Pipeline was founded with the goal to help Streamers turn their passion into a career by providing them the support and resources to do so. Alongside StoneMountain64, we're developing a free series to help new streamers or established streamers looking to fortify their foundation with getting started on the right track. Drop a comment below and let us know what else you want to know!
StoneMountain64 - My Background
Quitting my steady salary job to follow my passion for gaming and creating content online was a huge risk, as it is for so many creators turning their passion into a career. With 7 years of experience making content and 4 years of streaming, I’ve built an audience of 3+ million followers between 2 different platforms and I can say that I’m still learning and working hard to be the best I can.Speaking from experience, the beginning is the most difficult. With limited information spread across multiple platforms and fragmented communities, there is a need for more resources for new creators starting out, as well as experienced creators looking to take their content to the next level. I co-foundedPipeline to share the knowledge I wish I had when I was starting out and building my community and to help you turn your passion into a career.Below, I've put together the top 10 lessons I've learned so far. Whether you're on Facebook, Twitch, YouTube, Mixer, Caffeine, DLive - I know you can find value in this as a creator. I've played, studied and met thousands of creators who've used a variety of platforms and I've found there are best practices and advice that can apply to us all.While reading through this, take some notes and think of questions you may have for me based on becoming a creator. If you know of any examples that you agree or disagree with, drop a comment below. I would love to analyze them and follow up!
There are many similarities between creators and the paths they take, but almost every successful streamer has created their own content style and cultivated their own audience. The most important thing you can do is create entertaining content that comes from your unique voice and perspective. I think back to this frequently and try to keep it top of mind when trying to compete with not only other streamers, but all the other content out there (TV, movies, podcasts, YouTube, streams, etc.).
Everything seems taken though? It may seem like it, but it most definitely is not. This is a hard hurdle to overcome and you likely won’t have this right away. Once you think you have it, it will probably take a few iterations to get right. It takes time to create your style and with each trial and analysis you will decide what you like and dislike.Embrace failure, because part of the process is having failed attempts at new creative ideas you can learn from and rework. There is no replacement for first hand hard work and learning from experiments, but a great way to speed that up is to learn from those that have already been through it. Write down ideas you think of and look to others that you enjoy- see if you can apply something similar to your own content or style.Start doing, but also keep top of mind how you could innovate an idea or work a new angle, writing down ideas whenever you get them. Innovate on ideas you may even hear about in other fields, and see if you can apply something like that on your own content or style.Personal Example;When I started streaming on Facebook, the audience for game streams was 0. The feature wasn’t available until mid-2016, at which point I was also the only one to start using it and investing time in the platform. Other creators were concerned there was no ad monetization, so how could they justify growing an audience on Facebook and take time away from their primary income? I looked at this from a bigger picture and while everyone was going one direction, I saw the opportunity in going a different direction. It took well over a year of trial and error to start building a consistent audience from the ground up, but it is now the largest part of my business and the best audience I have ever experienced online and it’s only just begun. This is not to say Facebook is your solution, but maybe trying to go to a new platform or just going against the grain where it makes sense to, can provide you with new opportunities.
First off, you do NOT need the best equipment to be the best streamer. Most creators start with a terrible setup and slowly invest as they learn.Many of you are likely past this step, spending hundreds or thousands already. So, it's worth the extra time to ensure, regardless of where you are at, that you are sending through the best quality feed and maximizing your gear's potential. This will take time to optimize, and using a second account to test your stream hardware/software will be helpful to not affect your main channel.Use this checklist to ensure you are covering the basics;
- Raise the quality as high as your setup will allow and check for frame drops, overloading encoder, screen tearing, deinterlacing, or unstable FPS. Tune down quality as needed.
- Double check your overlays are not covering important in-game information, looks professional, and not over cluttering the screen.
- You want to always have a smooth connect sent, so try not to max out your upload bandwidth and leave some buffer.
- If you don't have the specs to achieve 1080p 60fps then sending a poor quality version isn't ideal. Maximize your setup for the best stream quality you can achieve, whether that is 900p or 720p.
- Check the platform you're streaming on for their settings recommendations (they vary), test the stream, and analyze the equality and data received by the site making adjustments as needed.
