Intro from David: This is a guest post from a very knowledgeable streamer and streaming blogger known as Mr. Goodhand who is going to go through some of the ins and outs of how you can start streaming online as a marketing tool for your products or services.
Without further ado, I will hand things over to Goodhand.
If you own a business and you are looking to expand your influence on the internet, you might want to consider streaming on Twitch, Mixer or even YouTube.
The streaming niche is comprised predominantly of people who play video games. However, this is merely one facet of the medium. Streaming can be utilized to display any form of media that falls within the TOS of the platform you choose to go with.
For example; Say you are the owner or are an employee in charge of marketing for a company. If you were in the process of marketing a new product for your business, streaming would allow live demonstration of that product’s features and benefits.
Using traditional marketing techniques, you could promote this demonstration event live stream, which will result in the growth of your streaming Channel. This generates buzz around your company’s name using the product reveal demo as the focal point and hype building tool.
In addition, you would also be able to gather live feedback from potential customers who showed interest and use it for retargeting.
Streaming is also another form of marketing content that can be repurposed & recycled into different forms. With a free and open-source tool called OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) Studio, you are able to simultaneously record & stream, assuming your Personal Computer is capable of doing so.
With YouTube you can set a stream to automatically record and publish it afterward, this is how Joe Rogan usually releases his podcasts, as a live stream and then the full video is available for people to watch later.
Everything you need to know to start streaming
There are a few pre-requisites you need before you begin marketing your business or products using live streams.
The first is your available internet bandwidth; Specifically, your upload speed needs to meet certain minimum criteria.
At the very edge of acceptable upload speed, is 3Mbps (megabits per second). Please note that this minimum is exclusive internet use; If you have other co-workers or family members on the internet working from home or in the office, this minimum will be insufficient. The amount it will increase by will depend on just how heavily others use the upload portion of the available bandwidth.
With 3Mbps, you are capable of outputting a 720p stream at 30fps (frames per second) that will have very minor video compression artifacts. Technically, all you are using is 1.5-2.3Mbps for the stream itself, but you ideally want a 1-4Mbps buffer to compensate for the unexpected load.
Video Quality Options for High Bandwidth
Not satisfied with 720p at 30fps? Then you will need even higher upload bandwidth. As outlined in the article I’ve written over at Streamer’s Haven, for 720p at 60fps, we recommend a minimum upload bandwidth of 8Mbps, as the extra 30fps needs 3800-5000 bitrate to display with minimal compression artifacts. Note that this is still only 720p.
Why 720p, an old technology, and not 1080p or even 1440p/4k? The answer is simple; End-user bandwidth. A live stream has a very high bandwidth requirement, and buffering is simply not an option for users due to it being, well, live.
Since this is the case, a user will need a download speed capable of matching your upload setting within OBS Studio.
The most common internet connection people use today is 4G LTE. 4G LTE is theoretically capable of outputting 300Mbps download and 75Mbps upload. However, due to many external factors, most people only get 4-12Mbps. If you set your bitrate to the 12,000 needed for 1080p at 60fps, then you would lock out many users whose download bandwidth is unable to keep up with the data stream. In addition, users on a metered internet connection would devour their bandwidth at an extremely fast rate, and be very unhappy to find out the cause.
On the other side of the coin, if you provide less than the 12,000 bitrates needed for visual compression-free 1080p, you will start to drop frames & experience debilitating compression artifacts. Not only that, but both Twitch and Mixer have put hard limits on your upload bandwidth, 6000 for Twitch (8000 if you land a partnership with them, alongside transcoding options), and 10,000 for Mixer. YouTube has no limits, and you can even live stream 4k at 60fps if you wanted to. You’d just need to set your bitrate to at least 46,000 to avoid those destructive compression artifacts from ruining the experience.
What are Compression Artifacts, and how do I get rid of them?
Compression artifacts are the result of shortcuts that an encoding processor takes to ensure that it’s able to deliver a smooth frame rate to stream within the short timeframe of encoding each frame.
They are visual glitches, typically blocky colors or blur that isn’t visible on the original content. They form when the processor isn’t given a wide enough bandwidth (bitrate) to send the pixel data of the stream to the processor, and the missing data is fed through an approximation algorithm that fills in the missing data with its best guess before sending the frame data to your streaming service. That best guess is the artifact, little imperfections that don’t exist in the source video content.
But bandwidth isn’t the only factor; There is also the hardware aspect to the encoding process. With insufficient processing power, artifacts become more commonplace, as the hardware is struggling to handle the frames due to its low processing capability. It just can’t keep up. That is why the second thing you need to start streaming on Twitch, Mixer or YouTube is a computer capable of encoding properly.
