By Ash Read
You spend hours planning and creating content for Instagram. For a brief moment after you hit “Share,” all is right with the world. You’re confident you published something great.
Then, radio silence. Or a few likes and comments from your handful of followers. But how do you get more followers on Instagram if not by publishing great content?
There’s no step-by-step guide for Instagram growth. But there are best practices that will help you reach a wider audience and win over new followers.
Here are 12 ways to get more followers on Instagram.
1. Optimize your bio
Make the most of those 150 characters. Your Instagram bio tells potential followers who you are, what you’re about, and what action you hope people will take after visiting your profile.
Your Instagram bio should include:
- A clear description of what you do
- Touches of your personality
- A call to action (shop, read more, contact us, etc.)
- A link
Your in-bio link is your only clickable link on Instagram, so use it wisely. Some businesses include a standard link to their website, while others change it regularly to reflect recent posts. But if you want to make it easier on yourself, take advantage of link-in-bio tools such as Shop Grid that allow you to turn a single link into a catalog of links.
Consider including a branded hashtag as well. For example, we encourage our fans to use #BufferLove when they talk about our products. Adding the branded hashtag to our bio tells people which hashtag to include to catch our attention. Plus, when anyone taps on the hashtag, they’ll see posts from fans who have used it.
2. Find your best time to post on Instagram
Notice how we didn’t say find thebest time to post on Instagram? The truth is, there is no universal answer for when to post on Instagram to reach the highest number of people. But there are ways to figure out the ideal times for your followers.
First, use Instagram Insights to figure out when your audience is online. Tap the “Insights” button from your Instagram business profile, scroll to “Your Audience,” then tap “See All.” From there, scroll to the bottom to find your audience’s most active times.
You should also consider when your content will be most relevant. For example, a step-by-step recipe video might perform better outside of work hours because people are more likely to be cooking. A coffee shop post, on the other hand, might do well around 2 p.m. when people go through an afternoon slump. Experiment with different posting times and track engagement.
If you’re looking for some extra guidance on when to post, Buffer’s Answers feature provides you with three posting time suggestions for maximizing your reach on Instagram.
Find more in-depth guidance in our article, How to Find Your Best Time to Post on Instagram.
3. Post consistently
A 2021 study of 14 industries shows that businesses share four Instagram posts per week, on average. But we recommend posting at least once a day. Brands that get into a regular flow with Instagram posts tend to see the best results. According to a Tailwind study, profiles that post daily gain Instagram followers faster than those that post less frequently.
With Instagram’s algorithmic timeline, consistency is a key element to getting your posts seen. If your posts are shared on a regular basis and picking up good engagement, Instagram’s algorithm will likely show your posts near the top of your followers’ feeds.
Of course, quality is always more important than quantity. Posting more often doesn’t necessarily translate to higher engagement rates. Focus on creating content that will resonate with your target audience—more on that in section 9: Engage with your audience.
Instagram scheduling tools allow you to post consistently without having to worry about posting directly from the app every day. Take a look at How to Schedule Instagram Posts to Save Time and Boost Engagement to discover our favorite Instagram scheduling tools (free and paid) along with scheduling tips.
4. Learn how the Instagram algorithm works
Many Instagram users initially panicked about the switch from a chronological feed to the ranked timeline. However, since the change, the average post is seen by 50% more followers than before. So, forget about learning how to beat the Instagram algorithm. Instead, focus on learning how to use the system to your advantage.
There are six factors that determine what shows up in each person’s timeline: interest, timeliness, relationship, frequency, following, and usage.
Here’s a quick rundown of what each of those factors refers to:
- Interest: How much Instagram thinks a person will like the post based on previous activity
- Timeliness: How recent the post is
- Relationship: Accounts a person engages with on a regular basis
- Frequency: How often a person uses the Instagram app
- Following: Posts from the accounts a person follows
- Usage: How much time a person spends on Instagram
Instagram’s algorithm aims to surface the best content for each individual user. So, while six separate factors may seem like a lot to worry about, the best thing you can do is create high-quality content consistently.
We dig into each ranking factor in more detail in How the Instagram Algorithm Works in 2021: Everything You Need to Know. We also include guidance on how to create content that caters to each factor and share tips on how to use the Instagram algorithm to your advantage.
5. Experiment with different content types
Instagram is so much more than photos. Over the years, the app has introduced many ways to share content on the platform. Mixing it up with different content types is one of the best ways to gain more followers on Instagram because it gives you the chance to reach and connect with a wider range of people.
Remember: The algorithm looks at interest and strives to show people the content types that they interact with most often. So, if one person likes and comments on Instagram Reels more often than other post types, they’re likely to see more Reels in their Instagram feed. However, if another person interacts more frequently with carousel posts, they’ll see more of that content type in their timeline.
Each type of content has advantages. For instance, Instagram Reels have an edge because they’re the newest content type and Instagram always pushes new features. Since launching Instagram Reels in 2020, the app has moved the Reels button to the center position in the menu bar and made Reels appear larger than photo posts on the Explore page. Considering 200 million people check the Explore page every day, that additional visual real estate can make a big difference in how many people you reach.
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Instagram TV (IGTV) videos also appear 4x larger than photos on the Explore page. And, since IGTV videos can be as long as 60 minutes, this type of content is ideal for long-form video.
Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours, but they have their benefits as well. Fifty-seven percent of brands believe thatStories have been “somewhat effective” or “very effective”as a part of their social media strategy. Plus, if you have a verified account or at least 10,000 followers, you can add Instagram Swipe Up links to Stories to drive traffic to specific pages.
Meanwhile, carousel posts—a series of up to 10 images/videos in a single post—boast the highest engagement rates of all post types. Think of carousels as a mini-story or teaser to a longer-form piece of content, such as a blog. You can use text images, photos, video, or a mix of everything all in one thematic post.
Confused by all the arguments for different post types? People like what they like. So, while studies can tell you what the average engagement rate is for each content type or argue for one over the other, the best strategy is to use a variety. Mixing up your Instagram content allows you to reach people with different preferences, and that extended reach helps you boost your Instagram followers.
6. Find your brand voice and create unique content
People don’t follow your business on social media so they can see sales pitches. They follow your brand because they enjoy your personality and the content you create.
