Friday, November 15, 2019

Help New Viewers Enjoy Your Stream

Have you ever noticed viewers joining your streams and seeming confused about what's happening? Depending on the type of shows you make, someone may be unclear about the game you're playing, what you're trying to do in the game, what artwork you're creating, why you're wearing a funny costume, or any number of other possible factors. Even if you've never seen anyone bring up concerns like this in your chat, someone watching without commenting may leave before even saying a word. Confusion about a stream's main themes is a major reason for viewers to tune out- after all, it's no fun to watch a show when you can't even understand what's going on.

Here's an example of what I mean: Let's say you're doing a Dark Souls stream with specific challenge rules- you can't use recovery items, you're not allowed to roll at all, and you're restricted to the most basic weapons. You announce these details about your challenge run at the beginning, and then proceed to play for the next several hours without mentioning it again. This may seem fine on the surface, but you're not taking into account one of the most major aspects of the Twitch viewing experience: most viewers don't join at the beginning of your stream.

In order to truly engage new viewers, think of your stream as having no beginning or end. Time, as it exists on Twitch, isn't a straight line.


Time works differently on Twitch.
Before you start worrying that I've finally gone off the deep end, allow me to explain: when making a YouTube video, it's safe to assume that most viewers will see at least the first few seconds of your video, no matter what. That's because, whether they click on the video the moment it's uploaded, two hours after it's uploaded, or five hours after, it will always start playing from the beginning. Time, as it exists for a YouTube video, can be thought of as a straight line, which always starts at the start. On YouTube, if you convey important information within the first few seconds, almost everyone will be shown that information, guaranteed.

When making a Twitch stream, you have to assume that almost no one will watch from the beginning. And that means someone joining the moment you went live will have a completely different introduction to your stream than someone who joins two hours after, or five hours after you started. So instead of only conveying the information your audience needs to know at the beginning, like on a YouTube video, a Twitch stream should be conveying that introductory information at all times, from the beginning to the end of the show. The passage of time, as it exists on a Twitch stream, is more like taking slices from a birthday cake. If you only convey important info at one point during your stream, similar to placing a single chocolate chip on top of the cake, then almost no one will get a slice of the cake that has chocolate on it. But if you convey that information throughout the stream, similar to spreading a chocolate frosting over the entire top layer of the cake, then everyone, no matter when they join, will get the same thing.


There are all sorts of things you might want to convey about your stream to incoming viewers, which you can stack on top of each other like the layers of a cake. In addition to your challenge run info, you might have a chat rule about keeping language family-friendly, and you might also have a signature comedy bit you like to do using your Stream Deck, which you think would win over newcomers. When these layers are stacked on top of each other, it ensures that each viewer who takes a slice will be getting all the best parts of your stream, no matter where that slice comes from. Here are a few strategies you can employ in order to ensure this happens:

Your Twitch stream works like a cake. Mmm, cake.
For the challenge run info, you might leave a line of text in the corner of the game screen at all times, laying out the particulars of your Dark Souls run. Since this is pretty critical to someone understanding what's going on, it's worth making it the most visible of all the things you want to convey. To keep the chat PG, you might have a chatbot timer set to let people know at regular intervals about that restriction. And for the comedic interludes you like to do with your Stream Deck, it might be as simple as making sure you do it regularly and often, to ensure that any newcomers who join will see the most entertaining part of your channel.

Every streamer has their own top-tier bits of information they want to convey. You can find more of my thoughts on different ways to specifically convey this information in the previous entry titled Make the Most of Your Streaming Setup. I personally like to communicate the core concepts of my channel verbally, periodically repeating a short three-sentence introductory speech at various points through the stream. You can find more info about how to craft an efficient description in the entry, Your Twitch Channel Needs an Elevator Pitch. Whatever you end up doing on your own streams, I recommend you take a step back every 30 minutes or so and ask yourself, "If someone only saw the last half hour of my stream, did they get the best possible experience from my channel?"


The main thing you want for incoming viewers before all else is for them to be able to empathize with what's happening on your stream. Empathy is the basis of all entertainment. Someone can't be scared, excited or nervous for you during intense parts of your Dark Souls challenge run if they don't understand what's scary, exciting or nerve-racking about it. You may have explained at the beginning of your stream that you won't allow yourself to use items, but the viewer joining two hours later will simply be confused why you're so nervous despite having 20 healing gems. We've all been conditioned to understand that videos should have a beginning, middle and end, but if you want to truly engage new viewers on Twitch, start thinking of your streams in terms of 'slices' that all come out of the middle. To most newcomers, this short slice is all your stream will be, so make your shows more accessible to those people who might join at various points. If you can be entertaining enough within those slices, you might find those new viewers coming back for more helpings in the future!

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