Thursday, September 19, 2019

Your Channel is Not a One Stop Shop

When attempting to grow your Twitch channel, it's easy to follow false leads. You want to please the people who watch your streams and attract as many new viewers as possible, so you make content that you think will appeal to the widest audience. If you play a variety of games, this might mean chasing every new release. If you stream one popular game, you may shoot for the type of show you've already seen work on other channels. Or you may aim to stream every conceivable genre of game, hoping to cover every base for every kind of viewer. I call this the 'One Stop Shop Approach' - you're trying to make your channel the only one your viewers ever need to watch on Twitch.

Here's the problem: no matter how much you do, your channel will never be a one stop shop. 

A minuscule percentage of your viewers, if anyone, will watch you and only you when they visit Twitch. That's simply a fact. Most viewers will watch a variety of streamers, and they don't want you to cover a subject they can already see someone else covering if you're not passionate about it. You should only do what you do best, and let others do what they do best. Not only will your viewers prefer this, but you'll be much happier for it.


Your Twitch channel may become this big over time,
but don't try to start this way.
To use a recognizable equivalent, many Twitch streamers attempt to make their channels similar to Target- a place someone can to go find a large range of content for every demographic. In one visit to Target, a shopper could conceivably get everything they need, without ever having to visit another store. But if you were trying to open your own store in real life, you'd never even dream of opening a single, small shop meant to directly compete with the Target in the area. You'd never have enough money, staff or variety of products to hold a candle to them. You'd be quickly driven out of business. Instead, you want to stand out.

Have you ever been to a truly great local mom and pop store? A place that caters to a very specific need, offering a wide selection of products in their niche field, probably sporting a unique ambiance, maybe even holding community events with hands-on interaction. It could be an art supply store that offers night classes, a fabric shop with prints you can't find anywhere else, or a liquor store whose staff you can trust to help you find the perfect craft beer for any occasion. No matter how many different types of products Target offers, they would never be able to replicate the experience of visiting a really good one of these shops. Twitch is the same way: no matter your size, if you can do something nobody else is doing, you immediately become a commodity. The best way to compete in any field is not to defeat your competition- it's to work within a specific enough niche that you make all competition irrelevant.


If you want to grow, try aiming to become a 'Mom and Pop Twitch Channel' like your local art supply store, rather than a 'Big Box Twitch Channel' like Target. The more specific you can get with the experience you offer, the less relevant all other competition gets, because nobody else is able to do what you do. You can grow later, but trying to start big only leads to problems. Even the largest businesses in the world started in ultra-specific fields. Take Amazon for example- right now it's the ultimate one-stop shop if ever there was one. But many of you may not know that when Amazon launched in 1994, it only sold books and nothing else. It was a full four years before they branched out to other products in 1998. More of you are likely aware that at its launch, Facebook was exclusively available to university students- it was three whole years before they let anyone else sign up. Both of these companies knew it was best to become the biggest fish in a small pond of their choosing before attempting to branch out.

You're this size right now. Do one thing really well.
In the past entry Don't Be Afraid to Be Yourself on Stream, I spoke about bringing the things you love doing personally into the forefront on your channel, and doubling down on those. If there's something you're truly knowledgeable about, or have a fiery passion for, it won't matter how big another channel is. You might be completely unique in the way you see the world or approach your streams. If you can establish yourself as an authority on a certain subject among viewers, no matter how small that subject is, people will want to come to your shows just to see your viewpoints.

Are you a person who talks in-depth about Tolkien lore? When a new LOTR or fantasy game comes out, your viewers will be looking forward to specifically seeing your perspective on that game. This is much more valuable than simply attracting viewers by playing a new release- in this scenario you're attracting people who are actually interested in you personally, not just the game. It doesn't have to be a new game either. Maybe you're known for doing no-hit challenge runs. Now, when you start playing the original Xbox version of Ninja Gaiden, fans of your channel have a reason to get excited, other than the simple nostalgia of seeing a game they used to like- they want to see how your type of show holds up against the game itself. Even if you play one of the most popular games in the world like Fortnite or Overwatch, you can still differentiate yourself from the crowd greatly by having something unique about your persona, your stream format, or your gameplay style.  Embracing as small a niche as possible will pay great dividends going forward.


I'm going to ask you a question and I want you to answer as honestly as possible: If someone were telling their friend about your Twitch channel, what single feature would they describe?

If people have a reason to tell their friends about
you, that's a good sign.
Get rid of the general answers like 'I play new games,' 'my skill level' or 'my community' - every channel has these things. Find out what aspect of your shows comes to peoples' minds when they think of you. 'My 80's movie knowledge.' 'My creative OBS layouts.' 'My funny hats.' It doesn't matter how small this thing is, as long as you'd be proud to have your channel be known for that trait. If so, then double and triple down on that thing. Make it a huge part of your shows, until everyone knows you as the streamer who can fully recite every John Landis film, or always has a new crazy raid alert video, or does awesome cosplay based on the video games they show on stream. Being 'known for' something is much more important than simply being noticed. Anyone can attract new followers by playing a new game on launch day, but this won't encourage almost any of those new people to come back for the next new game. Having a clear and relatable hook will.

It's not about whether the thing you love doing has been done before either. No matter how many other streamers love solving daily crossword puzzles while queueing in Fortnite, You'll be much more differentiated by embracing that identity on your shows than simply trying to blend in with all the other Fortnite streamers. And after you've established yourself as 'the person who does crosswords with viewers while playing Fortnite,' people may join the shows just to be a part of that.

As I mentioned in the entry If You Can't Describe Your Channel, Who Can?, finding something unique about your channel doesn't mean simply inventing a gimmick. It has to be something authentic about you or the way you do your streams. If you don't have anything like that yet, don't worry- just keep streaming and things will naturally reveal themselves. Nobody truly knows their specialty when they first start their channel, and even when you find one it may change and evolve over time. But if you can identify even one thing to really differentiate you, you'll be better off than all the other streamers out there trying to be like everyone else.


As far as my channel is concerned, I genuinely believe there is no one else on Twitch making the same kind of content that I make. That's not to say my streams are better than others, but simply that they are totally unique. All my favorite streamers are the same way- there is nobody else out there who can do the same kind of show. This makes all our channels like puzzle pieces, letting viewers watch each person's stream when they're in the mood for that kind of show, rather than all of us trying to build our own entire puzzles from scratch. By embracing the fact that your channel can never be a 'one stop shop,' you too will be able to truly stand out from the crowd.

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