What works for one business might not suit your branding—even when you’re in similar industries. For example, Juggling Daisies Hobby Farm and Such and Such Farm both consider themselves to be unique farms. Juggling Daises is all about fun stories, cute photos, and wholesome content. Meanwhile, Such and Such Farm has a more rough-around-the-edges style that includes curse words and humor.BROUGHT TO YOU BY
Publish Flawlessly. Analyze Effortlessly. Engage Authentically.
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Ask yourself what you want your tone to be. Funny? Informative? Playful? Cynical? Your personality should also reflect what you’re passionate about. Such and Such Farm believes in sustainably grown produce, so many of their Instagram posts talk about their farming practices. What topics do you address with your Instagram content? Everything you share on your business account should show off your brand’s personality and beliefs.
Think of your business account as a person. Design a personality for the account and create branding guidelines so you can stay consistent. Branding guidelines should include notes on tone, style, and values along with your brand’s colors and fonts.
7. Write great captions
Nice photos catch people’s attention—great Instagram captions keep it. Captions give you a chance to provide more context or details about the photo or video you’re sharing. Plus, using keywords in captions can help you appear in search results on the app.
Instagram captions can be up to 2,200 characters. Of course, not every caption needs to read like a blog post. Play around with different lengths. Some photos pair nicely with a short, quippy caption with a couple of emojis, while others might benefit from something longer and more reflective.
The average length of Instagram captions is on the rise, but most brands still don’t go anywhere near that 2,200 character limit. In 2020, the average was projected to be 405 characters, up from 142 in 2016.
So, when do you go long, and when do you keep it simple? There’s no hard-and-fast rule. Just like with content types, it’s best to mix it up. Take a look at these two posts from Andréa Jones of OnlineDrea. One post has a short caption, while the other specifically directs you to the caption for a longer explanation.
8. Research and use hashtags
We’ve explored hashtags a lot on the blog, but it seems that nowhere on social media are they quite as important as on Instagram. The right hashtags can expose your image to a large and targeted audience, and Instagram users don’t seem to get hashtag fatigue in the same way they might on other networks.
Start by finding hashtags that would appeal to your target audience. Free Instagram tools like Display Purposes and AutoHash help you find relevant hashtags for your Instagram posts. For instance, with Display Purposes, you simply type in a few words about your image, and it will recommend the top hashtags to use.
If you want to gain more Instagram followers, hashtags are essential. Using hashtags makes your content discoverable via search or filtering when people tap on the same hashtag from another post. People can even follow their favorite hashtags so that top content with that hashtag will show up in their Instagram timeline.
Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, but don’t tack on extras just to hit 30. TrackMaven recommends nine hashtags for maximum engagement. Just make sure you don’t use the same nine hashtags over and over again. Instead, group your go-to hashtags by category so you can quickly add a few relevant hashtags to each post.
With Buffer Hashtag Manager, you can create and save groups of hashtags. Then, you can select from your pre-saved groups and add hashtags to your scheduled Instagram posts.
9. Engage with your audience
Engagement is crucial for growth on Instagram. Many brands make the mistake of focusing on likes and comments without considering the people behind those metrics. If you really want to get more Instagram followers, you need to engage your fans in a conversation.
Keep in mind that just because someone sees your content, that doesn’t mean they currently follow you. If you have a chance to interact with a potential follower, you should take it. Every comment is an opportunity to gain a new follower (or keep a current one), so make sure you respond to each comment you receive. If your hands are already cramping at the thought of tapping away on your phone, don’t worry. With the Buffer Engage tool, you can reply to comments from your desktop.
But don’t just wait for your followers to start the conversation. Create engagement opportunities. Use Instagram stickers such as open-ended questions and polls in Instagram Stories. Ask questions in your photo captions. Encourage people to tag friends in the comments with prompts such as “Tag your BFF who you’d invite on this cruise!” or “Tag your wine-loving friend who you’d do this wine tasting with.”
Need more ideas? Take a look at our Instagram engagement tips to learn how to get more followers on Instagram by increasing engagement.
10. Collaborate with others
Another great way to gain Instagram followers is to collaborate with others through partnerships or influencer campaigns.
Our brand spotlight with Blume is a great example. Blume gets access to Buffer’s followers through the original Instagram Story and the accompanying Highlights. Meanwhile, Blume will share the spotlight with their fans, which brings their audience to Buffer. It’s a win-win.
Influencer marketing is another way to grow your Instagram following. If you have the budget, you can pay content creators to promote your brand. But if you’re hoping to keep it simple (and low-budget), micro-influencers (1,000–10,000 followers) can be very impactful. In fact, content from micro-influencers has higher engagement rates than content from larger accounts. You can seek out micro-influencers to set up collaborations or simply re-share user-generated content (UGC).
Remember those branded hashtags we talked about in Section 1: Optimize your bio? One tap on your branded hashtag, and you’ll have an entire catalog of content to choose from.
When we first launched Buffer’s Instagram, we encouraged fans to use #BufferStories and #BufferCommunity. We used those hashtags to find and re-share user-generated content. Within one year, we increased our Instagram followers from 4,250 to 21,000.
Why is UGC so popular? “It relays authentic experiences about a brand’s products or services from previous customers, which boosts brand credibility,” says Ramon Berrios of Trend.
Collaborations are also a chance to show off your values and personality through association. The businesses and people you align with and support say a lot about your own brand. Partnerships can be especially powerful for local businesses, too. Consider partnering with your neighbors so you can reach a hyper-targeted audience.
11. Link to your Instagram from elsewhere
Make it easy for people to find your Instagram. No one should have to hunt through pages of your website to find your Instagram profile.
Add your Instagram account link to:
- Email footers
- Your website’s footer and/or sidebar
- Bios on other social media platforms
- Social media posts from team members
12. Analyze your results
One way to figure out how to get more followers on Instagram is to look into what your current fans respond to. You can monitor several Instagram metrics directly in the app with Instagram Insights or through third-party analytics tools such as Buffer.
Don’t obsess over vanity metrics such as likes and comments. Instead, think about what the metrics tell you. For example, if you’re testing out a new hashtag, metrics such as new followers and reach will tell you more about the value of that hashtag than likes from your current followers will. However, if you’re experimenting with different posting times, impressions can give you an idea of when your content is most likely to be seen. Your end goal will determine which metrics matter the most.
Watch for trends. Does a specific type of image get more impressions or engagement? Post more of those images and see how your followers respond. Do certain hashtags result in more likes from people who don’t follow you? Use those hashtags more often and keep an eye on new followers.
