Have you heard of Twitch? Chances are, if you don’t play video games, you probably haven’t, but if you’re interested in building an online community through live streaming your crafting you should definitely check it out.
Owned by Twitch Interactive, a subsidiary of Amazon, Twitch launched in 2011 as a spinoff of a streaming platform called Justin.tv. The majority of content on Twitch is live streams of people playing video games while providing instruction, commentary and chatting with their live audience, although viewers can also watch videos on demand. Nearly a million people may be watching Twitch at any point in time.Currently about 80% of Twitch users are male and over half are between the ages of 18-34.
More Than Just Gaming
Recently Twitch has started featuring content outside of gaming in an attempt to appeal to a broader audience. Twitch has experimented with streaming marathons of licensed shows, like the late artist Bob Ross’ “The Joy of Painting.” The company has also created categories for non-gaming topics such as Food, and Makers & Crafting. The most popular and fastest-growing non-gaming category is Just Chatting which features people simply talking (sometimes while knitting) with their viewers in real-time.
Alison Russell of AliCat FiberArts livestreams some spinning on Twitch. Viewers ask questions and interact in the chat area off to the right.
Photo courtesy of Alison Russell of AliCat FiberArts.
Interestingly, Twitch considered a social media network rather than simply a streaming platform. According to live streamers, community is the biggest priority for the platform and the people who use it. Alison Russell of AliCat FiberArts explains, “The Twitch Creative community is very supportive, and is a true community. Some of the most commonly given marketing advice for online content is to ‘make a connections’ with your target audience. Twitch is a way of doing that, but the connection goes both ways.”
“The other streamers I watch and the audience in my chat are not just a ‘target demographic,’ they are my friends.”
Craft Content on Twitch
Most live streams on Twitch are hours long, often up to six hours. In the Makers & Crafting category, people can watch crafters make a project in real time from beginning to end. Many of the crafters currently using the platform create video-game-adjacent crafts, like cosplay. However, you can also find videos in this category on everything from cross-stitch, sewing, and leatherwork, as well as to Lego building, wood-turning, and 3d printing.
A screenshot of Brackenhawk of DIY Crossing’s crafting livestream on Twitch.
Photo courtesy of Brackenhawk of DIY Crossing.
Brackenhawk of DIY Crossing explains what motivates them to livestram: “I set out with the idea that streaming wasn’t the be-all, end-all of my content. Many people try to make it big doing what they love on camera in the hopes that they’ll gain the support they need from watchers, but for me it’s like an enhancement, an extension of the things I do already.”
“I’m crafting things whether or not the camera is on, and so I treat it almost like a hot-desk for people to drop by and see what I’m up to.”
“I realized quickly that sharing my work so intimately with others kept me on my toes, kept me always wanting to do my best and was overall just a lot more fun than working in solitude.”
Should You Consider Live Streaming on Twitch?
Twitch can feel like a less pressured environment for video creation than other platforms because the video content is less produced. “I’d considered doing YouTube videos, but found the idea of coming up with topics for videos on a regular basis a bit daunting,” Russell says. “I thought Twitch might be a good compromise. I wouldn’t have to have a ‘lesson plan,’ I could just work on my current project and answer questions.”
Twitch videos capture the entire making process and therefore give you plenty of material to reuse later for more highly-produced, shorter videos that you can create for other platforms. Brackenhawk explains, “Immediately after a stream is finished I take a rough photo of what I made and share it with my followers in different places. Later I take the stream footage and edit it into little timelapse videos, so that once the piece is properly finished and photographed I can publish it along with a clip of how it was made. There’s a cycle of streaming, photos and videos I maintain for every piece and it ensures my content is consistent and interesting.”
Audiences are still quite small for new streamers in the Makers & Crafters category on Twitch. Many crafters here are streaming what they would be doing anyway, and having a community to hang out with while doing makes it worth the effort.
Melanie O'Brien is a social media professional with 7+ years of experience driving audience growth and engagement. Her past experience includes working in the creative lifestyle space as a former sewing blogger and fabric shop owner. She currently works with small creative businesses and organizations managing social media posting and strategies to free up their time to do more creative work. Find out more on her website, Melanie O'Brien Social Media.