Since its creation, the internet has well evolved, as expressions such as “web 1.0” and “web 2.0” suggest. The rise of social media has given a new dimension to the web and changed internet use and habits, with individuals connecting and getting their news from social media. Entertainment from the internet has been on the rise in the U.S.: in 2009, 27% of people age 18-34 cited the internet as a form of entertainment, versus 42% in 2010.
However, social media have themselves known a shift in the way they are shaped and used. Initially created as tools to connect users with others, ie. social networking, they are now leaning more and more towards social entertainment.
Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, and others were articulated towards creating a sense of community between the users, allowing them to share information, pictures, updates on their lives and make new friends. Old high-school friends would keep in touch through Linked In, long-distance friends would get news from each other on Facebook, etc. Social platforms were mainly used as a way to connect, regroup, organize, discuss, and share.
However, the past decade has seen a rise in demand for social entertainment. Users started to create content using social media platforms and grow in influence so much that companies recognized their marketing value. The introduction of paid partnerships allowed them to create content for brands as a new form of advertisement. Today, we count more than 50 million creators, two million of which are professionals, according to The Creator Economy 2021 Report from The Influencer Marketing Factory.
“Creators are not just there to entertain, they know how to communicate with their generation and brands cannot miss that if they want to stay relevant.” – The Creator Economy Report
Kyle Gordon is a micro-influencer, with more than 6,000 followers on Instagram and more than 17,000 on Tik Tok. His favorite platform as a creator is Instagram, where brands reach out to him as his account is set up as a “public creator.” Gordon has been 100% scouted by marketers, which he explains by the fact that micro-influencers are closer to their audience than celebrities.
“I have noticed brands have slowly shifted their focus from their big named influencers and celebrities to smaller micro-influencers,” Gordon says. “I was told once that micro-influencers bring a more realistic and affordable spin on things. Students are more likely to buy something from someone they see that is in their age group and tax bracket than from someone who makes millions and can probably pose and look pretty with whatever the item is, but not sell it because we all know they probably never even actually use the product.”
This new creator economy is shifting the way people use social media platforms, but it is also changing the platforms themselves. Creators make content that attracts users, and users are potential buyers, inciting marketers to spend more ad money on one platform or another. The booming platform Tik Tok decided to remunerate creators who generate a lot of engagement via its creator fund — worth $1 billion –, attracting more and more users and therefore generating more content. A survey conducted by The Influencer Marketing Factory names Tik Tok as creators’ favorite platform as well as the one they make the most money on.
Gordon confirms Tik Tok is a great money-maker but he prefers leaving brand partnerships to Instagram.
“Though I make money on my TikTok creator fund and have landed brand deals there too, I believe TikTok is more casual. It’s definitely an app I use strictly for fun, so much so, that I’ve even started to decline TikTok brand deals,” Gordon explains.
Lots of users made a different choice than Gordon, and their notoriety landed them not only brand partnerships but roles in Netflix shows like Addison Rae did, or allowed them to launch a music career as Dixie Damelio did.
In order to attract creators, platforms now have to appeal to them. While companies like Facebook or LinkedIn used to have full power over how to shape their platform, they now have to adapt to their users in order to compete with other platforms. Change now happens from the inside, with influencers and creators impacting companies’ strategies in reinforcing attractiveness, and platforms in return promoting the most notorious creators to the rank of new celebrity.