Five Year Plan
One of the first questions you need to ask yourself when considering how you want to approach growth on your stream is “Where do you see yourself in five years?” This may seem like a silly question to some of you who just want to stream as a side hobby. But to those who are looking to take this as a serious career path, figuring out what your five year plan looks like is pretty essential to strong stream growth. If you’re someone who plays competitive games at a high level, can you see yourself being at the top of your game five years from now? Will that game even have a following in five years? If you’re a speedrunner, will you still want to be doing speedruns and only speedruns for the next five years? If you’re a personality or character streamer, can you see yourself putting on a “character” every time you boot up your stream? These are important questions to ask yourself as you plan your next five years. The more you plan and prepare, the easier transitioning your broadcasts into different phases will be.
SHORT TERM vs LONG TERM
So what exactly is the difference between a short term and long term plan? And is one always better? We’ll look to break down the effectiveness of both over different scenarios to help you make a good decision for your stream! But first let’s talk about them each briefly.
Short Term – Growth strategies on Twitch that tend to rely on one game or a specific gimmick. Can start off fast and strong, tend to slow down after time. (Examples: A League streamer that only streams one character/style, speedrunner who runs one popular game)
Long Term – Tend to be slower at first, but have more sustained growth in the long run. Many short term plans can turn into these if executed correctly. (Examples: Pro player who plays multiple kinds of games, variety streamer with a strong and loyal community, speederunner who runs multiple games)
So let’s take a deeper dive into how these plans work regarding different parts of your stream!
I’ve said many times, focusing on one to two games when you’re first starting out on Twitch is a great starting point! You can get a committed viewer base that will come back again and again. The issue is what happens when you burn out? I think about a lot of very successful League of Legend pro streamers that have transitioned to more of a variety streaming role. Their numbers were gigantic when they played in the Pro Circuit, but when they officially retired those numbers took huge hits. The ones that stayed successful were building up a brand beyond them just playing League. They weren’t just playing League all the time: they were slowly adding casual games to the mix, or even other popular competitive games. The ones that you don’t hear about anymore continued to play only League, and soon lost relevancy due to no longer being a top player. By the time they realized that their audience was dying, it was too little, too late. Their viewership was gone, and their opportunity for growth was greatly diminished.
I’ve seen this trend as part of the speedrun community as well. The speedrunners that seem to have the most success are the ones that are constantly learning new games while still doing runs of the games they are most known for. If you’re a speedrunner reading this, and you want to keep speedrunning but not grinding one type of game, expand your game list! Look for games that are similar to what you currently run. Maybe you love speedrunning, but it’s not the only thing you see yourself doing on your stream. Start incorporating more casual games into your stream at good times! Let people see you be BAD at a game! Some streamers are so self-conscious of their publicly showing off their skill level when they try something new. Relying only on skill will only get you so far. Putting yourself in a position where your personality can shine is always good for long term growth!
When I was popular for running Paper Mario back in 2013/2014, I knew that the time was coming when I wasn’t going to enjoy doing runs on a daily basis. So I did my research and found games that were similar and enjoyable! I branched out to Super Mario RPG, another Mario RPG, and found that a lot of my core audience enjoyed watching runs of this. I also knew that speedrunning would eventually burn me out. I started incorporating more blind playthroughs and races to show people I was more than just the guy that played Paper Mario and Super Mario RPG.
To put it simply, at some point you’re going to burn out or the game you play is going to lose its relevance. And you won’t be the only one who burns out. Chances are your viewers will eventually get bored of the same content as well! The longer you wait to incorporate new aspects into your stream, the more you miss out on long-term growth!