Read our Instagram Analytics guide to learn more about Instagram metrics and how to use them to fuel your marketing strategy.
By Brent Barnhart
There’s no better time than now to figure out how to promote your YouTube channel.
Why “now,” though?
For starters, YouTube recently overtook Facebook as the second most-visited site on the web.
In a day and age where we’re spending up to six hours per day consuming video, the writing is on the wall: we need to appeal to our customers’ binge-watching tendencies.
Of course, the boom of video content has resulted in a flood of brands trying to master YouTube channel marketing all at once.
And so if you want to stand out on YouTube, you need to take advantage of as many promotional tactics as possible.
Below we’ve broken down step-by-step how to promote your YouTube channel to maximize your viewership. Whether you’re just getting started or want to see your numbers tick upward, these tips are all fair game.
16 Proven tips to promote your YouTube Channel
1. Write engaging, must-see titles
YouTube marketing is all about presentation.
Titles are make-or-break when it comes to your video’s performance. Ask yourself: are you presenting your content as “must-see” or “meh?”
The key to crafting killer titles is grabbing your audience’s attention without resorting to clickbait headlines. People crave content that’s entertaining, and they likewise want to know what your video is about from the word “go.”
For example, you can take a page out of the playbooks of YouTube giants like BuzzFeed and WhatCulture. Such videos often rely on listicles, question-based titles or hyperbole (“insane,” “…of all time”) to rack up the views.
Athlean X’s fitness-based videos are another good example. The channel’s content manages to sneak in relevant keywords in its titles while also coming across as conversational.
“Best-of” lists and “how-to” titles are always a safe bet, too. Here are some click-worthy titles from Disney Food Blog:
The takeaway here is that you should definitely spend time mulling over engaging titles rather than sticking with the first idea that pops into your head.
In terms of specifics, an oft-cited study from Tubular Insights notes that YouTube video titles should stick between 41 and 70 characters. Meanwhile, tools such as CoSchedule’s headline analyzer recommends 55 characters for an engaging headline. CoSchedule’s tool isn’t specifically meant for video titles but is awesome for brainstorming YouTube-friendly titles to help promote your YouTube channel.
2. Optimize your videos for visibility
Here’s some food for thought: YouTube videos show up in 70% of the top 100 Google search results.
Heck, see for yourself. Any given product or “how-to” query on Google will return something from YouTube.
In fact, YouTube results sometimes even pop up before traditional blog posts or websites.
Listen: YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world in and of itself. Just like people search for products and need problems solved via Google, the same rings true on YouTube.
Think of your YouTube videos like any other piece of content that needs to be optimized in terms of keywords, tags and so on.
In order to increase your chances of showing up, you’ll want to follow some of the best practices for YouTube SEO:
- Titles and description: Include target keywords in your titles and descriptions. You can use a tool like Keywordtool.io to help you find keyword ideas.
- Mention keywords in your video: According to Brian Dean of Backlinko, saying your target keywords in your video can help YouTube better understand what your video is about.
- Engagement: YouTube uses engagement (likes, comments, views) to help determine where videos rank in its search results.
- Categories: Use categories to help YouTube get a better understanding of who to show your videos to.
- Tags: In addition to categories, you can also add tags to your videos to give YouTube more context about your content. You can use quite a few tags, so add as many as you can think of.
Just like with SEO for your website, don’t keyword stuff. Use keywords when it makes sense, not just for the sake of having them.
3. Figure out what your audience wants
With any type of content you produce, you want to make sure it’s aligned with what your audience wants. Whether you’re writing a blog post or creating a video, start by getting to know your audience and what type of content they want to see from you.
If you’re just starting to promote your YouTube channel, take a look at your competitors or other video creators in your industry. Look at which of their videos get the most views and engagement. This will give you an idea of what topics your audience wants to learn about and what style of videos they prefer.
Another solution is to look at your YouTube Analytics if you’ve already uploaded videos. YouTube gives you detailed information on audience demographics, location, engagement and other helpful stats.
Want to better understand your YouTube metrics? Download our video metrics cheat sheet to learn the most important metrics to track and get ideas for video content tailored to your marketing goals.Published on CategoriesSocial Media Video Metrics & Ideas [Cheat Sheet]
4. Engage with the YouTube community
Although you might not think of YouTube as a social network per se, the platform does represent a thriving community where users are engaging via content via profiles, “likes” and comments.
Sounds pretty “social” if you ask us.
As noted earlier, any sort of interaction with your viewers is seen as a positive signal to YouTube. If nothing else, engaging with your subscribers can help you foster a stronger connection with your audience. “Liking” comments only takes a few seconds, as does pinning a top comment as a sort of personal note to your subscribers.
For example, music channel Artzie Musik regularly “likes” and responds to comments on its recent uploads. The channel’s creator regularly goes back-and-forth with subscribers to show appreciation and answer questions, too.
Just as you’d respond to comments and engage with your followers on any other social network, YouTube is no different.
5. Customize your thumbnails
One of the simplest yet effective tactics to promote your YouTube channel is creating custom thumbnails.
Think of your title and thumbnail as a sort of one-two punch to grab a viewer’s attention.
By default, YouTube snags a screenshot from any given video and uses it for the thumbnail. Unfortunately, sometimes the image it grabs will be a blurry shot of you adjusting the camera or a transition.
Not a good look, right?
Creating thumbnails yourself not only makes your videos look more appealing at a glance but also signals a certain sense of professionalism.
Thumbnails don’t have to be rocket science, either. You can even create a template with a particular font and style to make it more consistent and on-brand. This is made especially easy with the help of image creation tools such as Canva. Here’s a good example from Binging with Babish:
6. Cross-promote your videos on YouTube
Chances are you’re covering similar topics on YouTube that overlap with each other.
To squeeze more out of your older content, make a point to cross-promote your videos when it makes sense.
For example, you can drop links in the description of a video and encourage viewers to check them out as a sort of call-to-action. Although some might be disappointed by the recent removal of YouTube’s annotation system, linking in your description encourages viewers to watch your videos all the way through without clicking away.
7. Target Google search results
As noted, YouTube is totally killing it when it comes to SEO.
And while you shouldn’t totally create content for search engines versus people, you should promote your YouTube channel with SEO in mind.
