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The appeal of live streaming to grow online communities
Wed, 20th Mar 2024

Live streaming continues to become more and more popular as a way creators can connect with their community on a deeper level. Top streamers like Kai Cenat are able to rack up more views just chatting in their bedroom than a produced TV show. 

Part of the appeal for people who watch livestreams is the fact that the 'hosts' seem like just regular people who are real and relatable. Even reality TV shows like the Kardashians have become so far detached from 'reality' that people are seeking out something more raw and unfiltered.

Mainstream TV has also picked up on this trend; for instance, the show Gogglebox features regular people sitting in their lounge room reacting to trending topics. This type of content is exactly the same as what some creators do online; for example, watching a music video for the first time and reacting to it live. GoggleBox borrows the ideas that live streamers have been finding success in for years, however the cast may never see similar results as their live streamer competitors since there is no way to communicate with viewers in real time like a streamer can. 

Audience interaction is the core component of what makes live streaming so special. You (the viewer) can have conversations with your favourite online personalities LIVE! Give them a follow, and they will thank you by name, send them a gift, and they might even do a song and dance just for you! In this world, you are not only watching the livestream but are a part of the show. Attend regularly enough, and you will find yourself immersed in a world with its own inside jokes, friendship groups and soundmarks. 

If you have never been a part of a live streaming community, this type of commitment to an online personality might be hard to imagine, but a lot of features resemble what you would see in a fan club for a sporting team or music artist. More dedicated communities to large streamers could look to outsiders like a religion or cult. 

Online communities are a lot like traditional communities where a number of people meet regularly and come together over a shared interest. Think of sporting clubs, Scouts, Crossfit and Improv groups to name a few. 

The difference is, Gen-Z tends to hang out in online spaces more than at In Real Life (IRL) clubs and organisations, which explains why live streaming has been on the rise for the last decade and watch time continues to increase year on year. With 'Just Chatting' live streams being the most popular category on Twitch since May 2020, there is a huge opportunity for anyone to build an audience of their own just by talking to their screen. 

How to start live streaming to grow your community
When starting out, there are a few things you will need to do to build an audience for your streams. Choosing a regular day and time for your streams is super important to build an initial group of people who will continue to show up for you. If they don't know when you're coming on, it's likely they will miss the stream. Keeping your audience updated no matter how big or small is a great first step and can be done by letting them know via your social media channels, having a set schedule or through an email newsletter. Consistency is key!

When it comes to captivating viewers, a big part of this comes down to your presence on screen. You could have a fancy set-up and expensive camera, but at the end of the day, that is not why people stick around. Depending on your style of content, they want to be entertained or to learn something new! Use platform tools like Q&A boxes, polls, and games to help gamify your streams and interact directly with your viewers. 

You can also think of activities that resonate with your personal brand or business and see if they make sense to do on a livestream. For example, creator Chrystal Christie makes custom rugs through the art of tufting and injects her contagious personality into all her streams, chatting with viewers and answering questions in real time.

Cooking, cleaning, card readings, working out, makeup tutorials, haircuts and building furniture are just some ideas for indoor streams, but if you are willing to take your audience outside, it's likely you'll see your viewer numbers climb. 

This style of livestreaming is called 'IRL streaming' and usually is highly engaged with due to the unpredictability of being in public while streaming. 

At their core, audiences are curious and love a changing environment, so if you are able to inject your streams with movement and unexpected twists, you will keep them captivated regardless of your environment. 

Inviting guests on your stream to interview or banter is also a great way of keeping viewers engaged since new personalities open up more discussion for those watching. It's always a good idea to know who you are inviting onto your stream ahead of time so that you can ensure they won't do anything inappropriate that could cause your account to get banned. 

What to know about moderating before you start a live stream
Protecting your account standing by following the platform's guidelines will help you reach more people over time, however reaching your audience can become more of a challenge as you grow.

As the number of viewers increases, you are likely to receive more hateful comments. Don't let this stop you from continuing to stream; instead, keep focusing on the engaged and supportive part of your audience. 

Some platforms like TikTok allow you to add keyword filters to your stream settings to block specific words from coming through. It doesn't always work though, since people get very creative on the way they choose to dish out insults. For instance, live streamer Alessia Allfree, who has over 3,000 hours of live streaming experience, makes a point to be her own 'comment filter' and reads chat messages in her head before saying them outloud. This helps you to respond to the meaningful comments and ignore the hateful ones. 

You can also give someone you trust a moderator badge which allows them to kick people out of the stream if they are being rude to you, your guests or people in your chat. Creating a peaceful livestream for not just yourself but your viewers will keep people coming back.

Regardless of how many people are watching, you always want to be on your A game. Use all the tools at your disposal to keep people captivated and engaged whilst staying true to who you are. From hosting guests to participating in a dynamic activity, using polls or having time for a Q&A will keep the conversation going with your audience. All these things will help you become a better streamer and build a stronger connection with your community.