Friday, February 8, 2019

If You Can't Describe Your Channel, Who Can?

As a Twitch streamer, it's the first question you always hear:

"What's your channel about?"

Do you have a good answer?

If you're starting out, you almost certainly won't. And by that I'm not necessarily saying you don't have an answer, I'm saying you don't have a compelling answer. A boring answer is just as bad as not having one in my book. I want to help you come up with a concise, interesting way to describe your channel to newcomers, other channels, passive viewers, anybody who might help you grow.

Be like Professor Layton and give your stream's identity some real thought.


So you've been streaming for a little while and you've refined your style a bit. Have you been paying attention to the trends forming on your channel? Maybe you're focusing in on one game, grinding the competitive circuit in multiplayer. It could be that you're playing a variety of games, plucked from your existing Steam backlog. Or you're sculpting and painting your own clay figurines. Whatever you're doing, I'm willing to bet that you can sum it up at its most basic level in one sentence. So let's try to do just that:

"I play Fortnite." 

That's definitely an answer. But it's not an interesting answer, because there are thousands of other people doing the exact same thing. And that's your biggest challenge if you're playing Fortnite, Overwatch, Dead By Daylight, or any of the other massively popular games on Twitch. The game isn't the interesting part in this case, it's what you do with the game. Don't worry yet, because we'll work on this aspect later on. The important thing is that you choose the simplest definition of what you do on your channel.

"I build LEGO sets"

This is a lucky answer because despite being broken down to its most basic form, it's already inherently interesting. That's because Twitch isn't flooded with people building LEGO sets in the same way that it's flooded with paratroopers from the Battle Bus. In addition to grabbing attention with its uniqueness, it hyper-targets a built-in audience. There's a community of dedicated LEGO fans out there looking for new and interesting streamers doing what they love, but the community is small enough that you might be among a handful of people streaming that subject at a given time. Plus, there's a whole group of casual fans who just want to watch a chill show while they do homework, with no chance of the streamer suddenly shrieking because he or she got sniped unexpectedly.

"I'm a variety streamer." 

We'll work on a more interesting way to explain it soon,
but for now, "I play Fortnite" or "I'm a variety streamer"
is a fine answer to start with.
This is a description that I hear a lot, but I find it frustrating. Just about anyone on Twitch who plays more than three video games could be called a 'variety streamer,' and while this suggests that sacred spice of life, it differentiates your channel even less than "I play Fortnite." When everyone is playing an undefined variety of games, there's nothing about that description to make your channel unique. Unless you define it differently, of course.

Do you have your most basic answer about what you do on your channel? If not, take a second to come up with it, then keep reading. Don't worry if I described a problem with the answer you chose, just make sure you have one simple sentence to describe what you do. Now I'm going to help you not only define, but refine your channel's identity.


In order to answer the question, "What's your channel about?" you first have to answer another question:

Who is your channel for? 

If you answered, "Everyone," you have a problem. 

Nothing in the world is for everyone. Even content with the broadest appeal misses, alienates, or just plain ignores entire swaths of people. One excellent example is the TV show 'The Big Bang Theory.' Clinically speaking, it's the most popular television show in the world. That means it's seen and enjoyed by the most people out of any other television show. And yet, there is a huge group of people who actively hate the show and refuse to watch it. What about people who don't own a TV? How about those in a third world country who have never even seen a TV show? You get what I'm saying. Even the largest television show in the world, with the broadest appeal of anything, is not catering to everyone. So why should you?

What you want to do is find something about your gameplay style, your selection of games, the things you like to talk about, that sets you apart or defines who you are. Maybe you like to do difficult challenges, blindfold yourself, play retro games, attempt world record speedruns, place bets on multiplayer matches, play with viewers. Maybe you like to drink coffee on stream, dance when you win, bang your table when you lose, sing during loading screens. I'm sure there's something you do that sets you apart from the boilerplate descriptor, even if it seems mundane on its own. The point isn't whether anyone else in the world does Fortnite challenge runs or celebrity impressions, the point is: Are there as many people saying, "I stream Fortnite challenge runs while taking requests for celebrity impressions" as there are people saying "I play Fortnite"? The more targeted description is bound to attract more fans because it's inherently more interesting. A million people do celebrity impressions in a million different ways, but not everyone plays Fortnite while doing it. And even among those who do, how many channels actually brand themselves around doing it? 

