The point of this post is to compile a list of advice from not only myself, but other successful figures around the internet. This post is aimed at video game YouTubers and/or streamers, but you can apply these tips to anything I suppose. You can call them tips. You can call this a guide. These are people who are very popular in their different fields. They make a good income doing what they love, and they have built a great community around them.
Some things to consider beforehand:
- Manage your expectations and get comfortable. It will not happen overnight. Like many industries, overnight sensations are usually the product of years of consistency, hard work, and patience. The good news is you have time. Presumably you'll be doing this for the rest of your life. It may take a while, but it's never too late. Let's say you're 30 years old and life is a football game. You're not even at halftime. You're just starting the second quarter. Age is not a factor, patience is. Plenty of millionaires made their money clear after their prime. The younger you start the better, but only due to the lack of responsibility.
- Building a community is not for everyone. It requires skills that most people either don't have the time for or don't have the skill set for. You'll either be growing those skills or seeing if you have the potential for them.
Do NOT break the bank to get things for a stream. Start cheap. There are tons of streams that were super basic at the start and then picked up steam before the streamer invested anything crazy. There are plenty of big streamers that still have an incredibly modest setup. You can do a lot with very little.
Physical things you'll need to be a streamer:
- Computer: To create content and stream. Some consoles can stream directly from the device, but it's not very flexible in regards to options, alerts, and whatnot.
- Capture Card: If you're playing on a console and wish to use your computer to broadcast, or if you want to have a two PC setup (definitely not needed).
- Microphone: It doesn't have to be a crazy expensive mic, but you do need one. A headset mic will do just fine, but unless you are the best in the world at the game you are playing, you need to talk to your audience as well as yourself. The more you talk the better.
- Webcam: Not 100% necessary, but it does help to connect you with your audience. Random viewers are more likely to drop in if you have a webcam, plus they're super cheap nowadays. You can find a good Logitech one for under $100. It's easier to show emotion and personality with a camera. Some people opt for a green screen, but in my experience this doesn't have much to do with the success of the streamer. If anything, having interesting things in the background helps create conversation and shows your personality.
- You need enough upload speed to put on a decent broadcast. 2MB (2000 bitrate) for low activity games (side scrolling), 5mb+ (5000 bitrate) for faster games (first person shooters). Luckily most internet providers these days can handle this. You can stream at 720p and it'll look good. 1080p is overkill in most situations because not many people watch streams or YouTube in fullscreen. Most big streamers sit at 900p to sit somewhere in the middle.
Now on to the things you need to do:
- First, decide between focusing on one game or multiple. It's a lot easier to build an audience around one game than many, for the same reason that it's easier to build an audience if you do the same thing every day: consistency. When people go to your stream, they know what to expect. If you choose to be a variety streamer, you need to have a good personality.
- If you want to stream, it'll be easier if it's a game that has around 10 streamers playing it at any given time, with large varying audience sizes. That means, there's one or two above 1000 viewers, then a few in the hundred range, then a bunch less than 100. Jumping into the most popular game category with the biggest amount of streamers is a bad idea. You'll lower your chance of being randomly stumbled upon. People streaming Fortnite right now with less than 5 viewers will never climb up solely by streaming. If you do decide that a majorly popular game is the one you want to play, pay very close attention to the next couple steps because that is how you will build your stream.
- Create (at the very least) a Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitch account. They are essential to community building and reaching different audiences.
- Start creating video content on these platforms for people to use. Create guides, gameplay videos, tips & tricks, stuff like that. Use hashtags and build your social media presence first. Link to Twitch through those videos and grow a presence on those platforms. It's very hard to grow on Twitch, but easier on other platforms due to better discovery. Define yourself as an expert in the field.
- Be active on whatever game forums that you are targeting. Be active on Discords, Reddit, Twitch channels, and any other community that you can find. Contribute, answer questions, and always strive to add value.
- When you have some traction you can start to stream, but you should have a very moderate schedule. Stream 2-4 hours per day, 3-4 days per week. Don't waste your time streaming 8 hours per day for 3 people to watch you. It's not about streaming for 8 hours, it's about testing the waters and seeing how well things are transitioning from your other social media platforms. Hype up those streams on social media, give people an incentive to watch. Say, we'll be recording a video on this stream, or doing a giveaway. Don't do giveaways too often. Just once per week ($10 gift card) something light and easy.
- Create a schedule and do your best to stick to it. Do this for the same reason that television and radio did it. People will learn when you're live and they'll be more likely to just pop over to your channel when that time comes. If you're not live they'll leave and might not try again. Most people don't have alerts set for when you go live. They visit Twitch or whatever other streaming website at specific times during the day when they have time in their busy schedule. They go to streams that are usually live that they enjoy. If you're live at the same time every single day you'll have a better retention rate. If you can't do it every day, post somewhere which days you're live and at what time and stick to that schedule. Most successful mid-size streamers have a very rigid schedule and they do a good job of staying to that schedule or updating people when it changes.
