This is by no means a starter guide but rather a few points that you can take and think about and hopefully translate into something you can use. This is more general things I’ve noticed and think can help both new streamers as well as old. I’ll probably write a starter guide with programs, tips and tricks related to branding, marketing and graphics soon.
- Our peripheral vision
- We love faces
- We have a mental image of how a stream looks
- Storytelling is always relevant
- People will put you in a category
- Use sound wisely
- Dunbar’s Number
- How things look related to trust
1. Our peripheral vision
Now this is something that actually a lot of streams already use. A bit too much at times. I think you’ve all been there. You sit down in front of your computer, turn on a random stream, and BLAM there’s a subscription/donation notification popping in from the side. You lose focus on the streamer, the game and the chat and your instantly drawn towards the moving thing in your peripheral vision. This is natural, we’re wired to react more to things in our peripheral vision than our central vision, it helped our ancestors survive (Dimitri Bayle, Unconsciously perceived fear in peripheral vision alerts the limbic system) and now I guess it help us direct our attention away from the stream and on to who donated or subscribed.
As I outlined in my article about how to rethinking the whole donation and subscription. There are different ways to do this but making it less intrusive. The whole pop-up thing is almost on the same level as a pop-up ad at this point, with dancing .gifs and flashing lights. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t thank someone for subscribing or donating. But having something that pops-in and makes a noise will disrupt the immersion and the story you’re telling. That’s the reason why there’s a those that actually turn a stream off when they see that, even if they’re invested/dedicated viewers. So do you want them to focus on your story (not the game’s story, that’s not really the reason you get dedicated viewers) or do you want them to be more aware that someone donated and subscribed?
2. We love faces
This probably won’t be a big surprise, if you’ve read a bit of psychology or marketing, that we can easily recognize faces. We even see faces where there are none, we call this pareidolia. Research have also proven that we look where faces look. Ever noticed in ads that if there’s a person in the ad that person will face towards the product.
What can we take away from this for streaming? A face is important for your brand, it’s not vital but it will help, it will help people recognize you. You can go so far as even if you have a illustrated logo or a cartoon with a face, that’s still more distinguished and remember able than text or a weird logo. Streamers like Lirik is an exception to the rule and not the rule, we want to follow the rule and just happen to become to exception and not case the exception.
Let’s talk about webcam placement for a bit. Someone mentioned, somewhere, that placing the camera so it looks as if you’re looking at the chat window is a good idea. I don’t know where they get that data from but as far as I know we follow where eyes are pointed. So if you look towards your chat, or off screen, down or up the viewer will look the same way or at least constantly loose focus on your gameplay, even if it’s subconsciously, and instead focus on where you look.
An idea would be to look in-wards your game play but have a second monitor so it looks as if you’re looking at chat on stream when you’re look at chat in your room. Another thing is eye-contact, a lot of streamers forget that they’re actually on camera and have the possibility to connect and interact directly with the viewer rather than look away and speak away from the camera. The viewer wants a personal connection with you and using eye contact is something you should add to your arsenal. Does that sound like common sense? It is, but I also know that sometimes it’s easy to forget when you play a game, have a chat window open and other things. You can get as easily distracted as anyone else, but it’s something to think about.
3. We have a mental image of how a stream looks
Everyone have a mental image of what a stream look like and that image is based on past experiences and the culture around us. That makes sense right? Then how do we take advantage of this and what are disadvantages?
Let’s start with the positive, it means it will be easier to design your OSB/Xsplit setup or your overlays. You can look at what the most common way of setting up a stream and all of a sudden your stream will feel familiar even for someone that sees it for the first time. They will know where to look for what and there won’t be any confusion what so ever. Quick pointers is to put things that are important at the top and things with less importance close to the edges (if it’s a flashing image or anything moving it doesn’t matter where it is, it will draw attention).
The negative comes when we need or want to make a change. Since it takes time to change someones mental image of a stream. A small thing like moving your webcam spot can disrupt the experience for a viewer. The same goes for any aspect of a stream that have become synonymous with how a stream can/should look. If you want to change that mental image you need to really dig deep and understand what, why and when you can change those things. It’s not as easy as just doing it, that will only cause more problems and if you keep reading you will see why.
4. Storytelling is always relevant
Everyone loves a good story, be it a book, movie or someone telling you a story. We pay attention and are able to better take in information, in other words it’s a big part of communication. Now how do we apply it to Twitch and livestreaming? You might think that it’s not a place where you can really tell a story, or at least not a personal story. Instead a lot of streamers rely on the game they’re playing to tell a story. Now that’s fine but if you want people come and watch the game, but seldom is that the case. They come to see YOU and the game.
