A survey conducted in mid-March by Mavrck found that 27.3 percent of US influencers had fewer brand collaborations because of the pandemic. Yet even as brands cut marketing budgets, influencers are finding a number of ways to earn money beyond ads, including creating subscription-based membership programs, sending personalized video messages to fans and leveraging live video tools.
YouTube content company FBE has over 33 million subscribers across its network of YouTube channels. During the pandemic, to diversify earnings outside of ads, the company has relaunched its “FBE Super” membership program this month, reports Business Insider.
Enabled by third-party app Patreon, the “FBE Super” membership program offers fans access to exclusive live streams, merchandise discounts and the ability to be cast in episodes, in exchange for tiered contributions of $5, $10 or $20 a month.
Through Patreon-enabled memberships, Gen Z and millennials can support their favorite influencers, allowing influencers to earn revenue directly from these contributions—a win-win at a time when video consumption is up and influencer deals are down. Since March, Patreon has welcomed 70,000 new influencers and has seen a 20 percent month-over-month growth in the number of fans paying for content for the first time.
Another way influencers are pivoting revenue streams is by creating and sending personalized video messages to followers via the Cameo app. In addition to actors and comedians who are jobless due to the lockdown, popular YouTubers are flocking to the app, with some charging fans $20 per video message. Cameo CEO says new talent acquisitions have increased at over four times the usual rate in the last two months.
Influencers are also using live video tools offered by social media platforms to make up for a lack of sponsored deals. In 2017, YouTube launched Super Chat, a monetization tool that lets fans buy chat messages that stand out or get pinned to the top of the influencer’s live stream. When a fan purchases a Super Chat, their profile picture appears at the top of the chat feed for a period that’s dependent on their purchase amount. In 2019, YouTube expanded Super Chat capabilities when it launched Super Stickers, allowing viewers in 60 countries to buy animated stickers that appear during influencers’ live streams and premieres.
More recently, Facebook announced the revival of “Live With,” a feature that allows users to add another person into their live video, likely as a result of Instagram seeing US views on Instagram Live increase by 70 percent since mid-March. To help creators earn money on Facebook Live, Facebook also said it plans to add the ability for influencers to charge for access to Live events on Facebook.
In the same announcement, Facebook said it’s expanding Stars, star-shaped emoticons that users can buy on live gaming videos and other types of live videos to support creators, to more countries. Influencers earn one cent for every Star. At a time when live gaming streaming is ballooning, Stars are especially lucrative for gamers; viewers watched a whopping 900 percent more gaming live streams on Facebook in Q1 2020