You don’t need a contract with a reality TV show to broadcast everything you do to an audience anymore. All you need is a streaming platform, and most people — especially those who enjoy playing video games or watching other people play them — use Twitch.
You’re already devastatingly interesting and your activities should be streamed far and wide, but how do you convince an audience to tune in and find out?
Don’t fixate on numbers, focus on content
You’re here because you want to build an audience, but don’t let a preoccupation with quantity take your focus from the quality you’re providing your followers and, ideally, your paid subscribers. Instead of trying to appeal broadly to a larger number of people, work on honing the skills that make you unique and drawing in the users who are specifically interested in them. They’ll be more loyal, keep coming back to your streams, promote your work, and engage with you in the chat. All of that is more important than some arbitrary follower count — and will lead to a stronger following count on its own.
“Something I have learned about Twitch is that there are a million little niches beyond gaming on there that people do not really think about,” said one streamer who goes by Simulationkat and has 189 followers and 20 paid subscribers. They pointed out they’ve seen streamers who broadcast themselves doing bingo sheets, for instance, and there’s a dedicated fan base for that.
“Lean in hard to what you love and go from there, and if you’re a fun person to be around, people will come hang out with you,” they said.
“Deciding what to stream depends on the ability for viewers to engage,” added Manny Fidel, an editor and columnist in New York who started streaming frequently during the pandemic lockdowns and has 508 followers. “If it’s politics, they can drop their takes in the chat and I can react to them. If it’s a game, something like a puzzle or strategy game where viewers can help out. In terms of timing, there’s no rhyme or reason for me. I just do it when I can, which is typically right after work (so, in the evenings.)”
That back-and-forth engagement is key, so let’s talk about it.
Participate on Twitch with others
You need to be a visible presence on Twitch if you want people to engage with and follow you. First and foremost, you need to be communicative when people are watching you stream, no matter what you’re doing. Respond to messages that appear in your chat box, for instance. If a follower suggests something you could do differently in a future stream, use it so they know their opinion matters.
There are a lot of streamers on the platform, so followers and would-be followers have a serious amount of options. Be friendly, fun, and personable so they’ll choose you over one of the other streamers operating in your speciality.
Speaking of the other people in your lane, you should be supporting them, too. Watching other streamers and interacting in their chats helps you gain recognition in the community at large, which means it’ll be easier to turn new friends into new followers or subscribers.
“It is important to insert yourself in communities you want to be a part of. Letting people get to know you and making new acquaintances online are valuable and rewarding things that are not only good for your channel, but personally enriching as well,” said Simulationkat.
Collaborate with other Twitch streamers outside your lane
It’s not only important to be visible in other people’s chats because you want to gin up new follower interest — connecting with other streamers is a great way to find people to collaborate with.
“I have found I get more viewers when I collaborate with others,” explained Simulationkat, who regularly hosts streams with friends and allows them to talk about their unique interests, which often differ from the content usually offered up on the channel. In doing that, Simulationkat gets a new audience who comes for the niche topic, but might stick around for additional streams in the future.
There are other ways to enlist your pals for help, too: “My biggest piece of advice is to get some friends to watch your stream now and then. They’re much more likely to talk in the chat, and if random viewers see engagement, they’ll throw a follow your way, and potentially a sub down the line,” said Fidel.
Be as consistent as you can
Fidel noted that while he has 508 followers, he currently doesn’t have any subscribers. During the beginning of the pandemic, he’d stream two to three times per week and got up to 35 subscribers, but once he cut back on his broadcasting schedule, they dropped off. Subscriptions only last a month and have to be renewed, so to keep subscribers and grow your following, you need to have consistent output. (Don’t worry about Fidel: He said he’s “thinking of picking it back up.”) You don’t necessarily have to follow a strict schedule as long as you’re investing a little time in producing content.
“I stream whenever I want to because in theory there are always people out there to watch me because of how global Twitch is,” said Simulationkat. “One of the cool things about Twitch is how many different types of people I have met all over the world.”
Don’t make excuses for a lack of consistency, either. Neither Fidel nor Simulationkat said you won’t need need much equipment beyond a phone or computer.
“You can stream with just a laptop and a shitty phone if you want. If you’re entertaining, it doesn’t matter,” said Simulationkat.
“All you need is a computer and a microphone,” added Fidel. “If you’re going to stream games, you’ll want your computer to be on the stronger side, or you’ll want to buy a capture card that can stream a game from your Xbox, Playstation, or Nintendo to your computer. I like to have a webcam because people associate my social media accounts with my Twitch, and I think it’s nice for them to see me. But some people have insane set ups that are just not necessary for a small channel.”
Know how to promote yourself on other platforms, especially before streaming
Speaking of social media, don’t forget to advertise your streams in advance. If you want to grow followers on Twitch, you might as well appeal to your existing followers elsewhere. Make a few graphics to post on Instagram or Twitter to give them something to look forward to.
“I think it is worth advertising as much as you can on social media within reason, but the most important thing, I think, for growing your audience is being yourself, as corny as that is. Give people a reason to want to hang out with you like you’re meeting someone at a party you’re hosting,” suggested Simulationkat.
Your existing friends and followers already know you and are probably eager to come support you in your new venture, so give them the chance. Then, start streaming and give strangers a chance, too. You’ll have a great following in no time.