So, I was poking through my stats on Twitch this morning and realized that my very first broadcast was EXACTLY two months ago today. I hadn't realize it's already been that long (short?).. The last couple months have absolutely flown by in a whirlwind of confusion, frustration, trepidation, and excitement. I'd like to share a few of the things I've learned below, these are in no particular order of importance, and they're heavily influenced by my own feelings, so take them as you will...
Networking is HARD - Ok maybe it's not for you extraverts out there, but I'm HEAVILY introverted. It's hard for me to really keep up with a lot of the other channels I follow or the INCREDIBLE streamers I've met because I'm never quite sure how to interact with people at that level. It's just not something that comes easily to me and I tend to become a bit exhausted after a few minutes of awkward and semi-forced (on my end) chat. They could be (and often are) some of the kindest people I've met but if I'm not in a particularly chatty mood, I'll have trouble keeping up in any coherent sense and rapidly desire little more than to return to my little hole in the ground and watch youtube or something.
I also suffer from crippling social anxiety which makes things difficult in the realm of networking and just... being a 'presence' on stream. I tend to doubt myself a LOT when it comes to interaction on my stream. I try my best to be chatty and project myself (I don't 'method act', I don't pretend to be someone I'm not on my stream) but it's challenging to keep up without feeling totally overwhelmed sometimes.. Other times I wish my viewers would interact with me more so I don't have to just sit there rambling about everything I'm doing and praying it's even remotely entertaining. It's a fine line and one that gets blurry more often than not.
"How to" Videos and information regarding Twitch are INCREDIBLY repetitive (and often unpleasant) - I've taken to watching a LOT of 'how to improve your twitch channel' or 'how to better interact with your audience on Twitch' videos when I'm not streaming. I devour tons of information about streaming lately, everything from what the best equipment is to the best social networking sites to 'market' yourself and your channel... to simple things like how to keep your chat talking, and I see a TON of similarities out there. Sometimes these can be positive, other times... not so much.
Here are a couple points I'd like to address regarding the 'negative' advice given:
-If you want to be popular, you have to stream CONSTANTLY and completely abandon your life and responsibilities outside of your stream - I don't personally believe this is true. I mean, sure, if you want to do that you can, and I'm positive that you'll grow a LOT faster if you do... but I see no reason to abandon my real life in order to grow my community on Twitch. It'll grow at my rate, which is three times a week (more if I can manage it). There are bonuses to streaming all the time but frankly, I believe that the damage you can do to your health and your relationships outside of Twitch outweigh any possible gain in your channel. So every time I hear this, I tend to just roll my eyes at this point. If you REALLY want your people to know YOU and you're not the type of person to stream every day for 8-12-16 hours a day? Don't push yourself, don't do it 'for the community' because it's just going to wear you out and drive you nuts in the long run.
-If you're a female streamer, you'd better be HOT, otherwise you'll be ignored - This... honestly... really pisses me off. I've run across news about 'camgirls' (or internet whores) joining twitch as 'fake gamergirls' who'll wear low cut shirts and flirt shamelessly with their community and that's fine for them, I don't really care one way or the other, as long as no one's getting hurt... but since the influx of these 'twitch whores' ANY attractive female gamer on Twitch is regularly called out and mocked simply because it's assumed that they are a 'fake gamergirl' or a 'twitch whore'... Seriously, google 'twitch whore' and it's upsetting what comes up. So, to tell women that they SHOULD BE attractive if they want a following while simultaneously crucifying all attractive female twitch streamers is a bunch of bullshit, if you ask me (I know you didn't, but you're reading this.. so nyah :p).
I get it, people want to see skinny women with ample curves, in ill-covering garments.. but there are plenty of porn sites out there. Sure, there's a bonus for being attractive, just like there is in any industry (especially in the United States) but until men are told that they'd better be RIPPED or they'll be ignored, this particular subject is going to piss me off. Yeah, yeah, I know, the hot guys do get a reasonable following... but there are guys out there on twitch who have pretty average looks, or even less than average (by US Media standards) and yet they have AMAZING followings because oh... they're cool, they have a great rapport with their community, and they're usually pretty good gamers... I'm just sick of the sexist bullshit. (this has nothing to do with my gender, mind you, I just really hate this shit).
