WOO I GOT MY FIRST FOLLOWERS!
Awesome! You got some people in the door, and they decided they liked you or your content enough to follow it! Retaining Your Followers should be easy! Everything's smooth sailing from here on out. Sky's the limit. Only... most of them didn't come back the next day, did they? Don't worry. This is normal. It's not necessarily your fault. So how the hell do we encourage people to keep coming back to our shows?
Retaining Your Followers
To start off, let's begin by saying that across almost ALL of Twitch, viewer retention is about 1-2% of your total follower count, regardless of the form and quality of the content. The highest single-streamer channels maintain about 4% retention. Above that you'll see tournaments, embedded streams, company-hosted streams (think Bungie or Riot), and streamers with large YouTube followings. In other words, there's only so much one person can do.
Everything from here on out should be filtered with that statistic in mind. To run that data I ran through 900 samples of Partnered streamers (the top 1%). This is the retention of the people who know what they're doing. It also begs repeating that even the top coaches only retain a maximum of 1.6% of their total follower count as their concurrent viewership. No different from the streamer population. Each streamer was unique, and each had their own strategies for how to create their content and grow their audience. That didn't change the fact that no matter the strategy or the content, the retention was just like everyone else's.
Why should we continue discussing this then?
Misplaced hope, maybe? I for one, choose to believe in the old adage "the cost of keeping a person interested is less than the cost of finding them". So let's discuss some things that have personally worked for me in the past. The following methods are anecdotal, but are my best shot at wrapping my head around the subject of Retaining Your Followers.
Retaining Your Followers by Giving People What They Came to Get
People tend to vocalize what they want out in the world. If they come into a coffee shop, the answer is crystal clear. They want coffee. For streaming it's not quite so simple. Did they come for the energy, did they come for the streamer's personality, or did they come for the game? It's definitely a mixed bag, but which of the things did people primarily stop by for? Without asking them directly, you may never find out. And for the lurkers, RIP. They wouldn't be lurking if they were telling you (don't ask, let them watch how they want to).
If you're interested in Retaining Your Followers, sometimes you have to listen to what people are telling you without them outright saying it.
1. If they ask about the game or the release dates for new content, they came for the game. You'd benefit from supplying the answer to these types of common questions, and discussing gameplay to interest this person. An ongoing supply of gaming memes, patch notes, perk or ability discussions, and basically acting just like a game community manager goes a really long way here. Get out there and follow the game's community manager and mirror what they do!
2. If someone gets involved in a discussion that's not directly about the game, they probably like your personality, or that of your community. This is someone who might even stick with you between games! People who get involved in discussions tend to want to discuss things. So keep engaging them on stream! Bonus points for coming prepared to stream, having researched news or current events to talk about. If this is difficult for you, consider writing a few notes before stream on discussion points you'd like to bring up. If they're talking, they want to be engaged with.
3. If they join your Discord, they're probably open to talking off stream, open to direct dialogue, and seeing your personal thoughts. After all, they went through additional effort to even join your Discord. They're also likely looking to get to know your community. Make sure you let your community express themselves. Give them channels for food, pets, music, memes, etc. Give them enough space to talk about the things that interest them. And believe me, if they're talking and interacting, that's INCREDIBLY rare. Make sure you acknowledge and feature their contributions whenever you can.
4. If someone DM's you, they're probably open to being messaged back. This is a person you can approach and ask what their goals are. This is someone you can help or work with! This is the type of person you can ask what they enjoy about your content, and what they'd like to see more of. It's also someone you could potentially develop a friendship with. My longest lasting friendships on Twitch have all been with people who've either DM'd me or that I've DM'd on Discord. And guess what? People who express that they care, want to be cared about too!
5. For lurkers, let's focus on what we DO know. They followed for what you did yesterday. It would probably be a good start if we began with doing some more of what made it effective! What game were you playing? What topics were you discussing? Were you really vocal? Were you especially animated? This all comes back to consistency in your game, stream tone, and schedule. If they're coming back, it stands to reason that they're going to come back for more of what they got to begin with.
Retaining Your Followers - It's a CELEBRATION!
Knowing what you're going to see when you come back to a channel counts for a lot, especially if that content is a limited-time offer. Think about tournaments, podcasts, episodic role playing content, and talk shows. These tend to be one-offs on Twitch, unless you're a person that's really into VODs. That means that if you want to see them, you usually have to tune into the stream that day. It forces viewers to prioritize that scarce, time-limited entertainment over the other streams that don't necessarily have something special going on.
Think about all the celebrations we have on Twitch. People are out here celebrating EVERYTHING. Follower milestones, birthdays, new jobs, subathons, new emotes, streamaversaries, anniversaries, game releases, sub milestones, Twitter follower milestones, Partnerversaries, Path to Partner, Affiliate celebrations, charity milestones, charity streams, duo streams, collaborations, anything with "X Pride Month"... the list continues...
Positive feedback loops work, and if you want to start Retaining Your Followers, you should use them. You go to a channel, it seems hype... so you sub, your sub busts a milestone, a new milestone pops up, and while celebrating the last milestone break, someone else comes in and thinks... "this seems hype"... and they sub. No one ever wants to miss their friends' celebrations, either. Can't miss a birthday! I can't miss my favorite streamer appearing on another channel for an interview! And nobody wants to feel pressured to explain where they were during one of these events. That's why FOMO (Fear of Missing out) is a thing. I'm not personally a fan of using it, but I wouldn't be doing this guide justice by not mentioning it.
