To the uninitiated, a twitch is an involuntary action that we try to avoid.
For those who are in the know, however, Twitch is the biggest gamer streaming platform on the planet.
Every year more than a billion minutes are chewed up by millions of eager viewers keen to watch their heroes play video games.
In this ultimate guide to Twitch, we discover exactly what Twitch.tv is.
We also find out what you need to get started streaming and what to do to present the best streaming experience for your fans.
What Exactly is Twitch.tv?
Twitch was born from an online reality show called Justin.tv.
The show followed the life of a guy named Justin Kan, who was just an everyday guy going about his business.
Still, the show proved to be very popular.
Along with his co-founder Emmett Shear, Kan created a video platform that made it easy for fans to stream their content online live to an interactive audience with its own chat room.
Over time, Shear put the focus on the streaming of gaming. It was at that point that it exploded in popularity. Twitch.tv was launched in 2011.
The popularity just kept growing, with fans of games like League of Legends, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite quickly becoming addicted to watching more experienced players in action.
Fans could boo or cheer their favorites, or just hang out in the chat room.
Twitch was also good news for video game makers. It provided a venue for them to make money by sharing their games directly with their fans.
During its first year, Twitch went from 3.5 to 20 million unique visitors each month. It now has hundreds of millions. In August of 2014, Amazon paid $970 million for Twitch.tv.
Twitch makes its money from traditional advertising and subscription fees. It also makes money from its trademark interactivity.
Viewers have the ability to buy Twitch Bits which they can use to do things like purchase a personal streamer for broadcast during a stream or to give votes to their favorite player.
Streamers can make money directly from fans by way of donation. The main reason that streamers build their platform, however, is to build their fanbase.
There have been quite a few streamers who have gained fame through the platform. One of them, Ninja, attracted more than 600,000 fans to a single game.
He is also making incredible money, telling CNBC that he was taking in six figures each month.
Over recent years, Twitch has expanded beyond gaming, though it remains their most popular forum. They have added IRL (In Real Life).
This platform is specifically for streamers who want to chronicle their life (a throwback to how Twitch began).
Why is Twitch so Popular?
Twitch is not the only platform that does live to stream.
In fact, there are many alternatives out there. Many Social Media platforms also have live streaming feeds.
These include Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Other platforms such as Concert Window allow gamers to go live streams to their followers.
So, why is everyone only talking about Twitch?
There are some good reasons why Twitch is so popular:
- Twitch has the best monetization opportunities.
- Twitch has a massive built-in user base which allows new streamers to quickly find new fans.
- Twitch viewers cover all age ranges, so all kinds of artists are able to find an audience on the platform. Most viewers are aged between 18 and 34. The audience includes a lot of women.
- There are a lot of musicians and music listeners on Twitch.tv.
Here is what you will need to start live streaming on Twitch:
Your computer will need to have the following minimum specs. Here is what you will need as a bare minimum:
- Processor: Intel Core i5-4670or its AMD equivalent
- 8 GB RAM
- Windows 7 or above (or Mac)
Twitch recommends that the processor runs at 3.4 GHz.
USB Audio InterfaceYou will need a mixer with a USB outlet to connect your mics and headphones to your computer. We recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB Audio Interface.
With it you get two natural-sounding Scarlett mic preamps with plenty of even gain; two instrument inputs, 1/4-inch balanced jack outputs to connect professional studio monitors and one headphone output with gain control.
Any camera that your computer will recognize will be suitable for live streaming.
A very popular option which is purpose-built for live streaming is the Logitech Pro Webcam C920, which has the following specs:
Full HD 1080p video calling (up to 1920 x 1080 pixels) with the latest version of Skype for Windows; Webcam with a 5-foot cable. 720p HD video calling (up to 1280 x 720 pixels) with supported clients. Full HD video recording (up to 1920 x 1080 pixels).Max Resolution: 1080p/30fps 720p/30fps.
Lighting & Room Background
Lighting is something that many people don’t give a second thought to. Doing so, however, can make the stream look far more professional.
Think about the amount of natural light that enters the room at the time of day that you will be streaming.
You also need to consider the lighting around you. You can invest in ring lights and studio lights.
Play around with the angles and distances until the light on your face is balanced from both sides with no harsh angles.
You will need reliable, easy to use recording software to facilitate your live streaming. The most popular is the Open Broadcaster Software (OBS).
Using OBS is as simple as selecting the source which you would like to record and then going live. OBS can record in MP4 and FLV formats.
It is a free and open-source, provides cross-platform support and provides a range of plugins to provide a better recording service. OBS has a hugely supportive community.
Live streaming is built around a community. Everyone in the community is interested in the same thing.
The very fact that they are part of a vibrant online community gives them a sense of belonging. Community is built through interactivity.
The more interactivity that is taking place between the streamer and the viewer, the stronger the community will be.
Here is an overview of how the community is built up through live streaming:
- Viewers watch and post comments in the chat window.
- Creator reads the comments and reacts to them on the video (e.g. answering questions aloud, welcoming return viewers, acknowledging follows and tips).
- Viewers can follow the channel and post comments to the chat forum.
Live streaming is very different from any other content form. Podcasts or YouTube clips need to be short and punchy.
However, live streaming is long-form. As such, it breaks nearly every rule of the internet. The average stream is about two hours long.
