Twitch has been around for a while. Especially for gamers it has been the go-to platform to stream games and watch other people play games. Be it for entertainment, because they can’t play the game themselves or because they want to learn from the pros.
At a certain point Twitch noticed a trend among the game streamers. The streamers would be done playing games and start up programmes like Photoshop to work on, for example, a piece of their favourite game character. This was reason enough for Twitch to introduce the new /Creative channel. Since a year, on the 29th of October 2015, the creative channel has been officially launched in cooperation with Adobe and a Bob Ross marathon that can still be viewed to date (Patel, 2015).
This blog can be used by aspiring creative streamers to start and build their community around their creative work. Creative students, freelancers and maybe even working professionals can use this guide to build their stream and gain exposure for their work.
This guide is a product of my thesis research and I hope it will help both /Creative grow and give creatives a new place to showcase (and maybe even sell) their work and workflow.
Let’s get started!
First things first when it comes to streaming. It is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the platform you are about to become a part off. Take the time to watch other streamers, gamers and creatives alike. This will help you to get some ideas of what kind of streams (and streamers) that are out there and maybe borrow some ideas from them. Some streamers have a certain niche that they form their stream around. One might have the theme of being a pirate, another the world of H.P. Lovecraft.
Another benefit of watching other streamers is seeing how they interact with their viewers. Most streamers use stream alerts. This shows the streamers, and chat, that someone has followed/subscribed (for partners)/hosted/donated etc. This gives the streamer the opportunity to welcome/thank the person for whatever they did.
In short; watching other streamers can inspire you and give you ideas about your own stream.
Finding a niche for yourself does not have to be that extravagant however, some don’t even have a certain niche and just stream what they want when they want it. For creative streamers their niche lies mostly in what kind of artist they are. A digital artist does just that, creative digital paintings for example. A graphic designer focusses on creating logos or maybe motion graphics.
(Clock me to unfold)
While observing other streamers and getting ideas from them, it is wise to get involved with that streamer and his or her community. Experience for yourself what it can be like to be part of a community of people that gather in an online environment to talk and share events, thoughts, experience and work. This will give you insights on what you want your community to be.
Oldenburg talks in his book (The Great Good Place, 1997) about three places for people to gather. The first place being home and is the most important. The second place is the workplace where most of the time is spent. The third place, and most relevant for this subject, are social places like bars, coffeehouses and golf clubs (Oldenburg, 1997). Online places can be added to these third places. Streams are places where people come together to have fun, chat and experience a common interest (games or creative). Looking at stream this way explains why people gather here and can be kept in mind when building a community. You, as the streamer, are its community leader.
Community is the most important part of streaming. People that belong to a community tend to return to these streams more often because they feel they belong to it and enjoy being around like minded people with similar interests. These viewers can be referred to as ‘regulars’.
This is due to the four elements of community as described by McMillen and Chavis (1986). The four elements described are; Membership; influence; reinforcement and; Shared Emotional Connection. Membership is the feeling of belonging or of sharing a sense of personal relatedness. Influence is a sense of mattering, of making a difference to a group and the group making a difference to its members. Reinforcement is the feeling that a members needs will be met by the resources received through their membership in the group. Shared Emotional Connection, the last element, stands for the shared history and shared participation, Common places, time together and similar experiences within a community (McMillen & Chavis, 1986). These elements are all important parts of building and maintaining a community. It is advised to keep these in mind when doing so.
Social media is a very important part of growing your community. There are several social media out there that you could use but always choose the platforms you are familiar with and feel like you are able to maintain. Most streamers prefer Twitter over other social media. Facebook, for example, is mostly used by streamers for their personal life prefer to keep it that way.
A survey that has been conducted among Twitch viewers concluded that viewers preferred to use Twitter over other social media. They use Twitter to see when a streamer goes live, interact with the streamer and support them with (re)tweets (Bos, 2016).
When you have built a reasonable community, Discord can be used to interact and maintain this community when you are not streaming. Discord, if you are unfamiliar with it, is a social media platform where users can interact directly. Much like a chat program, every user can create a Discord server. There servers can contain groups with each their own subject. For a creative streamer this is especially useful. A streamer could, for example, set up a specific room for community members to share artwork, ask questions or just hangout.
When you are ready to start your own stream it is important to get a few basics. You will need streaming software like Open Broadcast Software (OBS) or Xsplit, a microphone (like a Blue Yeti) and preferably a webcam for yourself (and/or one to show your traditional work if you work with traditional media). There are loads of ways you can set up your software and multiple tutorials on how to do this can be found online.
Having a microphone and webcam is not specifically required but it is advised. A microphone allows you to communicate directly with your viewers. This helps them get a better sense of community and help them become a regular member of your community. A webcam has the same effect. It allows viewers to see who they are dealing with and see your expressions to certain events that might occur.
Additionally you will need stream branding. Stream branding is just like regular branding for, for example, a company. Your branding should be the same on all your social media so people will be able to recognize your brand and connect it to your stream.
