StreamKick’s core focus is connecting viewers with the content they want most, when they want it. As avid viewers with our own preferences, we understand how frustrating the discovery process can be. That same challenge plays out for streamers but from a different angle. It makes no sense that both viewers and streamers face this massive hurdle to an otherwise entertaining experience.

But we’re only a handful of guys that really enjoy watching streams. What about everyone else? After all, the streaming community is huge, with over 2 million streamers on Twitch alone and viewer counts well above that. What better way to find out how you, the community, feel about discovery than to ask? So that’s exactly what we did.

A quick note before diving into the results - this is not a scientific study. We asked the community, tallied the answers, and provided our own insights. Numbers are rounded - enjoy responsibly.

TL;DR at the bottom - but you’re missing the juicy bits. Just sayin’...

Community make-up

Understanding the community make-up adds essential context to the feedback, so we kept this question simple: do you consider yourself primarily a viewer or a streamer?

61% of you indicated you mainly stream, and 39% mainly watch. It would have been great to get more of an even split in responses, but it didn’t matter much in the end as we’ll see.

61% of respondents were mainly streamers and 39% were mainly viewers

What influences viewer choice?

This questions focuses on the tactics, equipment, and other considerations influencing a viewer’s decision to watch a streamer. Things like personality and audience interaction we asked about in a follow-up question.

Not surprisingly, microphone and facecam are the two top draws, at 79% and 63% respectively. Of all the options presented, these were by far the most important as indicated by viewers. Now, you may be reading this and saying, “Well yeah but what about Lirik, huh? He doesn’t use a cam!” And you’d be right, but he compensates in other ways, as do many streamers that opt to remain faceless.

Next in order of importance is a reliable streaming schedule. 40% of viewers indicated this is an important factor, reinforcing something we’ve seen in countless guides and reddit posts - consistency is important. But it doesn’t stop there. Communicating consistency is equally important. If the schedule is in your head, it helps no one but you.

Rounding out the top four is a detailed channel profile, with 32% of viewers saying it mattered. For those that never scroll, that’s the area just below the video player on a streamer’s channel. Twitch has made improvements to this section over the years so that may be making a difference.

Top 4 influencing factors to viewer choice on Twitch in order of microphone, facecam, reliable schedule, and detailed channel profile

What’s possibly more interesting is what ranked at or near the bottom according to viewers. Things we’ve heard from streamers that are important to them didn’t stack up so well against viewer preferences. Those include:

  • Streamer’s Partner / Affiliate status - 9%
  • Giveaways - 6%
  • Sub / Follower-only chat mode - 1%

The fact that a consistent sub or follow-only chat mode ranked the lowest may even indicate it has a negative influence on viewer choice.

Viewer preference vs. streamer tactics

Possibly the most encouraging thing we picked up from this exercise is that on the top end, the tactics streamers are using to attract and retain viewers line up well with what viewers told us mattered.

The top four items were identical, although the percentages were noticeably higher with streamers. Here’s how it worked out:

  • Microphone - 96%
  • Facecam - 75%
  • Reliable streaming schedule - 70%
  • Discord / Detailed profile - 57 / 56%

Notice streamers place near equal importance on having a community Discord as they do a detailed profile. Discord is something we love, but surprisingly only 13% of viewers felt it was important.

Top 5 tactics used by streamers to attract and retain viewers in order of microphone, facecam, reliable streaming schedule, discord, and detailed channel profile

Another disconnect that stood out is the streamer’s Affiliate / Partner status (as noted above). Streamers told us it is five times more important to them to mention than it is to viewers looking for new content.

We included background music as an option, as it’s something we’ve seen often discussed within the community. The feedback we received implies it’s not terribly important to either group, with 35% of streamers preferring versus 22% of viewers. The challenge with music is that people tend to like certain types. While most are open to exploring new music, if it’s something they don’t like it could lead them to bounce. We’ve discovered some great music from streams so this boils down to personal preference.

One big miss here on our part is we should have asked about production value and overlays. Those can make a big difference, especially depending on the types of games played. So if you have some thoughts on that, be sure to hit us up.

What motivates viewers to hit follow and subscribe?

If getting discovered on Twitch is an uphill battle, retaining and monetizing an audience is like summiting Everest. Maybe not quite that challenging, but it ranks up there. The question of what inspires a viewer to follow or subscribe to a channel is of the utmost importance to us. The streamers we’ve spoken with agree that they would much rather have a handful of viewers visit and stay, versus a revolving door of one-time watchers.

