If you are looking to become a more popular streamer on Twitch then this how-to guide on strategies to increase your viewership should help! I discuss equipment needs, scheduling, styles of streamers, how-to pick a name, social media promotion, how-to gain recognition, and some general tips to help you grow your stream!
First and foremost, I am not a popular Twitch streamer, and I don't want to pretend otherwise. I have streamed in the past, but it was only for friends. While I'm not looking to brag, I am a successful website developer. I've created a few popular websites in my past, with the inclusion of one of the largest current Hearthstone sites (Hearthstone Top Decks). While this skill set is not exactly the same as what is needed to become a popular streamer, it does share a lot of the same promotional aspects as a website.
I have also been watching streamers and Twitch for over five years now. I've watched streamers of all sizes, and I have always found consistencies with how and why they grew. I hope to impart the wisdom that I've gained from years of creating websites and watching streams onto you.
Table of Contents
- 1. Baseline Equipment Needs
- 2. Schedule
- 3. Self-Reflection
- 4. What Kind of Streamer Are You?
- 5. Picking a Name
- 6. Social Media
- 7. Networking & Building Relationships
- 8. Gaining Recognition
- 9. General Tips
Baseline Equipment Needs
Streaming has been going on for a while now, which means you won't be able to just stream on a bad computer and have a low quality stream and make it. You pretty much have to have a good set of equipment right off the bat to get anywhere. Unfortunately, this doesn't guarantee anything. It's just the baseline of what you need to have to even have a chance. While this isn't always the case, you will be at a significant disadvantage if you are lacking any of the following.
- Quality Microphone
- Doesn't have to be studio quality, but your voice needs to be heard clearly.
- Quality Video Camera (if you plan on showing your face)
- This doesn't need to look crystal clear at full resolution, but it can't be blurry or stuttering.
- Solid Internet Connection
- Can kill your stream right away. If you are lagging or disconnecting a lot, people will just leave.
- Quality Computer
- Need to be able to stream and maintain a quality frame rate while playing a game.
- A lot of people stream with a completely SEPARATE PC. They have one computer for games, and one for streaming. This isn't necessary right off the bat, but it's just an example of how far you can go with equipment.
It is very important to have a set schedule with exact times you will be online. I know it might seem like you need to stream every single day for 8+ hours right off the bat, but it's best to set a reasonable schedule. I would stick to a five to six day schedule, while going 6 - 8 hours per day (if you are going into it full-time). You don't have to do all of the hours in one sitting, a lot of streams break it up into day and night streams. However, when you are starting out you don't really have this luxury.
Before you really commit to streaming, you'll need to take an honest look at yourself and figure out if you have the right personality type for it. Some of the things like thick skin and getting used to your lack of privacy can be gotten used to over time, but other stuff is more ingrained into who you are.
Are you passionate about gaming? Most successful streamers are playing games on Twitch for 6 - 8 hours a day for 5 - 6 days a week. That should be a comfortable thing for you to do when you aren't streaming. That should be something you do already just because you love gaming. In most cases with up-and-coming successful streamers, you generally stick to one game. Is there a game you can play for months at a time for many hours a day?
Are you passionate about being an entertainer? I think one misconception people have is that all they have to do is show up and play games. This might be true if you are a top tier player of an esport or multiplayer title, but that leaves out about 99% of the population. Not only do you need to be at least an above average gamer, you will have to entertain your audience. Entertaining an audience does not only mean being funny, but that is the most common way. If you are bringing a unique idea to the table, that can also be entertaining.
If you are planning on being a Twitch streamer then you have obviously acquainted yourself with Twitch chat. At times, Twitch chat can be a great thing and you feel like you are part of a community and are experiencing fun and exciting things together. However, a lot of the time Twitch chat can be the worst of what humanity has to offer. You'll need to be prepared for that nastiness to sometimes be directed at you. Whether it is about your looks, voice, gameplay, or whatever. Anything that is available to be targeted will be targeted.
