Viewer Engagement Versus Viewer Numbers on Twitch

Published by Allie Brekke on

What’s more important, viewer engagement, or viewer count?

Twitch Engagement

“Lurkers are the backbone of Twitch”

We’ve all heard the line above. Whether it’s in a tweet from a larger broadcaster thanking the people who dutifully watch without talking in chat, or it’s from a smaller streamer trying to climb in a game directory. It’s correct, as well. Lurkers often make up the majority of streams. You’ll often see a stream with hundreds of viewers, but only see a few dozen talking in the chat. Lately, due to an update on several browsers, the question of what “lurking” actually entails has come up. The browsers automatically pause a player after an amount of time tabbed out of the page, if the media is muted. This didn’t cause an issue for actual engagement with viewers, but it’s caused some commotion on social media.

This upset many people who couldn’t “lurk” by muting the player and doing something else in another tab. That, in turn, lead to a discussion about what constitutes lurking. The more important issue streamers need to grasp is success on Twitch depends on an engaged audience.

The argument for lurking on another tab while muted

There’s a valid reason many people want the ability to count towards a streamer’s viewer count, when they have the channel open in a tab. It helps to boost the channel’s numbers, which in turn puts the caster in a more visible spot in the directory. The streamer may also be on the cusp of partnership, and the viewer numbers count more than ever. Lurking while muted is helpful for these reasons. However, viewers who aren’t engaged won’t lead to long term success.

Empty Theater

A sold out, but empty house

If you’re promoting advertisers on your stream, you use both visual and audio advertising. You have panels displayed, or maybe the logo appears on your screen. You also bring up the advertiser and what they offer while talking to your viewers. If someone is not able to see your channel (they’ve tabbed out), nor do they hear you after muting, they receive none of this. An engaged viewer is actively consuming your content. Some may watch without sound, or some may have the audio playing while working on something else. Your advertising reaches them. They’ll be more likely to buy products and services that they see/hear you promoting, than without your word.

Picture a theater on opening night of a production. The box office is sold out. Yet, when the curtain rises, no one is actually there. The sales say they were there, but the seats are empty.┬áSo, in certain terms it’s a success, but there is no growth.That’s the “lurk” aspect when both the video and audio are off.

Let’s take a moment, and talk about how engagement helps streamers, outside of promotion. An engaged viewer forms a connection with the streamer, and their content. This connection often grows, and turns to other means of support. They’re more likely to tip the caster, buy from partnered brands, and advertise the caster via word of mouth. People who often pull the “I’ll leave the tab open, but I’m heading out. Here’s a view” feel they’re already going out of their way for the caster. There may be a connection, because they want to help, but the earnest and deep seated support rarely happens. An unattended “view” does little in terms of actual help for the caster. It’s an acceptable view bot of one.


In conclusion, while streamers do need to focus on their viewer numbers, the engagement of those viewers is paramount. The more they see or hear of a streamer, the better connection they form, which in turn, leads to long term success.

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