"Community is the essence of streaming and without a persistent audience the foundation for a community is lacking."

When asking viewers what motivates them to follow or subscribe to a channel, we wanted to go deeper than facecams, mics, and giveaways. For this question it was important to get at the core of what makes a stream “good” in the eyes of the viewer. It’s something we at StreamKick refer to as StreamDNA. We call it this because it’s integral to the nature of the stream and the broadcaster. Here’s how it broke down, in order of importance to viewers:

  • Overall entertainment value (or lack thereof) - 99%
  • Audience interaction - 83%
  • Sportsmanship (good or bad) - 59%
  • Skill (game, craft, music, etc.) - 52%

What shocked us the most was that skill was a solid fourth among the StreamDNA attributes. Why? Because everything we’ve heard from the community is that it takes a great entertainer or a highly skilled gamer to succeed on Twitch. What we heard is that viewer’s value an interactive streamer who’s either a good or bad sport (hey, ragers are people too) over someone skilled at the game (or craft, etc.) - by a substantial margin.

"Sportsmanship and skill weren’t too far apart, but the fact that skill ranked a solid fourth indicates streamers need not place as much emphasis on it when choosing what games to stream."

This is a departure from the conventional wisdom we’ve seen within the community. The important takeaway is that viewers are more forgiving if a streamer is providing an entertaining experience while inviting audience participation.

Just how seriously should streamers take social media?

Sounds like a loaded question, but again it’s something we see constantly discussed: “Should I be on [insert social network here]? Has this network or that network actually helped you attract viewers?”

We asked two questions to get at the heart of this inquiry. It’s not enough to know if viewers care if you’re on social or not. We wanted to explore the other side too. Self-promotion is fine, but what about organic growth within the networks of an audience?

"It turns out over 70% of viewers surveyed follow at least one of their favorite streamers on social media."

This tells us it’s important for streamers to promote their social channels to their audience once they’re watching. The explosive growth of the IRL section on Twitch is testament to why. People love to know what’s going on in other people’s lives.

We’ve seen from our data that viewers enjoy streamers for reasons other than their sick plays (just look above). So it stands to reason a streamer’s audience would be interested in keeping up on their daily lives. We can also reasonably conclude a streamer’s social media content should be more than “going live in XX minutes” spam. Inviting the audience in a bit may not be a terrible idea, to the extent one is comfortable.

71% of viewers follow streamers on social media and 90% tell friends about streamers they enjoy

And our biggest learning in this category came from the second question, which had to do with peer-to-peer sharing. 90% of viewers share a streamer they like with their friends. This gets little to no attention whatsoever and it’s something we aim to remedy. What better way to grow a channel than to leverage a loyal audience with friends that are like-minded? If a streamer does a great job at the things we’ve mentioned, their viewers will want to share the experience with friends. But as it stands today, the system for doing so is both uninspiring and trivial. Stay tuned for more from us on that!

In closing - key takeaways (aka TL;DR)

We learned a lot from this short series of questions but the top insights for those that are time starved are:

  • In terms of stream setup and tactics, viewers and streamers are well aligned. Having a facecam, microphone, reliable schedule, and a detailed profile resonates with both sides of the community.
  • There’s misalignment when it comes to having a Discord, advertising Affiliate / Partner status, and having background music. Streamers showed a stronger preference over viewers on all of these.
  • Overall entertainment and audience engagement are by far the top influencers when it comes to gaining followers and subscribers. Of the four StreamDNA attributes we’ve identified, skill ranked a solid fourth behind sportsmanship. This challenges the conventional belief of how this hierarchy should line up.
  • Social media is no joke. Most viewers will follow streamers they truly enjoy, so the content on social media should be thoughtful and inviting.
  • It’s safe to assume all viewers are telling their friends when they find a streamer they enjoy. This has huge implications for channel growth and presents a welcomed alternative to “live now” and giveaway spam on social media.

Bear in mind this should not be interpreted as any sort of guide for overnight success in streaming. Some things work for some folks, and other things work for others. It’s important first to understand personal preferences and goals, and then temper this information with that in mind.

Huge thanks to everyone that participated and allowed us this glimpse into the community. You know who you are, and we truly hope this information brings some value to you as well.

We’ve kept the survey up and will do so indefinitely. If you didn’t participate yet we’d still love to hear from you. You can jump in here.

And if you’d like to stay current on these kinds of insights, as well as our progress bringing StreamKick to life, just drop your email into the field below. We’ll never spam you.