It takes time to build up the audience for your stream.
So, keep playing even if hardly anyone is watching. Don’t cut it short because you’ve only got a handful of viewers. Hang in there and those original viewers will give you their loyalty – and tell others about you.
Live streaming is also far more casual than YouTube or Instagram. Don’t worry about making mistakes. Many people will actually be put off by an overproduced stream.
Viewers want to see you in all your raw authenticity. This is especially the case for music streamers. Imagine that you’ve invited a few friends over and are having a jam session.
As you are building your viewer base, engagement is more important than viewership. Engagement will not just create viewers, it will create fans.
Because the content you create on Livestream is so different than any other content you put up (blogs, podcasts, YouTube, etc), it is not competing with or simply rehashing that content.
This allows you to create a network of content that all works together.
So keep doing what you are already doing on your Social Media channels and add live streaming on Twitch as another arm of your online footprint.
Live streaming is the quickest and easiest online content to create. You simply go live, play the game or music and then interact with your fans.
Then, when you are finished, you can spend some time pulling out the best snippets and sharing them on your Social Media platforms.
Take some screenshots of the funniest moments and put them on Twitter.
Of course, you should also pump up your Twitch live stream on your Social Media before the event. Encourage your followers to support you.
Then promote everything else that you are doing as you are live streaming through Twitch.
The Three Stream Levels on Twitch
There are 3 levels of the user on Twitch:
This is the entry-level for streamers. It provides all of the features apart from those linked to monetization.
That means that you are able to stream video, use chat, be watched by others and archive your streams.
Streamers are able to accept donations from viewers. However, they will be required to use a 3rd-party service to process the payment.
This is the first level of monetization with Twitch. You have to reach a preset number of viewers before you will be invited to become an affiliate.
You are now able to offer channel subscriptions to your viewers. They are also able to purchase Bits with which to buy virtual products.
As an affiliate, you will get a portion of the revenues that come in through the channel.
You will have to reach a higher average viewer number to become a partner. A partner will be able to provide more monetization features to their viewers.
Every Twitch user gets its own Channel page. This is just like a profile page on your Social Media platforms.
Even viewers who never actually live stream get a channel page. The Channel page gives you a video window, with panels below where the channel owner can load information.
To the right of the video player is a chat window. You are also able to archive your video streams so that viewers can watch them at their leisure.
Because the files can be very large, they are only archived between 14 and 60 days.
Streamers who are at the Partner level get longer stream archiving than others. However, everyone has the option of not archiving their streams at all.
Videos can be uploaded to the video page and put into easy to access collections. These uploaded videos do not have an expiration date in the same way that live streams do.
Your viewers have the ability to make custom clips of your live streams. These can be a maximum of 60 seconds in length.
It is a good idea to encourage your viewers to do this as it could be an effective way for then to promote your live stream to their social network.
Tip for Success on Twitch
- Build a solid foundation. This requires that you be patient, take your time and do things the right way, rather than the quick way.
- Be consistent. Just like all your other platforms, you need to be a consistent streamer. Your viewers thrive on constancy. If you fail to deliver it, you will soon lose your viewers.
- Go live 3-5 times per week.
- Stream for an average of 95 minutes per session.
- Commit to a schedule. This means you set your live streaming sessions to the same dates and times each week. That way your viewers can plan to watch just like they are planning to watch their favorite TV show.
- Stream during peak viewing times. These are weeknight evenings and weekday afternoons.
- Take time zones into account. If you are outside the US and most of your viewers are in the continental United States, plan to do your live streams to coincide with their peak viewing times.
- Streamline your operation. There are a lot of moving parts during a live stream, so it is vital that you are on top of everything. Make sure that you can easily see your software tools and the stream at the same time. It’s a good idea to have two monitors going so you can see both clearly.
- Do not watch your live stream as there is a delay that may muck up your level of perception.
- Don’t forget to set your OBS/XSplit to Record Your Stream!
- Set Your stream info on Twitch. This is the title of the stream, the Go Live Navigation, the category that you are streaming in, as well any tags you choose to add in order make it easier for viewers to locate you.
- Come up with a cool stream name that reflects your personality.
- Regularly update your offline banner and stream title. Use a tall banner that allows you to add info about yourself and your stream. If you have a special event, create a special offline banner to promote it.
- Brand yourself with alerts, overlays, and panels. A consistent look and feel will be more memorable and more professional.
- Make use of emotes and badges to communicate with your viewers. At the affiliate stage, you are able to self design your emotes and badges. You can either do this yourself or hire a designer to do it for you. These are great ways to interact with your audience, so make full use of them.
- Have an appealing screen layout. The visual layout of the screen should be kept simple. Make sure that your alerts do not cover a part of the stream that you want your viewers to always have access to. Create a mood with the background of your live streaming environment.
- Watch your recorded stream after the event. Most of us hate to watch ourselves, but it is essential for growth and development. Try to watch the stream from the vantage point of your audience. Look for things that you can improve upon. As you’re watching, you should also be marking snippets that you can copy and throw up on your Social Media.
Twitch is an ever-expanding platform that caters to live streamers of all varieties.
It is easily the most popular platform for gamers, while also hosting many musicians and other streamers.
In this article, we’ve provided everything you need to know in order to launch your Twitch channel and start creating a vibrant community. So, let’s get Twitchin’.