The Problem Might Be You
Published: February 13th, 2017
Read time: 15 minutes
Tags: Gaming, Twitch, YouTube, Content Creation
The world of content creation can be a beautiful and maddening place. When your audience is growing and people are loving what you do there is a tremendous thrill and satisfaction in looking back on what you’ve done. When you are in that place, negative comments are usually easy to shrug off because you are bombarded with positive feedback, and with people talking about how they’ve just binge-watched your archives because they are hungry for more.
But for most content creators, especially people new and struggling to build an audience for the first time, satisfaction can be a lot harder to find. The truth is that the number of people out there hoping to be the next “big thing” on Twitch or YouTube FAR exceed the number of people who actually become successful. There are over 2 million channels who have broadcast content to twitch, and less than 20 thousand who are actually partnered. That success divide on YouTube is even larger.
Some people will look at numbers like that and come away feeling like it’s impossible to get anywhere, and that’s not at all the message I’m trying to send with this article. I believe that it’s very much possible to build an audience in spite of the saturation, but it may require you to face hard truth that might be difficult to swallow:
The problem might be you.
Most of my experience in content creation is for Twitch, so my perspective relates to that the most, but the things I’m talking about here are relevant to just about any medium of content creation where there is an audience to grow. We pour our heart and our soul into the content we make. It reflects our passion, our humor, our skill, and our personality. If we put ourselves out there for everyone to see and no one turns up to watch, or you find yourself stuck at the same place unable to grow, then there is a very natural human instinct to find something else to blame that on. In the four years that I’ve been streaming on Twitch I’ve heard every excuse in the book from frustrated broadcasters who are baffled why they haven’t gotten anywhere. And the excuse tends to morph over time as new problems surface. Some people blame Twitch, for not helping small channels enough, or for having technical issues that prevent growth. Some people blame other broadcasters for “stealing” their viewers. Some people create conspiracy theories such as “Twitch doesn’t like me”, or “so-and-so must have sabotaged me”. Some people blame the larger channels for “taking” all the viewers so no one else can succeed now. On and on and on. And all of that is wrong.
Are SOME channels still growing, getting discovered, and becoming successful? Yes. Yes they are. That means that the system isn’t broken, it’s just that not everyone succeeds. Every single excuse that you dream up that doesn’t focus inward to your own content is either wrong, or is the same obstacle that someone else manged to leap over to become successful.
I hope that last sentence really sinks in because it’s probably the most important thing to realize about this entire topic. If there is a barrier standing in your way, and yet someone else is leaping right past it, shouldn’t we figure out why? It’s worth taking a look inward to your own content to figure out why what you are presenting is less appealing than the more successful channels. Let’s take a look at a few possibilities: Maybe you’re not making enough content.
It is very common to hear twitch broadcasters, myself included, telling stories about getting their start and how they were streaming for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for months on end before getting any kind of success. Many successful YouTube channels release 3 or 4 videos per day to get started. Maybe you don’t have the kind of time in your life to produce that much content and that’s okay, but understand that your odds of success rise in relation to the amount of content you make, so if you can only stream three days a week it’s going to be a LOT harder for you to get anywhere than it is for someone that can do 12 hours a day. And that doesn’t mean the system is broken. It’s just reality. Maybe you’re not funny.
Funny, or skilled, or sexy, or whatever it is you’re trying to copy from another content creator. It’s important in this field to focus on your strengths, not on what you think is going to make you popular. You don’t have to look very far on Twitch to find channels that seem to just be thin copycats of other more popular channels. This usually involves emulating the perceived strengths of the other content creators (humor, gimmicks, overlays, and whatever else) but doing a terrible job of it. For example, MANvsGAME is a popular broadcaster on Twitch and he has a deep almost gruff voice, and tends to exhibit healthy outbursts of rage at frustrating points of the games he plays. I’ve seen countless small channels clearly trying to emulate this. As if the secret to popularity is talking manly (pun intended) and yelling and swearing. MAN is successful for a lot of reasons, including his YEARS of hard work combined with genuine charisma. Not because he yells. Not because he swears. Not because he wears wrist bands. If you just try to copy his humor, or his outfit, or his microphone, and then wait for the viewers to start pouring in, you’ve already failed.
