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Why it’s a very good time to be a creator

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Many big brands have turned to creators and influencers to connect with their quickly-established audiences

There’s never been a better time to be a creator, with social platforms seemingly throwing money to attract and retain the best content creators and their loyal armies of fans and followers.

Shorts and all

YouTube recently announced the launch of a creator fund for its TikTok competitor YouTube Shorts. YouTube plans to offer creators up to $100m across 2022 in an attempt to keep pace with TikTok. It’s unclear at this stage how much YouTube will offer creators, but it said as part of the announcement that they would be reaching out to the best content creators each month, saying that anyone who posts to Shorts is eligible but that they are looking for the highest engagement and views.

Shorts is still in test mode, but YouTube announced recently that it is seeing more than 3.5bn views a day in India, where it has been rolled out since September, and is looking to open it up in more markets throughout the rest of the year.

However, YouTube is in a power struggle with both TikTok and Snapchat in a bid to lure the best creators to its platform and have them stay and continue to create content. It now seems that this power struggle is turning into a full-on arms race, with each platform trying to outdo the other in their offer to creators.

Snapchat stole a lot of the headlines last year for the launch of Spotlight, its $1m-a-day pledge to creators, which has seen it already award creators more than $170m. However, despite the positive coverage, Spotlight has had a huge drain on Snapchat’s profits, and the platform recently announced an end to Spotlight while insisting it would continue to pay creators millions per week.

“The incentive program is definitely not going away,” stated Jim Shephard, head of talent partnerships at Snap. “We are shifting the daily amounts that are being paid out starting June 1 to give us more flexibility to reward more creators in more markets.”

Bad news for Instagram

This focus on supporting and paying creators by YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok is an issue for one of their competitors, Instagram, as it struggles to maintain its relevance with a core youth audience.

Facebook has been slow to move on supporting creators and providing tools for creators to earn money on Instagram, and with changes to the algorithm affecting the reach of some influencers, many have migrated over to TikTok and found the speed at which they can build a large audience hugely appealing.

Several studies have suggested a decrease in engagement for creators and influencers on Instagram over the last year following changes to the algorithm, and with ever greater competition and friction to building a large community for many, TikTok and Snapchat offer a compelling alternative.

TikTok has come of age over the pandemic, with the platform seeing a 42% increase on the previous year in the number of brands who said they would use influencers on the platform to promote and sell their product.

TikTok has grown to over 100 million US users, and became the most downloaded non-game app worldwide during March 2020. With this growth has come a number of big brands now flocking to make the most of this new social phenomenon, and many have turned to creators and influencers to connect with their quickly-established audiences. Influencers in turn have been attracted by the ability to build audiences at scale thanks to their unique For You Page (FYP) algorithm.

Snapchat has maintained its stickiness throughout the last year and, despite giving away vast sums to keep creators on its platform, it has managed to almost double its ad revenue to an estimated $2.6bn (up from $1.3bn the previous year). Crucially it has retained its allure for a youth audience, with an estimated 60% of 16-24-year-olds in the US using Snapchat.

Audio and shopping in the mix

It’s not just TikTok and Snapchat getting into the creator game in a big way. Messaging app Discord is now looking to support actors, writers and even musicians who have flocked to the messaging app of late.

With its user base reportedly doubling in the last year alone, messaging app Discord is looking to play into its positioning as a home for niche communities or, as it calls them, ‘servers’. Every month Discord users are active in 19m servers, with 50% of them in at least three servers, and 25% are taking part in eight or more, showing how active the audience is in engaging in these small conversation-led communities.

Voice is also a big component

Currently an invite-only test, a number of high-profile Discord users will be able to sell tickets to ‘Stage Channels’, the platform’s audio feature. This is similar to Twitter, which recently announced the ability to create ticketed ‘Spaces’ as part of its own Clubhouse-like audio feature. The difference with Discord is that voice is already a big component of the platform, with 40% of its audience using Discord’s voice chat and spending an average of around two hours a day on it.

The selected group of Discord users will be able to profit from a private Discord server, or chat group, causing it to come into direct competition with platforms like YouTube and Patreon, which previously may have hosted these conversations.

It’s not only Twitter that is looking to have creators profit from its platform, as Facebook too is slowly offering up tools including ‘creator tips’ to try and keep influencers on its platform and important on Instagram.

Facebook has also launched livestream shopping events as the next stage in its social commerce evolution. The ‘Live Shopping Fridays’ series, which will see the platform host livestreamed shopping experiences in conjunction with selected retailers, will invite viewers to ask questions about products and make purchases – all in-stream. All of this is to keep brands spending and creators sharing on their platforms.

It seems we are finally starting to see the maturing of the creator industry, with platforms seeing an increasing value in supporting creators as a means of competitive advantage.

Tom Jarvis is founder and chief executive officer at Wilderness.

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