Twitch provides a platform for gamers to make money doing what they love: playing video games. Twitch streamers can live stream their gaming sessions while also growing their audience. When that audience becomes large enough, they can monetize it.
However, making money through Twitch alone is challenging. That's why many Twitch streamers nurture income methods outside Twitch. Affiliate marketing and merchandise are popular choices. If you want to learn tips on building a Twitch audience and monetize it, keep reading.
Building a Twitch Audience Isn't Enough. You Also Need to Learn How to Monetize It.
What Exactly is Twitch?
Twitch.tv (acquired by Amazon in 2014) is the leading live streaming platform for casual and professional gaming. The streaming platform amassed more than 15 million daily active users in 2017. There were nearly 2 billion hours watched in February 2021, according to TwitchTracker.
Making Money Directly Through Twitch
When Twitch streamers build a sizable following, they can join the Twitch Affiliate or Partner program. Affiliate and Partners can make money through the following ways:
- Subscriptions: Earn 50% commission when a viewer pays for a subscription. (Sources report that larger Twitch streamers can negotiate a higher cut.)
- Game sales: Earn a commission (typically 5%) on selling games or in-game items through Twitch. While gaming, a purchase offer will appear on the streamer's channel page that viewers can take.
- Bits: Viewers buy Twitch Bits to cheer their favorite streamers. The cheers appear as animated gem emotes in the live stream chat. Generally, streamers earn one cent for every Bit a viewer spends on their channel.
- Ads: Display ads during your live stream and earn a flat rate per certain number of views.
Warnings about ads: Ads can be lucrative — even expected, especially on YouTube. However, ads can be more intrusive and off-putting on a platform like Twitch.
Amazon recently ran anti-union ads on Twitch, according to The Verge. Twitch viewers generally want entertainment, not politics and economics. For this reason, many streamers forego ads and capitalize on other monetization methods (more on that later).
How can I become a Twitch Affiliate?
To qualify for the Twitch Affiliate program, streamers must meet the following requirements within a 30-day-period:
- 500 total minutes broadcasted
- 7 unique broadcast days
- Average 3 concurrent viewers or more
- At least 50 followers
How can I become a Twitch Partner?
Becoming a Twitch Partner unlocks the coveted Verified Channel Badge for their Twitch account. To qualify as Twitch Partner, streamers must complete the Path to Partner Achievement. Over a 30-day-period, streamers must:
- Stream for 25 hours
- Stream on 12 different days
- Average 75 viewers
The achievement will unlock the application button on the Twitch dashboard. The Twitch Partnerships team manually reviews applications. It may take up to 7 business days for applicants to receive a response.
How to Monetize Your Twitch Audience (Alongside Twitch's Affiliate and Partner Program)
We applaud Twitch for giving gamers a platform to do what they love and get paid for it. However, making substantial revenue there is often a steep hill to climb. Fortunately, there are ways to leverage your audience alongside your channel.
Syndicate Your Streams to YouTube
A YouTube channel lets you capitalize on the platform's monetization tactics, such as ad revenue. After recording your Twitch live stream, you can upload it to YouTube for viewers to watch later. You can also repurpose longer streams into bite-size videos, like a highlight reel with funny edits.
Services, like Restream, allow you to simulcast your Twitch stream to YouTube. You could ask any YouTube viewers or subscribers to follow you on Twitch and vice versa. If you're aiming for the Affiliate or Partner program, this can be a valuable way to leverage two platforms.
Already started on YouTube? If you already command a large YouTube audience, it's possible to skip the Path to Partner pathway and become a Twitch Partner immediately. This allows some users to kickstart their Twitch channel without starting from scratch.
Patreon is becoming the go-to platform for creatives to monetize their craft and content. This includes gaming streamers. Similar to Twitch, Patreon offers a tiered subscription model. The higher the tier, the higher the price and the more features unlocked.
So, what type of content can streamers post on Patreon? Here are a few ideas:
- Engagement: Streamers can speak with you directly or engage with your community.
- Bonus materials: Think behind-the-scenes content, sneak peek photos, patron-only streams, discount codes on merchandise.
