The most significant change in social media usage over the last couple of years has been an immense increase in the number of videos shared and consumed. While the bulk of that has involved people sharing videos on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, there has also been a considerable upsurge in live streaming.
One niche that attracts relatively tech-savvy supporters is gaming. So it should be of little surprise that gamers have taken to live streaming more quickly than most other genres. Twitch is the streaming platform of choice for gamers.
It doesn’t take long for influencers to sprout up on a platform, and as we have seen in Top 20 Twitch Influencers (Streamers) Every Gamer Should Follow, these include many of the same gamers who release the top “gaming highlight” videos on YouTube. Many of these gaming influencers earn their incomes from a mix of their Twitch Streaming, their YouTube videos, and in some cases, professional game playing.
These gaming broadcasters have discovered how to make money on Twitch. It can be a lucrative platform for influential and entertaining gamers. There is also a small percentage of successful Twitch broadcasters who have managed to build a following in non-gaming niches.
Some well-known gamers have clearly found the formula to make good money on Twitch. Shroud, for instance, takes in more than $100,000 a month from subscribers alone. And this is just from one source of income. Once you add in sponsorship and other money-making techniques, the top Twitch influencers are generating impressive earnings.
How to Make Money on Twitch:
Types of Twitch Users
Your ability to make money on Twitch depends to a large extent on what type of user you are. You can split Twitch users into:
- Everyday Twitch users
- Twitch Affiliates
- Twitch Partners
Twitch Media Value Estimator
Income Sources Available to Everybody
Obviously, few everyday Twitch users will have a large enough support base to make money on Twitch. Most don’t have any intention of doing so. They merely spend time on the platform watching their favorite broadcasters and influencers playing and commentating on their play.
If you have a realistic aim to make money, you need to begin by meeting the criteria to become a Twitch Affiliate. If you are more serious about building up a Twitch-based income, you should then work on reaching the level of support where Twitch will offer you an opportunity to become a Partner.
Everyday users need to work on improving their streaming skills and building up a following before they should consider making money on Twitch.
The following ways to make money on Twitch are theoretically open to any Twitch user. These are mainly “off platform” methods of making money, not officially connected to the Twitch platform itself. In reality, of course, most will viable for popular Twitch streamers with a devoted following.
A common way people earn money online is to join various affiliate programs. This is different from the Twitch Affiliate Program.
Affiliate marketing involves marketing other people's’ products online, using a customized link to a site where potential customers can buy the product. If they follow your link and make a purchase, you receive a percentage of the money they spend.
Many Twitch streamers sign up to some affiliate network that sells products that interest gamers. If somebody follows an affiliate link from a streamer’s Twitch page and buys something, then the broadcaster will receive a percentage of the money the person spends on that company’s website.
Amazon has the best-known affiliate program in the world. Amazon owns Twitch, so it makes it particularly easy for Twitch streamers to work as an Amazon affiliate. Amazon calls the affiliate program, Gear on Amazon. Streamers can showcase Amazon products in a widget on their page. Any fans who click on the widget are redirected to the relevant Amazon sales page for the product. The broadcaster receives a percentage of any sales revenue earned during the visit.
Of course, you don’t want to lose credibility with your audience. This means that it makes sense that you limit your affiliate advertising to products you use and recommend yourself. Likewise, don’t offer links to competing products. Decide which competing product you like and link to that one. You shouldn’t, for instance, hedge your bets by providing affiliate links to both Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
Selling Customized Merchandise
This is another income source that is not directly related to Twitch itself. Hence it is available to any Twitch broadcaster.
Of course, if you don’t have a large following, you are unlikely to have many people wanting to spend money on buying a mug or tee-shirt featuring the face of a “nobody” they have never heard of. But once you have made a name for yourself on Twitch, your fans will be prepared to pay for your customized merchandise.
The easiest way to do this is to set up an online store and then place a link to it on your Twitch page. You can then promote it in your feed and direct your fans to your online store. Many short-run manufacturers are happy to create customized “fanboy” merchandise you could sell.
You can ask your followers for donations to help you spend more time entertaining them on Twitch.
Although Twitch has a type of mini donations called Bits, you have to be an Affiliate or Partner to have access to these. We look at Bits in more detail below.
You could make a direct request for donations on your page. To do this, you will first need to set up a link using PayPal, Stripe or some other online payment processing system. You would then make donation requests in your stream, giving the Paypal or other payment details. You could set up a donations goal and show your progress towards the goal. This acts as an incentive for your fans to help you.
We have previously discussed how you can use Twitch Alerts to provide a graphical stimulus to encourage people to make donations to you.
It may be simpler to collect donations through a third party website, such as Patreon. You would need to go to the Patreon website first and create a profile. You would then link to your Patreon profile from Twitch, along with your social media accounts.
One word of warning, however. There have been quite a few cases where scammers have made fake donations. They make their donation, but later file a chargeback, leading to the streamer losing the donation. So before you celebrate that “larger-than-life” donation make sure that you see the cash first.
Twitch is the live streaming site of choice for gamers and enjoys many keen, enthusiastic viewers in the genre. They tend to stay on-site for much longer than other social platforms, and often follow their preferred streamers with a passion. This makes it an ideal online venue for brands to target gamers.
If a brand feels they have a natural affinity with a particular streamer’s audience, then it makes sense for them to sponsor the streamer on Twitch and engage in influencer marketing.