You can of course think you have thick skin, but one thing people tend to underestimate is the toll this sort of thing takes on you. While one comment here or there is pretty easy to brush off, it becomes more difficult as they add up. This is why sometimes streamers will lash out seemingly randomly at something fairly innocuous. It can just be about getting caught off-guard with a comment at the wrong time.
Streamers kind of have to be an open book with their viewers, which leads to another underestimated cost of being on Twitch... less privacy. You can choose to be less personable, and this can be fine if you are more of a skill based player. People are less interested in your life, but if you are more of an entertainer, then people will want to know more about you. This includes stuff about your husband or wife, kids, and family in general. You have to be prepared to lose a bit of your anonymity and be comfortable with people recognizing you in real life. While that stuff is relatively minor, the harder things become when you get trolls who look up your address and go down a more nefarious path. Unfortunately, these are the types of things you might have to deal with as a popular streamer.
What Kind of Streamer Are You?
There are generally two kinds of streamers when it comes to Twitch. Either you are a highly skilled gamer or an entertainer. You can be a little of both, but it's harder to get popular when you don't excel in one of these areas.
I'm going to list a few example streams for each category, you don't have to agree with them, they are general examples.
Do you beat games on the max difficulty? Do you beatdown players in multiplayer and are commonly on top of the leaderboards? If you have aspirations for esports or are already on a team then this is a strong path for you. This is the easier way to become a popular streamer, because people will watch you for your skill. You don't necessarily have to be as entertaining, but obviously if you can combine both you have the ingredients to be a big name streamer.
The key to this is that you are already on top of whatever game you play, because playing on stream can be more difficult and add pressure making you perform worse.
Are you always the funniest guy in the room? Do you make friends easily and get along with everyone? Do you enjoy being creative, acting (took drama or improv in school), and making people laugh? These are the kind of things you'll want to be good at if you are planning to be an entertaining streamer. This is actually a much harder path than being a skilled gamer. Being an entertainer can be tiring, and coming up with unique ways to engage your audience is difficult. You also need to be above average at games. People will rarely watch someone play something if they aren't good at it.
Kitboga is a prime example of this style of unique streamer who hit upon something no one else was doing. He goes on stream and calls scammers and wastes their time in amusing ways. His stream caught the eye of some mainstream media which gave him a boost in popularity.
Picking a Name
Believe it or not, picking a name is crucial. You'll want something that is relatively short and easy to remember. You don't want something that another popular streamer or personality is already famous for using. Anything one word (Ninja, Shroud, etc.) is likely taken already, but you can add a couple of letters to the end like TV, HD, or the beginning letters of whatever game you are going to play primarily (e.g., Hearthstone = HS, Counter-Strike = CS). Once you've picked that out, you'll want to grab it across all social media channels. You even might want to purchase the domain name for it so no one else can get it.
Social media is one of the largest components to creating a successful stream. Just streaming alone is never going to get you anywhere, you have to be an active promoter of yourself.
This isn't as important for building your audience, but it's important for keeping it. With streaming you are essentially creating a community, and Discord is a great way to keep your community together while you aren't streaming. It also gives you a way to interact with your more die hard fans, and they can come together and form relationships with each other.
Probably the least important platform now. Most people have one, but younger people don't tend to use it very often if at all. However, if you are fully committed to being a streamer, then you should have one and actively update it.
This is probably the most influential platform for spreading your stream. If you are hoping to gain an audience then posting clips and being active on Instagram is going to be one of the best methods for this. The audience skews fairly young, which is why Fortnite blew up on the platform. Ninja is a prime example of what Instagram can do for you, as he was one of the first bigger streamers to utilize it to its full potential (Drake found out about him via Instagram). You should be looking to post at least one or two clips (skill based or entertaining) on your Instagram every time you stream, and actively post pictures each day.
