Friday, August 14, 2020

Getting to Know Your Viewers

When streaming on Twitch, you will start to build a community over time. This will happen at different rates for everyone, but if you stream consistently for long enough, people will start to form around your shows. Having more viewers in your streams who chat and increase the engagement level during your shows is one of the main ways many Twitch streamers measure success. What I find more interesting than increasing the number of people in your streams is actually learning who they are, what they like, and what makes them tick. In this entry, I'll help you get to know your viewers.


First, try to focus on is remembering the usernames of your community members. You're not going to get far in building a connection if you constantly reintroduce yourself to someone who's been in your streams several times before. This sounds like a no-brainer, but many streamers have trouble in this department- especially new ones. Like in life, remembering the name of someone you just met is very difficult on a Twitch stream. It doesn't help matters that when you meet new people while streaming, you usually have other things on your mind, like making it through a firefight or going up against a tough boss. There are a few advantages to learning Twitch usernames over names in real life however. For one thing, usernames will typically evoke some kind of image, like a game title, movie character or activity. I'm a visual learner, so if I meet someone with 'T-Rex' or 'Raptor' in their username, I immediately imagine them as a dinosaur, or riding a dinosaur, or stammering like Jeff Goldblum while running from a dinosaur. These kinds of mental associations help to solidify a picture of someone in my mind, and every new thing I learn about them can build on this base mental image. 

Building bonds is important.
Second, it's not enough just to remember who your viewers are, you should want to know more about them. Getting to know people who join your streams is a great way to strengthen your channel, but that doesn't mean you have to treat it like any other rote, mechanical task. People can pick up on authenticity, and they'll be able to tell whether if you're phoning it in. Plus, why shouldn't you want to get to know your community members? They love your shows, and the least you can do is return the interest. By diving deeper into conversation with your community, you get to discuss other hobbies, get game or movie recommendations, and even learn about other cultures. It's very rewarding! 

Often, by opening myself to becoming genuinely interested in people, and by creating mental associations to remember all their names, I'm able to recall specific details about chatters who haven't been around in over a year! But of course, it's not possible to remember everything perfectly. If you forget things, Twitch has a new feature which lets you to click any username to see various pieces of useful info about them. You can see when a user followed, as well as an archive of every message they've sent in your chat with date stamps. If you really can't remember someone, try checking what your last conversation was about before talking to them. If you put in some of these extra bits of effort, you'll go a long way toward connecting better with your viewers. 


In addition to being more welcoming to your chat, you should hold them to the same standard. Someone typing comments on Twitch has the advantage of being behind a veil of relative anonymity, and as such people will often come into streams to give you a hard time. Now, everyone's streams are different, but however you conduct your shows it's important to set a few boundaries about how you like to keep your chat. Don't forget, whatever you allow people to say in your chat affects not just you, but everyone else in the community. The kinds of guidelines you set can shape your channel's overall vibes.  

If someone makes you uncomfortable in chat, you're allowed
to draw the line.
In my own streams, I like to keep it to an 'if you wouldn't say it in person, don't say it here' state of mind. This not only applies to inappropriate subjects, but also various social faux-pas. Sometimes people will grill you on something you don't feel comfortable talking about, whether out of genuine but misplaced concern, or just to see you squirm. I've spoken about many of the more common chat no-nos in entries like Your Twitch Chat is a Reflection of Yourself, Setting Limits for Your Streams, and Dealing with Disruptors in Twitch Chat. Sometimes there are comments that don't break rules, but simply don't sit right, however. There's one type of comment which I've always found off-putting: people who said two words in my stream once, over a year previous, would come back into the chat, say hi and then and ask, "Do you even remember me?" or "I bet you don't even remember who I am." This isn't how you would talk to someone in an actual conversation, unless you're planning to kill them or you're a James Bond villain. This person essentially wants to take control of the chat at gunpoint, forcing you to clearly state why you remember them, or squirm on camera while you admit that you don't. Ironically, I typically do remember someone who asks this, but I've taken to completely ignoring such comments, as I don't want to be put to questioning like I'm in court. Confrontation and coercion isn't a good way to build rapport. 

You should also take into account decisions which allow community members to get to know each other more easily. Let's say someone joins your stream for the first time and their username is 'hemanskeletor.' Then when you say hello to them, they say, "Hi, thanks for the welcome. You can call me Adam." This is a pretty normal thing to say, and the viewer is doing nothing wrong. But think about the experience for every other viewer of your stream if you did call this person Adam. No one else would know who you're talking to when you pose a question to 'Adam' a week later, unless they were there at the exact moment when that viewer said their real name. For this reason, when someone asks me to call them by a name that isn't reflected in their handle I'll typically say something like, "It's nice to meet you Adam! But on our streams we only refer to each other by our usernames, because then everyone in chat can understand who we're talking to." 


In this entry, I laid out a few very specific examples of how you can build basic bonds, as well as set boundaries to keep your streams more inviting. But there's plenty more you can do to get to know your viewers and build connections. Depending on what kind of community you want to cultivate, and how open you want to be, there are all sorts of avenues you can take. Some streamers allow viewers to call into their shows and vent their problems like they're on morning radio. Others will play multiplayer games with subscribers, or even with general viewers who want to join. Outside of Twitch, many streamers use Discord to really personalize the experience, or they set up community movie nights. But you don't have to get fancy. Above all, make sure you're actually interested when people tell you about themselves. If you're able to do that, you'll get to know your viewers in no time. 

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