Saturday, May 14, 2022

Successfully Streaming Without Self-Promotion

When you watch a Twitch broadcast, it’s par for the course to hear the streamer ask you to do things. Whether that involves following, subscribing, buying merch, or just becoming more active in the chat, you’ll quickly find that the occasional commercials aren’t the only things advertising to you during a stream. Nobody really likes watching a streamer constantly remind them of the fact that they can subscribe, and no streamer really likes having to do it either, but promotion is typically considered to be a necessary evil. But is it really? Are there ways to be successful as a streamer without doing any (or, at least, as much) self-promotion during your streams? 


If you played David O’Reilly’s incredible surrealist video game Everything, you’re probably familiar with speaker and self-styled ‘philosophical entertainer’ Alan Watts- he’s the guy whose audio tidbits play throughout the game. When Watts did speaking engagements, he had an interesting way of giving his presentations. He would explore deep themes and offer really profound advice, but he never considered himself a ‘self-help guru.’ 

In the game Everything, you can play as,
literally, everything.

When someone is selling the promise of personal improvement, they usually want something from you as well. To unlock the full secrets, you’ll have to buy their books, attend their seminars, and join their followings of like-minded devotees. But Watts thought of his content in another way. He described his business model as that of a physician, who he said, “is always trying to get rid of his patients.” For him, it was simply about putting his thoughts out there. When someone found value in those thoughts, that was enough. They didn’t have to come back for more talks or buy all his merchandise- if they found something to help their lives then he had done his job. 

Here’s a quote of his that I love: “I am not trying to help you or improve you; I accept you as you are. I am not out, therefore, to save the world. Of course, when a stream or a bubbling spring flows out from the mountains, it is doing its thing. And if a thirsty traveler helps himself, well that’s fine. When a bird sings, it doesn’t sing for the advancement of music, but if somebody stops to listen and is delighted, that’s fine.” This kind of content creation- modeled after a bird that sings purely for its own sake- has gone on to inspire my philosophy on making Twitch streams. I’ve spoken in other places about how this applies to the enjoyment of streaming, but here, we’ll talk about how it relates to selling your streams. 


From the smallest electron to a massive solar 
system, all of creation is encompassed 
in this game.

How are you leaving people after they watch your broadcasts? Are you asking more from them than they are from you? Many streamers get carried away with the business side of their channels, constantly pushing others to subscribe, donate, buy merch, or support in some other way. But not everyone is going to want to do these things. And even if they did, the constant reminders could hurt more than they help. Put yourself in the viewer’s shoes. Would you rather subscribe to a channel you love after being prompted to do it by the streamer, or out of genuine appreciation for their content? In my opinion, it’s best for a streamer to first think about the value they’re putting into the world, and let the benefits come naturally. If viewers really like what you’re making, they’ll show their support. To return to the example of Alan Watts, many people did end up buying more than one book, or returning to hear him speak again. Heck, there was a whole video game created after his death, which was narrated entirely by audio clips from his public appearances. Clearly, he became well-loved for his ideas, but he didn’t need to pressure others into doing it, in order to make it happen. 

In various entries, I’ve spoken about the importance of always offering more value than you ask of others. This principle doesn’t apply only to increasing your view count or making money, it can be put into effect anywhere. This kind of ‘no expectations’ philosophy can be a major help when trying to network on Twitch, for example. Many new streamers think only of themselves when meeting other channels. They wait in the other streamer’s chat like a coiled viper, saying one or two token comments before jumping on the opportunity to mention their own channel. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen users who either directly ask for followers, or casually drop comments like “I’m about to do my stream now” to let others know they’re going live. This is not only tacky and completely transparent to the reader, but it’s also very rude. It’s an attempt to siphon viewers and attention from the other streamer’s channel into their own. You wouldn’t go to someone’s small mom and pop store and post a sign that customers could visit your own similar store instead (unless you’re Larry David, I suppose), so why do it on someone's Twitch channel? In the entry 3 Easy Tips to Network on Twitch, I went into detail about how you can create true connections with other Twitch streamers by simply enjoying their content without asking for anything in return. In the style of Alan Watts, benefits can come if they come. And if not, you made a friend along the way. But of course, friends are more likely to help each other out in the end. 

So no matter what you’re doing on Twitch, consider simply being. Create your streams, make real connections, and don’t think too hard about your bottom line. Sometimes that lack of pressure can be exactly what the viewer comes to appreciate about your content. You might just find that removing some of the promotion from your streams brings you better results than you had before. 

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