Streaming to zero viewers isn’t something to be ashamed of. Roughly 88% of active streamers have an average concurrent viewership of 0-5 viewers. Many in that group never see viewers at all. It took me about a year of floundering on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch before finally finding my footing above the 0-viewer threshold.
For those who have ambitions of climbing out of that hole, maybe I can help? Though I certainly don’t have the experience or wisdom to help you become the next Ninja, the experience I do have may be enough to get you past 0-viewer Andy status.
Using the site nobody.live for reference, I decided to watch over 100 0-viewer streams and make note of some common factors that could be holding these streamers back. Here are some common challenges I noted and some potential solutions for overcoming them!
Playing games in saturated directories
Discoverability is the single largest challenge that a Twitch streamer faces. Streams are sorted into directories where viewers are listed in order from highest-to-lowest. The vast majority of viewers who are browsing for a new stream will gravitate towards those at the top of the directory because they’re easy to reach and because the large number of viewers is a fairly strong indicator that the stream is good. Even when sorting from low-to-high, you might still be fighting for attention with hundreds of other 0-viewer streamers.
Many of the 0-viewer streams I encountered were playing the most popular games on Twitch, such as Fortnite, Call of Duty, and Minecraft. While those might be the games you really want to play, these games put you at an even larger discoverability disadvantage.
Fortnite averages about 10,000 different streamers per week. Warzone averages about 4,000 in the same time period. With Minecraft speedrunning becoming a recent craze, that category pulls over 5,000 streamers per week. With the way that Twitch’s directories work, it’s extremely unlikely – and almost physically impossible – for someone to naturally find you in any of the most popular directories. Beyond the sheer volume of streamers, all of the biggest categories are home to Twitch’s biggest superstars. Does your 0-viewer stream really have the gravity to pull viewers away from the likes of xQc, Shroud, or Pokimane?
If growing your channel is truly a priority for you, I would look into streaming games that aren’t as popular as the heaviest hitters at least some of the time. Games with fewer streamers on Twitch give you a better chance at appearing higher in the directory while also having viewers that may be more inclined to venture a bit deeper. What games in your stash could help you find a happy medium between something you want to play, something that improves your visibility, and something that has a decent-sized audience looking for streamers like you? That’s for you to figure out!
No presence outside of Twitch
Twitch’s lack of discoverability compared to other social platforms makes it imperative that you have a presence elsewhere. Whether you make YouTube videos, tweet regularly, or engage with others via Discord, using these platforms is your primary tool for drawing viewers to your channel. Heck, even a blog can be a great entry point to one’s stream if you set up a clear path for potential viewers to follow.
Many of the 0-viewer streamers I watched had empty Twitch profile pages. I also couldn’t find their names on other platforms. Fix this. Have a presence somewhere. Anywhere. Pretty much any other platform out there will help you with reach more than Twitch.
That said, you can’t just flood your social media feeds with go-live posts. No one wants to follow your advertising feed. Look at what content works on the platform and make stuff that viewers of those platforms want to see. On YouTube, produced video content is where it’s at. On Instagram, photography. On Discord, be a positive member of a community. Even on Twitch, being a positive member of another streamer’s community without being a shill for yourself can work wonders for making friendships with those who might also enjoy your work. Making yourself valuable to others on platforms where people will actually see you will go way farther towards building your reach than pretty much anything you’ll do on Twitch.
Room for improvement when it comes to production values
I know this one is a touchy subject. You may not have the money to buy a best-in-class microphone, a DSLR camera, and a tricked-out PC with the latest graphics card. That’s okay.
But whatever you’re using, use what you have to its full potential. I saw multiple Call of Duty streams that were a pixelated disaster and I couldn’t believe that they were being broadcasted in 1080p. If you can, adjust your bitrate or drop your resolution to output your best possible picture.
Optimizing one’s microphone was the biggest opportunity I saw for 0-viewer streamers. Simply finding the right balance between your voice and the game audio goes a long way towards hosting a more presentable stream. If you’re streaming from a PC, take the necessary steps to configure your mic so that you sound your absolute best. For console streamers, be mindful of what your mic can and can’t do. For example, if your headset mic makes a lot of noise when you move your head, try to keep your head still to minimize the noise.
Another easy thing you can improve is your use of a camera. Wherever you place it, make sure it gives viewers a clear view of your face. If the view is 10% face and 90% dirty bedroom, adjust the position of the camera so that it focuses on you.
Lighting can also greatly improve your camera image. You don’t necessarily need studio lights to improve your picture, either. Even desk lamps or other existing light fixtures in your house can greatly improve your camera image.
