Branding Your Twitch Channel
The goal of this post is to explain what branding really is, how it works, and some methods that will make you stick out in the minds of people who find your channel. Branding in this context should not be confused for marketing, and is mostly related to the portions of the streamer life cycle related to FOLLOWING and RETAINING. For a new broadcaster, it's not that important and may actually hurt you. As you gain experience, it becomes increasingly vital to your growth.
New Streamers - Usernames!
If you just started, only worry about reserving your channel name on all the platforms you may use. https://www.namecheckr.com/ is a site that will help you see whether your username is available on all platforms. The only reason you want to focus on this first, is because it's essential that you make getting to your channel and remembering your name as easy as possible. Having 3 different names across 3 different services doesn't appear quite as professional as having one consistent name across each service. Also, this is the only time you can make absolutely sure of it's availability. Believe me, there are partners out there stuck with 6 different names that wish they did this when they first started.
Also avoid confusing usage of numbers that are also letters like "o" and "0", underscores, and "creative" spellings. Nobody's going to remember that you like to pronounce Sttade as "Shade". They're going to pronounce the "t's" as they would normally pronounce the rest of the English alphabet.
New Streamers - Experiment!
Part of what I'm going to talk about here is going to involve finding a niche. However, you're not going to know what your niche is as a streamer until you start experimenting. That's why I actually recommend you not worry about branding until you're sure you've got something you really really really want to do. Until you figure out what that thing is, RELISH the experimentation phase of your stream. Enjoy seeing what you like doing on camera, and what people like experiencing. If you're new, do not skip this phase. Wanna try a podcast? Great! Want to try art? Cool! Wanna do some Dark Souls runs? Awesome! Try it all out and see what you love doing most. You may even discover a combination nobody has even tried yet. Experiment now because experimenting later will be harder to do, and rebrands usually severely decrease viewership.
Overview of Branding
When we talk about branding I want you to keep two words in the back of your head. "Value" and "Memory". Branding is almost entirely composed of these two major concepts. What can people get from your content, and what will people remember when they tell others about you? That's literally the entire meat around this concept. When it starts seeming overly complicated, bring it back to those two things.
What's BAD branding?
"I want to improve the health and wellness of our Twitch community."
"I want to continue to grow my amazing community."
"My dream is to encourage others to follow their dreams and be themselves."
"My brand is creating a positive community for like-minded gamers."
"My brand is to reach every kind of person and make them happy."
These suck. I'm not gonna beat around the bush here. They're great ideals to exemplify, but they're not what a brand is built out of. The reason they suck is because they're so general, they won't serve to distinguish you from any other caster with the same brand, which is just about everyone on Twitch. It's very difficult to be remembered for being the same as every other broadcaster. It's like if someone gave you an egg, took it back, mixed it up into the original dozen, and told you to pick the one you were originally holding. Except if the dozen was literally 2.3 million other eggs.
The essence of branding is distinguishing yourself in the minds of people you meet. Say... the egg from earlier was red. Now that's an egg that would stand out, even among 2.3 million others. Of course that assumes the other eggs weren't also red...
Just remember BAD branding provides no unique value that 2.3 million other broadcasters aren't providing, and bad branding doesn't stick out in anyone's memory.
ASMR. Body painting. Podcasts. Tarot readings. Fitness. Singing. Each of these is probably bringing an example to your mind. What you remember is that person's brand. Brand is born of unique value and habit. After all... only one person can uniquely be "the best" at something. Best player. Funniest player. Most educational player. Best at this character, best at this role, etc.
Take a mental note of what you remember about a streamer when you bring them up in your brain. For myself, here's a few of the things I remember, and what YOU can do to cement a great brand in peoples' minds:
1. Is the streamer friendly or toxic, and could I DM them? Do they seem to care?
(Answer your DM's, you heathen. Answer people's questions if they're spending their time engaging with you. Help them with their goals. Ask them about themselves. Engage with your chat, always, even if it's quiet.)
2. Is the streamer honest? Or do they talk about things they don't find important for clout, or drama?
(Post to engage with your community, and also only post about what you care about, have interest in, or have expertise in.)
3. Their face (which is actually your most powerful visual branding tool), or character (dog, commander, skeleton)
(Use it for your social media, business cards, and reaction gifs.)
4. Unique appearance (hats, shirts, wigs, hair, facial hair, or unique features)
(Do you have something unique in your accessories, wardrobe, or hair/face? Do cosplay? Are really ripped or shredded? Share it or display it. Your appearance is always going to be unique, and differentiate you from others. Other people will probably like it or identify with it.)
5. Authority symbols or areas of expertise (Twitch Staff, Partner, Community Manager, Developer, Publisher, Actor, Model, Musician, Artist, Host, Photographer, Author, Comedian, Business Owner, Team Owner, Founder, Game Expert, Professional Player, and other buzzwords)
(If you're an authority on something, make sure you share it in your panels. Talk about it on stream. Make people know you're open to sharing knowledge about your area of expertise. Questions are engagement. The more the better.)
6. The streamer's main game and their place in it (education, humor, entertainment, or engagement)
(Make sure you talk about what you're trying to do. Humor: "I just want to make you guys laugh." Education: "Ok so here's how we do this, and this is why...")
7. The streamer's pets or family (if they show/talk about them)
(If you've got a cat, dog, or family then talk about how they impact your life on stream. People will be able to relate to it.)