What I’m getting at is our tendency to try to emulate the strengths of others instead of focusing on your own strengths. If you’re not funny, don’t try to be funny. There are plenty of other reasons that people watch broadcasts, so don’t try to be something you’re not.
Maybe you’re too generic.
Here’s an excellent question to ask yourself: What can people get on your channel that they can’t get anywhere else? When I ask this question to casters there are two responses that are the most common. The first is basically “uh…um…well…I have no idea”, and the second is repeating things commonly found everywhere on Twitch such as “they can get a sense of community”, or “I’m very interactive”. Sorry to break it to you, but nearly every channel on twitch makes those same claims. If there are 2 million broadcasting channels on Twitch and nothing that separates your channel from everyone else’s, how on earth can you expect to grow? Don’t try to please everyone, don’t copy everyone else, and give people a REASON to watch you! And if you don’t, if you’re generic, then the problem is not the system, it’s you.
Maybe you’re too inconsistent.
I hear a lot of advice about consistency, and it’s a very common thing talked about when aspiring content creators get to ask questions to successful streamers. “Be consistent, stick to a schedule”, I’ve heard a thousand times from various people giving advice on this topic. I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly but I will be adding something to it that isn’t mentioned as often. Yes, consistency is paramount. There is statistical data that shows that if you are going live at the same time, posting your videos at the same time, and sticking to your set schedule, that you will have an easier time growing. I feel a bit awkward talking about this because it’s perhaps the thing that I have the hardest time personally doing. I’m terrible about sticking to my schedule. However, I believe 100% that I would be more successful than I am right now if I had been able to accomplish it. Furthermore, it’s even more crucial in the beginning when you’re struggling for every single advantage you can get, and the more niche your content is.
What doesn’t get talked about as often however, is constancy of delivery. Consistency of experience. Consistency of YOU. Are you showing up to the stream one day happy, bubbly, and positive, then showing up the next day cranky, angry, and sarcastic? Are you interactive one day and quiet the next? Are you energetic one day and exhausted the next? Are you bouncing in and out of character? If someone watches you today, are they going to see you next week and say “who is this, this doesn’t seem like the same person at all”?
One of the glorious things about a global internet is that niche audience can find community. No matter what your stream is about, no matter how wacky, or unusual, someone is out there that is going to love what you do. But if “what you do” is not the same day to day, you’re going to be constantly attracting then driving away all the groups of people and finding yourself without a core community. The largest channels on twitch are nearly all able to be the same “them” every time they stream. This is vital.
Maybe you’re boring.
This has some cross over with not being generic. Be careful when you think about the word “boring” in the context of streaming. It’s a highly subjective word that means drastically different things to different people. For example Dansgaming, a fellow member of our company N3RDFUSION, is softer spoken than a lot of streamers, and has a lot of focus on the game compared to other channels. This leads some people to label him as “boring”. Well, if he’s boring then how is he consistently among the largest channels on Twitch?
When I talk about boring, what I’m really saying is “managing attention span”. I could (and probably will) write an entire article on that topic alone. When a person comes into your channel for the very first time you only have moments to hook them on your channel before they click out and go somewhere else. Growth is less about convincing people to come see your stream, and more about convincing the people that do show up that they should stay and come back later. If you don’t talk for 30 seconds and those 30 seconds are the first thing they see, they are probably going to leave.
Content can take all shapes and sizes. Some of the biggest streams to ever come along are ones that don’t even have streamers, but are completely made from computer programs. I’ve even seen pirates, animated cats, and one with nothing but hand puppets. There is no right or wrong way to create content. But it has to be compelling for some reason. It might be skill, humor, drama, sex, curiosity, gimmicks, or any number of things, but SOMETHING compelling has to be going on, or people will just leave. This is one of the reasons why it’s good to try to have better production value. Plenty of the top content creators out there have low budget set ups, so it’s certainly not a requirement, but generally speaking better production value increases the amount of time you have before a new person takes off. If you have to pick just one production aspect to focus on, choose audio. Terrible audio will drive people away faster than anything else. Good production gives you time to hook people so that they don’t fire off a “this is boring” and leave.