Any company that sells a product to “gamer-type people” can benefit from Twitch sponsorship. As well as the gaming companies themselves, this includes companies selling computers, gaming consoles, phones, accessories, website hosting, food, drinks, takeaways, fashion, music and more niches.
As sponsorship deals are made outside of Twitch, it does not matter whether a streamer is a Partner or Affiliate. Of course, like all influencer marketing, brands will typically choose to work with broadcasters who influence their followers’ decision making. So it would be atypical for a small broadcaster on Twitch, who has not yet reached Affiliate status, to receive sponsorship.
If you are a good player, one way you can earn money while streaming on Twitch is by entering a tournament and winning (either by yourself or in a team, depending on the game).
In reality, this option will generally be restricted to professional gamers, or people in pro teams, as it will be to difficult for average gamers to beat them.
Smaller players may be able to join tournaments on ESL or with GameBattles by MLG and earn some money – broadcasting your battles for your Twitch fans as you play, of course.
Income Sources Available to Twitch Affiliates and Partners Only
If you wish to join the Twitch Affiliate Program, you need to meet the following criteria:
- Stream for at least eight hours in the last 30 days
- Steam on at least seven days in the last 30 days
- Receive an average of three viewers per stream
- Grow your audience to 50 followers
If you meet these criteria, Twitch automatically invites you to become an Affiliate.
Twitch offers you a few additional earning opportunities as an affiliate. These are still available should you manage to make the jump from Affiliate to Partner.
Twitch Bits are effectively mini-donations from viewers. They pay for them using either Amazon Payments or PayPal. Bits are a type of virtual currency that gamers can “spend” on their favorite gamers’ sites. Twitch pays their Affiliates and Partners one cent for every Bit fans use on their channels.
A viewer can Cheer with his Bits. When a viewer Cheers, he uses his Bits to pay for the right to participate in a chat on a particular gamer’s chat channel. He can also use Bits to buy emotes he can use in the chat – with the bigger, more animated emotes costing more Bits. A viewer earns a Cheer Chat Badge in any gamer’s chat channel in which he participates. The more a viewer chats in a channel, the more Bits he spends, and over time he can earn a better Cheer Chat Badge.
You can set the minimum number of Bits needed to send a Cheer message in your channel, so people don’t spam your chat with multiple uses of single Bits. Likewise, you can set the smallest emote somebody can use in your channel.
You can also add a StreamLabs Tip Jar widget to your stream. This shows an image of an empty glass filling up as people use Bits on your channel. This helps encourage your followers to use more Bits to “fill up” your glass.
Twitch Subscriptions provide a recurring income to streamers. You can encourage your followers to subscribe to your channel for either $US4.99, $9.99 or $24.99 per month. The money collected is split 50/50 between Twitch and the streamer (although a few top streamers have been able to negotiate a higher percentage).
As soon as you sign up as an Affiliate or Partner, a Subscribe button will automatically appear on your page.
Streamers can set up alerts to encourage gamers to subscribe. These are signs that pop up on the screens saying that somebody has bought (or renewed their subscription) to your channel. These are particularly popular with Twitch users who love to see their name on their favorite gamer’s page.
Income Sources Available to Twitch Partners Only
Twitch targets its Partner program at the platform’s best streamers –genuine influencers on Twitch.
Unlike the Affiliate program, the Twitch Partnership program is exclusive - invitation only. You can start the process by requesting they consider you, however.
There are no published criteria on how Twitch select partners. They do admit, however, that the following factors affect their evaluation:
- Content – Twitch expects their partners to produce the best possible content for their audience.
- Average concurrent viewership – channels with high viewing levels are more likely to be offered an opportunity as a Twitch Partner. However, Twitch takes notice of your behavior and interaction with your community, both on Twitch, and other social platforms.
- Stream frequency and schedule – Twitch expects their partners to broadcast at least three times per week at scheduled times.
There are a few additional ways that Partners can make money on Twitch on top of all of the other sources.
Selling Games, In-Game Items, and T-Shirts
Twitch Partners can sell games and in-game items from their page. They can receive a 5% share of the revenue.
If a Partner plays a game which Twitch either sells or has in-game items to sell, a sales box automatically appears on their page below the video screen. If one of your viewers clicks on the box and makes a purchase, you will receive 5% of the revenue. This is automatic and requires no input from the Partner.
Although the sales box appears on the pages of all streamers who play relevant games, only Partners receive a portion of the proceeds.
Partners can also sell t-shirts in the official Twitch t-shirt store.
Twitch Partners can opt to run ads on their steam. They can select how often they want ads to run, as long as they leave at least eight minutes between commercials, as well as ad length, (from 30 seconds to 3 minutes). Partners share advertising revenue with Twitch. The more money Twitch receives from advertisers, the more they pay you.
Twitch pays you a flat-rate CPM (cost per 1000 views). The CPM changes depending on the time of year. Gaming companies happily pay more for ads at certain times, for instance during holiday seasons or when a product launch. A typical payment is $1 to $2 per thousand views.
You can choose from pre-roll, mid-roll, or post-roll ads. You should probably experiment to see which types of ads resound best with your audience.
Many Twitch broadcasters prefer to bypass using video ads. They realize how much their fans dislike ads, and they can make sufficient money from the other less intrusive income sources on Twitch.