My recommended pc parts can be found on my Streamer’s Haven article, which will prioritize the components that are the most important to allocate budget to. Incidentally, that pc is actually pretty decent for gaming too, as much of the component makeup is identical to mid-to-high-end gaming components.
Of course, chips like the Threadripper 2990WX with its 32 cores and 64 threads may prove to be even more beneficial, as it is then capable of rendering out videos more effectively, saving sometimes hours on the renders. But if you are simply testing the waters of streaming as a means of marketing, the parts outlined in that post would serve you well.
Understanding Transcoding – Keys to maximum quality
Transcoding is easily the most important tool for providing a high-quality stream to users who have the internet bandwidth to support it. This is because it provides an alternative means for users who are on limited or metered connections.
It achieves this by taking your stream data, and uses server resources to re-encode it live; Say you streamed at 1080p with 60fps at 10,000 bitrates on Mixer, and had transcoding available to your users. Well, they’d have a quality selector wheel available, allowing them to view the stream in 720p, 480p, and even 360p at substantially lower bitrates. In other words, it’s the best of both worlds, and all users are satisfied.
However, just starting out, Transcoding is not an option in most cases. If you can show the streaming platform that you are a successful influencer on other platforms, you can skip the normal partnership process. Once you become partnered with your preferred platform, the transcoding options become available automatically.
Networking with Other Streamers
Streamers are passionate individuals. They tend to bond with other live streamers and form friendships in the name of “networking”.
These Networks are something you want to get involved in, as some discord streaming communities’ number in the hundreds of people, with near-constant interaction. Discord is, for the uninitiated, a VoIP/Chat combo service, and is the most popular program in use by streamers as a means of forming a community. These communities are filled with highly interested parties in the concept of streaming, and many are more than happy to assist you with any technical issues you may encounter.
Heck, if you Join Streamer’s Haven’s discord, I’ll personally assist you.
There’s also a Mazepress Discord for this website that you will probably find interesting (Since you’re here). This is a community of bloggers, entrepreneurs, web designers and digital nomads, basically, a bunch of people working and learning online all around the world.
It’s important to exercise caution when networking with streamers. If they feel that you are only advertising to them without delivering value, there’s a good chance you will be banned from those communities.
For example, on my Blog, I am partnered with two such communities, Mix it Forward, & Hype Speed Gaming. As my blog is focused around stream help, I am providing value to streamers with my content that I received permission to link to by the community management. If you fail to do so, chances are you will be ignored at best, or banned from that community at worst.
Getting involved with a community, or several communities and providing good content may lead to them promoting you on their streams. If you manage to secure a spot in a streamer’s community, you’ll start to see familiar faces showing up during your streams.
The Risks & Benefits of sponsoring live streamers
Another route to consider is offering sponsorship deals to live streamers.
For a business owner, your brand is like a little robot working 24/7 to perpetuate your business. It is an anchor to your content and is directly associated with growth. It is also a tool of association, and if you’re willing to deal with some caveats, sponsoring a streamer with an audience on Twitch, Mixer or YouTube can be extremely beneficial to both you and the person you are sponsoring.
See, one of the main issues for streamers and whether or not they are able to make it into a full-time career is monetization options. There is no shortage of streamers who would be happy for the opportunity for a sponsorship.
However, sponsorship can be risky business in the world of live streaming. Recently, there was a somewhat viral debacle about a particular woman and a cat being thrown. It is very important to be aware that, at any time, something defamatory can happen. This is something that can’t just be edited out later, it’s live. They could drop some racial profanity without even realizing they did it. All it takes is for the right ears at the right time and a clip of the act for it to go viral.
It is important to be aware of the risks when deciding whether or not to sponsor a streamer. That said, sponsoring streamers can be an excellent way to grow your online influence as a business. Typical streaming sessions can run for 2-8 hours, and some even stream Monday-Sunday. That is a lot of opportunities for your brand to reach its audience. Not only that, but many are starving for the opportunity to be sponsored, as it adds validity to what they do.
Sponsoring a streamer works to build your brand recognition. In fact, it’s one of seven ways that can work to increase your revenue.
Existing Businesses that utilize Streaming
Right now, the main type of businesses that utilize streaming successfully are Video Game E-Sports organizations & Digital Entertainment. However, there are other companies using streaming, such as Newegg and LogitechG to sell more components for pcs. They do this by showcasing their products in a game, and they leverage their influence to grow the streaming channel. The more eyes that are on your stream, the higher up it appears in the category. Popularity attracts attention, and many will view popular streams to get ideas on how to improve their own content. Use this to your advantage.