Specifically, product reviews, how-to’s and long-form (10+ minutes) videos covering keyword-specific topics tend to rank well in search engine results pages (SERPs). If you’re strapped for content ideas or want to capitalize on a trending buzzword in your industry, consider how you can do so through your YouTube channel marketing.
8. Run a contest or giveaway
If there’s one thing YouTube users love, it’s a giveaway. Host a YouTube contest or giveaway to encourage people to subscribe to your channel and engage.
To keep your contests simple, have people like your video, leave a comment and subscribe to your channel to enter.
Follow some of our best practices for running any social media contest:
- Make sure you’re following YouTube’s policies.
- Give away a gift that’s related to your brand: you want to attract more than just freebie-seekers.
- Get creative by incorporating user-generated content and other non-traditional entry requirements.
Be careful with hosting frequent YouTube contests, though. You want to make sure you’re getting results from your efforts: otherwise, you’ll end up wasting time, money and resources. After doing one contest, wait a while and look at your subscriber drop-off rate and engagement numbers. If you aren’t bringing in engaged subscribers, you could just be attracting people who want free prizes.
9. Encourage viewers to follow your series
A smart way to promote your YouTube channel is by creating a specific video series that covers a recurring theme or topic.
Popular foodie channel Bon Appétit actually has a variety of different series that make up their YouTube presence, including their ongoing “From the Test Kitchen” videos.
Series are a win-win for creators and viewers alike. For creators, you hold yourself accountable for creating fresh YouTube content and don’t have to rack your brain for ideas. For your audience, they have something to look forward to and likewise a reason to keep returning to your channel.
10. Embed your YouTube videos
Some of the best places to promote your YouTube channel are beyond YouTube itself.
Case in point, video content is proven to improve conversion rates and lower bounce rate on-site. If you want visitors to stick around a product page or blog post longer, embed a video (like we did below).https://www.youtube.com/embed/m5Y3zTF18I4?feature=oembed
Remember: any opportunity you have to funnel your on site (or social!) traffic to YouTube is a plus.
11. Create playlists to organize your YouTube content
The more videos you create, the more difficult it becomes for people to navigate through your channel.
That’s why playlists are so important. Not only do playlists allow you to group your videos into categories to organize your channel, but also appeal to your viewers’ desire to binge.
For example, Beardbrand’s grooming channel uploads daily and therefore has amassed hundreds of videos covering tons of topics. The channel’s various playlists help guide subscribers to relevant content without having to dig for it.
12. Increase engagement with calls to action
Sometimes simply asking for engagement is the best way to get your videos noticed, especially when you consider the immediacy and connection that video content can create.
Not everyone who enjoys one of your videos is going to remember drop a like or become your subscriber, so it’s become increasingly common to put these reminders in the description or in the video itself.
Especially if you’re an up-and-coming channel, there’s no shame in asking for some love directly. In fact, asking visitors a question to answer in the comments suggestion or to check out another video are perfect ways to keep the engagement rolling. You can likewise link to other videos or drop an external link to your site to serve as a sort of CTA.
13. Give live streaming a try
Live video is one of the biggest social media trends and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
With apps like Facebook, Periscope and Instagram making it easier than ever to stream live video, more and more brands are getting on board.
YouTube has been offering live videos for years but has only recently started picking up steam. You can take a look at some popular YouTube Live videos to get a sense of how other brands are using the platform.
Some examples of how you can use YouTube Live are:
- Live tutorials
- Q&A sessions
- Product demonstrations
Don’t worry if your streams don’t go as smoothly as you’d like. Part of the fun (and risk) of live video is you never know what’s going to happen. The unpolished, organic nature of live video is exactly what makes it compelling. For more tips on how to get started with YouTube Live, check out Google’s introduction to live streaming.
14. Collaborate with other creators and brands
A tactic some of the biggest YouTube stars used to grow their following is collaborating with other users. Each collaboration gives you exposure to a new audience. And the best part is those new viewers are more likely to subscribe to your channel since you’re working with a content creator they already know, like and trust.
The key to a successful YouTube collaboration is finding the right partner. You want to collaborate with content creators that share similar passions with your brand so your video comes off as authentic. This now-classic collaboration between BuzzFeed and Purina is a prime example of a thoughtful collaboration that doesn’t feel overly promotional.https://www.youtube.com/embed/L3MtFGWRXAA?feature=oembed
15. Run a paid YouTube ad campaign
With marketing in general becoming more pay-to-play, you always have the option to get more visibility through paid YouTube ads. YouTube offers a variety of ad formats to choose from:
- Display ads: These ads show up on the right-hand sidebar of videos, and are only available on desktop.
- Overlay ads: These are semi-transparent ads that are displayed on the bottom part of a video. They’re only available on desktop.
- Skippable and non-skippable video ads: These ads show up before, during or after a video. Skippable ads can be skipped after five seconds, but non-skippable ads have to be watched all the way through before the viewer can watch their video.
- Bumper ads: These are non-skippable ads that have to be watched before the viewer can watch their video. They can be a maximum of six seconds.
- Sponsored cards: These are cards that get displayed within relevant videos. You can use them to promote your products or other content.
For your ad creatives, you can either use an existing video or create something new for a specific campaign. The advantage of using an existing video is you can choose a clip you know has been effective in the past. If a video has already gotten a lot of views and engagement organically, running paid ads can amplify your results.
On the flip side, creating a new video for your ads will allow you to create a more targeted piece of content that you have more control over. For instance, you can create an ad with a specific call-to-action at the end to direct viewers to a landing page or another video. You can learn more about YouTube’s video ad formats here.
16. Regularly publish your YouTube content to social media
It’s no secret that video content crushes it on social media in terms of engagement and performance.
As a result, you should regularly promote your YouTube channel to your social followers to encourage them to become subscribers. As soon as a video goes live, make a point to let your followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn know about it. You can likewise create snippets or previews for each social platform that also link to your latest production.
With the help of Sprout Social, you can schedule your content and cross-promote it without having to jump from platform to platform. Features such as ViralPost can also help ensure that your content goes live based on when your social audiences are engaged.
And with that, we wrap up our guide to YouTube channel marketing!
How do you promote your YouTube channel?
Growing a YouTube audience doesn’t happen by accident.
And yes, it can certainly feel like a grind if your space is crowded with competition.
