Friday, January 17, 2020

Different Kinds of Viewer Engagement

In my time on Twitch, I've met all kinds of people, and eventually I noticed patterns about viewers- the things they're looking for when watching, their engagement levels based on what they say they're doing while watching, and so on. Everyone is on Twitch for a different reason after all (for more info on this concept, see the entry Who is Watching Your Streams, And Why?) But despite knowing that there are all kinds of viewers out there, many streamers only focus on the viewers who are loudest in chat. This can exclude, and even sometimes drive away, other viewers who don't fit the same mold. There are huge swaths of audience members on every channel that will either chat very seldom, or never chat at all. What are you doing to engage this portion of your audience?


Not everyone is as talkative
as Sam & Max.
Being engaging on stream isn't only about constantly pinging your viewers with questions in order to get them chatting. It's also about creating situations on stream which get them excited, laughing or thinking, without ever even needing to chat. In order to understand more easily what viewers want, I've broken down the most prevalent archetypes into four groups: Type A, B, C and D Viewers. 

Type A Viewer: This is the classic kind of Twitch viewer, which most streamers focus on exclusively when trying to be engaging in their streams. This viewer is actively watching and actively chatting on your shows, giving your stream more attention than any other thing they're currently doing. 

Type B Viewer: There's another kind of viewer however, who will watch your show, and might be interested in chatting, but at their own pace. This person might be doing some other primary task while your stream is playing, like washing the dishes or organizing their desk. They may see and hear almost everything, but not be interested in constantly being pulled away from what they're doing by having you ask them questions directly. 

Type C Viewer: This is a viewer who will primarily watch your show without talking- an action on Twitch known as 'lurking'. They may say hello when they enter, and respond once or twice, but will almost immediately leave chat for the rest of the show. They won't likely respond to more questions, but that doesn't mean they aren't still watching.

Type D Viewer: This is someone who watches your shows, but never makes it known and never chats at all. This also includes the portion of your audience who follow along with the shows after your streams by watching VODs. All of these people comprise a completely invisible 'lurking' portion of your audience.


Type A viewers are easy to identify, because they'll be itching to be engaged. They may be actively chatting up other community members, closely commenting on what's going on in your game, or consistently asking you questions to keep the conversation going. These viewers are primarily interested in being a part of a very interactive experience, and it's worth trying to meet their needs. If you leave a Type A viewer hanging for too long, they will often either leave, or recede into the background to lurk while they chat in someone else's stream. You don't have to jump up every time they say something, but you should at least make sure you're conversing with them. Ask them questions and bring up subjects that require a direct response from them individually- that's the kind of engagement they're looking for.

Different people want different things.
On the other end, Type B viewers often don't want to be actively engaged. Someone who is doing something else while watching doesn't want to be asked a bunch of questions directly, because that means they have to keep switching back to your stream to write their answers. Make sure you're able to tell the difference between Type A and B viewers, because what works for one will drive away the other: Type A viewers will often leave if they're not being asked enough questions, but Type B viewers will often leave because they're being asked too many questions. Keeping a Type B viewer engaged involves more open-ended questions, like asking the whole chat how their days went or what they thought of a movie- things that anyone can answer at any time. It also involves learning not to rely only on conversation, but to be passively engaging on your streams.

You may have noticed that constant conversation only really works for 1 of the 4 viewer types I mentioned: Type A viewers. The key to engaging your Type C and D, as well as many Type B viewers, is to make sure you're more entertaining in general, without needing the conversation to be interesting. This ensures that everyone who watches the show is given a baseline of engagement, whether or not they actually chat. To do this, focus on doing interesting things, making people laugh, or bringing up theories and ideas to get everyone thinking. Many people would rather watch Twitch like they're watching TV- they want to be passively engaged. Think about when you yourself watch a TV show- it can excite, entertain, scare you, or make you think. You don't need to talk back to the characters on your TV screen in order for the show itself to be engaging. Embrace this concept of passive engagement to become better at entertaining all of your audience members, not just the slim portion of people in the forefront who want to talk in chat.


A viewer who wants to talk and feels ignored will leave, but a viewer who wants to watch passively and is forced to talk might leave too. Plus, huge portions of your viewers won't respond to your conversation no matter what you do. It can be confusing and frustrating, but just remember that all your viewers are there to enjoy your content. There's no one kind of viewer that's more valuable than the others, and even the most invisible viewers who never talk on your streams at all may be the loudest behind-the-scenes, recommending your channel to all their friends and family. So don't simply go for one style of engagement, alienating all your other audience members- when you embrace different kinds of viewer engagement, you'll be creating more ways for everyone to have fun on your streams!

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