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.

No comments:

Post a Comment