Live internet video content is changing the way we consume media. This new brand of media, known as “streaming,” is knocking down barriers that have kept traditional media as something of a closed ecosystem. Platforms like Twitch and YouTube have made it easier than ever for anyone with a camera and microphone–or even simply a laptop–to create and broadcast content.
Twitch, with its focus on livestreamed video game content, is particularly popular. More than 100 million unique viewers consume content on Twitch each month, and 2.1 million streamers use the platform to broadcast content. For the top content creators on Twitch and YouTube, streaming is a full-time job that can provide them with a good living.
It costs next to nothing to start streaming, but to grow your channel, cultivate a community and monetize your stream takes time, dedication and a certain level of production value. Getting off the ground and sticking with it can be a series of daunting tasks.
Through my years of streaming and putting on professional live internet broadcasts in the fighting game and esports space, I’ve learned a thing or two about what it takes to level up as a streamer. Here are my five tips to grow from simple streamer to big-time internet broadcaster:
Part of the beauty of streaming is that it is very accessible. In the beginning, don’t feel like you have to depend on expensive equipment like high-quality cameras and microphones. Instead, maximize your budget by focusing on good hardware that won’t break the bank, like Logitech’s C920 (a reasonably priced web camera) and the Blue Yeti or Audio-Technica AT2020 microphones.
If you’re going to be mainly streaming console games, you’ll want to consider a video capture hardware tool from Startech, Avermedia or Elgato, all of which provide good options for varying budgets.
Be consistent and keep your audience informed
Creating an ongoing schedule and streaming consistently is key. Channels that reliably stream at specific scheduled times often have more chance of being noticed. You must stick to it, too. Streamers that broadcast more than three times per week are often the most successful.
On top of being reliable and consistent, keep your audience informed about your plans and schedules. Keep your Twitch page and social media channels updated with your schedule, what games you’ll be playing and any promotions or giveaways you’re doing. This should be consistent across your social channels, from Twitch and YouTube to Facebook and Twitter. Your content and information on where to find it should be available and ubiquitous.
Convert your friends
Personal networks are great to kick-start your stream, and they can also act as a proving ground of sorts. Get your friends to watch your stream and ask them to get their friends to watch your stream. Early on, streaming to an audience of viewers you know can help get over any digital stage fright you might have and provide a safe space to work on feeling comfortable when on air.
Once you’re comfortable with an audience watching you and feel confident in your skills, tap that personal network to share your channel on their social feeds.
Engage your audience
Part of what makes livestreaming and Twitch great is that it is a two-way street. Unlike most traditional media, this is a platform not only for broadcasting, but also for engagement. Twitch streams include a chat system where viewers can talk to each other and to the streamer, and the most successful livestreams take full advantage of this.
Live engagement with your audience is key to growing your channel. Talk to your viewers when they talk to you. Ask them questions and answer theirs. Poll the chat on what you should do. Get audience feedback on whether they’re being engaged or not, and even give them a choice on what game to play next, as well as in-game decisions like which route to take, which items to buy and more.
Make sure you enjoy yourself
Fun and excitement is contagious. If you’re not having fun, that will translate to the audience. In the end, you have the final say on what happens in your stream. Don’t be afraid to choose what you want to play, don’t be afraid to ban disruptive viewers and don’t be afraid to own your stream and have fun with it.
Take these tips to heart, and you’ll find yourself having fun on stream, growing a following and building your channel in no time.
Victor “Spooky” Fontanez is a program manager for XSplit, a creator of broadcasting software for gaming and livestreaming, and he has been streaming for more than 10 years.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.