Friday, March 13, 2020

Spice Up Your Stream's Chat

On Twitch there are many options for engaging viewers. We've talked in previous entries about things you can do and say to get all the different kinds of viewers interested in your shows. In addition to your own actions as the streamer however, there are many things you can do with your chat itself to attract viewers and convince them to stick around. In this entry, I'll show you a few of the best ways I've found to spice up a stream's chat.

Keep in mind however: you'll notice me recommending a few pieces of external software you can use to improve your streams, but I'm not going to give a tutorial on all the features involved, or the technical aspects of how to implement each idea. Use this entry to decide which things you might want to use for yourself, and whenever you arrive at that decision there's plenty of documentation on the software's website to tell you specifically how to embed each feature into your channel.


One simple change which can increase engagement with minimal effort is displaying your chat messages on-screen during a stream. This can be achieved using various kinds of widgets through your stream software. Having streamed with and without an on-screen chat before, I’ve noticed that people tend to do more chatting when they know their messages will be visible on the show. I imagine this is due to the fact that they feel more ‘heard’ on the broadcast, so they always know their messages are going through and becoming a part of the show itself. It may also be a way for people who have the chat hidden to notice who is chatting or what they’re chatting about, and decide whether they’d like to join in. Whatever the reason, this technique generally keeps everyone more aware of what's happening in chat and brings it to the forefront of the streams.

Show don't tell!
Having said that, on-screen chat isn’t for everyone. Depending on what kind of show you’re trying for, you may find it best to leave your chat separate from the stream itself. On my streams for example, despite having good results with on-screen chat, I ended up removing it from all sections where I was playing a game. This came down to the direction my shows were headed. The more my channel evolved into a place where we appreciate video game storylines, the more intrusive it started to look to have the chat popping up during emotional moments. If your streams are about conversation above all however, this is a great method to boost your chatting numbers.


I’ve spoken in previous entries about many of the commands I’ve implemented to improve various aspects of my shows. Using external streaming software called a chatbot, viewers can type commands into a stream's chat to be given a programmed response from the bot itself, and your decisions in how to set up the bot's responses can really set your channel apart. Nightbot, Moobot, Streamlabs Chatbot and other free tools can give you lots of options for activities in your chat, so it's worth checking out a few of them and seeing which you like best. The following are a few types of commands that I’ve seen work before, whether on my own streams or those of others:

Informative Commands: The most basic command is also probably the most useful to your viewers. Make sure you have some informative commands for people to learn more about your channel when they want to. Separate commands to tell people about your Twitter, YouTube, and other satellite channels are always great ways to let people joining your streams know about your other projects. Commands talking about your channel or its rules are also majorly useful. All of these commands will be your bread and butter, and if you watch enough other streams, you'll start to notice the patterns for which are the most commonly requested.

Create commands that are unpredictable.
Randomized Commands: This is my personal favorite kind of command. When you use Chatbot software, you can have the app pull randomly from a list of potential responses whenever a viewer inputs certain commands. This can be used to great effect on stream, and makes it a lot more exciting for viewers to engage with your Chatbot. The classic example of a randomized command is a Magic 8-Ball feature. It functions similar to the real-world equivalent- chatters can input a command to contact the 8-Ball and ask a question, then they will be given a random response. At this point, there's no limit to the amount of fun answers you can program into it. I've made all sorts of games and stories that come out of randomized features like this, which have hundreds of potential responses in total. Go crazy with it!

Viewer Commands: On many channels, I've seen instances where viewers have been able to create their own commands. Then when one of those viewers first joins the stream, they can use their personal command to announce themselves in chat. It's even possible to give one viewer exclusive access to a certain command, so only they can use it. You can create whatever criteria that you want in order for a viewer to earn one of these commands, like collecting enough channel points or being a subscriber for a certain length of time. These kinds of exclusive commands can make individual viewers feel much more special on stream- just make sure everything stays within your guidelines for what's appropriate!

Clip Commands: Twitch as a platform has many fun features, but the 'clipping' function is something you may be overlooking. At any time, viewers or streamers are able to immediately capture a short snippet of the stream, which will be saved for anyone to watch later. It's a great way to show off some of your channel's most fun moments, and it's very simple to do. Many channels have some of their best clips saved into commands as well, so that viewers can type in a specific command to immediately bring up that clip in the chat. This is a great conversation starter for new viewers, as they can easily see one of your favorite clips, and veteran viewers can have fun finding opportune moments to bring each clip to the forefront.

Quotes: This is a really fun feature to use on streams, because viewers can help to create a part of your channel. Anyone in chat can save quotes from your stream to your chatbot by using a 'quote add' command, which will compile a big list that others can pull from at any time. On my Discord, we have a dedicated list of hundreds of different quotes that viewers have saved since I started streaming. People can pull them up when an applicable situation occurs, and it's always a fun moment when someone notices and saves something I didn't even realize I said.

Minigames: I've spoken about minigames in previous entries for a bit, but these shouldn't be overlooked. On many pieces of chatbot software, you can add cooperative, competitive or free-for-all activities for your viewers to participate in while you might be busy doing something on your shows. On my channel I've even written custom storylines for each one. This is another opportunity to get really creative!


All in all, you want your chat to feel welcoming, and you want to make sure people are having fun. Of course if you yourself are entertaining and your other viewers are friendly it's easy for chatters to have a good time, but keeping your chat visible and entertaining is always a great way to give your streams an extra edge. The above shortlist featured a few chat ideas I've enjoyed implementing or participating in, whether on my streams or others, but these are far from the only options out there. Some streams use special widgets to make emotes posted in chat explode onto the screen during a broadcast, some implement chat commands that play funny or scary sounds on the stream, and some have automated text-to-speech voices to read messages as soon as they come in. There are limitless possibilities out there for seeing and interacting with chat on a stream, so experiment with as many as you can find, and see which ones you like best. It's all going to come down to what kind of stream you're trying to make. So try spicing up your stream's chat! 

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