- Before you turn your stream on for the day, spend 30 minutes and go around to different streamers playing your game and talk to them. Just say hi, talk a little, and then leave whenever your part of the conversation ends. You don't have to say goodbye, you can just ghost. The streamer might appreciate this, because when you say you have to leave other people watching might look at the time and decide to leave as well. Talking to streamers increases the likelihood of them hosting you should they get offline before you, and is just generally a nice thing to do. It also makes the streamer feel good when another prominent figure in the community took the time to drop by and say hi. Streamers like to be affiliated with other successful streamers, it looks better to their viewers. They'll often give you a shoutout if they like you enough. When I'm done streaming I like to host people that are also viewers of my stream. This industry is unique in that it's not every man for themself, it's a group effort.
- Collaborate with different streamers of similar size communities. Get involved in their communities. Get to know the moderators and who the regulars are. Get to know the streamer. Say hi to people coming and going. You don't need to donate or sub, simply being there and creating productive conversation helps them a lot. Don't try to change the conversation, add to it. Every streamer is looking for things to talk about. This is really important: DO NOT ASK FOR ANYTHING. Every single streamer grossly detests this. Think of it this way: You see an exciting party randomly across the street from you, so you in your infinite wisdom decide to visit the party and then you ask for the host and all of his friends who you don't know to come to the "better" party which is at your house. This makes no sense. It's not something you would do in real life, it's not something you should do as an aspiring streamer. Everyone there will not like you and you'll lose any hope of their help in the future. The best response from a streamer is that he'll ignore you. His mods and/or viewers will probably cuss you out. You might get timed out or banned. Instead, simply contribute to their community and see if they reciprocate. If they do you just found a new friend and business partner. If they don't reciprocate that's completely fine. They just don't understand how to grow or are not interested in making friends in this industry or with you. There could be a million variables as to why they don't want to send help back. This is 100% okay. If you get mad, overreact, or resent them then you'll lose your current supporters and any future help from them. People will always remember how you treat them.
- Be personal with your audience. Respond to every single comment, every single question (unless it's a troll, you should ignore them). Have a personal presence. It's an advantage you have over bigger streamers who cannot possibly connect with all of their viewers.
- Try to be as positive as you can. If you can't think of anything nice to say about a comment in chat, ignore it. You will see streamers who are big who are always negative. Keep in mind: either they are crazy good at the game they are playing and therefore their personality doesn't matter, or they are in the process of losing their viewers. People that are trending upwards are generally fun people to hang out with. No one wants to hang out with someone who complains all of the time.
- Get to know your strengths and how to use them. Figure out what gives you more viewers and use that knowledge to your advantage.
- SHOW YOUR PERSONALITY. Everyone lives in their own weird little world inside of their head. Most people are afraid to show who they really are because they're worried about what other people will think. This was essential for survival back in the day, but it's unnecessary now and it creates a very boring person. You need to show who you are so you're more relatable. Boring people don't change the world, weird people do. Talk about your flaws and vulnerabilities. Be weird. Weird is interesting, normal is boring.
- Always look to add value. What can you do to add value in what you're doing? Every post should have some purpose surrounding it, some need that you're trying to fill. If no one gets any value out of what you're posting then you're probably posting the wrong things and people won't follow you for it. Plan these things out.
- When you stream, do it with purpose. Define what you're doing, and be as consistent as you can. Random streams with random titles and random purposes won't gain much traction. You can only be random if you're already big. Anyone can put out a gameplay video these days. What separates you from the rest? Are you the most talented? Are you the funniest to be around? Are you the best at holding a conversation with your audience? Are you the best at teaching people? Are you the most attractive person doing it? If the answer is no to all of these, then you won't grow quickly. Be realistic, discover where you excel, and focus on that. Being self-aware is one of the best attributes you can have in life. Not everyone has the potential to go pro in a video game, but that doesn't mean you can't get really popular for something else within that same game. Look at it this way, maybe you weren't born to be the CEO of a huge company, but the #16 on Facebook's team is still a millionaire.
If you're doing all of that and not getting any followers or gaining traction, then you're not doing it properly or your content is just bad. Evaluate what you've done. Figure out what people liked and didn't like. Lean on the ideas that people like, stray away from things that don't grant attention.
Some additional notes:
- Everyone who is big considers themselves to be very lucky. Because of that they show a lot of gratitude and are very appreciative, which only attracts more attention. They all are adamant in saying that they didn't do it for the money. Doing anything solely for the monetary gain is a great way to burn yourself out. That's called a job. This is a long grind, even if you do it really well. If you don't enjoy doing it, you'll lose steam quickly. They say they went on the grind and somewhere something just clicked and it took off. The main thing is: it doesn't happen right away. On average a business takes 5 years to be profitable, so think about it that way. You are creating a business. It's going to take consistency and a great deal of trial and error to figure out what works for you.
- Most people seem to find success on places other than Twitch first. There have been big YouTube channels who were easily 100 videos deep before one went viral. But once one did take off, everything else was elevated as well. Consistency in your content will create this effect.
- Perspective matters. Don't consume yourself with numbers. It's about being engaged in the act of what you are fashioned to do. Most people say to hide the viewer count. Doing that allows you to be consistent in your mood. You can look back after the stream and see what happened. You can see when you had a lot of viewers vs when you had few. This doesn't directly correlate with what happened in the stream, but it does indicate things. Keep in mind that when a bigger streamer gets online you'll lose viewers. When streamers get offline you'll gain viewers. There is a constant flux of people coming and going in a stream. So a stream that has 100 viewers consistently has a ton of people coming and going.