Friday, March 22, 2019

Three Easy Ways to Stand Out on Twitch

We all know you should play whichever games make you happy, and always enjoying the stuff you stream on Twitch. But if you're choosing between streaming two games you love at a given moment, which should you go with? Is there a way to predict which will yield a higher view count, attract more new followers, or have more chat activity? The answer is a resounding "Sort of." There will always be a thousand factors that you can't predict on any social media platform, but a lot of the things people think are up to chance actually can be controlled. The problem is, most streamers are looking at the wrong criteria. I have a few tips that, utilized correctly, will get you noticed more often on Twitch.

Let me start by saying that this process isn't necessarily easy. It's where Twitch streaming gets more complex than simply pressing the "Go Live" button and broadcasting yourself to the internet. You're now entering the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and social media management. There's a whole industry of people whose careers hinge entirely on their ability to demystify these concepts for brands all over the world. I'm not the leading mind in social marketing, and I'm not promising to make you an expert in this field either, but I have found trends and shortcuts that help me get the most out of the games I play.


Take some time to write a creative title.
This first tip is pretty easy, and one that most people already understand on some level. You want to have an attractive title for your stream. There are a million ways you could go with titling, and if you already have a following then it becomes less important, but if you're a new streamer this is where you need to get scrappy. To that potential viewer out there who's choosing between 10 streams of the same game, you bet your title could help swing them in your favor. It's a great way of 'punching above your weight.' The average viewer browsing Twitch will typically choose to watch one of the highest-viewed streams of the game they're looking for, because that's "where the party's at." It's where, at a glance, they can assume there will be more interesting chat activity or gameplay. We all know that's not necessarily true and that your stream might be just as entertaining, if not more so than the biggest stream, but how do you tell that to this prospective viewer? Using an interesting title for your stream is a great way to convince them to give you a chance.

A title on Twitch can fit roughly 33 characters before getting cut off by a [...], so make sure the important stuff is kept to the front. Don't always try to make your title look like everyone else's titles- stand out! Use emojis, weird formatting, or hilariously terrible dad jokes. When raiding other channels, there have been several times where I would choose to share a stream with my viewers based on its title alone, so I can attest to the fact that this works. Get creative and have fun with it!


You want to be a big fish in a small pond whenever possible.
I usually find that the best response on Twitch actually doesn't come from the biggest games. Instead, the most positive response comes from games that have a small number of people streaming relative to their following. Here's what I mean by this: if you go to the page for Fortnite on Twitch, you can see a number of people who are "following" the game itself. As of this writing, there about 41 million accounts "following" Fortnite. That's great, right? There's a giant group of people who all want to see Fortnite gameplay! So why hasn't your channel gotten noticed when you play it? That's because there are countless other people streaming the game at any given time, and every one of those streams is virtually indistinguishable. Yes, your own fans will join your stream, and a few new people might stumble upon your channel, but you won't be anywhere near the top of the list of channels streaming the game. You won't likely even be in the top 100 channels streaming the game. On a 1080p HD screen, you can see 10 Twitch streams on a game's front page before you need to scroll down. Fortnite typically doesn't have anyone with less than a few HUNDRED viewers in this Top 10 area. If you're not at that point, you need to understand that Fortnite won't likely get you quick results on its own.

So again, the kind of following you want to look for is not JUST a huge amount of potential viewers, but a higher likelihood of being seen. For example, if you're playing the remastered version of Dark Souls II, called 'Scholar of the First Sin,' you could conceivably categorize the stream as either "Dark Souls II" or "Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin." They both have their own pages, with their own separate follower counts, "Scholar" having 350K followers and the normal "Dark Souls II" having 200K. If you plan on streaming the game, but the page for "Scholar" already has 30 people playing, it might be worth looking at how many are livestreaming the regular "Dark Souls II." It might actually be more valuable to stream to this community of the comparatively smaller 200K followers if you're among only 3 people streaming it. Mathematically, that means you're more than 5x more likely to attract a new viewer by choosing "Dark Souls II" over "Scholar" as your game category, because the ratio of streams to followers is better. Didn't think we were going to be doing math, did you? Well, I told you this is where it gets tricky! At the end of the day, this is all to say you want to be a BIG FISH IN A SMALL POND. If you could split a large pizza with 30 people or a medium pizza with 3 people, you'd likely end up eating more pizza by choosing the medium sized one- even if the pizza itself is smaller.


There are a lot of people playing Fortnite, you can't
change that. But there are other factors you can control.
Anyone who streams Fortnite is probably pretty pissed at me right now. It sounds like I'm saying they shouldn't play the game they love, because it's hard to stand out when streaming it. What you have to remember is: you can only influence the things that you can control. Yes, objectively speaking it is more difficult to stand out from the crowd when you're playing Fortnite, Apex Legends, Overwatch, or any of the massively popular games on Twitch's Top 20 list. I'm not going to try to convince you otherwise, and you shouldn't pretend otherwise. That just means you need to stop fighting against the current, and change the rules in your favor. Are you 100% dedicated to Fortnite, with no interest in any other games? One thing you can try is avoiding the "after school/work" streaming time, when everybody else is going live. Try streaming at different times of night or morning by staying up late or waking up early. You might notice that there are cracks in the solid wall of massively viewed streams at 4:00am, and there is a whole market of night owls craving more interesting Fortnite content while many of the most popular streamers are asleep. Granted, you still might be the 50th stream on the list, but at least you won't be the 200th! 

Maybe you love Fortnite, but there are other games you'd like to stream as well. In that case, you never know until you try. Out of the list of games you're interested in streaming, use the concept outlined above to pick the best one at the specific moment you're going live. You might find another game that can be your ongoing go-to when you're on a Fortnite loss streak. You might find that your existing viewers appreciate the change of pace, or that new viewers find your stream more easily while you're playing this alternate game. Whatever you do, just don't try to fight against what can't be changed. Everything has its advantages and disadvantages- small games have fewer potential viewers, but a higher chance for someone to discover your stream. Large games have the opposite. Don't expect to have your cake and eat it too- get scrappy and change the rules in your favor! 


While all of these factors can help you immensely, don't ever let these concepts lead you onto a path of grinding through games you hate, just because it gets you higher follower numbers. In the entry 'If You Can't Describe Your Channel, Who Can?' I talked about making sure you are branding your channel around the things that make you unique, rather than creating gimmicks just to force your channel to stand out. This is just as true with the games you play- don't turn Twitch streaming into a hellish clock-in, clock-out grind just because you want to play a game where you think the viewers are. Even on my channel, I make calculated decisions about which times I'm not going to optimize my games. Sometimes I play PS2 games on stream that so few people have heard of that they don't even have a follower count on Twitch. But classic games are part of my identity, and they're something I love to play, and people who love watching my shows enjoy these games even more because they know that they come with my recommendation.

The three tips I've described above are some of the easiest ways I've found to optimize a Twitch channel, but you still have to make sure you're putting in the hard work and dedication. You won't see results after a single stream- you need to get a feel for how your streams were performing, and how a change to your strategy might be tipping things in your favor. There are dozens of factors just like these going through my head every time I go live on Twitch, and we can get into some of the more complex stuff later, but hopefully these three tips will help you stand out on Twitch!

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