A short term plan also has very little “community” incorporated in it. It’s crazy to me that when I go into a stream that has a couple thousand viewers but can barely get a couple of hundred subs. These streamers tend to have little to no interaction outside of responding to donations or cheer. They might even get huge donations from certain viewers! They might be entertaining and able to constantly bring in new viewers into the stream, but they have a problem keeping them. Meanwhile you can go into a stream with only a couple hundred viewers but their sub numbers are in the thousands. It all comes down to the streamer. As the streamer, it’s your job to create a community that people want to be a part of. Are you engaging and talking to your stream constantly while you play your game? Do you still interact with your viewers after the stream is done via social media and community hang-out apps like Discord and Twitch Desktop? I’ve been in Discords where it feels like a group of friends hanging out having a good time, and I’ve also been in Discords where it’s barren and barely any conversation takes place. Streamers who not only bring in new viewers but bring them back because of the strong community they have built are streamers who are working on a long term plan.
The moment I started having people subscribe to me on a monthly basis, I knew that I wanted to give them as much back as I could for continuing to support the stream. I created a sub Discord and made sure to prioritize it in terms of hanging out and spending time with my viewers. I would host sub nights where I’d play games with subs both on and off stream. I gave people the opportunity to have a place to hang out once the stream was done and meet other people in the community. This led to something that extended far beyond than when I was live on Twitch. At any moment I can hop in my Discord and talk with my community and get to know them more. This sort of community engagement shows your viewers you care, and you’re not just streaming for the cash and then bailing. While I’m quick to let my viewers know that subbing does not equal friendship, I can confidently say that over time, some of those who started out subs have become actual friends whom I’ve met and spent time with.
Recently Twitch introduced a new way of subscribing called “Sub Gifting.” It’s been a feature that people have been asking for a long time. I’ve seen a ton of my streamer friends gifting out countless subs and treating it like a free sample or a way to showcase what it’s like being a sub to your channel. I love this idea! But I want to encourage streamers to not only gift subs, but use this as an opportunity to showcase what your community is all about. If people are gifted a sub and hop into your Discord and see that you barely stop by, and that barely anyone talks, there’s a high chance that they’ll thank you for the sub and then never sub again. On the flip side, if they join up and are immediately greeted by a ton of friendly viewers and a streamer that cares, the odds of them coming back are far greater! Have a plan on how you want to showcase just how awesome your community is!
Burn out is a real thing on both the streamer and viewer side of streaming. When you’re stuck playing one game, or you don’t have much of a community to talk to, it’s super easy to lose motivation in streaming! Streamers put all of their time into developing a huge stream, but eventually lost interest in what they were streaming. When the motivation is gone, the fun tends to stop as well. When you’re not having fun, why even stream?
You can see burn out and its results all over Twitch. There are countless streamers that use to average thousands of viewers but now are barely scraping by. They are incredibly inconsistent with their stream schedules, can go MIA for weeks, and when they ARE streaming, they look miserable. They bet their Twitch future all on one game, and now they don’t enjoy it. Oftentimes, they don’t have a plan on what to do next. Or maybe they play countless amounts of games, but the community they built is irritable and annoying. How many streams have thousands of viewers just spewing memes with no real substance? Dealing with that type of chat can be aggravating and stressful.
If you’re starting to see the warning signs of burn out, it’s never too late to make changes to your stream! Some viewers might get upset, complain, and leave. But there will be those who understand and want to stick around. These viewers are the ones that will form the core of your community. The sooner you make the change to your stream, the less growing pains you’ll have down the road.
Streaming is very difficult, and streaming success has a lot of luck involved. It can be really frustrating seeing growth be slower than the speed you want. Seeing others grow faster than you can be super demotivating. But slow and steady wins the race. I’ve been streaming full-time for almost five years and I’ve seen streamers come and go. Some big stars that everyone talked about have burnt out and barely stream anymore. I continued down the path of playing a lot of games and slowly building my community with each new game that I played. I knew that playing so many different games would mean some viewers would only be there for a few weeks and then never be seen again. I also knew that every new game that I played would bring new viewers in who would stick around and become a big part of my community.
You must have this growth mindset no matter the size of your stream. Don’t just be thinking about this week, or this month, or even this year. Be thinking about the big picture and about how you’re creating something you’re proud of four or five years down the road. Stay the course, plan for the long term. When you get there, you’ll be very happy you did!