Overly-focused on playing video games
The common thread amongst almost every 0-viewer stream I saw is that they focused entirely on playing their games. There was no effort to offer any more value to their viewers besides pure gameplay. Even those who had cameras and microphones did nothing with them, as I came across way too many silent streamers staring blankly at their screens.
With the competition being as fierce as it is now, simply playing a video game isn’t enough to draw an audience. Millions of people are already doing that. Your stream has to offer viewers more than that. And I’m not saying that you have to buy high-end equipment, fill your room with RGB lights, or dance with every victory. Whatever it is you do, it has to be something that your viewers will find valuable.
Based on what I saw, let me offer some suggestions.
Talk way more
Your voice is your most valuable asset as a streamer. No one sounds like you. No one has the exact same ideas to share. No one reacts to in-game events quite like you do.
A large portion of 0-viewer streamers aren’t showcasing any of that. They sit in silence for minutes at a time, which isn’t going to cut it if you aim to grow your channel. Chatting with your friends via voice chat while being completely oblivious to your audience probably isn’t going to cut it, either.
You have to talk with your audience way more. Even when there isn’t one. If anything, it’s most important to keep talking when no one is there. The Twitch viewer count doesn’t update in real time, which means that viewers will come-and-go long before you see the number go up because they expect you to drive the conversation. Even if that means you’re talking to yourself for a while, this is a necessary step streamers take in order to pull viewers into the conversation.
Actually make good use of your camera
Just having a camera isn’t good enough. Almost everyone I saw with a camera basically used it to show themselves staring blankly at their screens, never acknowledging the audience.
Look directly into the camera as often as you can as you chat. Making eye contact with your audience goes a long way towards building a connection and creating the sensation that you’re directly interacting with your audience.
If you don’t have a green screen, decorate your background! Art, plushies, vinyl records, any sort of decor that showcases your interests and personality goes a long way towards giving viewers a better idea of who you are and why they should care about you.
There’s so much more you can do to create great content with your camera. I routinely share video games, toys, comics, and other geeky things I buy during breaks in the action. In one of my more memorable moments, I took a bite out of mint chocolate chip ice cream. It’s not one of my favourites and it showed! Moments like this add so much value to your audience and are inherently unique to you. Find ways of using your camera to create great content!
Go above and beyond with your gameplay
Simply playing games at an average or even above average level doesn’t make for compelling content for most viewers. Between thousands of other live streamers playing the same games, countless VODs, and their ability to play those games themselves, a pedestrian playthrough of an RPG or a series of battle royale matches isn’t worth much to viewers on their own.
If you want viewers to care about your gameplay, you have to go above and beyond. Being a literal pro at the game can do the trick, but most of us don’t have that talent. Thankfully, you don’t have to be in order to spice things up.
For years now, Tetris 99 has been a go-to streaming game for me. The reason it works is because I run open lobbies that allow viewers to play with me. Even if I’m rarely the best player on my own stream, it draws players of all skill levels for the competition, comradery, and the ongoing conversations I lead. Any game with online multiplayer gives you the opportunity to create this type of interaction.
Challenges are a great way of adding stakes to your gameplay. Speedruns work well, even if you’re not great to start. Watching someone hone their skills as they chase a record can make for compelling content. In the world of Pokemon, Nuzlocke challenges and shiny hunting are popular. For The Sims, something like the 100-baby challenge. Whatever game you’re playing, find a way to raise the stakes!
You don’t even have to get that extreme. For my Stardew Valley series, I leaned heavily into building the lore around my romance with Haley. I made fake phone calls. We wrote songs for her. I even gave her the ability to chat on-stream and dunk on me even when we weren’t interacting with each other in the game.
Haley and I’s most iconic interaction even inspired artist Heather Agoncillo to create an animated short based on this event. It still boggles my mind that my gameplay inspired someone to create a mini-anime about it, but these things are possible when you go the extra mile!
When I stream Street Fighter V, I use the time between matches to provide analysis on the match that just happened. Whether I win or lose may get tiring after a while, but there will always be value in me using that time between matches to analyze each match in detail, outlining what decisions most influenced the outcome.
Whatever that value add, find something you can do to make your gameplay more valuable than the next person playing the same games as you.
Climbing out of the 0-viewer hole is tough, but not impossible. You’ve just got to work for it. And no, work doesn’t necessarily mean streaming 24/7 doing the same things that have gotten you to this point. It doesn’t necessarily mean buying a ton of new equipment, either.
What work actually means is that you have to work to expand your reach. Get your name out there by being a positive presence on other platforms. Pick games where people can actually find you in the Twitch directory. Make improvements to your production quality where you can. And most importantly, take control of your content. Don’t let your button presses dictate all of your value. Use your voice, your face, and your ideas to make content that they can only get from you.
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