Friday, February 22, 2019

Who Is Watching Your Streams, And Why?

Once you've been on Twitch for a while, people will start watching your streams. It may take you longer than the next person to gain a viewer base and it may seem mysterious why people watch one of your streams over another,  but eventually you will have a viewer or two on your streams pretty consistently. I've written in the past about knowing who your channel is for, but something equally important is being able to identify who is actually watching your channel. I don't mean knowing the usernames of the people watching (that's important, but it's for another entry) or the average age and location of your viewers, but knowing what kinds of viewers are joining your shows, and why they chose to be there.

This is an important skill for streamers no matter how established they are, but it's not one I've seen discussed very much. If you don't know who is watching your streams, how will you understand what is working or not working about your channel? As outlined in a previous entry, understanding that your streams aren't for everybody is certainly important, but even if people not in your "target audience" are being turned away, it's important to know exactly why that's happening, and how many are being turned off by the channel. This lets you understand further what kind of value your channel's quirks bring to the table. If you're losing lots of viewers without getting much in return from your style of stream, this might indicate a need for a course correction.

Everybody has a different story- it's worth getting to know the people
who join your streams.


There are many kinds of people you'll encounter in your chat, and you'd do well to at least try to identify what each person in your stream is there for. Here are some of the most prevalent reasons someone might join your show:


This is the classic style of Twitch viewer. They came to your stream because they were looking for the game you're playing, or they follow the genre of game you're playing. The thing is, you don't necessarily know what aspect of that game they came to see. This is where you come in, and why it's very important to get to know this person, so you can at least understand what they want to see. For example, someone who is watching Dark Souls to decide whether they want to buy the game is very different than someone who beat it five times and wants to see world record speedruns. But they're both viewers who found your stream by browsing the Dark Souls category.

Dark Souls is a very popular community on Twitch,
and there are all sorts of reasons someone might
be watching one of these games.
This person is a wild card, because if you don't know their motivations, you can't really cater to their tastes. For example, on my streams I don't like spoilers, so it's important when I'm playing Kingdom Hearts for the first time to know whether someone might accidentally spoil the story, in case they assume I've played the game before. (Yes, I know Twitch has "tags" that should answer these questions to incoming viewers, but almost nobody reads those.) What I typically do if someone is new to the stream in this case, is welcome them to the show by mentioning that it's my first time playing Kingdom Hearts. This usually leads to discussions about their experience with the series. If they're already a fan they ask what I think of the games, or which I've played. If they're thinking of getting into the series they ask where to start, or whether I'd recommend it. For me, taking a moment to identify my level of experience to a genre fan goes a long way, and is a great way to start a conversation! It also instantly solidifies the fact that they're not likely to see high-level play or challenge runs, so any viewers who joined to see that kind of content are able to decide whether they like my stream or want to go on their way. I'm not tricking them into thinking they might see something they won't.

The thing to know about genre fans is, they may be more loyal to certain types of streamers than others. If you're a Fortnite streamer and the person came to see Fortnite, you're essentially set. But if you play a variety of games and they came to see Kingdom Hearts, they may unfollow once you move on to Borderlands. Unless you form a connection on some other level than just the game, and make this person interested in watching you as the streamer, you may have varying results with keeping them around.


Be careful of someone who chats with an agenda. This could be a person who wants to promote their own Twitch channel, trick you into participating in some private joke, or impose their values on your stream in some way. I know you might want that new follower, but if someone asks you to do something you're not comfortable with in order to gain their loyalty, don't debase yourself. You deserve better.

Make no mistake, unless someone has your earlier permission, it is NOT OK for them to be posting messages asking people to follow their own channel in your chat, or even veiled ones about how "it's been great seeing you but I'm going to go live now." The same goes for the person who says "I'll follow you if you say this phrase," even if the phrase itself isn't innately inappropriate. Do you really think that person found value in your channel and enjoys your shows? No, they just enjoy their fleeting moment of power over you. Once again, don't humiliate yourself. As long as you don't give in to their demands however, chatters with an agenda can be befriended. If they are reasonable and respect your rules once you explain them, these viewers could very well stick around and grow into  positive members of your community. Don't be too quick with the ban hammer, but definitely be wary.