That’s exactly why it pays to have a variety of promotional tactics in your back pocket. Although some of the tips above require more effort than others, each one can help you get more eyes on your channel and more subscribers as a result.
If you’re ready to ramp up your YouTube presence and start seeing real business results, download our social media video cheat sheet to get ideas for video at every stage of the marketing funnel.
By Victor Bous (Head of Marketing at Restream)
You can’t talk about live streaming without mentioning Twitch. The platform that came into being as an offshoot of the live streaming platform JustinTV is a fundamental part of the live streaming ecosystem. Twitch started as a gaming-first platform, but in the past few years it’s expanded to include content creators of all genres. Even if you’re not a gaming streamer, you should still know how Twitch works if you want to get into the world of live online broadcasting
Twitch’s 2020 market share of hours watched was 67 percent. Other platforms follow far behind, with YouTube at 22 percent and Facebook at 11 percent. Although 2020 was a huge year for every major live streaming platform (except Mixer), Twitch benefitted the most from the live streaming boom.
Creating a Twitch account
Twitch’s best features are only accessible to registered users. If you want to interact with content, you’ll need to create an account. The same goes for joining the ranks of content creators. So that’s where we’ll start. After that, we’ll cover the software, the gear, and the process of streaming.
How to create a Twitch account for live streaming
Setting up an account is straightforward. Even though Twitch has an extra step for those who want to live stream on the platform, it only brings the total number of steps to three. And Twitch accounts are completely free.
1. Review the community guidelines.
Ideally, you’d read through the whole legal section of Twitch’s website. But there’s a lot of jargon, so stick to the community guidelines at the very least. Read the guidelines before you’ve actually made the account and bookmark the page to check back for occasional updates.
2. Create an account.
On a desktop computer, it’s as easy as clicking the “sign up” button and filling out the form.
On mobile devices, you need to download the Twitch mobile app. Twitch recommends signing up with your phone number initially and adding an email later.
3. Enable two-factor authentication.
Here’s the kicker: you can’t broadcast on Twitch without enabling 2FA, and you can’t enable 2FA on mobile devices. So, head to a desktop computer, log into your account, find the security settings, and enable 2FA. You’ll need a mobile phone to complete the 2FA process.
Which software to use for live streaming on Twitch
When broadcasting on Twitch from a desktop computer, the consensus is that beginners should start with software encoders unless they have hardware encoders available. Read our guide on the difference between software and hardware encoders to learn why.
Every software encoder comes with its own sets of pros andcons. If you’re interested in some of the more popular options, they are:
- OBS Studio — The top choice for many novice content creators, OBS Studio is a free, open-source streaming software with cross-platform compatibility. The learning curve can be a bit high if you’ve never used live streaming software before.
- Streamlabs OBS — The Streamlabs version of OBS has some great features that might help you monetize your channel. It’s only available on Windows, though. Read about the difference between OBS Studio and Streamlabs OBS to help you decide.
- XSplit — A common solution for broadcasters who want to try out paid software, it only shines if you’re willing to invest in the paid version.
- vMix — Consider this option when you decide you’re ready to become a pro streamer.
If you’re looking for a quick start on Twitch just to see if streaming is for you, try Twitch Studio, Twitch’s proprietary streaming software that’s currently in open beta. For even more options, check out Twitch’s streaming software suggestions.
If you want to broadcast to other platforms besides Twitch simultaneously, you’ll need to enlist an additional software solution to your roster.
What type of hardware to use when broadcasting on Twitch
You don’t need the latest generation of CPUs or the newest model DSLR to broadcast on Twitch. The platform isn’t on the leading edge of video quality — it doesn’t support 4K streaming as YouTube does — so you could conceivably get away with lower-quality gear.
However, the one obstacle many Twitch content creators face is, when broadcasting a video game, encoding and gaming can be too much of a burden for a computer’s CPU. So you can’t just start streaming on Twitch with any kind of gear. You need a CPU powerful enough to handle it. Let’s look at gear one at a time.
The central part of hardware in any streaming setup is the computer, the console, or the smartphone, depending on what you’re using. Gaming consoles such as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are viable options, as are smartphones. These devices provide an easy entry into the world of streaming, because you don’t need to think too much about software and additional hardware.
However, desktop computers are the most popular choice for streaming. You can use a wider variety of hardware with them, and broadcasting software allows for cool features such as creating scenes and using overlays. In fact, desktop computers are so useful that even people who broadcast from consoles often use the consoles for gaming and a PC for streaming the gameplay.
PCs are pretty much unavoidable for high-end streaming, but they’ll also give you the most options when you’re just getting your feet wet. Here’s what you should consider when building a streaming desktop computer:
- The CPU:It needs to handle simultaneous gaming and encoding. You’ll need a fairly strong CPU. The Intel Core i5-10600K and AMD Ryzen 7 5800X are respectable mid-range choices, and the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 is a solid budget-friendly option.
- The GPU:An Nvidia RTX graphics card has built-in hardware encoders, and you can use it with OBS Studio to lend the CPU a hand. Other good GPU options are the Radeon RX 570 and the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti.
- OS: You can use a PC but also a Mac or even a laptop. You’ll need a good one if you want to use it for gaming and broadcasting, though.
- Dual-Computer setup: You can use one computer for gaming and the other for encoding and streaming. The one with a stronger CPU should be in charge of encoding.
Overall, you can start streaming with an i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a solid internet connection. However, the more you want from your content, the more you’ll need to invest in the basic gear. The same rule applies to all other gear you’ll use for broadcasting, too, as you’ll see below.
Unless you’re an elite gamer who can attract and hold an audience simply by playing games unbelievably well, you’ll need to offer something more to keep your viewers engaged. Audio commentary is the least you can do — it lets you show some personality and communicate with your audience.
Microphones are always a good investment for streamers because the audio quality of your stream is paramount. You want people to be able to hear you clearly and understand what you say. If your viewers can’t hear you, they won’t stay on your channel. It’s possible to get away with a gaming headset’s built-in microphone for a while, but it would be best to opt for a standalone mic right away. From the lowest to highest priced, some popular choices are:
- Elgato Wave 3
- HyperX Quadcast S
- Audio Technica AT2020
- Razer Seiren Mini
- Blue Yeti X
If you think you should add facial expressions and other forms of non-verbal cues to your roster of communication tools, you’ll want to invest in a camera. You can get good results with webcams, which don’t require a capture card. Here are some popular choices:
- Logitech HD Pro C920
- Logitech StreamCam
- Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000
- Razer Kiyo
- Logitech BRIO
If you want to take the video quality of your stream up a notch, you can also try streaming with a DSLR camera. To use it with live streaming software such as OBS, you’ll need a capture card. A DSLR camera is more expensive than a webcam, but it does up your production value.
