The popular League of Legends streamer “Tyler1” once mocked a fan after receiving a $100 donation:
Thank you so much for that $100. You are a goddamn dipshit, though. Imagine giving a streamer money. You have problems in real life. You should get those sorted, then come back to the stream.
Despite being among the top League of Legends streamers on Twitch, Steinkamp seems to be the kind of person who doesn’t understand the mentality of those who would donate money to streamers. Earlier, he frankly told his audience that they “donated to somebody who makes more than your parents combined.” It hurts, but it’s true.
The meteoric rise of Twitch has given birth to Twitch-preneurs, who film themselves playing games for live spectators and make money from a variety of sources: pre and in-stream advertisements, subscriptions (with additional perks for fans), and brand deals. But the monetization method that lends itself to the most discussions is “tipping”: viewers can tip streamers whenever they please, as a way to show their appreciation for the service provided. Twitch’s built-in donation function allows the audience to “cheer” their streamers with the platform’s currency called “bits.” Streamers also have the option to collect donations directly through third-party platforms like Paypal.
Why do people donate to streamers?
While it may sound really weird to give money to millionaires (for example, Ninja, who earns about 1.5 million dollars/month), there are certain motivations behind such monetary support.
If a streamer has a lot of viewers in chat, sometimes the chat scrolls too fast for the streamer to keep up with the conversation. Tipping the streamer is an easy way to get individual recognition. On receiving donations, streamers usually shout out donors; some even allow viewers to have the privilege of sending text-to-speech messages, making their donors part of the stream for a few seconds. On donating, viewers seek two-way interactions with streamers – what could feel like real friendships. Another powerful incentive is community notoriety – a sense of having a higher status in front of other members. In real life, people hate being ignored. Well, it happens the same way in the virtual world.
Feel good doing good
Though it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that we are inherently selfish individuals, neuroscience has demonstrated that giving is a powerful way to create more personal joy and lasting happiness. The practice of helping people triggers many positive impacts to our brain. On helping others, the brain will release oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, which help boost our mood and counteract the effect of cortisol – the hormone responsible for stress.
Fans give money to streamers because the action makes them feel good about themselves. While big streamers can rely on lucrative brand sponsorships and fan subscriptions, small streamers aren’t so fortunate. Therefore, fan tippings are very sensible as this money helps the streamers buy the gadgets needed to improve the quality of their streams, pay the bills, or simply have the motivation to continue doing what they’re passionate about.
Feel morally superior
Studies consistently find that people tend to think they’re morally superior to others: more honest, principled, and fair. People also believe they are better than average when it comes to competence, intelligence, and a host of other positive characteristics. And the practice of donating enhances just that.
Donating gives fans the “morally superior” badge that others look up to. Take a look at MrBeast – Jimmy Donaldson’s Youtube channel. This guy is well-known for expensive stunts such as giving $100,000 to streamers with 0 viewers or donating $25,000 to a random kid playing Fornite. He did it multiple times, and he nailed it every time, with view counts ranging from 20M to 70M and people smashing the like button. As the audience, we feel satisfied. And I believe MrBeast will have a better sleep at night too, now that people see him as the new Jesus. So, don’t lose hope on people, folks! We are not that bad by nature.
“Morally superior” also explains why some people prefer donating to smaller streamers who (in their opinion) would appreciate the money more. Very often, small-time streamers would go speechless, burst into tears, and show the most authentic emotions on receiving a tip, whereas a big streamer may just go “thanks mate.” In short, people do good because they want to feel good about themselves, but also to feel socially higher than others.
Appreciation for the entertainment
For the majority of people, tipping streamers is the same as giving tips to a waiter at a restaurant for his excellent service, which in this case means the entertainment received. Suppose you watch streams for 2 hours/day, 3 days/week. This translates to 24 hours of entertainment per month, which equals 12 movies in the theater. While it costs you about $120 for these movies in the theater, it costs nothing to watch streams online. Then it makes sense to tip streamers, no matter how big or small they are because you did enjoy their content.
How to make the best out of it?
On forums like Reddit and Quora, the discussions around “should we tip streamers” are still going on. But instead of choosing sides and thinking too hard on this question, let’s see how we – as streamers – can make the best out of it. In other words, how to leverage these findings to bring a better experience for our viewers.
Firstly, people want to get individual recognition. As a streamer, be creative and try to find ways to personalize the relationship with your audience. Send hand-written postcards to your fans; trust me, it’ll brighten up their day. Cultivate meaningful conversations in your Discord server. Think of reward offers whenever you can, for example, priority play with your biggest supporters.
Secondly, people tend to think they are “morally superior” than others, and gifting is one way to do so. In other words, people are not selfish by nature. They are willing to pay for good entertainment. If you have yet to receive a large amount of tips, maybe because your streams haven’t got that “trigger point.” Remember when you watch those Youtube videos, there’s this right element appearing at the right time that evokes your emotions so powerfully that you hit the like button right away. Think about it!
Finally, nowadays, emotions are hard to feel from behind a screen. In the first place, streaming came about as a way for people to see other people’s rawest emotions. But sadly, it’s losing its nature now as people are complaining about how they hate it when big streamers bring out the same theatrics every time someone donates them. How to be genuine? We got your back. Coming next!
We have saved the best for last. Here at Gimbl, we’ve worked hard to develop a tool that helps streamers bring the most inclusive, interactive, and meaningful streaming experience for their audience. With Gimbl, streamers can get challenged by their viewers to achieve specific in-game actions, in exchange for a tip on accomplishing the mission. Here’s how Gimbl could help you to capitalize on the findings above:
- A way to differentiate your audience: by placing challenges, your viewers are no longer a faceless person among the crowd. They are recognized and remembered by you and the community as the one who made you sweat and took you down. Much cooler than someone who does charity work, right?
- A good reason to donate: remember we told you earlier that people are willing to spend money, and they just need a good reason to splurge on? Gimbl is indeed a monetization tool, but we take it to the next level by adding the “challenge” feature. Our Gimbl team believes in “hard work pays off.” Your viewers would have more incentive to tip you as they see the hard work you put in the game.
- An emotion booster: here’s the answer to the big question above, “how can I show my emotions most authentically?”. Well, imagine someone throwing a $100 challenge at your face asking you to do a Pentakill in LoL? Can you hide all those intense emotions fearing the money will slip through your fingers? Can you resist the joy of victory knowing that you’ve worked hard for it? The tool will send you on a roller coaster of emotions, and you’ll show them all, want it or not.
To sum up, it’s not random why people are donating to streamers, even extremely wealthy ones. Knowing the psychological rewards that motivate the habit of giving can help you to come up with ideas to better interact with your audience.