Twitch TV, Social Media and Stickiness

Currently, I am working on a social media type of project and one of the things we constantly are discussing is the “stickiness” aspects of the way the application should work. For those who do not understand the concept of “stickiness,” it’s simply the idea of how users of an application consistently return and use it. Typical examples of “stickiness” in an application are comments, reviews, likes and other interactive elements. When I look over towards Twitch TV, I feel that certain people do understand this concept but most people struggle with growing their channels because they lack proper examples to engage and re-engage their audience.

It seems that people over at Twitch tend to use a certain template of highly viewed broadcasters to model their own channels over. While this method may work initially, over time the problem eventually results in lack of distinction between channels. Without a way for a broadcaster to demonstrate a unique quality as a channel to potential viewers, growing an audience ends up becoming extremely difficult. Part of the problem is that there’s a limit on the ways Twitch by itself provides tools to the broadcasters to engage their audience. Fundamentally, this tends to be centered around chat and the broadcaster themselves along with the title and game they are playing. Unfortunately, this limitation can pose issues for people who are not top notch players nor those who have managed to build presences elsewhere and are able to convert their previous audience into viewers for their channels. In short, just because you have a webcam turned on within the internet space does not simply make you the ultimate rock star.

Another major issue is how ones audience can vary but not translate into consistent numbers. For new streamers or those who see low numbers all the time, this can be very frustrating. Although you can’t demand nor expect the same people in showing up all the time, you still need to figure out how to retain them. That’s where the stickiness principle comes into play. But given the fact that the devices on Twitch are limited, how can you do more to re-engage your users?

First of all, you never want to chase people away from your channel, especially if you’re struggling to grow. You have to decide whether you want to sacrifice the numbers for the integrity of what you are broadcasting early on. If you go the latter route, you will find yourself constantly struggling at low numbers. Always remember that the way Twitch works is that your viewer numbers help propel you higher and higher up the view chain. When viewers are searching for channels to check out, they will always circle around the top channels simply because 1) they will assume that those have something interesting occurring; 2) they are too lazy to go through the list. 2) is such a critical concept and it falls under the theory of the “juice”, where links towards the top of the page have higher value on sites compared to those at the bottom (this is similar to the games you choose to play since people will want to check out the popular ones).

Another thing is to make sure people who do follow your channel will return. At the moment, the two best mechanisms for notifications are Twitter and Twitch’s inherent messaging methods. Still there is a bigger issue before that: just getting people to follow your channel and possibly other social outlets. And before that, we have the real issue at stake: how do you build a community?

When I see a lot of Twitch channels, many seem quite generic to me. I can’t tell most apart, which is why I limit myself to following only certain ones. And even when I follow certain channels, I don’t always have a desire to view them, whether they are popular or not. The one that I consistently check out, I do so because of the community and/or what the streamer has to offer. So let’s dissect these elements a bit.

First, as a viewer, I’m always searching for a theme or something that strikes my interest. From a high level, that might be a game that I’m currently very much into like a World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, Path of Exile, etc. In the case of a World of Warcraft, there are aspects of the game that I really enjoy like PVE or certain classes where I want to learn more information about them. So I often want to find people who can either help me or share my passion around that topic. That’s just to start.

In looking at the numerous channels for World of Warcraft, how can I find the right one for me? This is where the community aspect comes into play. Think about the old TV sitcom Cheers. Recall the theme song where the lyrics go, “where everyone knows your name.” To me that is community. When I go to a particular channel, I want to hang out with people I recognize and vice versa. I want to feel welcome like going to your neighborhood bar where I can “shoot the shit” with other people. More than that I want to feel comfortable and be around people who share similar views and/or passions. That’s the voice of the community.

Think about the Rocky Horror movie and the cult it has sprung. At one point, it was mostly for misfits who wanted a place to express a cathartic moment with others who probably are social outcasts (which is what people who attend these things ritualistically are perceived as). The abstract element I’m discussing is the tone/voice of your community. That’s the reason why people might be attracted to your channel in the first place.

