Friday, December 4, 2020

Know When Not to Do What the Audience Wants

As you continue streaming, you'll start to receive viewer requests for things to change about your shows. These can range from simple error fixes to suggestions that you add a new widget or minigame, and sometimes even demands that you alter the games you play entirely. But it's important to remember that as a content creator, the buck stops with you. There's nothing you have to implement on your own streams if you don't want to. In the entry Stream How You Want, I told you about how Bob Dylan uprooted his entire career to change his musical style, shunning a huge percentage of his existing fans to do so, and ended up creating some of the greatest rock albums of all time. We learned how, as a Twitch streamer, you should never be afraid to change your shows just because others might dislike your decision. In this entry, we're going to explore another angle- standing your ground amidst the various, often contradictory requests for changes from viewers. Here, we'll talk about the seldom-discussed concept of when not to do what the audience wants, and explore how two of the world's greatest business leaders used the same strategy to yield amazing results. 


In previous entries, you've heard me talk about Henry Ford, father of modern automobile production. This man was an absolute paragon of industry, and he was prophetic in many of his ideas about how factory production, as well as work in general, would function in the years to come. In fact, aside from some of his unfortunate and dated personal beliefs, Ford's 1922 autobiography 'My Life and Work' still reads like it could have been written today. 

We owe much of the popularity of automobiles to 
Ford and his groundbreaking ideas.

One of my favorite anecdotes in this book involves Ford's realization that the customer is not necessarily always right, and how we shouldn't be too quick to bend to every whim. He says, "The salesmen [...] were spurred by the great sales to think that even greater sales might be had if only we had more models. It is strange how, just as soon as an article becomes successful, somebody starts to think that it would be more successful if only it were different. There is a tendency to keep monkeying with styles and to spoil a good thing by changing it. The salesmen were insistent on increasing the line. They listened to the 5 percent, the special customers who could say what they wanted, and forgot all about the 95 percent, who just bought without making any fuss. No business can improve unless it pays the closest possible attention to complaints and suggestions. If there is any defect in service then that must be instantly and rigorously investigated, but when the suggestion is only as to style, one has to make sure whether it is not merely a personal whim that is being voiced."

There are always people who will be loud about what they want from you, and they don't necessarily represent the feelings of the whole. You'll see this often on your streams. If people in your chat are suggesting a change, it's likely coming from a few very outspoken people who are able to articulate what they want, similar to the 5 percent of customers Ford mentions. If someone is pointing out a flaw, like your microphone not working, then that's one thing. But if they're saying you should play this, or say that, or change a graphic to red instead of blue, that's not something you have to do. It's just a viewer's personal whim. As streamers, it's hard not to do what someone directly asks of us, because we typically want to make sure everyone is happy. But don't forget that only you know what's ultimately best for your streams, and the decision is yours at the end of the day which of these changes actually need to be made.


You can't talk about business leaders succeeding by not listening to their customers without mentioning Steve Jobs. Apple's co-founder and headstrong leader was the king of making unpopular decisions to move the industry forward. Many of us nowadays focus on Apple's rigidity as arbitrary and negative, like forcing us to buy various new connector cables or accessories for our phones. But throughout its history, Jobs' staunch positions on Apple's products blazed the trails which made many aspects of modern computing into what they are today. In the early 80's for example, Apple computers were the first to require that users have a mouse. This decision was laughed at in the beginning, but the mouse is now a mainstay most of us can't imagine being without. They hadn't invented the hardware, but by forcing users to use this tool in order to interface with their machines, they changed their entire industry for the better. 

It's hard to imagine now, but early computers functioned
with keyboards alone. 

The original iMac in 1998 changed things again, not necessarily by adding a feature, but by removing another one. One of the largest mainstays of computing throughout the 1980's and 90's was the floppy disk. This was a piece of storage media so ubiquitous that to this day, decades later, we still use an image of the floppy disk as the standardized 'save' icon in most games and applications. Steve Jobs saw the future though, and asserted that CD storage, as well as the rapidly expanding internet, were going to overtake this more established format. So, despite the floppy disk thriving in the computer industry at the time, Apple stuck to their guns and completely removed it from their brand new iMac machine. It was a massively controversial decision, and many users had a hard time scrambling to adjust to the new CD format. But this change ultimately helped to usher in a paradigm shift, nudging the rest of the computer industry to follow suit a few years later. And with hindsight, I think we can all agree that the 312-inch floppy disk, with its max storage capacity of 1.44 megabytes, wouldn't have much of a place in modern computing.

Sometimes whether we're updating our channel's entire look, changing the games we play, or implementing new rules, it can be difficult to shed our old features. But not everything has to carry over- it's often necessary to reassess what you truly need to keep on your streams. Like with the 312-inch floppy disk, some people may have liked that old feature, but removing it could shed the weight which was previously dragging you down. And like with Apple's requirement that all users have a mouse, you may find that by broadening your horizons, some new concept quickly becomes a mainstay on your streams. 


Viewer interactions and agency in helping to craft a Twitch channel can be amazing, and I'm not saying you should simply ignore every suggestion that comes your way. In fact, I use many of my viewers' change suggestions, clips they've created, and their ideas for future games to play on my streams. But the pressure can be substantial when the audience begins asking for things that go against what you want for your shows. And while you don't have to outright refuse on the spot or make anyone feel bad, you don't need to implement the things they ask for either. To paraphrase one of Henry Ford's most famous quotes: "The customer can have a car painted any color he wants, so long as it's black." Sometimes, when shaping your content offering, you need to know when not to do what the audience wants. 

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