The dream of becoming a social media influencer is shared by countless young (and not so young) people. It’s the fantasy career choice replacing the dream of being rock stars, models, or astronauts. And in a way, it has elements of each. However, what makes the dream of becoming an influencer so tantalizing is that we see people of all ages, all backgrounds, and if we’re honest, all skill levels who have made it big. Some were in the right place at the right time and built their status from a single event, and others have clearly worked for years with single-minded determination in order to build quality content for their audience.
Questions abound, wondering what being an influencer is like. Perhaps most intriguing is how influencers make their money. While some ways are obvious, others are more subtle, yet just as lucrative.
A deeper look into the subject from USA Today shows that the “influencer economy” is driven by more than the desire to get attention from followers. Claire Thorton, author of the article, shows how “Gen Zers and millennials endured two ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ recessions during their prime earning years. That’s caused a lot of financial pain, especially for people of color, women, LGBTQ people and other populations that disproportionately face wealth gaps and financial insecurity.”
Becoming a creator, and potentially an influencer, is a way to earn income; for Gen Zers and millennials, this is often a way to help make ends meet, though some platforms are more creator-friendly than others.
The other trend that makes more sense in this light is the rise of crypto, especially among these two generations. People are learning all they can about crypto investing, and finding new opportunities to earn returns.
Top social platforms are paying close attention to these trends, and have begun playing with ways to incorporate crypto use cases into their social media ecosystems, conducting pilots and gauging the results. Other platforms, though relatively new, have exploded in popularity especially due to what they can offer to creators by using a crypto-based experience.
Let’s dive deeper into this phenomenon, and see what the leading social platforms are offering, how creators are making use of social crypto to earn revenue, and how a decentralized social platform could improve social media at a global scale.
Traditional Revenue Sources for Influencers
Before introducing the effects of crypto on influencers, it’s worth looking at three ways influencers earn revenue today.
Display Advertising and Affiliate Marketing are ways that can incorporate ads from the platform, or work with companies to plug their products very briefly. Display Ads are perhaps the most common, with traditional ads running during the content. Content creators get a cut of the money paid by the advertiser. Affiliate Marketing is driven by the creator, adding links (usually with coupon codes) to products, and the influencer gets a small fee from anyone who purchases using the code.
A Standard Sponsorship is when a business works directly with the creator, giving money directly for the creator to advertise the product themselves as part of a post/video/etc. These types of sponsorships are almost always reserved for influencers with higher subscriber numbers.
Creating and Selling Merchandise includes items such as Instagrammers selling their photos, content creators writing books/courses and selling them directly, or even creating other types of products that fit with the influencer’s focus (fashion, nutrition, exercise, gaming, etc.). An alternate version of this is collaborating with another company to create something unique-or something the company already makes, but with special branding from the influencer.
There are many different ways to generate revenue as an influencer, though it’s only possible if you can create content that appeals to a large audience, and gains a large/loyal fan base.
Enter the Crypto Economy
With blockchain technology, the methods of creating revenue streams expand even more-and bring influencers closer to their audience in a way never experienced through traditional means. With crypto-related interactions becoming more and more mainstream, the top social media platforms are working to stay ahead of the curve, with crypto features tested and ready by the time daily crypto adoption hits a critical mass.
Twitter recently announced the ability for followers to tip their favorite creators using Bitcoin, the first major platform to do so. This allows a much more global reach for creators, without having to endure the hardships and complications of international finance, access, etc. The feature had been under testing for months, and the unveiling has received a positive response from users; this is likely to encourage further use cases and rollouts in the near future.
TikTok has been teasing their incorporating NFTs onto their platform, citing support for creators to generate unique items for fans and be rewarded for their work. The platform also wants to give fans the ability to own “culturally-significant moments.”
While TikTok is a major global platform, their bolt-on approach may not be as comprehensive as those platforms designed with a crypto-driven roadmap. For India, the top social media app for short-form videos is Chingari, who announced a full NFT marketplace on the Chingari platform. A key difference in their approach is that they developed the platform with a crypto roadmap from the start. With their open stance on being a creator-first social media app, they allow users to create and sell their own NFTs, with plans to allow creators to offer various interactions directly with fans through the platform, paid via Chingari’s $GARI token.
These platforms are transforming the way Gen Zers and millennials approach social media, crypto, and searching for revenue streams. By combining crypto and social, more people are able to earn money doing something they love, using tools that minimize administration and maximize the creative part of the process.
One more element of crypto entering the social media space is that of decentralization. For those platforms who evolve enough in their roadmap to establish a DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization), they hold the power to affect the world stage. This is hardly an exaggeration; take the case of Twitter banning Trump from the platform. When Twitter decided to ban Trump’s account, it was after significant deliberation and a decision that, if misjudged, could have had very negative consequences for the platform. That, and it was the Twitter leadership making a decision for, essentially, the world. With a decentralized platform, it becomes a textbook democracy, with anyone with a stake able to propose new ideas and vote on them. If a major decentralized social platform had banned Trump, or anyone else they consider to be a bad actor, it takes away the responsibility of leadership to make a big decision that affects everyone. Whether one agrees with the decision or not, when a DAO makes a decision-including banning someone from the platform-it isn’t about politics any longer. Quite simply: the people have spoken.
While the market for social media influencers hasn’t changed through crypto, it has certainly offered an entirely new and upgraded toolbox for influencers to use. At the end of the day, new features using crypto-driven platforms will allow influencers to fully unleash their creative potential, interact more closely with fans than ever before, and continue to live out their career choice that outranks rock stars, models, and yes, even astronauts. And with DAO’s controlling the social media of the future, the ecosystem will be led by its community.
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