For many, lurking on Twitch is when someone opens the stream in a browser window and sets the tab to mute. This way, it gives the appearance someone is watching when in reality they are not. Many teams and communities on Twitch promote this kind of behavior.
But is it really beneficial for streamers?
That really depends on your goals. In the long run, it does very little to help a streamer outside of appearing higher in the list of game broadcasters.
That’s not to say that lurking is a bad practice, though.
What Does Lurking Do for Broadcasters
Most lurking platforms promote the practice as a way to support small streamers. At its core, this is something that has the potential to be amazing for a community.
In reality, there are only two things lurking does to help a streamer: appearing higher in-game lists and maintaining an affiliate status.
Let’s take a look at both prospects.
Higher Rank in Game Visibility
When you look up a game on Twitch, the more popular broadcasters are the ones you see first. As you scroll down the list, you finally get to the people who are new or don’t have a massive following.
Lurking a channel helps these smaller accounts appear higher on the results page. Depending on the game, even having as many as three lurkers can help someone raise pretty high in the ranks.
A higher viewer count also engages real watchers. A lot of people believe if someone has a lot of concurrent viewers, they must be doing something right in terms of entertainment.
Essentially, lurking can kick-start a following by making the streamer more appealing to a real audience.
It’s a similar practice to when people buy Twitter followers. In this strategy, it’s about hitting that nerve in people. It’s often referred to as, “fear of missing out.” While the practice may be questionable, you can’t argue with results.
Artificially Inflates Viewer Count to Become Affiliated
The other aspect of lurking, and perhaps one of the more important to broadcasters, is reaching the goal to become an affiliate. As an affiliate, you have access to generate income outside of regular donations or direct tips from viewers.
According to Twitch, you need to have an average of 3 viewers per stream during a 30-day period. If you have a few friends lurking your channel while you stream, you can easily achieve the goal.
The Downside of Lurking
Although lurking may sound like an easy way to support a streamer, it does have a couple of caveats. For one thing, it’s not like YouTube where you’re paid decent per viewership. The second is the type of audience you’re trying to build.
I’m not saying lurking is a terrible idea or that it doesn’t help a broadcaster. It’s just a practice that is weak in two primary areas.
You’re Not Paid for Visitor Count
In Twitch, you generate money by making sales through Amazon links, receiving bits from viewers, subscriptions and donations. You could have 100,000 viewers and still not make a single dime.
That is unless you’re able to run ads during your stream.
As lurkers are not often avid watchers, there is a much lower chance you’ll actually make money from them. In many instances, your broadcast is simply on mute in the background of someone’s web browser.
I’m having a hard time finding information directly from Twitch regarding how ads work, but some state how you can make about $2 for every 1000 views. Apparently, Twitch does have a form of ad revenue you can generate, but it’s paltry in comparison to other methods.
If you know the link to Twitch regarding this, please feel free to comment or message me on Twitter.
An Audience that is Not Your Target
Perhaps the biggest drawback to lurking is the lack of interaction and engagement. You should focus more on attracting and keeping an interactive audience.
Now, not all lurkers do it quietly in the background. Some will interact with you briefly while others may even give you a 5-bit tip, which is the equivalent of a nickel by the way.
The bottom line is lurkers are not the ones who will help you financially support the stream.
Is Lurking Really Supportive of the Streamer?
Lurking is helpful to a new broadcaster on Twitch who wants to get affiliate status as quickly as possible. It also has the potential to help draw an audience as it “appears” the stream is gaining in popularity.
Once the ball gets rolling and the streamer is able to sustain an audience of his or her own, then lurking becomes near pointless.
For me, I don’t really like the idea of lurking or being lurked. It’s merely personal preference, but I want people to watch because they want to engage. Hiding me in a browser tab with the volume muted defeats the purpose of why I am streaming in the first place.
I see the value for some and often lurk channels myself. However, it just doesn’t seem right to me to be honest.
That’s not saying it’s good or bad. It’s simply a matter of personal preference.
Does Lurking on Twitch Actually Work?
The purpose of lurking is to help a broadcaster by appearing higher on Twitch pages and reaching the 3-viewers-average threshold. But does it actually work like that?
Over the past month, I’ve kept track of everyone in chat during a live stream as well as how many average views are received.
The numbers don’t match up.
At times, I’ll see nearly 15 people in chat throughout an entire stream, even though no one is chatting, but still only record a 3.8 average view count in Twitch.
A possibility of this is perhaps Twitch uses an active browser window to record when someone is actually watching the stream. If that’s the case, then opening a lurker browser window in the background does nothing for the streamer.
I don’t have enough data at the moment to definitively state this is the case. But it is curious to see a chat room full of people with perhaps one or two actively chatting while Twitch is saying the average viewer count was much lower.
How Do You Lurk a Channel in Twitch?
To lurk a channel, you open it up in a browser tab and leave it running while you do other things. For example, you can open a Twitch channel on one tab and watch Netflix on another. It gives the channel an extra “viewer.”
You can either mute the stream itself or mute the tab. In the past, I had to mute the tab because the stream would pause if I shifted to a new window. To mute the tab:
- Turn the audio of the stream up all the way.
- Right-click the browser’s tab and click, “Mute Site.”
This tells Twitch there is still a viewer even though your attention is on another tab. This way, you can open a channel for lurking and do something else without the system taking away from the viewer count.
But, this probably isn’t needed. As I said, I was able to move from one tab to another while keeping the stream active recently.
The Grey Area of Lurking
Lurking can help get smaller channels more visibility, but that’s about it. The money comes from active viewers who are willing to tip or buy something from your affiliate links. In reality, it becomes pointless when a channel reaches a certain number of active viewers.
Personally, I only lurk channels with less than 3 concurrent viewers. Once that has been surpassed, I either close the tab or lurk another small streamer.
On occasion, I interact with broadcasters. It’s not enough to simply lurk a channel if you want to show support for the streamer.