Choosing the least expensive options for a mic and webcam will set you back around $100 in total, but it will ensure that your Twitch viewers can hear and see you well.
For a basic setup, a PC (or console or smartphone), a mic, and a webcam are all you’ll need.
Additional streaming gear
The basic setup is a great place to start. But eventually, the lack of production value will hold you back. Whether you want to add another computer to your setup or you just want to look better on camera, you’ll need to pick up some additional gear.
Here is some of the gear you might want to consider as the subs start rolling in:
- Lighting— If you’re streaming with a camera, why not use some flattering light that makes you easier to be seen? There are lots of options — LED softboxes provide gentle lighting, a ring light gives you even coverage with just one light, and cheap clamp lights strategically placed can get rid of unseemly shadows.
- Green screen — Whether you want to add or remove your background, a green screen can come in handy. Best of all, most encoders will recognize it, so learning how to use chroma keying in your streams is easy.
- Game capture card — If you want a two-computer setup, or if you want to stream console games via a computer, you’ll need a game capture card. You have two options: external or internal. It might be tough to find a game capture card below the price of $150, though.
- Stream deck — A touchscreen that lets you trigger commands with a brush of your finger, a stream deck is a handy tool if you have a lot of scenes you want to switch between during the broadcast or if you want a simpler way to adjust audio levels and change your lighting.
As you become a more experienced Twitch content producer, you’ll start figuring out which additional gear you need and which serves only to burn a hole in your pocket. When it comes to live streaming gear, think about cost-effectiveness. Always look for the biggest bang for the buck you can afford to spend.
🖥 How to live stream to Twitch from a desktop computer
One of the drivers behind the boom of live streaming is the accessibility. All it takes is an internet connection and a device with a screen to watch live streams. The fact that there is a huge number of people with access to both bodes well for your broadcasting career.
To become a content creator, however, the bar is higher, especially if you want to be successful. But it takes a little more than a decent streaming rig and willingness to get your feet wet. Here are the very basics steps to start streaming on a desktop computer.
1. Plan the content you want to stream.
Twitch is now home to many different types of content. We’ll get into all the great things you can live stream a bit later, but for now, you should understand that different types of content require different gear.
For example, creating good ASMR content requires high-quality microphones or even specialized gear such as the 3Dio Free Space binaural microphone. That type of gear might not be readily available in your local store, and if it is, it might come with a hefty price tag. Plan your content so you can plan your gear.
2. Gather, connect, and set up your gear.
Before you start setting up your streaming software, make sure all the hardware you need is connected. This means connecting your webcam and microphone to your computer. If you plan to add an additional computer monitor to your setup or want to use a green screen, now’s the time to get it ready.
Test everything as well. Set up your webcam at a good angle and check out the audio levels on your mic. Now’s a good time to sound-proof the room you’re streaming in or adjust your lighting if you’re using lights.
3. Install the software and connect it to Twitch.
Any one of the software choices we mentioned earlier will work great for Twitch. For the purposes of this guide, however, we’ll use OBS Studio for all examples and explanations.
After installation, OBS Studio will ask whether or not to run the auto-configuration wizard. Consider opting for a manual setup. That will get you acquainted with some important aspects of streaming.
For starters, head to File > Settings > Stream in OBS Studio. Choose “Twitch” as your service, then either connect your Twitch account to OBS Studio or connect Twitch using the stream key.
For the former, you’ll just need the login information for your Twitch account. For the latter, you should go to Twitch, go to Settings > Channel and Videos, and copy the primary stream key you see there. Paste it into OBS, and you’re done.
4. Add all the audio/video sources and visuals you plan to use.
Everything you want to broadcast in your stream needs to be added as a source in OBS. Your microphone is a source, and the game you want to play is one too, as is the feed from your webcam and whatever’s on your desktop. If you want it on your stream, you have to add it as a source.
The great thing about OBS Studio is that most of the time it will recognize your audio sources. If it doesn’t, you can go to File > Settings > Audio and find the devices you want to use for audio. Usually, this means having a device for desktop sounds (sounds you’re playing on the computer) and a device for the sounds that come from your microphone (your voice).
As far as video sources go, you’ll see the “sources” field in OBS Studio’s main panel. By clicking on the “+” button, you’ll open a menu that lets you add a variety of sources, including games, your desktop, web pages, images, and text files. Keep in mind, though, that the sources appear on the screen just as they appear in the “sources” box, layered on top of one another. Moving a source up on the list will make it visible on top of other sources.
5. Find your perfect streaming settings.
The streaming settings you’ll want for Twitch will depend on the available upload bandwidth, the power of your encoder, and the type of content you want to broadcast. Higher bandwidth, a powerful processor, and being able to dedicate it to encoding only all provide you with higher-quality settings.
If you’re looking for hard numbers, Twitch’s own guide would be a good place to start. Twitch recommends that for a basic [email protected] stream, you’ll need a bitrate of around 3000 kbps. If you look up a list of good upload speeds for streaming, you’ll see that this translates to around 5 Mbps upload speed.
Going through the five steps above is the simplest way to set up your OBS Studio for the first stream. It will get you through at the beginning, but you should look at a more in-depth guide when the time comes to take things up a notch.
How to live stream to Twitch from consoles or smartphones
Live streaming on Twitch from a PC might not be the perfect option for you. Maybe you prefer playing your games on consoles, as many people do. Perhaps you like watching live broadcasts on consoles — a lot of people are doing this, too — and you see no justification for having separate devices for streaming and watching. Or it just might be that you don’t want to go through the clunky process of setting up a gaming PC when there’s a perfectly good console you can use for gaming and streaming. And as a console user, you’re probably already familiar with Twitch.
How to stream to Twitch from a PS4
If you’re willing to join the less-crowded space of Twitch console streaming, here’s how to set up your consoles after you’ve created a Twitch account and enabled 2FA. We’ll start with the PlayStation 4.
