With the IRL & Creative categories out and Tags in, what do Twitch’s latest updates mean for streamers?
Over the past seven years, Twitch’s rapid growth has seen it evolve from a video-game-focused platform into a service where streamers around the world share their hobbies and interests to millions. Twitch Tags.
Through the extremely popular Creative and “IRL” (In Real Life to the less acronym savvy) sections, an ever-expanding community of musicians, artists, comedians, athletes, chefs, podcasters and social-media influencers have sought to make their mark via live-streaming.
As the non-gaming population continued to grow exponentially, many contributors felt they were being pigeon-holed into the IRL and Creative categories, with potential subscribers having to navigate around dozens of streams before finding more niche content.
In response to streamers’ criticism of the two existing categories being too broad, Twitch announced back in August that they would replace them with a more comprehensive range of categories and “Tags,” aiming to make it easier for viewers to discover new streamers.
True to their word, the new categories are now here so we can look at how they work, what users think about them and how they can be taken advantage of to continue building your Twitch following.
What Are the New Twitch Categories?
The new categories themselves are pretty self-explanatory and consist of:
• Science & Technology
• Sports and Fitness
• Just Chatting
• Talk Shows & Podcasts
• Makers and Crafting
• Tabletop RPG
• Music & Performing Arts
• Special Events
• Food & Drink
• Beauty & Body Art
• Travel & Outdoors
While these new categories will definitely help point viewers in the right direction, the introduction of content-specific Tags are where streamers can really guide viewers to their content and show them what makes their channel unique.
Now, when users visit the Browse directory in search of a new stream, they’ll be able given the choice of using Tags to filter their search results.
The Tags themselves are set by the streamer, who can add up to five Tags directly through the Live Dashboard which will appear alongside the stream title, the video thumbnail, and the game or category whenever a video is viewed on Twitch.
What Do Viewers and Streamers Think of the New Changes?
As is usual with these types of changes, initial feedback is mixed. Users are still getting used to the new Tag system but, for the most part, are on board with the move and happy that Twitch has listened to their concerns.
The change that has drawn some criticism is the removal of Communities, where viewers could previously find information to help them choose what to watch.
According to Twitch, the open nature of Communities was causing a confusing overlap between different Communities and didn’t provide viewers with content-information while they were browsing their chosen directories.
Less than 3% of Twitch users were finding streams through Communities, so its overall usefulness was questionable at best and Tags appear to be the natural evolution.
Twitch have acknowledged that these new changes will initially impact streamers and their workflow but have also ensured they will carry on working with creators and streamers to adapt the new tools as necessary and to respond to user feedback.
Utilizing These Changes to Help Grow Your Channel
The important question, as a streamer, is how can you use these changes to your advantage? When it comes to Tags, the “niche” streamer is the one who has the most to gain.
With Tags offering a highly specific way to search both the gaming and non-gaming categories, streamers can now expect a more dedicated viewership as harder-to-find, niche streams will be much easier to locate.
There’s also the question of which Tags you should be choosing for your stream. For those familiar with Search Engine Optimization, it’s likely that some Tags will perform better than others when it comes to returning streams in search results.
Over the coming months, it should be possible to analyze searches and determine which Tags are going to make the biggest impact on visibility.
Until then, it’s best to keep it simple and accurate; take advantage of specific Tags to highlight your stream’s unique features, but don’t forget to include some general Tags to ensure you appear in more generic search results too.
Beyond Tags, don’t forget to practice the more traditional methods for growing your channel.
You should still be interacting with your community and working out what sets you apart from other streamers with similar channels.
Channel presentation is still extremely important, and it’s likely that the increasing popularity of non-gaming streams will result in a need for relevant stream graphics. With the potential growth benefits an appealing channel design can give you, it’ll be worth keeping an eye on new developments in this area as well.
The key to on-going success will always be adaptability, so while Twitch continues to modify its services to improve the platform’s usability, make sure you do the same to avoid being left behind.