According to eMarketer’s latest forecast, 67.9 percent of US marketers will use influencer marketing for paid or unpaid campaigns this year—up from 62.3 percent last year.
As the number of brands working with influencers grows, so too are the ways creators can monetize their content, which as eMarketer’s report notes, bypass brands and social media.
eMarketer found that brand partnerships are still the top revenue stream for most influencers, but a growing number of creators are getting paid through affiliate marketing, sales of physical or digital goods and ads.
The ability for fans to virtually tip their favorite creators through platforms and subscribe to exclusive accounts are also examples of new opportunities to monetize their following.
Twitch streamers, for example, can receive tips directly through the platform’s currency system, Bits. In addition, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube have their own tipping features influencers can use to monetize live broadcasts and exclusive content.
In April, popular audio-only app Clubhouse debuted its own tipping feature called Payments, allowing users to tip their favorite hosts who get to keep 100 percent of the tip. The next platform with plans to introduce virtual tipping is SoundCloud. As Billboard reported in February, the company is building a direct payment model that lets fans pay artists directly as an “alternative streaming payout plan.”
These new micro-transactions benefit both the creator and platforms. For example, TikTok gets a 50 percent cut when its creators convert digital gifts to cash while YouTube takes 30 percent of tips through its ‘applause’ tool.
Some mega-influencers have even started to put up paywalls by charging fans one-time or monthly fees to access exclusive content. Vogue Business reports that in 2019, influencer Caroline Calloway began offering her nearly half a million Instagram followers the option to pay to be on her “Close Friends” list. Her followers can pay $2 monthly via Patreon to see her “Close Friends” Instagram Stories or $100 for exclusive content in addition to a 25-minute FaceTime session with Calloway.
For years, influencers have been launching their own merch and product lines. Now, a new startup called Pietra is making it easy for creators to develop direct-to-consumer products, according to Business Insider.
Through the marketplace that Pietra is launching, influencers can get in contact with product designers, manufacturers and warehouse companies. Pietra doesn’t charge a fee for designing a product pre-production but influencers do have to pay to manufacture the items. And there’s no minimum follower count for influencers interested in creating a product line with Pietra.
As creators increasingly become brands in their own right, marketers must treat them as publishers, notes eMarketer. In other words, focus on finding relevant audiences and building relationships. While new monetization methods are emerging, brand sponsorships will remain a primary source of influencers’ income because influencers report that these deals have a unique way of deepening audience engagement.
Creators are major drivers of engagement so platforms are doubling down on acceleration programs to keep them happy. TikTok was quick to launch its $200 million Creator Fund in August 2020 and in July said it expects the fund to grow to over $1 billion in the US in the next three years. In March of this year, TikTok expanded the fund to the UK, Germany, Italy, France and Spain.
In November, Snapchat said it would distribute $1 million daily through the end of the year to top-performing videos posted to its Spotlight feed. More recently, YouTube launched a $100 million Shorts Fund it says it will distribute over the course of 2021-2022– a way to encourage creators to use its short-form video camera Shorts.
With TikTok being the second most downloaded non-gaming app worldwide for two consecutive months (in May and April), Instagram is exploring ways to compete and help creators earn more through its TikTok-like product Reels. During an Instagram Live, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram’s Adam Mosseri said the platform is shifting its focus toward emerging creators, reports Business Insider.
According to Jackson Williams, a member of Instagram’s strategic partnerships team, Instagram wants Reels to be “top of funnel,” a jumping off point from which the creator can grow, get discovered and find new collaborators.
Mosseri and Zuckerberg also debuted new Live chat monetization features for Instagram creators, including updates to shopping for creators, affiliate marketing tools and a marketplace for brands and influencers to connect on sponsorships. Williams hinted that a way to earn money via Reels could be Instagram’s next big update.