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Streaming Tips From Twitch's Most Followed User, Syndicate

by Kyle Hilliard on Oct 06, 2014 at 07:15 AM

Tom "Syndicate" Cassell is Twitch's most popular streamer. He was the first on the video service to crack one million followers. He was even able to beat the channel of League of Legends developer Riot Games to the seven digit number. We recently had a chance to speak with Cassell about his journey to convince one-million people to click the follow button. We asked him how he came to master the art of talking to himself while playing video games, how he deals with going to the bathroom while streaming, his thoughts on the Amazon buyout, and how those interested in streaming can start building their own following.

Do you have any tips for people who want to stream successfully? What makes a good streamer?

Tom "Syndicate" Cassell: You need high-quality gear. There are a lot of people who stream off of potatoes, which doesn’t work well at all. Using their microwaves or whatever to stream. The quality does not come through. You can get cheap systems, so try to step up your quality game. If you’ve got a console, you can stream through them, as well, so there’s nothing really stopping you from doing it. The next thing would be, just be you. Don’t be a fake character. I know a lot of people who are characters, and they’ll get off a stream and be like, “Oh, thank God I don’t have to be like that anymore.” They’re all hyped up and energetic, like, super-hyped – and as soon as they get off, they’re like, “Oh, my God, I hate myself.” I’ve seen it and it genuinely shocked me that such popular people have kept that up for so long. I’m not calling anyone out, but it’s just surprising that people can be like that. So, just be you and be who you want to be for the future, as well. Really set yourself up for it.

And then, consistency. If you don’t know when a TV show’s on, you don’t know when to watch it. If you grew up going, “Every Saturday night at nine o’clock, this is going to be on,” make sure your stream’s set up so that every day, or every whatever days at a set time, this is where I’m going to be. ‘Cause then it’s not just that they go on Twitch and hope that you’re there, or they go to your Twitter and hope that you’ve tweeted. They’re going there because you’re a consistent stream for them to be able to tune in and enjoy your content at a set time, every time, and it just works. That’s how I managed to change from doing 10,000 viewers per stream to 60 to 80,000 viewers per stream. Every day, 12 ‘til 2pm PT, 8 p.m. UK time, I’m set. People know to tune in and watch it. Consistency is key.

How do you keep your energy up?

I like to think I’m just a positive, energetic person overall. That’s how I am in a lot of my videos, that’s how I was before I started doing YouTube. I just try to take care of myself and stay positive. You can’t not be happy when you’ve got so many people interacting with you and being awesome. My stream viewers come and watch because they’re there and they’re being positive. On YouTube, you can read negative comments, and if you go read neggie comments, it’ll get you down in life. It happens to YouTubers and they get depressed. I just ignore all that s***. I block them, ban them, delete the comment, and get on with my life. I’m like, “Listen, you want to ‘keyboard warrior’ behind your keyboard, then you go ahead. I’m just going to enjoy knowing that I’ve managed to do something successful and have an amazing amount of people who support me doing what I’m doing.”

Plus, I just love playing video games. People may knock on Minecraft, but I stream two hours every day for this series and I have some of the most fun gaming moments I’ve ever had. Today, I was invisible chasing around my friends, punching them, trolling them all day, misleading them, just being a massive troll. Then I left a trap open and he burnt alive and just lost everything that was valuable to him. That might seem like a mean thing, but in the aspect of everything that went on that day, it’s hilarious. People love it. For people to watch it live and just see how it goes…it’s just so fun, ‘cause you’re not doing it on your own. If I was doing it on my own and there was no one to talk to, I’d probably go insane. But because you can look at your chat, you can suggest funny ideas and bounce off them. So it’s like having a conversation with friends in real life. We go out for joking around and drinking and just having fun. I’m kind of doing that – without the drinking – with my fans in the audience, watching. Just having a good ol’ social time. It’s a fully social experience for me and I love doing it that way.