And, last but not least;
-If you're streaming you shouldn't ever get up and leave the computer for longer than a couple minutes - I'm not condoning a 45 minute break with a BRB screen up and music playing because, yeah, people are going to get bored and leave, and god forbid you AFK leaving behind nothing but an empty chair and a pause screen for your game.. Even -I- HATE that... Anyway yeah, sometimes people are going to wander off if you AFK, it's just what happens, but there will also be people that stick around even if you pause for 10-15-20 minutes to get up and walk around. It is NOT healthy to sit for 8-12 hours a day, even sitting for 3-4 hours straight isn't the best idea. Unless you have a standing desk with a stool for when you exhaust yourself and your feet hurt too much to stand, or one of those pedal thingies under your desk where you can keep your legs moving constantly, you're placing yourself at risk of DVT, compressed vertebrae in your spine, nerve damage, and all sorts of other injuries... Trust me, I've worked at a computer for most of the last decade, I've managed to avoid DVT so far but I have sciatica from hell and nerve damage in my lower back and both legs just from sitting in one spot for hours on end and never moving for more than a minute or two to race to the bathroom and back. It's not good for you, it's not healthy, and it's not worth saving the few viewers that have the attention span of goldfish and can't hold on for a little while so you can get up, get what you need to do done, and walk around a bit.
Ok, back on track with the other stuff...
Social Networking is confusing and way more complicated than I ever expected - I've never really been a huge fan of Social Networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc), mostly because I'm not a social creature. So suddenly I've found myself forced to learn how best to interact with, and utilize, sites like Facebook, Twitter, Discord, CGN, and MORE! I am honestly involved with more social networking sites RIGHT NOW than ever before in my life. I try desperately to keep them updated, I finally got my own Page on Facebook (not profile, though I have one of those too) and that's just another thing that I need to remember to update with my 'now streaming' notices. I really need to get one of the sites/programs that can just update multiple social networking sites running before I lose my mind. It's so hard to keep everything updated... BUT for a small channel that's just starting out it's VERY necessary, otherwise you could be missing out on people that might be interested.. if they had any clue who you are. Social Networking sites are a nightmare, but they make things a lot easier than they would be if you're just signing on to stream without telling people you exist. A necessary evil, to be sure.
"Followers", like "Views", mean diddly squat - I've been streaming for 2 months... At this point in time, I have 40 Followers and an accumulated 331 viewer count on my channel. Yes, I'm proud of my 40 Followers, it's a great number and I'm totally thrilled by it.. HOWEVER, I have maybe 5 regular viewers. And by 'regular' I mean 'names that show up more often than anyone else on my channel so I actually recognize them'. FIVE. Out of FOURTY. Out of THREE HUNDRED AND THIRTY ONE. But you know what? I'm still proud of that number, and I'm still THRILLED to see those folks pop up in chat, just like I'm thrilled when someone new hops in, whether they chat or not, whether they drop me a follow or not. I may have social anxiety, I may be an introvert, but that doesn't mean I don't want people to pop in and enjoy the channel for a while, otherwise why would I bother streaming?
Yes, there comes a point where the appearance of having TONS of followers does help people look more 'legit' and everyone loves to see their follower count climb (I'm no exception) but just because you have 10,000 followers doesn't mean you're going to have a bunch of people hanging out every single time you stream. All it means is that 10,000 people happened to like you enough at one point or another throughout the history of your channel to drop you a follow. If your chat is dead the number of followers you have looks strange and out of place if it's that high.
I guess my point is to celebrate the little victories but always remember that it's the community that matters, not the numbers. Until you get a subscription button and then, well... I wouldn't mind having 10,000 subscribers with no one actively hanging out in chat, I'll admit that much XD
Finally, ending on a high note...
Twitch Communities are AMAZING - One of the very first things I did after I set up my channel and started streaming (and once I got twitter under control) was start hunting around for twitch-specific communities. I was incredibly nervous at first because I had no idea what to expect. I've never been super active in any kind of gaming community since my last WoW guild, which was nearly a decade ago now, so yeah... I went in blind. What I found was several communities that are absolutely incredible, very positive, and very happy to help support new streamers that're still trying to figure out their comfort zone.
I'm incredibly honored to be a part of the Streamers Online Community, as well as a member of their Pro Team. They're all awesome people and it's a lot of fun to hang out with them. I'm looking forward to doing multiplayer and co-op games in the future.. and saving up for games that will make that a bit easier and more interesting.
Also, the TwitchSharing Discord community is a ton of fun. I've met so many great streamers with warm and funny personalities through that particular community. It makes things a lot more interesting and generally more engaging for me on a daily basis.
Finally, CGN is a unique and welcoming gamer community that makes networking with other gamers a lot simpler since we're not being drowned out by retweet bots on twitter all the time. It's a comfortable environment to chill and hang out in the forums. They have their own streaming setup as well so it just makes life a little easier for the rest of us.
I know I've mentioned a couple of these communities before but they're still the primary ones I'm a part of and they make my life genuinely more interesting and fun every single day. (Thank you guys, seriously)
So yeah.. It's been two whole months since I first poked Twitch in wide-eyed bewilderment, unsure of what the hell I was doing and, frankly, mildly terrified that I might be laughed off the stream altogether... It's been a wild ride and I'm looking forward to another two months of discoveries, horrible in-game death, and laughter. Thank you everyone that's been there to help and encourage me along the way... But most of all, thank you to those five of you who pop into my stream semi-regularly, you're all absolutely amazing to me <3