Streaming today can quickly turn from a fun pastime into a profitable enterprise. People who broadcast while playing their favorite games, provide commentary on someone else’s performance during a competition, or even just discuss related topics with others online, have the potential to gain followers and become noteworthy in the streaming space. For some, the lofty goal in all of this is to become, say, the next Ninja (a Fortnite streamer with more than 17 million followers). For others, it’s simply to earn the $1,000-plus a month that even streamers with 100 regular viewers can make.
The fact that this industry is increasingly full of lucrative success stories can give off the impression that overnight prestige is attainable. However, it’s important to remember that particularly in competitive spaces like this one, success is rarely accidental or abrupt; it requires work. And as is the case in so many modern pursuits, part of finding success in streaming comes down to building a brand –– much as you would if you were starting out as an entrepreneur or business owner.
With that in mind, let’s look at some strategies you can use to build up your persona in such a way as to attract a greater streaming following.
Get Used to Collaborations
The importance of networking is hammered home in just about every industry that exists today. You’re meant to shake hands, share LinkedIn profiles, and so on in the hopes of maximizing professional opportunities. Streaming may at first appear to be an exception to all of this, in that it’s an industry that revolves largely around independent gamers and creators. However, successful streamers are not always isolated individuals who don’t work with partners. In fact, famous streamers frequently participate in friends’ streams simply by joining them in online gaming sessions or providing guest commentary.
The popular World of Warcraft streamer Asmongold, for example, has friends to his streams more than once, while gaming channel GameGrumps has a whole “Guest Grumps” spinoff series in which guests are invited to play and commentate alongside the hosts; they even got Jamie Lee Curtis to play Super Mario Party! In other cases, meanwhile, streamers might collaborate with other types of content creators, like YouTube vloggers or podcasters. Whatever the specific case, it’s important to develop your ability to work with others, as these opportunities can bring thousands of new followers your way. Plus, you’ll likely have fun doing it!
Develop a Parasocial Relationship
One of the most important aspects of streaming is building a parasocial relationship with your audience. This is a relationship in which, regardless of the fact that you can’t always directly communicate with your followers, they start to see you as a friend. And it should be noted that in our current age of podcasting, streaming, and the like, the notion of parasocial relationships is shifting. Where such situations used to be one-sided, they are now “one-and-a-half-sided. This means that followers who do view you as a friend can now hope for reciprocal communication, affiliation with a community of like-minded fans, and even a sort of membership in a culture.
In other words, you should strive not only to gain fans, but to make them feel like they’re part of a community building up around you and your content.
Maintain the Appeal of Social Media Accounts
It goes without saying that as you try to make it in streaming, you’ll need to build up social media accounts tied to your streaming persona. While social media is an important aspect of building an online brand though, a survey from Career Builder indicates that efforts in this regard can be as harmful as they are helpful. The survey concerned hiring relationships specifically, and noted that 70% of employers research job candidates’ social media presence –– and as many as 57% found content that made them reject applicants.
Now, you are of course not applying for a job, nor trying to impress an employer with your streaming content (save for in the rare event a media company or sponsor might take interest in your work). However, this data does speak to the fact that social media activity is not automatically a positive for professional engagement. As you seek to establish a presence and gain followers, you’ll also need to maintain appeal. Make an effort to keep your social content fun, harmless, and focused on relevant subject matter, and you won’t give potential fans any reason to dismiss you.
Be Visually Consistent
Professional streamers also tend to have easily identifiable brands from a visual standpoint. This usually means establishing a clear logo, as well as a particular color pattern and animation style to use in streams. Some may even wear custom-designed t-shirts, or drink from cups that can be bought in their own stores (preferably referencing catchphrases or fan-favorite moments from streams).
To give examples of the effectiveness of this approach, consider that CaptainSparklez –– a Minecraft YouTuber –– created his own clothing line, dubbed Quality Content. Similarly, streaming musician Matthew Kiichi Heafy, who is famous for broadcasting practice sessions, earns 15-20% of his online revenue from his own branded t-shirts and backpacks.
Of course, you don’t necessarily need t-shirts and mugs to build a visual brand. But the consistency aspect needs to be there. Once you have your “look,” stick to it in ways that make you recognizable and familiar to your viewers and fans.
Starting and maintaining a streaming channel is not for everyone. It requires a willingness to speak to hundreds of people from around the world even as you keep your content fresh, interesting, and fun. It also means turning branding into something of a job, and maintaining a presence that is recognizable, unique, and appealing all at once. But if you can pull all of this off and start growing an audience, you might just find yourself becoming a successful streamer.
Best of luck if you’re aiming for a career in streaming, and for more interesting articles on this and related topics, please have a look at our blog.