It’s now easier than ever to run your own livestream. All you need is a computer, a web camera and a good internet connection. While platforms such as Twitch are predominantly focused on gaming content, Facebook Live and YouTube livestreams cover every subject you can think of and more.
However, to maintain and grow a successful channel, it is vital to keep your audience engaged and entertained. We’ll explain why you need to increase your livestream’s audience engagement. It will also give some advice on the steps you can take to achieve your goal.
Why viewer interaction is important
After overcoming any technical obstacles, the biggest challenge facing anyone running a live stream is how to build an audience. Interacting with your viewers is a powerful and effective means to develop and grow your following. People like to meet up with others who share the same interests and it’s no different when they come together online. By encouraging your viewers to interact with you, you can quickly build a sense of community around your livestreams and your channel.
Building a community
As well as being an effective means of establishing and developing your online community, engaging with your audience is a great way for you to monitor how well things are progressing. If your viewers are keen to post comments to you and chat with each other, then you will soon build a thriving community. That in itself will become a driver to attract a larger audience to your channel.
Conversely, you may notice that the frequency of chat messages is decreasing, or that the comments indicate that viewers are becoming bored with your streams. These are the warning signs that you need to take action to increase the enthusiasm for your content.
As the following for your channel grows, you will find that the conversations within the community start generating ideas and suggestions for new livestreams. This will help you keep your content fresh and interesting, as it is responding to your audience.
You shouldn’t see interacting with your viewers as something only to be done during a livestream. You need to keep your audience engaged between streams as well. For example, after each stream has finished, you could ask your viewers to give you feedback. This way you will find out which parts they liked and, perhaps more importantly, which parts they found less interesting.
Ask the audience
Most social media channels allow you to add simple polls which can be used to measure viewer satisfaction. Polls can be used to allow the community to influence what streams you plan in the future as well. For example, you could post a range of choices for your next livestream and allow people to vote on which one they want to see. As well as the direct engagement with the poll, your followers will become more invested in your channel, as they will see that they can influence the content.
By responding to comments and questions through your social media channels, you will soon build a strong bond with your audience. Viewers will feel valued when you reply to them and take their opinions into consideration when scheduling your broadcasts.
How to increase interactivity
It sounds obvious, but if you want people to watch your livestream then you need to let them know that it exists. You usually don’t gain an audience by people randomly coming across your stream, you need to find and attract your audience. To do that, you need to promote your stream before you go live.
Do some research across your social media channels. You need to make sure you are using the right keywords and hashtags to bring your posts to the attention of your chosen audience. Platforms such as Facebook allow you to run targeted advertising campaigns to publicize your streams to a very specific demographic. Although these adverts need to be paid for, you can invite new viewers for an outlay of only a few dollars. A simple tick box process allows you to carefully select the recipients of the adverts.
It is important that you monitor and review the performance of your adverts. How many clicks and views are your adverts generating? When are visitors most like to see your posts? This will help you to better target your audience and ensure that you are getting the best possible value from your investment.
You can also create an event listing for free on Facebook that will tell your audience when your livestreams can be seen. Make the most of the post scheduling tools on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. It will save time and give you the chance to test out the best time for any announcements to be posted.
Planning your schedule
When you are planning your livestream schedule, make sure you are consistent and regular. Pick a day of the week and a time of the day to start streaming and stick to it. If you go live at random times on a different day each week, it will be much more difficult for viewers to find your content on a regular basis. This will hamper your attempts to build an audience.
Make sure you are punctual. If you advertise that your stream starts at 7 PM, then it must be live at 7 PM. If you are late getting started, you may find that you have lost all the viewers who logged on at the advertised time but left, assuming the stream wasn’t going to happen.
Study the competition
Take time to study the streams that already exist in your chosen field. If there is a market leader who regularly commands a large audience for their content, then don’t stream at the same time. Your potential viewer base will already be engaged on someone else’s channel. Streams can be viewed by anyone anywhere in the world, so make sure you consider global time zones as well. If you want to build an audience in a different country then there’s no point broadcasting when it’s the middle of the night in that place. Schedule your livestreams accordingly.