But that’s the whole idea of a channel in the first place. The thing is you have to strive for consistency in upholding this tone. What does that mean? It means satisfying expectations. Think about TV networks such as the Food Network or the Cartoon Network. If one say I go to the Food Network while I’m eating and I see a visceral horror flick, there’s a high likelihood I will never show up again. But then again the Food Network isn’t so dumb as to do something like that (unless it’s a cross promotional event). Likewise, the Cartoon Network isn’t going to show a porno flick at 3pm right after school.

I’ve stated this before and I’m going to reiterate this aspect: create a schedule for your viewers. Once you create a schedule for your viewers, you essentially are telling them your agenda. Lets take the TV network example and put it into context here. Imagine you have no set schedule listed but some people discovered you’re on and are watching because you are playing World of Warcraft and doing some high end raiding. Now, let’s say you got pissed because something happened in the raid and you quit for the night. Then you start playing Pokemon. More than likely, you’ll lose a great number of your viewers right there. Doesn’t matter whom you are, this is a guarantee.

Let’s say though that you define your streaming schedule in advance and put it on your channel. If you stick with that schedule, there’s a better likelihood that people will more consistently show up. Why? Because they know when you are going to do something. In this world, communication is everything. You cannot just rely on Twitter and a simple title on your Twitch to do all your work. You need more mechanisms of communication to properly adjust the expectations of the people you want to be part of your community. Think about Monday Night Football. It’s an ingrained part of the American male culture because people know when it’s going to happen. And if they don’t know when or where, there is some place to find that information.

Once you create that schedule, figure out what will take place in that schedule. More than that give people a reason to show up. I mean, if you really want big numbers but are struggling, you have to give back to the community to continually attract them. It doesn’t necessarily mean giveaways (which I think lose its luster over time) but a solid reason at the very least. A good example of this was Archon the Wizard back when he was streaming full time. Every day he had events setup and the times for those events were planned. So maybe he would do Key runs in Diablo 3 with viewers from 12-3pm while Friday would be Spectrum/Whimseyshire runs. Quite honestly, what mattered was that he 1) planned out in advance what he would do; 2) provided a reason for his community to show up. Eventually, once he was able to build up his community to respectable levels, he could be a little more flexible. Still it took him a while of being consistent to get to where he was.

But let’s delve more into this “reason” portion of developing a community. The “reason” for returning is the same “reason” people should always return. But what should it be? Whatever the reason you want to provide, you should make it such that you end up becoming the one stop shop for that thing. In short, you need to figure out what 7 deadly sins your channel represents. If you haven’t read the article, you should read this piece on Techcrunch because it is invaluable to anyone who has a sense of entrepreneurship in them. And just because you’re a gamer, don’t think you’re not part of this. You’re here at my blog most likely because you want to grow your community, which is like growing a business, making the article relevant.

With that in mind, let’s switch the context a little bit and pretend that you are a business, in this case a channel, and that I am a potential investor (which I am since I do subscribe to Twitch partners and occasionally donate to those I feel really deserve the money). As a potential investor, I’m going to ask you, “Why should I put any money into you?” How would you answer that? If possibly, this is your one chance for success and making it big as a streamer/channel, how would you approach this question?

Quite honestly, I think many people would brush it off and not really care because they don’t honestly see the gaming scene as a long term profession for themselves. There’s a few channels/streamers whom I’m certain could answer this question and I would be more than happy to put money into their channels because I believe in them. But examine that question for yourself deeply. If you’re unable to answer it, you honestly should probably quit streaming if you’re aiming to do this professionally. To me it means you really have no long term vision of what you want to do with your channel outside of getting what might be perceived as easy money by just playing games. As an investor, that’s not why I want to donate.

If you are serious, then you probably can give me a very good answer. I can see someone like an Athene, for instance, talking about how he wants to utilize his gaming channel to help starving children in Africa. Or Archon the Wizard using his channel to help raise money for Autism. Those are great causes and awesome points of focus. But there’s a lot more than just charities that a stream can accomplish as long as they have a sense of a goal at the end of the day, which is what will bring people together.