Also, make sure you have an Instagram story going always. This gets people to click on your profile more often because of the ring around your avatar. Each story only lasts 24 hours, so you need to have fresh content for it. It doesn't have to be a video. It can be an image, poll, or whatever you want.
This is not nearly as important as it used to be, but you'll still want to use it. It's a good platform for letting people know you are live, and should be used each time you go online. You'll likely want to post just about everything you are posting on Instagram to Twitter as well.
Having your content on YouTube is extremely important. There are a couple of ways to go about this. Either you create highlight videos of your stream, or you create informational content using some of your stream video or create video for it specifically.
Highlight videos are much simpler to do. Go through your stream and pick out some highlights. Put them together in a video, mention your stream in the beginning or at the end. The problem for this type of content is that there are already TONS of highlight videos out there already. This type of content is better for once you have some momentum going with your stream.
Informational content can be rather time consuming, but I think it's more likely to find traction. This type of stuff is like tutorials, so if you were playing Destiny 2, and you made a video about how-to obtain an exotic weapon. If you are a Fortnite player, you'd make a tutorial on doing some challenges for the week. This stuff is most important when new content for whatever game you are playing has arrived.
Networking & Building Relationships
This kind of sounds sleazy at first, but I don't mean it in a bad way. You shouldn't do this specifically to get more popularity, you should just be wanting to be friendly with other people trying to make it or that share interest in the same games as you. You will find in life that networking is one of the most important aspects of becoming successful. Most jobs are gained by recommendation, or your friends hearing about openings at their companies. So, spend time in chats and get to know the community. A streamer might host you, or people from chat might recognize your name when you are streaming. Making friends with people in chat gives you direct access to people you know watch streams. These are the kind of people you will want in your audience, so be friendly and don't just lurk!
You'll also want to attend events if possible (TwitchCon, PAX, BlizzCon, etc) and meet people in real life. Who knows who you might run into and have a connection with?
Bring in an Audience from Elsewhere
To me this is the "easiest" (it still isn't easy) way to become a popular Twitch streamer. What I mean by this is that you need to offer something on another platform and gain popularity so that you can then transfer that audience into watching your streams. I've seen this happen in different ways, but inevitably you have to offer something on one of the platforms that someone isn't offering. This could be things like leaking Fortnite skins/information and having a popular Twitter or Instagram, or providing written guides on Reddit and building up a following.
Win Tournaments, Compete in Events
A lot of now popular Fortnite streamers were established by doing well in events. If you consistently show up and win or place highly your name will get out there more and more. People will start to want to watch you stream, and you can increase your standing on your various social platforms. TFue, Cloakzy, Poach, and more have used this method and now have successful Fortnite streams.
This works in other games as well. Thijs from Hearthstone was mostly known for his tournament play. He started streaming consistently after a while, and is one of the largest names in the game now. Shroud built up his name in the pro Counter-Strike scene and is one of the largest streamers on the platform.
Submit Clips to Reddit
Love it or hate it, Reddit is a huge website with readers that are generally in the exact demographic that view Twitch. These are people that consume a lot of gaming content, so be sure to post any funny, skillful, or entertaining clips to the site (don't spam). It sometimes only takes one clip to help give you a boost, and that's all it takes to start you on the road to popularity.
Send in Clips to Highlight YouTube Channels
There are a lot of these "Daily Moment" style of YouTube channels out there for various games like Fortnite & Hearthstone. Submit entertaining clips you have to them in hopes that you might get featured. While this isn't necessarily going to gain you popularity, it's just another way to get your name out there.
Don't Quit Your Job or Stop Going to School
I do NOT recommend throwing away your job or your education for streaming. This is an extremely competitive market, and it is very unlikely you are going to get popular. There are thousands and thousands of people trying to create content. If you are working or in school, make those your largest focus. Do this as a hobby for as long as possible, and only think about making changes when you start to gain some traction.
As an example, Lirik was streaming full-time and attending college. He completed a Computer Science degree while being one of the largest streamers on the platform. It can be done, you just have to keep your priorities straight.