- Party streams: Some Twitch streamers engage their patrons with community games, like Jackbox. Other streamers even hold a weekly movie night.
- Physical goods: Give out free stickers or merchandise, depending on the subscription tier.
- Polling: Patrons can vote on what content they want to see next, such as which game to play or review.
Popular Twitch streamers, like TimeTheTatMan and Ninja, supplement their income with branded merchandise. Merchandise is ideal for streamers with a large and engaged audience. Engaged is the keyword here.
Loyal fans are more likely to support their favorite streamers by purchasing their merchandise. If you have a branded channel, slapping your logo on a t-shirt and hoodie can be a lucrative idea.
Selling merchandise, however, can be a complex process. You would need to source your merchandise and establish a payment gateway. You would also need to choose an ecommerce platform, like Shopify, to build your online store. But if you do the work, it can be a great way to monetize your audience.
After building your online store, you can include a link in your Twitch profile. Also, remember to mention your merchandise during your live streams to drive traffic to your online store.
Sell affiliate products
Affiliate marketing is earning a commission when a viewer purchases a product or service you promote. When somebody makes a purchase using your custom link or coupon code, you will receive either a percentage of the sale or a flat fee.
As a Twitch streamer, it's a good idea to promote products relevant to your brand and audience. Often that looks like gaming products and accessories, such as chairs, headphones, and electronics.
Join Amazon's affiliate program
Since Twitch is a subsidiary company of Amazon, Inc., joining Amazon's affiliate program can be a good idea. Twitch streamers can also potentially earn a commission on any purchase in any product category. The customer just needs to shop through the streamer's affiliate link.
Other companies that offer affiliate programs to gamers include NVIDIA and XSplit. Popular retailers, like Microsoft and GameStop, are also worth considering.
Twitch streamers with large audiences tend to become influencers within their respective niche. At this point, they begin attracting the eyes of various companies.
Twitch sponsorships are lucrative opportunities worth exploring. Brands will pay you to play, promote or review their products or services. This might look like playing one of their games or wearing their merchandise during your live stream.
Sponsorships aren't limited to only gaming companies, either. You can find Twitch streamers who have partnered with food brands, such as:
- Hershey's & Reese's Pieces with Ninja
- Nissin Cup Noodles with Pokimane
- Frito Lay even sponsored Ninja to participate in the Doritos Bowl
Twitch streamers can enable a donation button on their Twitch channel. (This is different from the Twitch Bits cheer system.) Streamers will need to set up a donation link through a payment processing platform — PayPal is a popular choice. After completing the logistics, you can promote the donation link in your live stream.
Nurture your email list
Any time there is audience-building involved, growing your email list is always a good idea. There are multiple advantages to having an email list — even for Twitch streamers:
- You own your list. There may be a day when the Twitch website goes down. You lose all your followers. But with an email list, that list is yours. And you always have a way to reach your audience directly through their email inbox.
- Plug your merchandise or affiliate deals. When somebody joins your email list, they must give explicit permission for you to send them emails. That means they want to hear from you. Consider an email subscriber as a warm lead who can sell your merchandise or brand deals.
- Communication. To maximize your viewer counts during a live stream, it may help to email reminders or countdowns when you plan on going live. You can also email polls and surveys to gauge your audience's interests. This offers inspiration on what your viewers want to see and what you should do next.
- Email marketing is a powerful tool. If you want to capture emails, consider offering an incentive. For example, if you sell merchandise, consider offering a discount on their first order. This increases your chances of closing that first sale while also allowing you to market to them in the future.
Tips for Building an Audience
Learning how to monetize your audience is great, but don't forget to put the horse before the cart. Build and nurture your audience before selling to them. Here are a few tips to help you grow your Twitch channel and followers:
Invest in your equipment.
Here at Capitalism.com, we believe reinvesting the profits you make back into the business helps you grow quickly. If you're starting, you likely won't be making the millions that Twitch streamer Ninja makes any time soon. Time, work, and investment are part of the process.
For Twitch streamers, that can be upgrading your equipment. While you may not need the best starting out, it's a good idea to level up over time to offer a better experience for your viewers. Possible investments include:
- Higher quality microphone: the feedback from a laptop or an external webcam isn't going to get you a pass for very long.
