Friday, August 9, 2019

Just Keep Streaming

You may have been streaming for a while now, and might be thinking to yourself, "Hey, why haven't I made it on Twitch yet?" After all, another streamer you know might be growing faster, maybe you've been losing followers, maybe your shows just aren't as professional as you want them to be. Should you call it quits? You've been making as many changes as you could think of to improve your channel, and nothing seems to be working. What else could you possibly try?

The answer is simple: take a page from Pixar's Finding Nemo and 'just keep streaming'.

No matter what happens, no matter how many people have unfollowed, no matter how big of a hill you still have to climb, don't give up. Nobody has ever accomplished anything by doing nothing, and you're only going to get better if you keep putting in the effort. Every day you'll gain valuable experience, making the things that are difficult now become second nature later, eventually freeing up your mind to tackle even tougher challenges going forward. You just have to keep streaming.


You may be lamenting the fact that you have no talent for streaming. You are awkward on camera, your chat gets out of hand often (if you have a chat at all), and there are always technical problems during your shows. Another streamer, who started their channel around the same time you did, seems so much more put together. Their stream is everything yours isn't. How are they so much more naturally talented than you are?

You never know what's lurking under the surface
of another streamer's success.
It's very likely that they aren't. Do you know how many hours they stream per day, how many days they've done it in the last year and how many breaks from streaming they've taken along the way? How about the time they've labored over their channel behind the scenes, the sweat poured into perfecting their tech, or the personal pleasures they sacrificed to get to where they are? There's no way for you to know all of this, and there's no point trying to figure it out either.

There's an easy solution to cut through all this confusion: Assume that anyone with a better stream is simply putting in more hours than you are. As a content creator, there's only one thing about your channel that actually matters: the content. If you can carve out more on-camera or behind-the-scenes hours to get better faster, then go for it! If not, that's fine too, but you'll have to accept the fact that you won't improve as quickly. Nobody deserves to have their cake and eat it too- you either put in the time, or you don't get results.

Trying to measure ourselves against our neighbors is a natural human reaction, but it's ultimately a lose-lose scenario. You either end up proving they put in more work (which you should have assumed anyway), or you prove that they're more talented. But even if you could truly, unequivocally prove that someone was more talented than you are, how would that help? It would only give you a better excuse to feel sorry for yourself and quit. Don't bother. Keep making content, and only measure the quality of your streams against the quality of YOUR previous streams- no one else's. If you are continually getting better, that's all that matters.


Most new Twitch streamers measure success by their follower counts. This is useful when you're trying to reach your first 50 fans so you can claim Affiliate status, but after that there really isn't any benchmark to shoot for. Even still, because new streamers have been conditioned to strive for a higher follower count already, they will continue coveting this meaningless number, even to the detriment of their channel and community.

In SimCity, the larger your city gets, the more
problems it causes.
Often, an inexperienced streamer will notice a few people unfollowing in a row and assume it's because of something they did. They will then enact wild, kneejerk changes in order to 'correct' this issue, adjusting which games they play, the days they go live, or the way they cultivate their communities. Changes of this kind usually result in a streamer doing shows that they are less happy with, because they are now making streams only to appease their fickle follower number, not ones they actually enjoy. This road of turning streaming into a chore leads to burnout, and eventually, giving up on streaming altogether.

If you validate yourself by your follower count, beware: The higher your total follower count, the more followers you will lose each day. 

There's no way to calculate exactly how many followers your channel will lose, but on my own channel I've noticed that on average I lose roughly 1% of my total follower count EVERY WEEK. Of course, my channel puts out an insane amount of content and I gain significantly more followers than I lose, but the amount of people jumping ship at these higher scales is still shocking. When I had 10 followers I may not have lost anyone, or if I did it was very seldom. But soon, when I reached 250 followers I was losing 2-3 people each week, at 500 I was losing 5, and at 1,000 I was losing 10. That's 40 followers GONE every month. Wherever you are in your Twitch journey, consider how long it's taken you to gain your last 40 followers. Losing that many people in a mere 30 days is a scary prospect!

If you're starting out, you may not notice the consistency of dropoff. But as you grow you WILL see that followers leave, no matter what you do. You can't prevent this, and it really doesn't have anything to do with the quality of your channel. It's just a normal aspect of Twitch streaming. Try to keep in mind the difference between your followers and your follow count. For our purposes, think of 'followers' as people who watch and engage with your shows often- dedicated fans who care about your content and your own personal happiness. Your 'follow count' is a lifeless, soulless number that could be comprised of bots, people who joined only to win a giveaway contest, or by accident- you'd have no way of knowing where most of them came from. Unless you're seeing an actual decline in your dedicated followers' happiness on your streams, don't make drastic changes just because the anonymous number has gone down on a given week.


Stick to your guns.
"Okay," you might be saying. "So you're telling me I should keep streaming no matter what. It sounds like a good plan in theory. But what if my average stream length is 3 hours and I only have 90 minutes of free time before I have to start getting ready for a night out? In that scenario, there's simply nothing to be done. I'd have to miss my scheduled stream because there just isn't enough time today. Right?"

This is a very common thought process among new streamers, but ultimately it's just another excuse. You should be flexible about WHEN and HOW you stream, but never about WHETHER you stream. There's nothing more destructive to a growing streamer than finding excuses to miss their scheduled days.

If you're trying to grow your channel, if you're trying to gain on-camera experience, if you're trying to create a habit, all of these things can be disproportionately damaged by missing even a single day for arbitrary reasons like your streaming schedule. When you know you'll only have 90 minutes to stream, then stream for 90 minutes. If you get home after a late night and missed your showtime, go live afterwards. If you know you'll have personal plans all day the next day, stream twice the night before. There's no stream length too short, no time too late or early, no scheduling excuse that should ever prevent you from streaming. All you should care about is not letting your habit lapse. Anyone can stream when it's easy for them- it's how you face a challenge that defines you.


When you're streaming day in and day out without much noticeable change, it's hard to see the eventual payoff. This is because you're living in the moment, and aren't able to see the bigger picture. How can you tell whether you're likely to eventually make it, or if your streaming career is taking off at all? Since you can't see into the future, you'll just have to have faith. Do you want to be a streamer? Do you love doing it? If you were in Vegas, would you bet on your own eventual success on Twitch? If the answer to all three of these questions was, "yes," then act like it. It'll take longer than you think, and it'll take more work than you think, but as long as you keep applying yourself every single day, you will get to where you want to be. Just keep streaming, and you'll be fine.

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