With millions of individuals broadcasting every month on Twitch alone, building an audience as a streamer is more challenging than ever. The saturation of the space, as well as the poor discoverability on most streaming platforms, make it almost impossible to be noticed. Even if someone is hard-working, talented, and consistently putting out great content, they most likely won’t find any growth if they haven’t marketed themselves properly. It’s for that reason, that smaller streamers have looked for every possible avenue to build an audience. One of the most interesting methods recently has been making content almost directly for larger creators.
While this method is nothing new — Matthew “Mizkif” Rinaudo gained initial traction by making mockumentaries of famous streamers to react to — it’s arguably more common now than at any other time in the industry. Ludwig Ahgren gave attention to the practice in one of his most popular videos, titled “I made a secret YouTube channel to prove it's not luck”. In it, he makes a video essay about Mizkif — stressing the importance of quality content, thumbnailing, and titling. When Mizkif began a broadcast, Ludwig donated to the former in hopes that he’d watch the video on stream. It worked. Mizkif watched the video, and in a matter of minutes the video had more than one-thousand views. A few days later, his brand-new YouTube channel had grown to almost one-thousand subscribers.
It's a clever tactic — one that has a high probability of working if done properly. It seems it can’t be a lazy effort, though. To find out more about how this strategy works, Inven Global spoke with several rising streamers that have found success using this method. There’s a lot more to it than a donation and a video. All the creators we talked to have thousands of followers on Twitch and thousands (or even tens of thousands) of subscribers on YouTube. Though their journeys have all been different, the recurring principles amongst all of them are originality and hard work.
Avghans has been streaming for more than two years. Although he was diligent in his efforts and had a witty personality suited for streaming, it wasn’t until a year and a half into his career that he started taking what he considered the correct approach. “There are a lot of really great creators on these platforms, but there aren't enough eyes on them,” Avghans told Inven Global. “I didn't want to be one of those people that don't have any control over that. Because I really do think that if you really care about content creation, anyone can make it so long as you're doing the right work.”
For Avghans, the “right work” has included making entertaining content that big streamers could react to – interviewing people at conventions about streamers like QTCinderella, Ludwig, and Mizkif. The entertainment factor was his primary concern, stating that it’s “not just making videos to leech off of them, but making really good content that they would enjoy that they can also react to and get some benefit out of as well. It’s a mutualistic relationship.”
Individuals like Aspecticor, Evan Gao, and Th3Vale have all found success for similar reasons. All put in an impressive amount of effort into creating content streamers would be happy to react to. Aspecticor has cultivated a valuable relationship with Brandon "Atrioc" Ewing in part because of his studious practice allowing him to become one of the world’s best Hitman speedrunners. Evan Gao won Ludwig’s Flying Aces competition by going to the lengths of skydiving on camera. And Th3Vale has gotten a multitude of streamers to react to his impressions series, and formed bonds with the likes of Ludwig by making well-produced and high effort impersonation videos. In every case, the creator went above and beyond.
Mizkif summarized it well when he reacted to one of Th3Vale’s videos. “A lot of you guys ask or try to make videos, and they’re not good. Straight up, they’re not good. Because you guys don’t think of creativity,” Mizkif stated on stream. "This guy goes the extra f*cking mile. That took days of work. Days of hard work thinking, creating — being actually funny. So this guy deserves that sub[scription]. He deserves the praise he’s getting. He deserves the eighteen thousand views he’s getting." The same can be said for the other streamers.
An important point to also note is that each of them didn’t only put in a lot of hard work — they did something original. In the past, a video saying Logan Paul one-hundred thousand times could go viral, and receive recognition from the subject. What about now, though?
“I see a lot of people working harder, not smarter,” Aspecticor told Inven Global. “It actually kills me. I saw a video of somebody saying Atrioc thirty thousand times, and got four views — that's painful. I wish I could tell every single one of these people who have this idea, ‘Stop. Think about it for a second. Someone's already done this. The shock value isn’t there.’” Whether it’s with clever musical performances, impersonations, or a jarring amount of backflips — each of them brought something considered new and interesting.
Of course, most with big aspirations for creation does not want to be type-cast as a supplier of reaction content for a bigger streamer. Every creator Inven Global interviewed stressed the importance of still maintaining their individuality along with growing. Evan Gao explained it well, stating, “It's a cost-benefit thing. Because initially, you get the recognition from marketing yourself as a ‘leech’. In the grand scheme of things, I think everything in this space is all about marketing. It's just how well you present yourself. Because even if you have the world's best content, but no one knows about you — do you really have the world's best content? So you got to get eyes on yourself first. And how you get eyes on yourself — that kind of dictates how your beginning will start. And so it takes a lot of time to separate yourself from being just a leech.”
While Th3Vale has certainly built a much larger audience since doing work with other streamers, he doesn’t want to be locked down to only doing that type of content — and has made conscious decisions to ensure that. “I have to accept that maybe those types of content ideas are what certain people have subscribed for. And that's obviously something that's really hard for me because it's not who I am. I don't want to just be the Ludwig-impersonator guy. I don't want to just be the guy that did the impressions for OTK. At that point, I'm not a creator,” Th3Vale explained. “I think that it's a balance everybody has to strike, which is making content for yourself and making content for other people. And so for me, I make an active effort to not put out just those kinds of videos all the time. I set a hard stop. I have at least two months between those videos now because I don’t want to get myself into a niche.”
Of course, like in Th3Vale’s case, one can still find enjoyment in doing this type of content on occasion. In Th3Vale’s case, he loves sketch comedy, and impersonations are a huge part of that, stating, “Those are funny things that I like to do on stream. I don't want to also completely rule that out. But it's finding that balance between, 'Okay, when is it becoming the only thing that I do? When are people showing up just for that? When are people showing up for me? And also, what kind of work do I want to do?’”
Some of the others have been able to manage that, and still maintain the friendship and support of larger creators. In the case of Aspecticor — he initially rose to prominence by making songs about Atrioc. While this worked in helping build an audience, he knew he needed to create his own identity — still making smart choices for his growth as a creator. “I was doing variety content — I was basically a Ludwig clone,” said Aspecticor. “And I recognized that I needed to find a niche, and I needed to generate some sort of competitive advantage for myself. I needed to not be a clone of whoever, and make it so that if someone clicked on this category, they would have a reason to watch me (or at least a reason to try watching me). And so I decided to learn the Hitman Trilogy speedrun. And that was probably the best decision I've made so far in my content career.”
Aspecticor’s choices have not only allowed him to create a strong brand as a skilled Hitman player, but it’s significantly helped his platform. He’s continued to cultivate a relationship with Atrioc in part because of their mutual love for the game, and the game has grown his audience exponentially. At the time of publishing this article, one of his most recent videos has over one million views.
It’s clear that working with big streamers can afford some incredible results. However, there’s an important point to take notice of: big streamers (like anyone else) need to be treated with respect — both for their personal privacy and their profession.
Th3Vale has had a very appropriate and effective approach to working with creators like Ludwig. “It became like any professional relationship,” Th3Vale explained. “Being genuine with them — not trying to come off as using anybody. Because that's the last thing you want to do. Any creator will find that if they get into the content space, and they have the idea of using a creator to gain an audience, then their content will surely fail. There has to be a level of genuineness in whatever content you provide to somebody, in order for it to even be something they would think of recommending.”
Streaming is an incredibly cut-throat industry. Only a fraction of those that go live will succeed. But with hard work, creativity, and some luck — one can use this strategy to not only grow their own brand, but help supply bigger streamers with more content and create a richer community.
Editor note: Those featured in the article referred to by their online alias have not disclosed their full name.
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.