Your story is you personal brand and where you’re journey (the classic storytelling structure in The Great Journey or a Coming Of Age) is taking you. Storytelling isn’t only what you’re talking about. It’s what you’re showing both in your overlays, panels, etc but also the image you present in all of you social media.
5. People will put you into a category
People love to put other people into categories or boxes. There’s not really much you can do about that, actually there not anything you should do about that. Instead make it the best box you can, something that will standout from any box in the same vein. Do you think you’re not in a box because you try not to be in one? Well they will put you in a box, however it will be the box they pick unless you make it clear what box you should be in.
In terms of you Twitch channel? It goes, yet again, back to your personal brand. If it’s clear it will easily categorize you and you will therefor be easier to both understand and you’ll be easier to remember. The same goes for the design of your overlays etc. if they aren’t easily categorized and reflection how, or what you’re about it will have the same effect as when they can’t categorize you.
The same goes for your graphical overlays, panels, cards etc. if they’re not working in your favor they’re working against you. In other words if they’re not telling the same story as you are putting forward you are going to loose trust, more on that later.
6. Use sounds wisely
I’m sure you know the importance of using sound, or that you at least have seen music, voices etc. being activated during a “sub alert”. When picking the right sound for your there’s more than “oh this is a cool sound”. You should, and most don’t do this, organize your sounds in order of importance. Meaning that you might want to give more attention, it terms of sound, to a subscriber than a follower. Probably not for everyone but it’s good to think about it and make a decision on what side you fall.
When we get used to sound we tend to eventually tune it out, much like a ticking clock, unless you’re used to it that might be the most annoying thing in the world. This can be used both ways of course. If you want someone to tune out the sounds then never change your sounds but if you actually want your viewers to pay attention to it then you should change it as often as possible. Even better would be if you used it in another way then for something that is recurring, say a giveaway or when you reach a certain goal.
7. Dunbar’s Number
The concept of Dunbar’s Number is very interesting. It stipulates that we can maintain no more than around 150 close social relationships. These are something called strong ties, these are people that we keep very close and is at a friend level. However in today’s social media, including Twitch, you might think that 150 isn’t the number you see on your Twitter followers or Twitch followers. These are not strong ties but rather weak ties. Many argue, and I agree, that the weak ties are actually what you want to focus on when it comes to Twitch.
Why is this? There’s a lot of streamers that really fall for this sense of closeness towards the viewers. You’re building a strong ties, and yes that’s good to build a strong following BUT it will not really help you grow beyond that. At one point or another you want to focus on the weak ties so you can expand beyond that number. Over the last few months I’ve noticed a lot of streamers getting stuck right here, it’s a problem but it’s a fairly easy fix.
8. How things look related to trust
Touched a bit on this during the category rant but wanted to expand a bit further on the subject. If you read the research Trust and mistrust of online health sites by Elisabeth Sillence you will get to see very interesting data. Before that I want to make clear that this research was made on women in their 50’s I still think it’s relevant research.
Under the headline Rejection of Websites we get our first golden nugget of data. When looking at why the participants would distrust a website, and let’s say a Twitch channel, overlays, interfaces etc after all they’re both interfaces, they get this data: Design 94% and Content: 6%. A few things that was brought up was the following: Inappropriate name for the website, Complex and busy layout, Lack of navigation aids, Boring web design and especially use of colour, Pop up adverts, Slow introductions to site, Small print and Too much text.
Now wouldn’t this data point to the opposite of the whole Quantity AND Quality? And isn’t it saying that content in general has little to no importance and that it’s only appearance that matters? If we read further down in the research we can read about The selection of websites where the participants explain why they decided to say and look deeper and revisit, the data shows as follows: Design: 17% and Content: 83%. And the following was the reasoning: Informative content, Relevant illustrations, Wide variety of topics covered, Unbiased information, Age specific information, Clear and simple language used, Discussion groups and Frequently asked questions.
Isn’t that something? Those are the exact things we’ve looked in previous articles and how to grow and audience etc. It also shows that much like Quantity AND Quality is equally important so is Design AND Content at the same time, use them to the right way to get the most out of them both.
There you have it. 8 things that hopefully make you think or understand why certain things happen around different streamers or yourself. There’s as always a lot more than you can fit into a few paragraphs of text, but it should give a better insight and get you thinking about what you can change and what you’re doing right or wrong.
Don’t forget that on Wednesday the case study on the new Season of RollPlay: R&D will be posted right here.
If you have any questions regarding this article, have something you want me to write about or if you have questions in general you can find me on Twitter @visiblespeech. If you have business inquires you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org