The other thing you have to start becoming aware of is what people want. I think the really good streamers constantly interact with their audience because they are supplying their audience with the entertainment they lack in other media. As a person involved in social media, you need to figure out the various touch points for people to interact with you. Let’s take World of Warcraft as an example. I want to use Method’s Treckie as someone who I think has done an incredible job in cultivating a great channel. As part of Method, Treckie can be considered one of the world’s best tanks. But for me he’s possibly one of the best tank streamers around. Why? It’s the way he interacts with his audience. During his stream, he gives out tons of advice, strategies as well as having viewers participate with him in LFR and Flex raids.

Now, you might think, “Hey, of course people want to hang out with the #1 tank in the world!” But it’s a little more than that. It’s not just hanging out with the #1 tank in the world, but also being part of a group that more than likely will be carried through by someone who knows the strategies for raiding. Think about that for a second. Think about how painful at the moment getting into LFR on your own is as a DPS or being with a group of unknowns. Or not being able to do Flex because you have no guild to help you out. Or getting gear for your alts. There’s a lot that someone can get out of this by joining his raids. Heck, if he does subscriber only flexes, then that just creates more incentives for viewers to subscribe to his channel.

Also, in viewing Treckie’s Flex/LFR runs, he’s pretty good about keeping a level head most of the time with his viewers. Sure people screw up but I think he might be used to it. Main thing is that he treats the people in his group pretty decently. As a streamer, you have the responsibility to ensure that your viewers go home happy every time. Never forget that the customer is always right (first rule of business).

Another point I want to address is what I’m going to call the myth of women in gaming/streaming. I think right now there’s growing backlash from guys against female streamers where it’s perceived that female streamers “get all the viewers.” I don’t think this is necessarily true. In fact, I feel that female streamers have to struggle a LOT harder to stand out because of the constant barrage of trolls and sexism that exist in gaming. As a result, it’s automatically assumed that if a girl is hot they will get views automatically (which might partly be true). That said, just because you get views one day, does not mean you will get them the next, nor that someone might stay around for the long haul, which ultimately implies that the person probably is NOT a great streamer to begin with.

My view on the female popular streamer is more towards how females tend to be far better at employing social media than men. This is a very well known fact in the tech industry. When you look at sites like Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., some of the biggest users are in fact women. Women were the ones that adopted sites like Pinterests and are the power users of those sites. The women on Twitch that I’ve seen whom are quite popular tend to be heavy users of these social media outlets and do more to broadcast their presence compared to their male counterparts. In short, they are able to engage their audience in more ways than just streaming. The really popular ones on stream also do a lot more to engage their audience. In short, they keep them coming back.

Part of this idea revolves around a discussion I had with some coworkers on a previous social media project on how you target social media to various groups. We were focused on ecommerce and doing a Pinterest-like tool. In the end, one of the things we talked about was how in essence the human race has evolved. Men were/are hunters and women were/are gatherers. If we take this theory into Twitch and social media, imagine views/followers and subscribers as the gathering aspect.

This doesn’t mean every single woman (nor man) falls into this pattern. I’ve seen some abysmal female streamers who have no clue how to employ social media nor retain a following. That’s why they never grow. Similarly, I’ve seen some incredible male streamers who are great are gaining and retaining followers. That said, the main patterns still apply.

At the end of the day, you have to give reasons for people to come back. You need to make them feel welcome each time so that they keep coming back. Never push away; that’s not how communities are built. Welcome feedback. Don’t be a wall where “it’s my way or the highway.” If you’re into that model, you won’t get very far in this life, especially in the streaming world where the community dictates what you do. Be flexible and open with your audience. Work with them to help shape what you want to become.

Let me give you another example. One of the two people I currently subscribe to is Yoni/Rabbitbong. The reasons why I subscribe to her channel is that she provides a great deal of entertainment for me. I like her movie perks (even though I may not always like her choice of movies/tv shows), her chat constantly gives me laughs, she always acknowledges me when I stop by to say hello and I’ve been able to play alongside with her. Sounds simple, right? Quite honestly, I don’t think a lot of streamers have figured out even half of that yet, which is why they stay towards the bottom. And it’s not just the fact that she’s pretty (although that might’ve made me take notice). It’s that over time, I just grew very fond of that particular channel. Or the little banters with her and Holkan. Those elements are what keep me coming back and why I have no problem paying $5/month to continue to support her channel.

Either way, I hope people find value in this blog. It is similar to another one I wrote up but this one expatiates a little more.

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