Maybe people don’t like you.
No, I’m not telling you to be the “nice guy” of Twitch. I’m not telling you to be something you’re not. Lots of content creators go with negative persona and do just fine. Toxicity, insult, and being boastful are common with many of the top broadcasters and yet…people still like them. They like them because they have charisma. Some people are just born with a natural gift for leadership or making friends, or just have a certain spark that makes people want to be around them and…well to put it bluntly, some people are not. People with that sort of talent tend to do really well in content creation, sometimes without even trying very hard, and those who aren’t so lucky can sometimes struggle even if they are doing everything else right.
Does this mean that you can’t be a good content creator without being born with an extra share of charisma? No, it absolutely does NOT mean that. I can point to numerous very successful streamers who I wouldn’t describe as particularly charismatic. But it might mean you need to rely more heavily on other talents.
Lets break this down with a nerdy analogy. If you were a Dungeon & Dragons character, what would your Charisma score be? Are you the pretty boy paladin with a natural 19, or are you more of the half orc with a 6? The paladin could walk into a crowded market, stand on a soapbox, and with only a few words and a persuasion skill check, have the attention of the whole crowd and have them eager to hear more. But what about the orc? If the orc sees what the paladin is doing and goes in there and tries to be like the paladin, they will fail miserably, and people will run away. Does that mean that the orc can’t draw a crowd or get people’s attention? Not at all but they need to focus on their own talents and not pretend to be something they aren’t. Don’t use your Charisma check, use your strength check! They might need to walk into the market, rip the bronze statue from the fountain and hoist it overhead with their strength score of 20. That would get people’s attention! I see a large number of orcs on Twitch pretending to be paladins, who are completely baffled why it’s not working for them.
In addition to being yourself and focusing on your own talents, the other point I’m trying to make with this analogy is that people don’t have to like the orc in order for the orc to draw a crowd but they are going to have to use different tactics.
Now let’s level up this nerdy analogy by talking about your charisma modifier. Each person has some sort of natural charisma that is just there, and I can’t give you advice about how to change something you’re essentially just born with. However, there are a whole host of things that present themselves as charisma modifiers that might be affecting you. Ever seen a streamer who has five times their normal viewers because they have early access to a game everyone wants? That’s a positive charisma modifier. Have a unique talent? Positive modifier. Highly skilled at a certain game? Positive modifier. Excellent production value? Positive modifier. The list goes on, and if you look for it you will start to see many examples out there of things that broadcasters use to add a modifier that is NOT just their natural born charisma. Boost that score as much as you can!
Sadly, this works in reverse too. If you are struggling to grow, especially if others around you ARE growing, you might be affected by negative modifiers. For example, how tired are you? Have a terrible night’s sleep then show up to the stream cranky, off, and not your usual self? Boom, negative modifier. Hangry? Negative modifier. Just had an argument with your significant other right before the stream? Negative modifier. Untreated depression? Negative modifier. Salty about not being partnered yet? Negative modifier. Stressed out about how many followers you got today, or what the view count is, or how many tips you’ve gotten? Negative modifier.
I feel so strongly in the concept of broadcasters giving themselves negative charisma modifiers that I will go so far as to say that if things in your life are piling up a large stack of them, ESPECIALLY regarding stress over numbers, that will always be the biggest problem standing in your way of success, regardless of what other challenges you might be facing. People won’t like you if you’re in that negative state of mind. Watching you will remind them of all the real life crap that they are they’re trying to forget about and they will suddenly be tired and heading off to bed instead of sacrificing their own sleep to avoid missing a single moment.
Maybe there’s still hope.
In spite of the somewhat pointed section headers of this article, it is not at all my intention to tear anyone down. Taking a good solid look at your own content can be a rewarding experience as long as you know what to look for and you’re willing to be honest about what you might need to improve on. Don’t look for excuses or try to shift blame on to someone else. If you need improving, own that. My sincere hope is that after reading this article, you have more specific things to watch for and reach toward, and that instead feeling defeated, you reach for the stars!