1. Set up your PS4 for live streaming.
There are a couple of settings you should pay attention to before you turn on your game and connect the console to your Twitch account:
- Ensure HDCP is disabled. You’ll find this option under Settings > System. Turn it on when watching content from services such as Netflix on your PS4. When streaming, it should be off.
- Set up your devices. In Settings > Devices you can find options for audio devices as well as the PlayStation Camera. This is where you can adjust levels for your microphone or headset. PlayStation 4 doesn’t support any webcams other than the PlayStation Camera.
- Set up audio sharing. When you launch the game, press the “share” button on the controller and go to Sharing and Broadcast Settings > Broadcast Settings > Advanced Settings > Audio Sharing Settings. This is where you enable the sound from your microphone for your broadcast.
- Enable the chat. In the Sharing and Broadcast Settings > Broadcast Settings > Advanced Settings, you can check the “Display Messages to Spectators and Spectators’ Comments” to enable the chat.
2. Connect your PS4 to your Twitch account.
When you click the “share” button on your controller, you’ll see the option to broadcast gameplay. PS4 will ask which platform you want to use, and after selecting Twitch, you’ll need to connect the console to the account. You can do so by:
- Scanning a QR code you’ll see on your screen, or
- Going to twitch.tv/activate from a computer or smartphone and entering the code you’ll see on your screen.
3. Do a final check and start streaming.
After you’ve connected the console to Twitch, you’ll be able to pick a title for the stream, enable the camera if you have it connected, and select the output quality. When you’re done with that, you’ll be ready to start broadcasting to Twitch from your PS4.
It’s an easy process; you don’t even need to install the Twitch app to do it. You will need the Twitch app if you want to watch other people’s streams on a PS4, however.
For steps on setting up your PS5 to stream to Twitch, check out this guide.
How to stream to Twitch from Xbox
Xbox, unlike PS4, doesn’t come with native Twitch support. So if you want to stream to Twitch from an Xbox, your journey begins in the Xbox store.
1. Install the Twitch app.
Head to the store on your Xbox, search for the official Twitch app, and install it.
2. Connect the Twitch app to your account.
After running the app for the first time, you’ll get a six-digit code you’ll have to enter manually at twitch.tv/activate. You’ll need a desktop computer or a smartphone to visit that address.
3. Connect and set up your devices.
You can use any regular webcam with an Xbox One, and you can also use external microphones and headsets. Connect everything to your Xbox, and make sure the microphone and webcam are enabled in the settings. You’ll also want to fine-tune some other settings, so go to Settings > Account > Privacy and Online Safety > Xbox Live Privacy > View Details and Customize, and then:
- Go to Game Content and allow the “You can broadcast gameplay” and “You can share content made using Kinect or another camera” options.
- In Online Status and History, select “Everybody” under “Others can see if you’re online.”
It’s also worth noting that the only way to stream video from an Xbox One to Twitch is with a Kinect. The console and Twitch app do not support external cameras, so if you don’t have a Kinect, your stream will have to be audio and gameplay only.
4. Create a title and start broadcasting.
After you’ve set the title for your stream, you’ll be ready to launch a game and begin broadcasting.
How to stream to Twitch from a smartphone
While consoles are pretty much focused on streaming gaming content, smartphones are less so. Twitch’s smartphone app only lets you broadcast from your phone’s camera, so if you want to cast mobile gaming, you’ll have to deal with third-party apps. Here’s how you live stream to Twitch from your smartphone.
1. Download and install the Twitch app.
First things first — you need to have the app installed on your smartphone. Download the Twitch app from the Play Store or the App Store.
2. Log in to the app.
You’ll have to go through Twitch’s whole two-factor authentication process to log in to the app.
3. Press your profile image button in the upper left-hand corner.
Doing so will bring you to the screen where you’ll notice the “go live” button.
4. Press the “go live” button.
You’ll have to allow access to your camera and/or microphone before you’re able to live stream to Twitch via the app.
5. Set up the stream and go live.
Take these few simple steps before finally going live:
- Give your stream a name.
- Select one of the content categories from the dropdown menu.
- Pick the camera you want to use.
- Share a link to your stream via apps you have on your phone.
With that, all that’s left to do is press the “start stream” button, and you’ll be online.
Live streaming on Twitch isn’t too demanding for a novice. You can have your live content on Twitch in a matter of minutes with some basic gear and general computer literacy. It’s that easy to learn how to stream on Twitch — if your goal is just to live stream.
How to get good at streaming on Twitch
On Twitch, success is measured by the distribution of hours watched. A very limited number of top streamers, four thousand of them, hold three-quarters of live hours watched. Twitch has around 9 million monthly streamers, so the math is obvious. A lot of people aren’t getting many eyeballs on their content.
You’ll need to put in a bit more effort than just learning how to stream on Twitch if your goal is to find a place among the successful streamers. Creating your success strategy starts with the most important aspect: content.
What kind of content should you stream on Twitch?
Gaming content is what originally launched Twitch. For a long time, it was the primary draw of the platform. Even today, people seem to tune in mostly to watch gaming content. Two of the most popular categories, in terms of hours watched, are two game categories: League of Legends and Fortnite.
It’s important to note, however, that as of March 2021, the Just Chatting category was dominating concurrent viewership and racked up 63 million watched hours, accounting for a 12.8% viewing share of total watched hours. In the Just Chatting category, you can find channels about anything, not just games and gamer culture.
So what does this mean for you? You don’t have to get stuck producing bad gaming content if there’s something else you’re much better at. Here are a few tips that should help you get settled into a nice content category — or a few.
1. Are you a variety streamer or do you stick to one category?
Some people will jump between gaming, chats, and streaming as part of a variety content strategy. Others will focus on chatting alone, or creating art, or playing a single game, or playing a genre of games. As a variety streamer, your personality is the major draw. If you’re more of a focused streamer, on the other hand, your knowledge and skills will help you build an audience.
2. Stream what you love.
Chances are that you’ll spend some time streaming to a small audience. Beginnings can be tough, and streaming can sometimes seem like an uphill battle to win over one viewer at a time. The best way to stick with it is by streaming something you actually like doing, whether it’s a hobby of yours or a game you like playing.
3. Carefully choose the games you want to stream.
The most popular games have lots of viewers but also lots of established channels flocking to them. New releases can balloon quickly, as evident in the 2019 success story of Apex Legends. A good trick is to use tools such as Quizzical Pixel’s What to Stream to find games that have good viewership but very few channels streaming them.
