Despite being way older than most people know, live video streaming returned to the headlines last year with the arrival of Periscope and Meerkat (well, Meerkat had their time in the sun). However, something far more bizarre kicked off - the trend of videogame voyeurism and companies like Twitch, a rapidly-expanding live video streaming platform where you can watch other people play games. In a few years, Twitch became the fourth largest source of internet traffic in the US, only topped by Netflix, Google, and Apple, and was acquired by Amazon for $970 million that same year. A few people thought they were nutcases for doing so, but the insane growth of the market has made any critics look as dumb as those who said that Instagram was overpriced at a billion dollars. I wrote about games for over seven years, and I haven't seen anything take over an industry like this since World of Warcraft.

Twitch's audience is (depending on your outlook) either impressively or depressingly massive. According to their website, the platform has over 100 million unique visitors every month that spend a worrying 106 minutes daily on Twitch's platform. While it was originally started to let video gamers live stream their games, narrating them as they go, it has now expanded to include everything from live music to streaming creative artists at work. Twitch now has over 1.5 million broadcasters, an audience of over 100 million viewers, and thousands of new streamers joining every day. Streamers that get donations, sponsorships and adulation from their fans.

Entrepreneurs and marketers should be taking notice, and the latter should be working out ways to potentially get streamers as clients. Why? Because there's a market in helping them grow an audience to their channel. Want to become the first of a growing industry of what I'm going to coin as "streaming consultants"? Listen to these tips.

Create a Consistent Experience

I compare the way that people stage their Twitch streams to basic UX. If you imagine whatever it is you're staging, even if it's you in the corner talking, you should always think about that positioning, even if it's only part of your stream. And if you're one of the many that does follow-on videos, always pay attention to the replicability and the good, yet slightly buzzy UX research advice that suggests you should always be providing recognizable patterns and clarity of purpose. For those of you without the time to dig into the complexities of a piece on UX, it's all about making sure that the viewer doesn't have to face the psychological dissonance of relearning where you're looking, not being distracted by how your hands move during the stream - basically, both not ruining your first impression on new viewers and keeping them happy. It's the same as making sure your website's 'buy' button doesn't randomly migrate from the top to the bottom, except that visual mediums are far more annoying when done poorly.

Pay Attention to and Love Your Audience

The happy medium for Twitch streaming for me is someone with an audience large enough to make them care, but small enough that they can still give attention. Furthermore, you should know the kind of people who are watching. According to Twitch's website, Twitch users are 75% male, and 73% fall between the ages of 18 and 49. Want to build a successful following on Twitch? Know what kind of things they want, they're interested in, who you're targeting, and what games they play. Make sure you talk to everyone you can who's making effort - the trolls posting "kek" in your feed aren't the same as the woman who's asking you an intelligent question about an area of the game. You can build a following both by streaming great game moments but in having fun commentary and communication with your audience. This may also mean you want to play a niche game that's not been streamed much yet. A great explanation of this was written by Polygon's Richard Procter, who attempted to master Blizzard's card game Hearthstone in 30 days. He quoted Yanyuk, a well-known player, who gave sagely advice about understanding both current and future audiences:

"You have to have foresight to know something's going to blow up and get in," Yanyuk said. "I think Hearthstone is too saturated at this point. But they can definitely go into something like Overwatch, for example."

The article, written months ago, has already been dated - Twitch is overrun with Overwatch streamers. Try a new game.

Enjoy The Power of Bots

Responding to followers is key, and the bots that you can find will help a hell of a lot. Moobot is supplied by Twitch and can actively moderate the chat on your live stream for bad content, removing expletives and spam that will lower the quality of your posts. Moobot can also help you run giveaways and polls, so it's great for keeping your channel a clean while making it easier to interact with your viewers and turn them into regulars. Another bot that can help you gain more followers is Ankhbot, a fan-made toolset that allows you to give points to viewers based on certain criteria, such as posting a comment or staying on the chat for a certain length of time. Viewers can then use these points to enter giveaways or get special access to private chats or streams, providing an automated way of rewarding loyalty. A loyalty program for a Twitch stream may seem bizarre, but rewarding people who give a damn about you playing a video game is a concept that will get people to stick around.

Connect Digital Reality to Actual Reality

Real world events, just like a basic PR pitch, can be tied to whatever you're up to. ReelSEO reported that tying a live stream to a real event can boost a Twitch channel's views by 380% in a day. This can be as simple as saying "okay, a new game came out today, time to play that," or it can be as granular as planning a stream of Destiny immediately after the announcement of a new expansion. Why? Because you can then have a discourse with your viewers to say "well, what did you think of that?" while they watch you get up to something in the game. Or if it's a new game (a lot of streamers were the first to show off playing Bethesda's Doom, which didn't get released to reviewers before it hit the streets) you can be the first to let them in on something they're already considering buying. It's almost like being a thought leader, except less sleazy.

With E3 next week, you may find yourself able to boost your Twitch viewers simply by playing the right game at the right time. You'll need a follower base to start with - friends, family, Twitter followers, anyone - but once you get that, you're potentially off to the races.

Published on: Jun 9, 2016