Tip: A graphic designer could make their stream branding the topic of their first stream.
Hosting and Raiding:
After every stream it is wise to host or raid other streamers. Remember the streamers where you became a member of community earlier? Host and raid them. They have most likely become familiar with you and are more inclined to host and raid you in return if they do. If they aren’t online when you stop streaming, choose someone with a similar work field. This will increase the chance of your viewers following the hosted streamer. When you host or raid a streamer multiple times this will also increase the chance for them to host and raid you in return. Hosting and raiding other streamers, and getting hosted and raided in return, creates a cross-pollinating effect of viewers. Your viewers will start to follow them and their viewers will start to follow you.
There are several forms of hosting and raiding as described in a blogpost by Drew Harry (2015). There is Supporting, Peering and Spreading. Supporting means the host is hosting someone that is a bigger streamer than they are. Spreading means the host is a bigger streamer than the streamer being hosted and Peering means the host and the hosted are of similar size. It is advised to keep these in mind when hosting or raiding other streamers. When the goal is to get hosted in return Peering is the best practice (Harry, 2015). Smaller streamers generally don’t help your own community grow and the bigger the other streamer is, the less they are inclined to host you in return. Larger streamers generally host and raid similar sized streams, for different reasons.
Viewers like to treat streams as TV shows they can tune in to at certain moments. When you stream, people who are available during that time will start to drop in. Most people have a schedule where they have time to watch Twitch streams on certain times of the day or week. Keeping this in mind it is beneficial for a streamer to have a schedule. Depending on the target audience and where they reside, it is best to stream in the evenings. Since most viewers from Twitch come from America its best to stream according to those time zones (Quantcast.com/twitch.tv, 2016).
Viewers have answered in a survey that they mostly watch Twitch streams in the evening in their respective time zone. They also answered that they watch creative streamers three to four times a week (Bos, 2016).
With that in mind, it is best to stream three to four times a week, four to 8 hours each time. Do this on set days, start at set times and share when you go live on your social media. This will allow viewers to treat your channel as a TV show and let them become regulars, which will make them become part of your community.
There are certain things a (aspiring) streamer should never do. There is a certain etiquette to streaming and growing your channel. Some might get a little bit over exited or frustrated when building their community doesn’t go fast enough for them. They tend to link their channel in other streamers their channels. This is generally frowned upon and give you negative publicity, if any, and that will not help you grow your channel.
Research has been done where channels, big and small, have been observed. They were observed, among other things, on their policies, interaction with chat and how they received hosts and raids. A common practice was that most streamers don’t tolerate people advertising their channel in their chat. In some streams these ‘advertisers’ are immediately banned or at the very least timed out. In others they get scolded by the chat, before being banned.
Streaming on Twitch does not immediately bring in the money. Partners and fulltime streamers have the bigger chance of actually making a living off of Twitch. For creative streamers that are not partnered there are actually a few options to earn some money from streaming. This can be done by accepting donations and commissions from viewers. Most streamers have a donation button underneath their stream in the panels section that is designed in line with the channel branding. Donation buttons can be linked to third party’s, which will allow you to be notified of donations on stream. Third party’s like Streamlabs, streamtip and Muxy are good party’s to use on your stream and use PayPal to transfer transactions from the donator to the streamer.
Commissions are ways for artists to sell their work to their viewers and earn some money along with it. For students in the creative field this is also a good way to build portfolio and grow the community through word of mouth. Creative streamers are able to request a commission’s button from Twitch. This button looks the same as subscribe or follow button and allows the viewer to contact the streamer for a commission. The streamer is, however, responsible for their own interaction (contracts etc.) with the viewer requesting the commission. The streamer can do this in several ways, they could set up fixed rates for different types of work or think of an hourly rate and base every pieces on how many hours they think it will take.
Lets review what has been said.
First of all explore Twitch and gain knowledge and inspiration from other streamers. Set up your social media and your streaming necessities like OBS/Xsplit, a microphone and a webcam. Get your stream branding in order, and maybe even make this the topic of your first stream(s). Create a paypal account for donations and accept commissions for your work. Set up a schedule for yourself and stream around three to four times a week, four to eight hours each time.
When you have started building a community, set up a discord server so you can stay in touch with your viewers.
It is not always easy becoming a successful Twitch streamer. It takes time and discipline to grow a community and some streamers are more fortunate than other. Do not let this discourage you and keep on streaming. But most importantly stream because you enjoy streaming. Streaming is not for everyone and not everyone is for streaming. After all, if everyone would be streaming, there would be no people left just watch!
My name is LegacyofPie and I hope you found this guide useful and that it helps you become a Twitch creative streamer!
Bos, G. (2016). The potentials of Twitch’s creative side. Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands.
Hamilton, W. A., Garretson, O., & Kerne, A. (2014). Streaming on twitch: fostering participatory communities of play within live mixed media. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 1315-1324.