4. Consider a cross-game niche people will find interesting.
You don’t have to stick to one category to become a well-respected streamer with a good following. You can be a speedrunner who wants to get through games as quickly as possible. You might be a highly competitive gamer who masters games only to duel people. You might thrive as a community guru who figures out game mechanics and helps others become great at games.
5. Select content you can generate regularly.
Because consistency is key when it comes to streaming, the best way to do it is to try to stick to a schedule as much as possible. If the content you want to create doesn’t let you stream regularly, it’s best to avoid streaming that type of content. That is, of course, if you don’t plan to add some other type of content to your portfolio that can fill in the gaps.
How do I make my stream look and sound great?
Your gear and your upload speed play a crucial role in the quality of your stream, but they’re not all that matters. Content affects quality, too, albeit in a different way. There are some other effects you can add to your stream, as well as special settings you can pay attention to, that can make a lot of difference.
If you want your stream to look and sound like those of some of the most popular streamers, you should consider the following:
- Set up scenes in OBS Studio before the stream. Scenes are different layouts of content you want to appear on the screen, and they’re key for running the stream smoothly.
- Prepare a welcome screen, a BRB screen, and an end screen. These can be static images that let people know you’re starting to stream soon, that you had to step away from the stream, or that the stream has finished.
- Start using overlays. Overlays are graphics that sit on top of your live footage. They can help you customize the look of your stream. There are free, premium, and custom-made overlays available from the best overlay makers.
- Add alerts to your streams. Alerts are audio-visual packages triggered by specific actions, such as someone subscribing to your channel. They are provided by third-party services such as Streamlabs, Muxy, and StreamElements.
- Check out some Twitch extensions. Twitch extensions are apps that can interact with your stream and, for example, provide real-time stats about your game performance. You can also use them to let your viewers play minigames.
- Add music to your stream. You’d be surprised by how empty a stream can sound without music. Streaming copyrighted music without permission can get your channel muted or subjected to other penalties. Stay on the safe side by using royalty-free music services such as Pretzel Rocks, Soundstripe, Epidemic Sound, or Restream Background Music.
- Mind the audio sync. Having issues with audio sync is pretty common if you’re streaming on Twitch. Deal with it in OBS Studio by using the Audio Sync Offset setting you can find in the Audio Mixer settings.
Power up your live streaming setup
If you’re looking to add some power to your streaming setup to make it better at handling whatever game you want to throw at it, adding a dedicated streaming PC is a great way to do it. If you’re running a two-PC setup, you’ll want the one with more processing power to handle the streaming. And you’ll need a capture card.
Capture cards come in internal and external variants. The internal cards must be physically installed onto the streaming computer’s motherboard and then connected with the gaming PC via HDMI. The external cards connect via USB to the streaming computer on one end and via HDMI to the gaming computer on the other end. After that, you only have to add the capture card as a source in OBS.
If you’re using a PC-console setup, the main difference is that the capture card sits in between the console and the TV or computer monitor. Use the “in” HDMI port to plug the console into the card and the “out” HDMI port to connect the card with the display or TV. Again, simply add the card in OBS Studio as a source, and you’re set.
What are the rules of Twitch etiquette that will help me engage the audience?
Just like any other place where people gather, Twitch has its own list of dos and don’ts. Some of them are codified by Twitch in the community guidelines, and yes, you should still read them if you skipped them at the beginning of the article.
But there are also practices that might boost your engagement and generally help everyone watching your stream — including you as a streamer — have a good time. This is the Twitch etiquette, and the most important rules you should observe include:
- Say “hello” to viewers who frequent your channel. This will show them your appreciation, and it will give other viewers something to work towards.
- Stick to your streaming schedule. Don’t leave your viewers hanging, and try not to surprise them with impromptu streams too often. People have lives.
- Use social media. Work on establishing a social media presence to further engage with your audience and look out for business opportunities.
- Network with other streamers. You’re not doing this in a vacuum, so play games with other streamers or co-stream with them occasionally.
- Say “thank you” to people who support you. Neglecting this is one of the worst ways to treat the people who back you financially.
- Don’t go to other people’s streams to promote yourself in the chat room. This is beyond bad behavior, and it’s likely to get your efforts blocked by mods.
- Recruit mods. Moderators can make all the difference in keeping your stream’s chat clean and friendly.
You want your channel to be a fun place where people can hang out and enjoy the show. As a streamer, you should be welcoming. You should take your viewers’ time and attention seriously and pay them back by being the best content creator you can be. Never skip an opportunity to engage with your audience, whether it’s by saying “hello” to them when they join or creating content that appeals specifically to your audience.
Twitch and multistreaming
When you’re just starting out your live streaming career, sticking to a single platform can seem like you’re putting all your eggs into one basket. And it kind of is — there are other platforms out there, and you might want to broadcast to them, too. That’s exactly what Restream is for.
Restream is a service that allows you to multistream, or stream simultaneously to several channels. It has all sorts of convenient tools that can help with everything from relaying chats between different platforms to broadcasting pre-recorded content.
If you want to multistream to Twitch and other platforms, you can — but only up to a point. Once you become a Twitch Affiliate, which allows you to start earning revenue from your streams on Twitch, your content will be subject to a 24-hour exclusivity clause. This means that your content will be exclusive to Twitch while you’re streaming it and for 24 hours after.
At this point, you can still use Restream to broadcast your now VoD content to other platforms and enjoy the analytics and chat features it offers. But you’ll have to decide to either go Twitch-first or keep all your cards open and multistream for a while.
Let’s wrap it up!
Live streaming can be an incredibly rewarding experience. If you’re able to create streamable content from something you like doing, you can benefit from starting to stream. Whether it’s by making new friends, finding new business opportunities, or simply exercising your performance skills, streaming can only do you good.
As far as places where you can broadcast entertaining content go, Twitch is an obvious top choice. It’s the leading platform that’s successfully opening its doors to all kinds of content, from gaming to ASMR and full-body makeup tutorials. The platform is so popular and huge in the market that learning how to stream to Twitch is almost a rite of passage for future content creators.
However, Twitch is not the only platform out there. Much of the advice you should follow when streaming to Twitch also applies to other platforms. By learning how to be a successful streamer on Twitch, you’ll learn how to thrive on other platforms, too. If you want to spread your content across several platforms, Restream is the tool you should be using.