What Are Subscriptions?
Subscriptions are one of the most valuable tools at a streamer’s disposal when it comes to creating reliable income through their content. Using these services, audience-members commit to repeated monthly investment in the stream, at a set amount, often in exchange for rewards, both digital and physical. Originally only available to Twitch partners, the streaming giant recently opened this avenue to nearly all of their users through their Twitch Affiliate program. In addition, we at GameWisp have been making subscription buttons available to everyone for years, where they can be customized with multiple levels and prices, and enhanced through even more rewards.
Why Offer Subscriptions?
One of the biggest reasons to offer subscriptions as a way to monetize your stream actually has little to do with money: community building. Subscribers are a new class of fan, one who has committed not just their time, but now their money to the stream, and the more subscribers you get, the more you’ll find that the shared commitment strengthens the bond that binds them together as members of your community. By offering that higher level of involvement, you’re actually able to draw viewers closer, to the stream, the community, and yourself. It’s a bit like a fan club, and it goes a long way towards formalizing the fandom of your viewers.
Subscriptions also offer one of the most reliable sources of income available to a creator. Unlike some other forms of monetization, subscriptions repeat. Sure, viewers cancel, but committing to that first month is a much larger step than committing to the second, and a great percentage of subscribers stick around, providing that additional income every month. And, the longer it goes on, the larger it grows, the more reliable it becomes. When you’ve got dozens of committed subscribers, you can be sure, every month, even with changeover, that the money will be there. In a world where a lot of income comes from one-time interactions or contracts, this can be a huge load off, and provide you the flexibility you need to keep your content growing and improving.
How to Best Offer Subscriptions
In a word? Marketing. The most important thing to remember, both when you launch your sub button and long after, is to make sure your audience knows it’s there. A lot of creators feel guilty or ashamed when it comes to offering subscriptions. They feel like they’re “begging” or worry they’ll be seen as trying to exploit their fans. For those just starting out, still finding their voice as a creator, it’s okay to play things slow, but professional content creators need to get over this aversion; there’s just no reason for it. Fans want to support content they love, and they want to feel as involved in the process of creation as they can. This is the drive that motivates viewers to hit that sub button in the first place, and it’s the same drive that makes those who aren’t quite ready to lay down cash understand its necessity without anger or resentment.
We’ve been at this a long time, and we’ve seen thousands of examples. The reality is that, so long as you don’t turn your whole platform into a commercial for yourself, fans aren’t going to leave you for taking that next step towards becoming a professional. And, even if they did, those fans were never going to be the ones to support you in the long run, anyway. Ignore the negativity, and push forward with the community you have.
This means you should talk about your subscription program, and you should do it often. Don’t just let that sub button sit there under your content, ignored, unacknowledged. Tell your fans, and be honest about what it means. Are you going to be able to create additional content when you reach a certain number of subscribers? Tell everyone! Do you have a strong Twitter following? Talk about it there! And, remember, after the initial buzz of the launch, don’t stop talking about it. You never know when you’re going to reach that next potential subscriber, or how you’ll do it.
Which also brings us to the subscribe button itself. If you offer subscriptions, it needs to be obvious. That means, if you're offering subscriptions outside of the Affiliate or Partner programs, you’ve still got a clear, easy to understand button, right next to your content, that says “Subscribe.” I know it sounds simple, but you’d be amazed how many creators hide their sub buttons all the way down near the bottom of their panels, where no one ever looks. People need to see that button. They shouldn’t have to go looking for it. So, place it prominently, right under your stream, where nobody can miss it, and let that attitude carry over to other platforms, like on your favorite social media outlets. Be bold. Put it out there for all to see.
Many streamers struggle with figuring out what rewards to offer for their subscriptions. Launched this past year on GameWisp, and variably available through the new Affiliate program, emotes and badges are the easiest, and most exciting, bonuses you can offer, and, indeed, for many subscribers it’s all they need. They just want a sense of recognition, something that makes them feel appreciated and special for taking that extra step, and emotes are a great way to do just that. But, a professional subscription campaign should be about more than just emotes and badges. So, what else is there?
For smaller subscription amounts, you really don’t need to stretch yourself too thin. Subscribers are thrilled to receive shout-outs on social media, or see their name in your Twitch panels on a sort of “wall of fame.” For the lower levels, there's no need to reinvent the wheel; little things like this are all you have to do to make your fans feel appreciated and special.
It’s the higher levels of subscription that require more thought and attention. Sure, you’re going to get less subs at those bigger dollar amounts, but they also present the opportunity to make a lot more while branding yourself with a cooler, more unique surprise. And, of course, there’s a spectrum depending on how high you want to go. How much should it cost to get the opportunity to play games with you? That’s a larger commitment on your end, so it’s likely worth more than $5, but it’s not a huge burden, so maybe it’s appropriate for $10. Do you draw or paint? How much is a unique piece of art worth to a viewer? Are you an eSports maven? How much for private gaming lessons? The more it takes on your end, the more it should cost, but what’s important is that you provide a spectrum, at multiple price points. Give each category of viewer, from casual to die-hard, a path in, and make those big-dollar amounts count. You’d be surprised how many viewers are up for larger commitments. You just have to give them the chance.