For an indie dev with a small team, it can be overwhelming to think of everything that goes into successfully launching a game -- from actually building something unique and fun to picking the right art style. By the time you get close to launch and have to think about how to market the game, it can seem like a herculean task. Should you have an advertising strategy? Should you work with influencers and, if so, where do you start? How do you manage and grow a community on social media? By the time you’ve wound up in the Twitch wormhole of doom, you’ve probably already created an account, but have no idea what to do next.
It's easy, right? Just stream some stuff...
On paper, Twitch looks like just another social account. But it's really a different planet in comparison to Twitter and Facebook and requires significantly more time and resources to really do it right. So TL;DR, if you don’t have the time, resources, and most importantly PASSION to run it and stick to it when you’re only getting a few hundred viewers per stream, get out now. Twitch isn't right for everyone, but if done right, you could end up with an incredibly loyal group of viewers and, once your game launches, customers.
Still here? Well, let's get into it then.
Step 1: Find your personality
The first and potentially the hardest part about making a successful Twitch channel is finding someone to be the “face” or “personality” of your brand. You want someone who:
- Is comfortable and likes being on camera
- Feels authentic to your brand; you don't want someone reading a script
- And most of all, you want someone who is fun, funny, or has that je ne sais quoi, or that special something that will make viewers like them and come back to watch them every week.
- Your on-camera personality might already be on your team. It could be a developer, an artist, or someone on your community team. But if not, you might consider hiring a community manager who could fill the role.
Step 2: Build a streaming schedule
Now that your channel has a personality to push it forward, you need to get out there and start creating content. Start by identifying types of content you can easily broadcast on your channel. Some ideas to consider include early development sessions, developer Q&As, new content reveals, and casual gameplay sessions.
Once you know what you’re going to stream, it's very important to create a consistent weekly schedule and stick to it. You want to train your viewers to come back at a specific time each week. If you have gameplay Wednesdays and development Fridays, make sure you have them at the same time each week. If you change your schedule week to week, it's impossible for your viewers to know when to watch you.
And don’t be afraid to start small if you can’t stream for hours each week. Commit to at least one stream per week and stick with it. Obviously, the more content you can create, the better, but it's better to be consistent than to overload your channel with content.
Step 3: Promote, promote, promote
This step seems obvious, but a lot of companies only promote their streams on their other social channels. That's a great place to start, but if you really want to see a noticeable impact in your viewership, you need to do more. Specifically, you need to find a way to promote it within your game once it launches. And if you can do promos leading up to the stream and then a notification when the stream is live, even better. This is especially key if you are planning to host tournaments or other esports events, but that's a whole other monster…
Additionally, you may be able to partner with a major brand like Alienware, who works with community members to stream a variety of games from their partners. Oftentimes, you may only need to provide a few copies of the game for coverage of your title.
Step 4: Listen to your community
You shouldn’t be shouting into a vacuum each week. If no one is watching your streams, pinpoint why. Are you trying to cover too much in one stream? Are there some “segments” that are more popular than others? Follow the numbers and see if there are ways to give viewers more of what they want and less of what they don’t. And if you don’t have enough viewers to get a good read on what’s working, ask your community on other social channels what they want from your streams. Then cater your content to what they want. The customer is always right, right?!
Step 5: Source your community for content
Your on-camera personality can’t stream 24/7, but you still need as much good-quality content on your channel as possible. Instead of overworking your on-camera talent, consider crowdsourcing content from influencers already in your community. There are drawbacks to this strategy, but it can greatly increase the amount of content on your channel and jump-start your growth.
Start small. Reach out to them to begin building a relationship. Share assets that they can use to improve their streams. Give them early information about new updates that they can share with their followers. Make them a part of your marketing strategy.
Ask yourself, are they trustworthy? Are they good brand ambassadors? If so, consider rebroadcasting their content by hosting it on your channel. Once you’ve built trust with them, invite them to stream from your account directly using a stream key. This will get you more original content and lets them promote their personal channels while feeling even closer to the development of your game.
But beware, these are still unpaid influencers. They’re usually young and can be emotional. Make sure they continue to be professional on both their channels and yours, as they are now linked to your brand as an official brand ambassador. And don’t be afraid to drop them if they are causing problems within the community.
Step 6: Learn, Rinse, and Repeat
That’s not everything, but it will get you started. Twitch is an ever-evolving platform, so keep testing and trying new things. What works for your brand might not work for others. Create your own voice and don’t be discouraged by low viewership at first. Everyone has to start somewhere. Good luck!