Just Start Streaming
If you have any thought on trying this out then just do it. Don't wait around and try to save up for the most expensive equipment. You need to just start streaming and get in the reps. It will take you a while to just get comfortable with a camera in your face while playing. The faster you get through these growing pains, the faster you are going to gain an audience.
Get Family & Friends to Join Your Stream
Tell everyone you know about your stream and get them to at the very least tune into your stream (they can just minimize it). It's even better if they talk in the chat, but getting your viewer number above 0 is extremely important. If you have any chance of getting the attention of anyone, then be sure you aren't sitting there with 0 viewers.
Talk Through Everything, Don't Watch Your View Count
You can't sit there quietly and play a game and expect people to want to stay. You have to just be talking constantly. It doesn't matter if people aren't there, you'll want to be doing something to make people who drop by stick around.
Stick to One Game
While being a variety streamer is likely the most healthy way to stream, it is also one of the most difficult. Either your skill has to carry over from game to game, or you just have to be an enjoyable person people want to watch play anything. It is far better to make your name in one game, and slowly try to transition over to other games. Most big streamers start off mainly playing one game, and then become popular enough to be able to switch between them.
The one problem with this is if the game isn't very popular. If the game only gets 50 or so viewers, you aren't going to really be able to grow your stream.
Jump On New Games
This sounds contradictory, but if you aren't playing one of the more popular games you will want to jump on new games. I hate to bring up Fortnite so much, but look how well being a streamer in Fortnite paid off for people. This game was not looked at as a potentially popular game, but it surprised everyone and the people who stuck with it and took the gamble were paid off hugely. A lot of new streamers popped up because of this game, and if you are lucky enough to hit the right game at the right time then you might catch the wave too.
This is also a lot easier if you already have an audience. If you can bring them over to the new game, you can potentially be in the top 5 of streamers for it. This gives you a leg up against the competition.
Read and Interact with Chat
If you are just starting you better be reading and reacting to just about every message that comes into chat. While it might get too crazy in chat to keep up with if you gain some popularity, every person that comes in and says something in chat is a potential long time viewer.
Don't Call Out Every Person Who Enters Your Chat
Again, this seems contradictory but you shouldn't call out every person that enters your chat. Lurkers are generally lurking for a reason, and if they hear their name they might just exit the stream right away. Stay calm and only interact when someone types in the chat.
Be in it for the Long Term
It is likely going to be a long and slow trudge to gain an audience. You'll start small and slowly work your way up to followers and viewers. Do not expect to blow up over night. Look at Ninja's rise, while it might seem like his popularity was instantaneous, he had streamed for 7+ years prior to blowing up.
Show Your Face
If you want to become a big streamer then you are likely going to have to show your face. It is a much harder road to not be on camera, people want to get to know you and see your reactions. It can be done, but you will have to either be very entertaining or skillful.
Have a Clean Overlay
A big mistake I see people make a lot is have too much stuff going on with their overlay. They'll have crazy animations for every follow and subscriber, donation animations with a list of recently donated, and a bunch of other extra stuff going on. While I think you should have alerts for people who follow and subscribe, a lot of the other stuff is unnecessary. No one has ever sat and watched a stream because of their overlay.
Link All of Your Social Media
Be sure you have all of the your social media links below your stream. Someone should never come to your stream and struggle to find these links. They need to be easily accessible, and this area of your stream should be clean and populated. Use a tool like this one to create some custom graphics.
The sad fact of it all is that sometimes you just have to get lucky. If you pick the right game at the right time then you might get lucky and have the game blow up. You might get hosted by a bigger streamer, you might get featured on Twitch, someone might share your clip from YouTube or Instagram. The point of this, however, is that you have to position yourself to be lucky. You need to be producing the content, streaming consistently, and adding clips to your social media for someone to find.
Also, if you do get lucky, you have to be ready to take advantage of it.