- Balance your audio levels so they are consistent between your voice, friends, and the game with a potential yell not blowing out speakers.
- Pop filters | these are cheap or even putting a sock over the mic will help so your loud “P” sounds don’t blow out speakers and cause peaks.
- Shock mount | even putting a towel or something under your mic if sitting on the desk will reduce the noise picked up of your mouse hitting the desk and other bumps that may clip audio levels.
- Software compressor | OBS and many platforms have ways to ensure your audio if it gets too loud wont red line and overload speakers.
- Reduce background noise | quiet keyboards, being careful with fan placement and closing windows can all help reduce common annoyances. If you can’t avoid it, a noise gate by only using your mic while you speak is an easy software solution.
Many people have a dream of making a viral video or getting shouted out, but unless you have a base of content and consistent skill set to showcase then viewers won’t stick around. Even on a smaller scale, when you get new viewers who stop by, if you do not have consistent new content coming what’s the reason for them to follow?The content must be there before the audience comes. Too often I see people waiting for others to watch before they start delivering content, but you need to be putting it out every time you’re on because people won’t wait around. In streaming you will have to be comfortable talking by yourself if others watching aren’t contributing to the conversation.Consistency in timingMany people have a dream of making a viral video or getting shouted out, but unless you have a base of content and consistent skill set to showcase then viewers won’t stick around. Even on a smaller scale, when you get new viewers who stop by, if you do not have consistent new content coming what’s the reason for them to follow?The content must be there before the audience comes. Too often I see people waiting for others to watch before they start delivering content, but you need to be putting it out every time you’re on because people won’t wait around. In streaming you will have to be comfortable talking by yourself if others watching aren’t contributing to the conversation.Consistency in qualityEveryone will have their own unique qualities and traits, but regardless of what they are it’s important to stay consistent. Therefore, it’s futile to try and pretend to be someone you are not, and ideal to embrace who you are so you always deliver on what people signed up to see.This doesn’t mean you can never change, in fact change often opens you up to new people and opportunities. But it’s always important to understand the audience you have been forming will be there more likely for that consistent content they originally signed up for and you want that to be authentic and deliver.
Find your niche by looking inward and finding what you’re passionate and building knowledge there. You will generate more ideas the more you know about a niche, what you want to see, and checking if it’s missing. If there already is a community or content around it, then contributing and being a part of it in a genuine way can start to build reputation.There are thousands of niches, from different games to categories within those games including: playing professionally, being an entertainer, explaining secrets and guides, giving advice and tips, and so much more.Keep in mind trying to create for a mainstream game is more difficult, as there is far more competition and content already out fulfilling peoples demand. Often the top creators already in the category have built an audience for it by being in that niche early or providing higher quality content that keeps them ahead. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it or try and I think is a great place to start, but unless the content exceeds the predecessor or competition is low it’s difficult to gain traction and may be worth looking into other areas.Occasionally people come into chat and say “you just play video games and make money”, but anyone who has tried it or watches a streamer realizes there’s more to it. You can put the guy who is number 1 on the leaderboard on a stream, but it doesn’t mean they can entertain or retain an audience. Putting on an entertaining show people will watch rather than watching TV, or even playing the game themselves, takes time and requires providing value for your audience.An excellent example is Stodeh, known for his incredible skill sniping in Battlefield. Tune in for 1 game and any average player will be impressed by how casually he pulls feeds and insane KD games, with great discussion about the game and up to date knowledge of everything sniping (and more). Every new Battlefield he has garnered more attention, and now with his track record and multi-platform strategy has 200k+ followers on twitch and 3.2k subs with 250k+ subscribers on YouTube.
