[This post is part of a blogging collaboration by Later Levels and Hundstrasse called #BloggersWhoStream. Make sure to give them both credit and follow the hashtag on Twitter for more posts from the community!]
When it comes to streaming, I value the human connection that can be created during a show above all else. It’s incredible when viewers from around the world come by to talk about mutual interests, partake in healthy debates, share life stories, and provide support for one another. It doesn’t take much for this magic to happen, as some of my most memorable streams involved just one viewer in the chat.
Creating that human connection is difficult when streaming to an empty room. For most, the room is empty more often than not. This is a top-heavy medium where the majority of the audience watches just a handful of creators. It’s so uneven that about 89% of active streamers average less than three viewers a stream.
Furthermore, the top 5,000 streamers garner 74% of all watch time. With over 3,000,000 active streamers per month, that leaves 99.84% of active streamers with only 26% of the watch time pie. This creates an environment where tens of thousands of streamers are broadcasting to zero viewers at any given time. Just with Fortnite alone, sort by streams with the lowest viewer counts first and you’ll unearth thousands of streamers without a viewer.
I’m not immune to this phenomenon. There are times when my viewer counter stays at zero for the duration of a stream. It’s actually an improvement over 2017, where I pretty much went the entire year without anyone noticing me. Even so, the feeling of opening yourself up to the world and no one caring is…one of the most demoralizing experiences I’ve gone through as a creator.
The dynamics of streaming make this hit differently from a blog post failing to gain any traction. When a blog post doesn’t get any attention, there isn’t a webcam glued to my face, capturing my disappointment in real time. You won’t tune into my blog and see me awkwardly sitting there on the other end, trying to act cool while hoping you’ll read a post. I’m off living my life somewhere else. On a stream with no viewers, I have to put on a brave face, hoping that someone will give me a chance.
(ABOVE: I completed an expert difficulty run in Tetris Effect without any deaths and it attracted a total of 0 viewers. Look at that empty chat!)
If you’re just starting out, streaming to an empty room is inevitable. Probably the norm. It sucks and I hate that feeling with a passion. Though streaming to zero viewers is a part of the grind, I don’t blame anyone that quits streaming after going through that a few times. It takes so much work to set up a stream and it requires hours of your time in front of and behind a camera.
Furthermore, you’ll discover fairly quickly that the act of streaming and the act of gaming are two wildly different disciplines. Putting together a show that’s technically stable and provides value to a live audience is a much different beast from landing headshots, saving the universe, or stacking blocks in a well. This streaming life isn’t for everyone and it’s okay to walk away from it.
Whether you decide to continue or stop, just know that you’re not a loser for streaming to zero people. You’re not alone. You’re in the majority. Even with a nonexistent audience, it doesn’t mean that you or your stream are worthless. Virtually every streamer has done so at times without an audience. Thousands of others are doing so right now as I type this.
For those who want to push through, focus on raising awareness about your stream and improving the quality of your content. Most streaming platforms are horrible for discovery, making it crucial that you promote your stream on other platforms, such as YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and your own blog if you have one. Heck, I signed up for Tik Tok and Byte just in case.
Once you get viewers there, make sure your show provides value. Viewers watch streamers because they feel that their time is well spent on the value that streamer provides. What are you doing to make your stream worthwhile? I find it easiest to categorize value in these terms:
- Education – Could be video game news, strategy guides, how to bake the perfect cookies, any knowledge that you can offer that viewers want to learn more about
- Motivation – Uplifting the spirits of your viewers so they feel ready to take on any challenge
- Entertainment – The most “classic” form of value. This encompasses things like high-level gameplay, commentary, cracking jokes, playing your own music behind your gameplay, fun notifications when someone follows the channel, speed-running, taste tests, 100 Baby Challenges, singing, and other forms of content that would fit under the broad scope of entertainment
- Relational – Whether your viewers are actively engaging with you in the chat or are lurking in the background, you can provide value by being a friend or companion to your audience. Radio personalities are great at creating that companionship even though it’s a one-way medium. Viewers can interact with you directly through the chat, making your ability to connect with others even more valuable.
Credit to Ashnicrist for creating these pillars of value. I added my own blurbs to expand on these points.
Looking at that list, how does your stream provide value within these buckets? You may specialize in one, though you’re probably providing value through some mix of all four. Really take the time to think about all of the ways your stream will provide value to others. At the end of the day, you want your viewers to feel like they got a great value in exchange for their time. When they feel that way, they’re more likely to come back for the next one.
I understand that figuring out that mix is a challenge that you’ll spend the rest of your streaming career trying to answer. In the immediate term, do this one thing:
Talk. A lot.
Your voice and the words you say with it are the most valuable things you provide as a streamer. This is your primary tool that will separate you for everyone else playing that exact same game. Whether there are 100 people watching or zero, talk constantly. Of course, there might be moments where silence is golden, such as during gameplay moments that require an intense level of concentration. Most of the time though, you should be talking about something. Anything. That is your value.
If you watch any of my streams, you’ll notice that I talk for hours at a time, doing my absolute best to keep a conversation going. I prepare talking points and am ready to talk about almost anything at length for the purposes of providing value beyond the game itself.
Don’t rely on the viewer counter to know when to speak. It’s so slow to update that viewers can easily come-and-go before you know it. If you wait for that viewer counter to go up before speaking, their first impression of your stream is that you’re just another streamer whose only value proposition is the same gameplay that everyone else has. By talking throughout, you are always adding your unique twist on the action while inviting potential viewers to join the conversation.
In an absolute worst-case scenario where no one shows up, all of those bits where you talked can be re-purposed as valuable stream highlights to be shared on YouTube or social media. This gives you more opportunities to attract viewers with the same content. Even if you do have an audience, these highlights also work for staying engaged with your audience who may not have seen everything you’ve ever done.
Not sure what to say? Here’s a few suggestions on what types of things you can say to keep the conversation going, even if it is a conversation with yourself. Just through talking, you put yourself in a much better position to win over viewer #1.
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