Give your audience some control
There are other things you can do to increase your audience’s engagement with your channel. You could build a community playlist that everyone can listen to. If your channel is a gaming channel, you could play games with viewers selected at random. The streaming platform Twitch has plugins to allow increased audience interaction. By using the Bits tipping currency, viewers can impose a rule on a game such as that a player can’t jump, for example. The game Dead Cells takes audience participation a stage further by allowing the chat to directly influence the game. One viewer can be randomly selected as your cooperative partner and controls your health packs. Voting in the chat allows the rest of the audience to influence the game directly, for example by altering the effect of upgrades and the numbers of enemies you will face in a level.
Competitions and prizes
Irrespective of the subject or nature of your live streams, competitions and prizes are always a winner with your audience. Prizes don’t need to be expensive. You could just select an individual member of the audience to talk with during your stream. As your stream grows in popularity you can approach companies to see if they would offer a free prize in return for sponsorship of your stream. Having a named sponsor can also add credibility to your live stream.
While it’s good to think of new and innovative ways to interact with your audience, don’t forget the basics. Make sure you respond to comments as often as you can during the stream. Audience engagement will be increased when viewers know they can get a personal reply from you. Simple responses can work just as well as longer, more complex ones. For example, just telling someone that they raised a good point will make that person feel valued. Use your viewers’ names when you interact with them to make your responses more personal.
When should you interact?
As soon as you start your livestream, you must start to interact with the viewers. Whether you are about to give a tutorial or play a game, don’t be tempted to launch into the activity as soon as you have started the stream. Make sure to allow time for the audience numbers to grow before you start teaching or playing the game. Viewers who join the stream and find that they have missed the start might not be inclined to stay, especially if you are teaching a tutorial.
As new audience members log on to your livestream, say hello to them by name. You can ask them how they are doing and thank them for tuning in. Once your audience numbers grow, you clearly won’t have time to greet hundreds of viewers. But it will still boost your audience engagement if you pick some names out for a personal greeting. It pays to recognize some of the names on the watchlists for your streams then give those people a shout out and thank them for being regular viewers. Doing this will also increase the likelihood that those individuals will continue to come back, and you are also telling any newcomers that your stream has a repeat audience, so it must be good!
Ask viewers to comment with where they are watching from. Ask any first-time viewers to say hello so you can welcome them to the community. As well as making them feel those viewers now belong to something, this is another way of subtly getting the message across that you have an established cohort of regular followers.
You can use the waiting time at the start of the livestream to respond to any comments or questions from previous streams. You can also advertise the streams you have planned next or alert viewers to how they can vote to influence the subjects of future streams.
Give out details of your social media channels and website where people can find out more about you and your livestream schedule. Ideally, use on-screen graphics to confirm the account names and URLs. You can also post clickable links to the chat to help with that. Ask people to subscribe, like, favorite and share your platforms and thank them for their support.
Watch your stats
Once you start into your stream, you will have to divert a proportion of your attention to the main activity. However, it’s important to keep an eye on the chat and viewer figures. If you see the viewer numbers climb, then say a general hello to people who have just joined and again thank them for watching. You could also summarize anything relevant they may have missed earlier in the stream. When questions are posted in the chat then respond at the time if you can. If not, make a mental note to respond later when there is a pause or a natural break in the game, etc.
It’s also worth noting any times that viewer numbers decrease. There is bound to a degree of variance as some viewers may have other commitments or lose their mobile signal for example. However, a big drop in your audience might mean a more fundamental issue with your stream. Is it too long and viewers are just getting fatigued? If so, then consider asking if people would prefer shorter streams or offer to schedule in an interval so viewers can have a bathroom break or get some refreshments.
When you get to the end of your livestream, make sure to wrap things up. Say another quick round of thank yous to everyone for supporting you. Run through your social media channels and platforms again and let people know when the next livestream will be screening. Don’t be tempted to talk for too long. As soon as the gameplay has ended or the tutorial is completed, the viewers will start to log off so get your messages in quickly.
Everybody likes to feel valued and that they are being listened to. Keep your audience engaged and not only will they keep coming back for more, but they will bring their friends as well. Building a strong sense of community around your channel and livestream will help them go from strength to strength.
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