you're at your most vulnerable. You need to be prepared to make sacrifices. In trying to attract to my first thousand followers within my first six months post-affiliate for example, I cut down my spending, leisure time, and social media usage to razor-thin margins. I worked seven days a week, with no days off. I put my head down, barely left the house and worked as hard as I possibly could, but I achieved my goal. You don't have to be as obsessive as I've been, but you do need to want it. I'm not going to go out of my way to make streaming seem glamorous, or to try to look cool in front of whoever's reading this. I'm here to try to help you understand what you're facing. Once you've come to terms with the hard work that every successful streamer has had to go through, you'll be able to truly begin your journey.


Alright, alright, I put myself through the ringer, woe is me. But what have I gained from all this personal sacrifice? Well, for one thing, I'm living my dream. I get to play video games all day. Think about that for a second. How many of us when we were kids wanted to do this exact profession when we grew up, though the job didn't even exist yet? It's not some far-flung and unrealistic goal- I should be proof that you can be a Twitch streamer if you set your mind to it.

For the first time in my life, video games aren't the thing STOPPING me from being productive- in this weird fantasy world I've created for myself, playing extra video games in a given day is a direct measurement of how much MORE productive I've been. I also get to spend time with people who have become incredibly important to me, who take the time out of their day to watch me play games and share details about their own lives just as I share details about mine. A community has formed around my channel, from which people draw inspiration, share ideas, and help each other through tough times. And it's all borne from a common love of watching me play video games. There's so much about Twitch that I find incredibly inspiring and rewarding, and it's why I work so hard to continue doing it, to improve my stream, and to grow this community with every ounce of motivation I have. I can truly say that I love what I do every day. There's no better feeling than that.

I've wanted to start something like this for a while, to share some of the insights I've learned from creating my channel, and give you a look into the pitfalls and workarounds I've discovered. I am far from the largest channel on Twitch, nor am I the most knowledgeable or qualified person to be writing something like this. But when I was starting out I found that there weren't enough resources about how to optimize my Twitch presence, so I'm going to offer my thoughts and experiences in the hope that someone will find them useful. Hopefully this look at the contents of my playbook will help you to "make it" on Twitch, however you define that concept, and live your livestreaming dream.

Go out there and make something amazing!