None of these celebrations or limited time events would be effective without TELLING people the event is occurring, and spreading news of when it is. You've gotta let people know where the party's gonna happen, and what kind of cool stuff they're going to see. Dude's gonna shave his head? WHEN!? I NEED TO SEE THIS. FRIDAY!? I'LL BE THERE!
Expectation and Consistency
Expectation is a powerful thing. Exceed it and it's a massive boon. Fail to meet it, and people can feel let down or even betrayed. It's for this reason that we need to talk about expectation and consistency. We discussed consistency in another article, but I'll repeat a bit of it here. Consistency on Twitch is formed from three components: game consistency, tone consistency, and schedule consistency. Some people need all three of these things met or they will not return, and some people need only two. The combination of the two varies from person to person. For now, just be aware that by being consistent you're informing people's expectations.
How many times have you heard the following:
"Chat's quiet today." or alternatively "Chat's dead."
"You okay? You sick or something?"
"You tired? You look like you've been up all night."
"Why don't you play X game?"
"You seem less hype today."
These are all expressions you see when the streamer is breaking the viewer's expectations. And if you've streamed for a while, you know how devastating reading these things in your chat can be to your mental health. Which then affects how you communicate... which then affects how people interact... which affects your growth rate. Breaking expectations usually results in a negative feedback loop.
People don't necessarily mean to point these things out. They're not trying to express anything but what they're thinking, usually from a place of compassion. But it's important to take responsibility as a streamer for managing their expectations and consistently meeting them. This is just another reason consistency is so important. If you come in under the bar, expect some flak.
Retaining Your Followers with Variety
At the other end of the spectrum, your content should still change enough to continually be interesting. Think about your favorite movie. Even that movie gets boring if you've watched it ten times in a row. Always be cognizant of whether your content is offering enough new and engaging segments so it doesn't get stale. How can we do this!?
1. Include components that change as a result of new information. This includes release dates, game guides, new patches, new DLC, streaming news, twitter topics, changes in information, new movies, and other things that people want to be informed about happening. Social currency is a good value-add for people tuning into a stream. You want to share things with your community that they find valuable. And if you keep sharing new valuable content, that's a reason to always come back.
2. Include new guests. Podcasts have this part down pat. By including new guests in your regular content, those guests typically bring over their audiences. The topics of discussion often revolve around a subject that a guest is very comfortable with discussing. The guest gets to showcase their knowledge in front of your community, you get the exposure to theirs, and everyone gets to benefit from the expertise being shared. That's social currency as well. And social currency increases sharing.
3. Episodic content always changes. Taking streamers, or characters, and placing them in different situations keeps enough things the same while also adding variety to a show. This is basically how the entirety of GTA-RP works, but in a collective sandbox. Each character is unique, growing, evolving, and something new is ALWAYS happening to them. There's always a reason to watch a character do their thing. Dungeons and Dragons episodic content works the same way. There's always a reason to see a new episode, especially if you've become invested in the characters.
4. Variety generators. There are some shows on Twitch that have built in variety generators. Often when communities exceed a goal, a streamer who has variety generators will roll a wheel for a random outcome. Some of the ones I've seen are Perk Royale (random perk lists in Dead by Daylight), playing different characters, role playing different personalities, beanboozled, food challenges, dancing, singing, playing songs, trying new builds, next callers, Marbles on Stream, etc. They're temporary situations aside from the normal base content of the game that provide a few minutes of variety, and give people something different to shoot for. They're part of the positive feedback loop we discussed earlier, and I highly recommend having at least one for your own stream.
Retaining Your Followers by being Available to Them
This one's a bit divisive. Being available to people should only be done pursuant to your comfort level. It's okay if you're not sure about talking to every new person that direct messages you. I will tell you though, that many of my relationships have started with people asking for advice, and then over delivering on their requests. In general though, there's no penalty for helping someone. Even if you were to direct them to someone who knows more than you about a subject, you still took time for someone else's benefit. People remember things like that.
Retaining Your Followers by E-Mailing Your Twitch Subscriber List
Did you know that Twitch lets you email your subscribers? All of them. Under your creator dashboard under the analytics section, go to Channel, and then scroll over to the right and there's a sneaky little option that says "Send e-mail to my subs". If you've just gotten a massive influx of gifted subscriptions, this could be a good way to reach out to them and introduce who you are, what you do, and give them a clip as an example of the content they can expect to find with their sub.
Conclusion - Retaining Your Followers
I want to remind you that even among the best partners, 1-2% retention is the norm. This goes for all demographics, all game types, and all channel levels. But if you'd like to try to squeak out a little bit more retention, give these things we've talked about here a go.
For myself, I want to give these the old college try and offer more value to people than any other channel on Twitch. That goes for production, relational, and entertainment value. I want to help people reach their streaming goals, and I want to entertain them while doing it. Until that happens, I vow to never stop beating my noggin against the wall figuring out what works and sharing it with you guys.
Thanks for reading, boneheads. Until next time!