There will be days when I’m out of energy and I need a glass of coke to get my energy levels back up, and I get them up. I might still be a little bummed out, but if I’m genuinely not in the mood to make the content – this rarely happens – if I’m feeling kind of down or like I don’t want to that day, I just won’t do it. My audience understands that. I don’t want to be fake to them. I always want to be me – and if I’m not me, why would you want to watch it? It’s rare that I get like that. It’s most likely when I’m just hungover, to be honest. Nobody wants to hear me be like, “Yeah, I can’t do this today.” No one wants to hear me doing nothing for two hours a day.

For Cassell's thoughts on Amazon's purchase of Twitch and the issue of using the bathroom while hosting a live stream, head to page two.

What do you do when you have to use the bathroom while you’re streaming?

That happened today! Usually, if I have to use the bathroom, I just go, “Oh, I’ll just be right back.” I don’t even put a “be right back” screen, ‘cause as long as it looks like there’s gameplay there, people will just stay there and watch an empty chair. Luckily, my bathroom isn’t too far away. Today’s the first time that I’ve ever not just left it like that, and I thought, “Screw it,” ‘cause if I’m not going to be there, viewers will quit when they see the “be right back” screen. I was like, “Right, guys, catch you later,” and then I put the “be right back” screen. I left the “be right back” screen on for 47,000 viewers; I came back, and it’s at 37,000 viewers. I was like, “Wow, 10,000 people couldn’t wait, like, a minute for me to go and take a dump? Is this a thing?” So I was just like, “Wow, okay. Interesting.” I’ve learned that I might as well just leave it open, show an empty chair, and people will be like, “Oh, you must be hiding under the table or something. He’s clearly not gone to the toilet.” And then I’ll just come running back and be like, “Hey, guys. I’m back.”

Do you take your headset with you?

[Laughs] No, no, no. I don’t have a wireless one, ‘cause I could walk out of the room and say something that doesn’t need to be heard on stream. I know a lot of streamers who do have wireless headsets. It’s funny, ‘cause if they go out of the room, they can carry on an ongoing joke. Say they are on the toilet, they could be like, “God dam***, this s*** is so large, it just won’t come out!” And I know it’s super-inappropriate, but imagine your stream thinking, “Oh, he’s gone,” and then you continue on. It’s just adding to the entertainment element of the stream, but you really wouldn’t want to do that. My idea is, just leave your wired headset on the table and just roll away.

Any thoughts on the Amazon purchase? Does that affect you or how you stream? Do you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing?

It’s a good thing. I’m stoked to get myself a free Amazon Prime account. Hopefully, they’ll hook us up with that [Laughs]. To clarify, we don’t get that. I’ve not had an email saying, “Congratulations, you are now a Prime plus member.” That’s not been a thing just yet.

Honestly, I don’t think too much of it. Yeah, they’ve been bought by Amazon. Amazon’s a great company; they do Amazon right. Twitch does Twitch right. Hopefully, by combining them, they’ll create a sandwich of awesome. Hopefully, Amazon will be able to bring in some features to it that work well. As to what the features would be? I’m not too sure whether they can help the infrastructure, make things run better. There can always be improvements made everywhere, but as long as it doesn’t work like a system like YouTube. Everyone was so happy that YouTube didn’t buy Twitch, because YouTube is like, “Here’s this update that no one needs. Enjoy how much you hate it. Enjoy Google Plus.”

If Amazon does an update where you have to have an Amazon account to talk, everyone will be like, “We’ve already got one, so that’s fine.” But at the same time, everyone would be like, “No, don’t force us to do something we don’t want to do.” I’d just like to say that I hope Amazon is going to continue to just let Twitch do their own thing as their own employees would and then implement good features. As to what those features are going to be? I don’t know. If we all get drones flown to our houses with Mountain Dew and Doritos every 24 hours, that’d be pretty good. Even though I don’t drink or eat either of those, that’s just the stereotypical gamer food.