Friday, January 8, 2021

The Dangers of Stream Statistics

A big problem for streamers is the question, "What if?" "What if my new game isn't a hit?" "What if nobody watches at this new show time?" "What if I try going live and something goes wrong?" Whether you're about to start streaming, or you're preparing to change your existing shows, the question "What if?" can throw a major wrench into your plans if you let it. "What if?" is actually the driving force behind many of the bad habits I've described in this resource so far. We ask all our friends to watch our first broadcast, we look for quick solutions to get new followers, and we obsess over making our shows perfect before ever starting, all because we're afraid of this single question. We don't want to see the results of our efforts go to waste. 

So many of us, especially those who are just starting to stream, are too focused on the stats which come from our work. We measure the quality and ultimate success of our shows based on these numbers, and if they come up short for too long, it's enough to cause many streamers to stop altogether. In the earlier growth check in entry Boosting Your Streams, I covered several ways of tracking stats, with the major stipulation that paying too much attention to these stats can end up doing more harm than good. In this entry, I'll help you to further understand this danger of stream statistics. 


I've spoken before about how I built my own video game coverage brand to attend events like E3, PAX, Comic Con and others, before I ever started on Twitch. And the problem when I was starting out was that I'd spend lots of time and effort preparing and making sure these events went smoothly, but after the videos were shot, edited and released I wouldn't make any other content for weeks or months. In that entry, called Your Goals Might Be Sabotaging Your Streams, I made the point that focusing too much on the outcome of a huge plan can create a sort of vacuum of energy, which saps your ability to move onto the next step after that goal is finished. And if you dissect the mechanics behind this concept, statistics were one of the biggest contributors to this post-release lethargy. 

"I've covered video game events, you know."

As a young guy who had somehow gotten himself into the events he'd been dreaming about for his entire video game-loving life, you could imagine how much pressure I put on myself to make sure that the videos I created from these outings did as well as they could. After posting my content from one of these trips, I'd spend hours and hours watching the statistics, sharing it around on every social media platform, engaging with other communities just so I could eventually tell them about my new video, and generally doing everything I could to make sure that the video got the amount of views I thought it deserved. I'd get so lost in this process that I'd lose the drive to actually create something new for a while. And after all that, I never made that much traction with the videos anyway. Essentially, I felt entitled. I thought that the work of making one video that was important to me shouldn't be 'wasted' by not having it seen by a lot of people. This is the wrong way to build a brand, whether on YouTube, Twitch or anything else. 

In my later career I ended up doing this same thing, but while working for a big company on a much larger scale. Organizing a team effort to output dozens and dozens of E3 videos instead of just one, I realized that it was actually more important to put out a large volume of content than it is to simply make one thing you think is really good. I focused on cutting corners, shortening videos, and speeding up production time. I was able to reach a broad appeal not by making content that appealed to everyone, but by making more specialized content in greater numbers. One video, no matter how broad or specialized, has a very low chance of reaching a lot of people. Without ad spend, it's mostly a matter of chance- and it's a really slim chance at that. But 100 videos, each about a very specific niche, increase the chances of someone caring by a massive margin. Because as I've mentioned in many entries before, people care more deeply about things that touch their specific interests, rather than something broad. And suddenly we covered 100 different specialized interests. I found that I wouldn't even bother wondering how each video was doing, because I was busy just getting the videos made. And I was able to help multiply this brand's popularity by orders of magnitude. I truly believe it was the volume of content, and the mindset of not worrying so much about any single post's results, that made all the difference in how it caught on. 


More is sometimes better.

I've kept this same mindset about high-volume content creation in most things I do. I'm now free to not only make things that I want to make, but to stop worrying about the stats while I'm making them. I suggest giving it a try yourself. When you have a new Twitch channel, it doesn't really matter how good your first video is. Or even your first dozen videos. Outside of some freak coincidence, these videos aren't going to be seen by many people, if anyone. That's just the way it works. The process of building a brand isn't about making sure that each stream gets as many views squeezed out of it as possible, it's about making content consistently and often, so that your channel is getting out there in front of people. If you really want to increase results, then double or triple your output. In the entry Do More Streaming, I help you find ways to creatively fit more stream time into your days by totally forgetting your idea of what's normal. When you think on a broader scale, you can see statistics that don't get measured by the platform itself. Many of those macro concepts I've covered in past entries, and I was only able to recognize them by seeing the trends form across thousands of streams. 

So instead of obsessing over each show's results, or focusing too much on promoting each stream before it's live in order to increase views, just try making more content. If you want to see real results, not only in your metrics but also in your skillset as a streamer, be patient about statistics while ramping up production. If you ever find yourself caring about the statistics of a single stream you've done, you're probably not doing enough streaming. When you use this strategy correctly, you'll be forgetting about the small-scale statistics in order to see a much bigger picture.  

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