Other businesses that utilize streaming as a means of generating revenue include:
Artists – Artists can show clients the design process live, and get immediate feedback on what they like & don’t like. This makes the design process less “Good enough?” “No, try again.” and more “Oooh, that looks cool. Maybe a bit more that way? YES!” There’s no shortage of illustrators, graphic designers and even graffiti artists showcasing their skills and teaching people how they create their art using live streams and video content to grow their brand and influence.
Restaurants & Fast Food – Showing people how dishes are made on a grill. A lot of people are curious about how their food is prepared, myself included. Seeing it would be fun to watch & educational at the same time. Just have a camera angled down at the cooking surface where no faces can be seen for privacy reasons or get your customers’ consent first if they are going to appear on camera.
Home Improvement & Acoustic design – This category would be exceptionally popular for streamers who care about their audio. Many streamers have no acoustic treatment in place and are essentially in an echo chamber. Building an acoustically treated room will show them how to do it themselves, and you can provide affiliate links to make money from them any purchases they make as they improve their home studios.
Dentistry – As much as people hate to visit the dentist, many are curious about it or nervous and want to know more before their appointment or surgery. There are already examples of dentists using streaming and video content to help their patients to overcome their fears by taking them through various surgeries, and Innovative Dental of Springfield is a great example.
Construction & DIY – Learning how to undertake home improvements yourself can save you a lot of money so it should be no surprise there are DIY and home improvement based YouTube channels with hundreds of thousands of subscribers. If you work in the trades or any other technical job where the customer generally understands very little about the process of delivering their goods and services, then you can benefit from using live streaming and video in your marketing strategy. Check out House Improvements.
If you are unable to bring in a “seed” audience, you might need to consider streaming under less popular categories to achieve that top spot. Discoverability on streaming platforms can be very difficult if you are not within the top 10 streams, and the effect is only amplified when more people are streaming in that category.
To grow your influence using streaming, you need to be able to utilize other influencer platforms at the same time. This means Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, & traditional advertising.
Monetization options for Streamers & How you can generate income for your business from streaming
As mentioned earlier, Most streamers have very few effective ways to generate a stable source of income, though this is usually a result of their niche.
- Subscriptions – A monthly recurring subscription similar to how Netflix & other services utilize. These grant access to special Emotes for users to use in chat; ANYWHERE on the platform. If you provide high quality emotes, users are more likely to subscribe to you for them. Users on the Twitch platform who have Amazon prime have 1 free subscription to use, equivalent to the lowest tier sub. You can also use Patreon as a subscription service.
- Sponsorships – Sponsorships can be direct or via sponsorship and influencer platforms. These give the streamer both revenue and validation.
- Products – Some streamers will launch their own products. In some niches, it’s popular to sell merch but that doesn’t work for everyone and you need a large audience for it to be viable. If you are streaming about your business’s products or services then that’s what you are trying to sell.
- Affiliate Marketing – Affiliate marketing is popular with all online content creators, it’s hands-off and gives you access to a wide range of products you can promote. Since there are affiliate products for pretty much every industry this is one of the best options to explore.
- Bits & Embers – Bits & Embers are platform-specific donation currency. These bits and embers hold real monetary value, and once you reach $100 worth of the currency on Twitch, you are able to cash out. YouTube is just a donation, no digital currency in the forefront. Bits & embers help to protect you from Chargebacks, which is sadly fairly common.
The main issue with income for streamers is that many are not providing content worth spending money on or they are in a niche that’s not as easy to monetize with a range of different products. It is an entertainment platform first and foremost, but it can definitely be utilized to reach your audience in the same way other mediums like TV, websites, and Apps are used.
Often the newer mediums deliver higher value for your money because they aren’t as saturated with other marketers and advertisers yet. A great example of this is influencer marketing where many influencers aren’t yet charging their worth and generating massive sales for their sponsors.
Notes from the Editor:
David here again, I wanted to add some additional thoughts of my own regarding how popular streaming has become and what a fantastic marketing tool it can be. Streaming is often associated with the video-game industry and for good reason, the vast majority of streamers and people watching streams are in the video-game space but there are other industries catching on to this behind-the-scenes and live content.
Many podcasts could also be considered live streams too and there are many examples of very successful live podcasts like Joe Rogan who was mentioned earlier that have generated massive amounts of revenue from sponsorship opportunities and also Adsense pay-per-click ads.
I expect this trend to continue with new industries finding a format that works to help bring them closer to their audience and customers.
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