Someone willfully uncooperative isn't always just an
obvious troll. If they're a constant problem for
breaking your rules, you may need to take action.
Sometimes a viewer is completely unreasonable, and in this case it's more clear what you need to do. Maybe they won't stop posting self-promoting messages in your chat, continuously talk about subjects you ask them not to, or act mean to your viewers. This person is a toxic member of your community, and needs to be removed. As long as you've warned them, that's all you can do. Is the follow of this one viewer worth the loyalty, trust and well-being of all your other viewers? Get rid of this person immediately.

As I mentioned earlier, my channel has a strict 'no spoilers' policy, and the biggest kind of willfully uncooperative chatters I've had are people who spoil the games I play. Most of the time it's easy to know who's being malicious about ruining games. But the toughest situations I've run into have been people watching for months, who I've gotten to know, but who just can't help posting spoilers. Of course after talking with them for hundreds of streams, I would get attached to them, but after someone has been given a dozen warnings and still doesn't uphold the channel rules, action needs to be taken. It's disrespectful not just to me, but to anyone watching who is experiencing the game for the first time. It takes so little effort to read the community's rules, especially if those rules are being told to the chatter directly by the streamer for doing something wrong. Eventually I realized that this type of person is actually holding their own agenda as well, that they enjoyed the power they had over me by forcibly gaining my attention even if it meant breaking cardinal channel rules to get it. This too is a toxic viewer.


A new fan is someone you see on a few streams in a row. They may not know everything that the channel is about, but they enjoy your vibe or like the games you play. And they came back for more, so that's something. It's important to make this person feel welcome. If they're coming by more than once and getting to know your community, it's likely they'll keep coming by later. Try to be patient with this person, as they'll likely break a few rules in the beginning- every channel is different after all, and they have no way of knowing what your channel stands for if they've only been around for a few shows. Always remember that every longtime community member has to start out as a newcomer at some point. Nurture your relationships with the people who genuinely enjoy your content!


Longtime fans have been around a while, know the community, follow or even enforce the rules, and join for a significant portion of your streams. They're the ones who not only like watching you, but want to get to know you, and will loyally follow you no matter what kinds of changes to your games list or schedule you need to make. These are the people you should always be thinking of when you make your streams. Yes, new followers are great and pleasing random people who join your shows is always a good thing, but everything should always come back to your longtime fans. If you can cultivate a community, the benefits are immeasurable. These people will be like your family- in fact, you may spend more time with them than some actual members of your family! You'll share details about your life with them, go through tough times together, and watch your channel grow together. You should do your best to keep these people around above all- just because they're your most loyal fans, doesn't mean they don't need love and attention too! Don't be someone who never gives a thought to your existing community, always in favor of acquiring new followers. Spend time with your most dedicated fans- send messages, joke with each other off stream, set up community movie or game nights! If you have a Discord server that helps a lot as well, but even going so far to make your closest community members always feel special on your streams goes a long way. However you show it, just make sure you're making an effort. These people should come before all others.

A longtime fan is watching because they like you as a person. If you
normally play shooters and you decide to play an RPG one day
instead, they'll likely come along for the ride.


On a macro level, people are watching Twitch to see video games be played. But you'd be wrong to assume that there's nothing you can do to make someone more interested in watching your specific Apex Legends stream than someone else's Apex Legends stream. Most of the time, someone is watching a stream in order to feel a connection- whether that's by discussing their favorite game, being introduced to new games, becoming a larger part of a community, or just relaxing while watching someone play and silently getting to know them. The important thing to remember about everyone watching is that they want to feel entertained, even if the type of desired entertainment may vary from person to person.

Of course you'll never be able to satisfy everyone, but understanding what kinds of viewers are joining your streams is a great first step in understanding your channel as a whole. If you can tell what kind of viewer someone is, you can approach talking to them in the way that most interests them, and hopefully bond over common interests that much faster. And to do this, you need to ask two important questions: who is watching your streams, and why?

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