8. The streamer's relative success on Twitch (new, growing, stagnant, shrinking)
(Shown by the vibrancy of chat.)
9. The streamer's tone or energy (language, emotes, hype level)
(Determined by how they react to game events, milestones, follows, subs, etc.)
10. Causes the streamer supports
(Support one and talk about it.)
11. Channel art/effort towards the uniqueness of their content
(Have I seen their overlays and alerts before in other places? Are they copy pasting other content? Are they upgrading over time?)
12. What are the streamer's goals?
(Talk about what your goals are. You'd be surprised by how many people would love to help you achieve them! Unless your goals are bland and generic like... "I wanna reach 200 followers." See, even goals have branding involved.)
Quickly Dissecting Primal Branding, by Patrick Hanlon
For completeness I should address this because it's cited quite often as a way to build a brand on Twitch. While there's no penalty for having these things... you're probably doing the vast majority of them already. In my opinion, their usefulness is also determined by the uniqueness of the components compared to the other streamers in the same directory. If your components to these are like everyone else's then it defeats the purpose a bit.
Anyway, here's the components:
1. Creation Story - How and why you started streaming. You already have a story. You'd just need to put it into words. This is about the only portion I find for streamers that takes additional effort. Bonus points if you can tell the story in a compelling way that gets people on board with your vision, or that people relate to. It gives them more context to connect with the streamer. Put it in your panels.
2. Creed - What you believe. You've already got a creed too, you just need to share it with your viewers. If you hate toxicity, speak against it. If you think Twitch needs more discoverability, you speak out for it. If you love your lurkers, tell them. Simple stuff. Happens naturally. Could put it in your panels, or make your social media about it.
3. Icons - These are the visual and audio. Mostly emotes, sound effects, art, and how they're used to reflect the energy of your channel. You've probably already got these.
4. Rituals - How you celebrate events like follows, bits, subs, anniversaries, birthdays, raids, hosts, new content releases, new games, and annual events or milestones. You could also say "routines" here. You're probably already doing these.
5. Language - Kappa, REKT, channel emotes, POG, etc. It's language unique to a platform or channel that represents you are a member of an in-crowd. Someone who's not in the crowd wouldn't understand the language. It's mostly the emotes, but if you repeat a catchphrase a lot or have a sound effect that plays frequently, that becomes part of the language. Surprise... this happens naturally too.
6. Non-believers - Things, people, or causes you don't see eye-to-eye with, and speak out against. Think back to the toxicity example. Toxic people would be your non-believers. Again, established naturally because it's the opposite of your creed.
7. Leader - You. The person who's determining the direction for your channel, and the purpose of what you're doing. Our leader is building this place to be X, because we want people to Y, and we're fighting against Z, a larger oppressive or unaware majority group. This will typically relate back to your creation story, and the things that uniquely identify you as a streamer.
Defining a personal brand is usually just being your authentic self, and telling it as a story (that's actually where the primal comes from, since that's how humans traditionally passed on information before writing). As an individual, there's not a huge amount of leeway here to choose what your creed is or what language you use. We've already done it, and are doing it all the time. How you choose to display it is up to you.
The Branding Questionnaire - The Best Part
Take this, and fill it out. Be honest.
Explain your channel in 30 seconds or less. Would you find your explanation memorable?
Ask another person to explain your channel in 30 seconds or less. Was their explanation memorable?
Ask a friend whether they would tell someone else to check you out for your area of expertise, or areas of expertise. Would they?
Are you trying to be the funniest, best, or most educational streamer for your game? How many others in that directory are also trying to be the same thing?
What unique value will people get by coming to your channel each day, that they can't get from any other caster in your game directory?
If multiple people in your directory are trying to be the same thing, is there a way you can further specialize? Would the new niche you've developed be too specific to meet people?
Ask someone to name three qualities they like about your channel. How fast were they able to list those three? Did you like the three qualities they listed?
Ask someone to describe your appearance. What did they list first?
Do people regularly slip into your DM's? Why or why not?
Do people recommend your content to others? Why or why not?
Are you responsive when people engage with your content? Does it take you longer than a minute to get back to viewers, or longer than 24 hours to respond to a DM?
What are your top 3 areas of expertise? What kind of titles, symbols, or awards have you obtained from being an authority in these areas? Are they displayed or discussed?
What two causes do you feel most strongly about supporting?
What's the tone of your channel? Are you coarse? Adult-language? Are you chilled out? Hype? Or does the tone switch so frequently that a singular tone is not identifiable?
Do you exemplify the tone you listed in the above question to such a degree that people remember it? Does your music? Does your art? Do your sound effects and celebrations?
Do you have family or pets? Do you speak about them, or feature them? Do you think those would make you more relatable?
What is your current goal for your stream? Do other broadcasters have the same goal? Do your viewers receive anything back for helping you achieve that goal? Do they know it?
Does your channel art reflect your channel's overall tone, and is it custom-made for you?
What made you start streaming?
Why do you keep streaming? Is this unique among broadcasters?
What stage of streaming are you at? Why? Do other people know this story?
As a leader, what are you doing to achieve your channel's goal? How do you get more people involved in helping you achieve that goal?
Have you tracked your story as a streamer thus far? Where can people read about it?
By answering these questions, your current brand should be much clearer to you. You should also have good ideas of it's level of uniqueness, and what you'd like to be able to say about your own brand. It's the best starting point you could ask for towards figuring out what you want to give to the world, and how you want to be remembered.