 I'll show you what I mean by telling you how I went through this same process.

No Twitch channel can be for absolutely everyone, so embrace what
makes you different!


On my channel, I like playing story-focused games. I don't talk over the cutscenes under any circumstances, and I enjoy slowly exploring the worlds. I drink several cups of coffee during my shows, mostly because I stream three times per day, seven days a week with no off days. Each stream is a different game from what I call the 'neverending backlog' - a huge catalog of Steam titles I've amassed over the years before I started on Twitch. It would be very easy to describe this with the cookiecutter, "I'm a variety streamer" line. Here's what I came up with:

I drink coffee and play lots of story-based games. Three times per day. Seven days a week.

It's not that any of these things are unique in themselves, but it's the fact that I'm taking a stand about what to expect when watching my channel, that makes this description more compelling. It allows someone to decide much more quickly whether they: 1) found what they're looking for, 2) are willing to give it a try, or 3) aren't interested at all. I'm not trying to trick someone into thinking I might play Fortnite by keeping the description ambiguous. There are huge portions of the Twitch streaming audience who will not enjoy my show, and I've come to terms with that. It allows me to truly be myself on stream, and if you share my passion for story based games or just plain enjoy my personality, you are getting an entertainment experience that isn't diluted by me trying to do something I'm not 100% passionate about. Plus, if you stumble onto my channel and want to watch Fortnite, I don't waste your valuable time by leading you on. You learn a huge amount of information from a few short, simple sentences with my channel description.

I love coffee. I drink it all the time on stream. Pouring it,
enjoying it and showing off my different mugs is a big
part of my channel's identity now!
For example, the way I describe my channel, I'm not a 'variety streamer.' I play 'story-based games.' That in itself is very informative because it excludes multiplayer games, RTS, city-building games, and anything else without a plot. I'm suggesting up front what I'll be playing in the future, so you know that your 'follow' won't result in a bait-and-switch later towards content you aren't interested in watching. The schedule is very unique as well, which I always mention when I describe the channel. I produce multiple shows per day, each about a different game. This is different than the usual single long stream with multiple games peppered throughout, like most streamers do. Not to say there's anything wrong with what other streamers do, but it is unique the way I produce my shows, so I think it's worth mentioning. Plus, the coffee. Mmmmmm, coffee.

Therefore: I drink coffee and play lots of story-based games. Three times per day. Seven days a week.

And having said all that, sometimes I play Black Ops multiplayer, and sometimes I do IRL artwork streams using colored pencils. You don't have to slavishly stick to the things you use to describe your channel, but it's a very useful shorthand for people coming into your streams because it tells them about the kind of content you're known for producing.


Coming up with a compelling way to describe your channel is the first step towards building your personal brand. What are you known for? Do you take viewer requests for challenge runs? You talk about the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien while playing Overwatch? Get really mad when you die in NES games? I'm not suggesting you come up with a random gimmick to add to your streams, I'm saying there is likely already something about you worth highlighting that you aren't taking advantage of. Any seemingly small aspect of your personality that comes out on stream can be used to strengthen the branding of your channel.

Branding of course has a plethora of uses: You can use it as the text description for your channel, to define the look of your logos and emotes, to name your community, and most importantly, as a quick and concise way to describe your channel when asked by newcomers. Once I started embracing the things I love doing on stream and working them into my channel's identity, I saw massive results- not only in gaining followers, but in not losing followers. Of course, someone who knows exactly what to expect when following my channel isn't likely to feel tricked later and leave.

It's very important to be able to describe your stream effectively. And at the end of the day, if you can't describe your own channel, who can?

No comments:

Post a Comment