While focusing on a primary platform is important, diversification sets you up for more stability in audience through greater potential reach. Also, if Twitch is your job and you receive a ban for whatever reason, you may need backup revenue until it expires or just another outlet to engage your audience. Often too, there is so much synergy between platforms it will require only marginally more work for faster growth.Make unique content of/from/about your stream. That could be a highlight clip or video from your content, tips or guides about what you’re playing, or whatever you discover or are working on in your stream. Think of it as your recording or studying session for the content you want to put up elsewhere. Regardless of what you do, having VOD content gives your audience who may miss a stream something to enjoy until next time and is a great source for discoverability. That piece of content can work while you’re offline or asleep, and having an arsenal to send new viewers to, that will show them a bit about who you are builds credibility.Viewers don’t use all platforms, but you should. Using multiple platforms even for the same content or auto alerts from other platforms broadens your reach. There are hundreds of millions of people who use YouTube every day and never go Facebook, and there are hundreds of millions of people that go on Facebook every day that don’t use Twitter, etc. If you already have the content ready, post it on another platform and see how it does.ExamplesIn late 2016 I switched from Twitch to experimenting streaming on Facebook and YouTube and then eventually broadening to all of them at the same time with a site called ‘restream.io’. It was more time intensive for stream prep but broadened my reach and understanding of each of the platforms and the difference audiences. Certain streams did better on different platforms and for different reasons and I found which worked best for me.Many of my most popular videos posted to YouTube I reposted to Facebook, and even though it was the same content it did even better on there because of the amount of word of mouth from people sharing. It expanded my reach not only building a Facebook audience, but it helped majorly grow my YouTube and then Twitch at the time because of it.
Competition is abundant as streaming is becoming a more mainstream career, and most gamers are very competitive naturally. The audience is also growing though, and there is still plenty of room to stand out while others grow too.You will make it a lot farther and have a more enjoyable time by creating friendships and bolstering and celebrating other’s accomplishments. Creating content is a very isolating job as often it is without co-workers and endless hours of grinding. Meeting and having other creators to work with though, means you are not alone as there are others going through the same experiences to share and learn from.Content creation is not a zero-sum game. Just because someone follows or subscribers to a peer, doesn’t mean you lose a sub. Most people watch more than 1 stream and channel just like they don’t just watch 1 TV show or sport. This is a realm where as the audience for gaming content grows, there is even more demand for more content across different time slots and different games and genres.It’s impossible to look at someone else’s numbers and not have some sort of reaction and make a comparison on yourself, but you have no control over what they do or who watches them. What you can control is how you react and what you do because of it. I’ve seen and experienced people writing angry messages to the platform for having a rigged algorithm, or people mad at the individual growing faster than them. These are people and a mentality that you need to avoid, and instead spend that time learning what that person is doing differently from you and adapt to the difficulties you may be facing. Draw inspiration in that person’s growth and find your way.ExampleMany people seem to dislike Ninja for being “too big”, or mad that he is too successful. Meanwhile he has been streaming and part of that growth story for 5+ years with so many lessons learned that we can now pull from and even more as he paves his way at the top. Having him and/ or anyone else continue to push the industry to new heights and limits will continue to grow the overall audience. With Ninjas rise in Fortnite and overall growth, came millions of new viewers in the market who wanted even more content or something different, and hundreds of other creators have benefited from this rise from people finding him.
Creating content can be very isolating with countless hours streaming or spent editing in a room. While an audience is important, having peers to ask questions and discuss ideas with can go a long way in making the experience more enjoyable, successful, and just help drive you. The goal in these situations though obviously is to experiment and see if you have a genuine connection like anyone else you meet and ensure if it doesn’t work out for either party there are no hard feelings and you remain professional.It will be difficult and awkward streaming with or meeting someone new, but the more you can be yourself and get out there while understanding you won’t connect with everyone the better. Look for people at a similar place you are, which will be a combination of statistics, quality, content and length in the industry. It can be difficult to meet new people, especially online, but usually people are looking for new friends and having common interests like content creation I have found can lead to some amazing friendships.Collaborations are not something that is only about “getting more viewers”, part of the reason collabs do well is bringing unique creative minds together to form something they couldn’t do on their own. Be yourself and try to work with your partners strengths, and don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work out the first time or there is no follow up.Always be professional even if it doesn’t work out or the other person isn’t. When you stream or play with someone else, they may not reciprocate the same way you are trying to help them. Don’t expect others to take actions but do your best to help the other person. Learn from each experience and as you meet and work with more people, apply those lessons and keep a positive attitude going into relationships.ExampleOne of my favorite buddies to stream with over the last year is Aculite, who I have never met in person. We connected via twitter as we were both playing PUBG, enjoying the game featuring highlights and wanted more people to play with. While we have different skill sets and attitudes and reactions while playing, we have an underlying chemistry of enjoying the game we are playing and uplifting one another whether things go our way or not. Us playing together is not about the number of subscribers or followers or viewers we get, it’s about the amazing people and content we are able to produce together.