- Webcam: Twitch is a video platform. Better quality visuals make sense. Try aiming for at least a webcam with 1080p quality.
- Higher-spec computers (for computer games): If you're playing Skyrim or Guild Wars 2 and the graphics look like Minecraft, it's time for an upgrade.
Strategize how you will stand out.
Twitch has more than 50,000 live streams at any given moment. These streams are your competition. How can you differentiate yourself?
Here are a few ways to stand out from the crowd:
- Let your personality or interest shine through. Being comedic and entertaining is a quick way to develop a likable personality. Other streamers talk about specific topics while streaming, like movies or politics.
- Be educational. If you're exceptionally skilled at a specific game, play an educational role. Make your live streams a learning experience for your viewers. Share tips on how players can improve their skills at a particular game or how to stream on Twitch to grow their channels.
- Have a "gimmick." A "gimmick" specific to your channel helps make your brand instantly recognizable. For example, some Twitch streamers live stream in cosplay. Check out Saiiren and Pokimane for inspiration.
A quick note on building your audience: As you're growing a larger audience, you inevitably attract some desirables that don't fit your brand and culture. Female streamers who experience harassment are one example. Emme "negaoryx" Montgomery experienced harassment when a man asked what color thong she was wearing while playing, reported Yahoo! Life.
"99% of the time, I ignore trolls and ban them," she tweeted. In this case, she called him out, saying, "Respect women, you just absolute infant of a human."
If you experience a hostile user, take the time to ban their username. Cultivating an engaged but safe and positive audience is part of the job.
Network with streamers and organizations.
A Twitch live stream isn't like filming a video or YouTube. It's live. Remember that those people joining your stream are live viewers watching you in real-time.
Engage with your fans and supporters! Your live stream will have a chat window where your viewers can communicate with you. Try responding when somebody asks a question or cheers you. If you get a donation or new subscriber, verbally express your appreciation.
If the opportunity arises (post-pandemic, of course), you can also attend conventions or real-life events. TwitchCon is an annual event where streamers and viewers gather to communicate and have fun. Consider making it each year so you can thank your fans in person.
Embrace the grind, stay passionate.
Slow starts are a universal experience for anyone starting a money-making enterprise. Unless you have an existing following, chances are you'll be broadcasting to audiences of zero... For a while. There may be methods for fast-tracking your growth. But understand that this may be the reality for the majority of streamers.
Patience and passion will help you navigate the initial slump. Only those who genuinely enjoy streaming and gaming will likely make it. These are the people who will stay consistent.
Therefore, establish a streaming schedule and stick to it. You'll never find results or improve your craft if you don't show up.
How much does a Twitch streamer make?
Expert full-time streamers can expect to make between $3,000 to $5,000 monthly, according to Business of Apps. However, those who stream on the side are inconsistent. Those with small audiences likely make less than $1,000 per month.
How many Twitch followers do you need to get paid?
For payment through the Twitch Affiliate Program, Twitch streamers must have at least 50 followers over the last 30 days. However, it is possible to monetize your Twitch audience without Affiliate status. Other channels, like Patreon and YouTube, offer other money-making opportunities.
Can you make a living on Twitch?
Yes, there are Twitch streamers who stream full-time and earn more than one million dollars a year. Twitch streamer Disguised Toast uploaded a YouTube video about his Twitch earnings. His monthly base salary is $20,000 from ads, subscribers, and donations.
Who is the richest Twitch streamer?
Ninja is the richest Twitch streamer, according to GrooveWallet. As of 2021, Ninja earns $5.4 million per year and commands an audience of 14.7 million followers.
The Bottom Line
We're always impressed by how technology and capitalism introduce creative ways to make money. In today's day and age, you can literally make a living by playing video games.
Now, it may sound like a dream — for some, it may stay that way. Growing a Twitch channel requires tons of planning, hard work, and hours. It isn't enough to play games. You also have to be entertaining and understand how to grow and monetize an audience.
Dedicate time to study, learn and grow. Over time, Twitch streaming may become a profitable hobby-turned-business for you.