Friday, March 15, 2019

When Streaming on Twitch, "We" is Better Than "Me"

Here's a mistake I see a shocking amount of Twitch streamers make: They talk about their channel by saying "I reached Affiliate status last week," or say "I got my first win in Apex Legends the other day." This way of speaking always makes me cringe a little. It's not that these are factually inaccurate- this person does own the Twitch channel that reached Affiliate status, and he or she was the player controlling the game when Apex Legends showed its victory screen. But in my opinion, it's a critical misstep to think that anything done on Twitch is done alone. You are the one pressing buttons and talking on screen, but you're not the only thing that makes your stream entertaining. On Twitch, you should always have the mindset of "we" rather than "me."

This is something that I realized in the early stages of my channel, but only because I had been creating content the wrong way on other previous channels for years beforehand. I used to have a completely different channel on YouTube, and for my early streams in 2012 I had absolutely no audience. I'd go dozens of streams with no live views and no video views, but I kept doing it because I loved the work itself. This taught me a crucial skill- learning to stream without needing the validation of anyone chatting- something I wrote about in the entry 'Host Your Streams Like Nobody's Watching'. But it also hardened me and solidified a notion that I was doing everything alone. This side effect was my biggest mental block, though I couldn't see it at the time.

Next time you get a chicken dinner in PUBG, make sure you're crediting
everybody with that win, not just yourself.


Let's say you're at the absolute beginning of your streaming career like I was- no chatters, viewers or fans at all. It's going to feel lonely, it's going to feel like you're putting in so much effort for very little return, and you're going to feel like you're doing everything by yourself, because by definition you are. But what happens when someone eventually stumbles onto your stream and follows? What about when 50 people follow? Think of how much work you will have put in by then- the sleepless nights, missed appointments, stolen hours, all to make sure your streams got done. It'll be easy to think these 50 people didn't do much at all- certainly not compared to all the sacrifices you've already made! Do they even understand how much time, how much of your life you've put into this channel? "It's my achievement," you say. "I'm the one who put in all this work. All they had to do was click a button with a heart on it. They're all just along for the ride."

Don't be a Bond villain, pretending that nobody
but you has helped you to achieve success.
That's not fun for anyone.
This might be a little more Bond villain-esque than any of us are in reality, but I'm sure you can see what I mean. If you start thinking that you were the only person responsible for your success once you've achieved some of it, you will have a very hard time breaking out of this mindset going forward. It can hurt both your channel's growth and your community's happiness, because you're alienating and belittling the very people who love you the most. You can't let yourself think this way.

If you're someone who focuses a lot on viewer interaction- chatting with your audience, allowing them to pick your games or setting up events- it should be pretty clear how your community has helped you attain success. They may have had a direct hand in selecting your new favorite game, or kept the conversation flowing through some of your loneliest moments. In this case, your audience was front and center at every turn, and you'll likely have an easy time recognizing how much of an impact they've had. It may be that no single audience member has been there for the majority of your streams, but as a collective they been there for you.

But what about when you don't really have any active audience members? Yes, there may be a person or two here and there who talks in chat, but mostly your streams are populated by viewers who watch without chatting. This then puts the burden on you to create all the entertainment, and very quickly solidifies the isolationist mindset. If you're still gaining followers or viewership numbers with this kind of audience though, it's critical that you not discount how important your community was in reaching that point. And yes, they are your community, even if you don't see or talk to them. First, those people who are populating your streams but not chatting are still WATCHING your streams. That means they enjoy your content. Not everybody wants to talk- they might be at work or school, they might be multitasking while watching, they might have social anxiety and not want to chat, but they are still watching. They are spending valuable time consuming your content rather than the thousands of other Twitch streamers who are live at the same moment. They have contributed to your success, even if you can't see it.

For most of us, it's not one or the other- a channel full of chatters OR one without any interaction at all- but rather a combination of both. The more plausible scenario on Twitch when you're growing is to have some streams with chat activity, one or two perfect storms where everyone is chatting like crazy, and a good amount of shows with absolutely nobody watching or chatting. Sometimes it's not even entire shows, just long stretches of streams where the chat has completely dried up. It still happens to me- often with such whiplash-inducing speed that I think my chat page has frozen. But the point is not to dwell on these moments when it seems like nobody is around, it's to appreciate all the moments when people ARE.

Someone could be out there at any time, just out of
sight, who loves your shows. Don't trust your
follower count or view numbers alone.
Don't discount the invisible endorsements of your community. Community members have told me about having shared my channel with their parents, siblings or friends. I've had raids come in, whose communities would tell me how highly the raiding streamer spoke of my channel just moments earlier. The Twitch Playbook itself is a completely new experience for me, lacking the instant interaction of streaming, but people I've never met have contacted me through Twitch, Instagram and Twitter to let me know that they enjoyed the content. These are all things that happened completely without my knowledge, but there's no denying that they've all helped my brand. If I hadn't been told about someone sharing my show or speaking highly of my stream before a raid, I never would have known. But just because I don't know about it doesn't mean it isn't helping.

So make sure you're always thinking in terms of "we" in everything you do on your channel. On mine, I not only say "We reached this follower goal," but also "We're playing this game," or "Our channel has been around for this long." It's everybody's Twitch channel, and everybody has a part in making the shows what they are. Not only through chatting or sending games to play, but by watching or endorsing the streams in their own way. Since I started this Twitch channel, I've been thankful for everyone who engages with my shows in any way, and I think people pick up on and appreciate that. It's very humbling to think that someone chooses to spend their valuable time with me, and I try to give back with positivity, love and appreciation every chance I get. I'd suggest you do the same. It doesn't matter how many viewers or followers you have, how much time you put in just to get where you are. Assume someone is watching at all times, even if your view count says zero, and make sure every achievement includes everyone. Because at the end of the day, everything is more fun when you think in terms of "we" rather than "me!"

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