It’s important to keep your reputation with other creators and potential viewers strong and organic. This should not be something I need to explain, but it is worth mentioning that ‘Follow for follow’ and self-advertising in comments is where inevitably many people start. But it doesn’t take long for those taking this seriously to realize these practices are shooting yourself in the foot. It gives you a terrible reputation with the creator and their audience whose chat or comments you are trying to exploit, and this time can be better spent elsewhere.There are appropriate places and times to promote yourself and proper ways to introduce yourself to new communities. If you join a new community and there is an appropriate section for you to share, then put yourself out there and more importantly include something about yourself and what you do differently. Besides sharing, it’s a great idea to look at some of the other channels, and if you enjoy one trying to connect since they are trying to reach out there as well. You will find value in these places by connecting with new friends.Besides audience and creators though, once you get farther along the same is true for sponsors. Making sure you and the brand are on the same page before signing something is important and delivering on time all obligations/ over-delivering can lead to more future recommendations and consideration on bigger opportunities.It’s important to note too, if you’re offered something that doesn’t align with your values don’t take it. Your reputation to your audience and authenticity in being able to present an opportunity is important. Not everyone will agree with your decisions to take certain sponsorships, but if you find value in it and believe your audience will too, then it can be a fantastic move. Today it is more understood than ever that sponsors and advertising are part of the business and what allows creators to dedicate themselves to the content for the audience.Remaining professional should not mean limiting your creativity. If you create content that is not as “brand friendly” or you don’t have experience working with other businesses, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find opportunity. It could mean bringing on an agent or some other professional to help you manage this area and have those discussions for you. Building good reputations with brands and securing deals is built with genuine relationships and previous bodies of work and delivering in a timely manner.
While streaming and being live is important, if no one is there and new viewers are not discovering your content, even if it’s the world’s great you will inevitably remain where you are. How you get discovered is very dependent on each platform and is something to study and research. Look for channels at a similar level and those ahead of you to analyze who is growing and how you may be able to emulate it.Just because people see your content and may be viewing now, does not mean they will return. It’s important to get new viewers, but more important to show your value when you have them.Overall there are 3 high level basic ways to get yourself in front of new people.Word of mouth = This often just happens organically and is the most difficult to achieve, but also the most effective. The way things go viral or get brought up in everyday conversation, is by something being so great you just have to tell someone. In addition, if the right friend recommends something, it means much more but they need something to recommend.Search Engine Optimization (SEO) = The most common form of growth especially for new channels is optimizing your channel to be found through search or recommendations. The higher you show up, the more eyeballs you get. If you target your content correctly for the person looking for that type of content, you have much higher odds converting a long-term viewer since they know they can find what they want with you and are often thankful for it. This can also come in the form of a recommended stream or showing up next on the algorithm or entering the hype zone.If people aren’t finding you organically, Advertisements are the guaranteed way to test your content out on someone new. This can be more difficult to convert though as often they are not actively searching or finding and filling a need, so they may be more apprehensive to get on board. If what you are producing is quality and have a piece of content that can resonate with the right person, you could see a good conversion that justifies an ad. Most people in a new position though are not at the point of creating that level of content. But ads for the right content can lead to massive return, just look at most movie trailers and ads put out for it.
Quitting your job and streaming 14 hours a day every day ‘grinding’ is not how you make it in this space. And especially when starting out it is more than just playing games and being live 24/7.If you want to take this on full time, understand it’s a business even if you or others you may watch don’t treat it or think of it as such. A business must compete and provide something unique to a consumer if it wants to stay alive and grow. If you make a living off this and go full time you will need to have healthcare and fight out how to do taxes and expense purchases. This is not something to worry about at the beginning, but something even the most casual full-time streamer will need to deal with at some point on the business side.ExampleIf you have a 10-hour day to dedicate to work, rather than streaming the entire time work on other areas as well. Especially early on, 30-50% of your time should be put elsewhere. Spend time reviewing your stream and analyzing how entertaining it was and what you can pull from it.