There are currently over 50 million creators on Youtube, Instagram, Twitch, TikTok, and other social media platforms. Two million of them are full-time, and they earn six figure salaries by creating content daily or weekly. And that massive distributed content creation engine means that about 90% of the video, audio, photo, and text-based content consumed today by Gen Z is created by individuals, not corporations.
That’s a massive cultural shift.
These are just a few of the insights from a recent report on the “creator economy” by Yuanling Yuan, senior associate at SignalFire, and investment firm.
“The number of those long tail amateur influencers/creators is going to explode. I think by our data, this should grow from 50 million to a 100 million and possibly even larger,” Yuan told me in a recent TechFirst podcast. “A large amount of that growth is going to be driven by Gen Z.”
Watch my interview with Yuanling Yuan:
This whole ecosystem is growing fast, Yuan says, thanks largely to Gen Z, which is extremely individualistic and cares more about owning their own personalities, not necessarily fitting in … and are much more likely to start side hustles.
“It’s in the last 10 years, after the birth of these media platforms like YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. that has given rise to this new sentiment of, ‘I am going to be in control of my own destiny and I will work for myself,’” Yuan says. “’I do not want to sit in an office.’”
Those side hustles sometimes grow, and that’s when an amateur creator, who might have a few thousand followers and make a few dollars here or there on social platforms, turns pro.
Listen to the interview on the TechFirst podcast:
The result is six-figure incomes for making videos, dances, songs, livestreams, you name it.
Given the pace of today’s social platforms, it can happen incredibly fast.
“A great example in the past year on TikTok is Charli, a 16-year-old, who rose to fame over a year, now has almost 90 million followers,” Yuan says. “She does these ‘adorkable’ dances, people call them, and her whole family’s become influencers.”
The “almost 90 million” was true last week. Now it’s almost 91 million.
In fact, the creator or influencer market is getting so big, it’s driving a whole new wave of software and tools, and about $8 billion in annual marketing spend.
Yuan divides the creator economy into three layers, or waves.
The first, foundational media platforms, have risen since the early 2000s and include Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, as well as newcomers like TikTok and Twitch. The second layer is monetization, and it includes hundreds of companies including influencer agencies, sponsorship marketplaces, and talent representation companies, all looking to take a piece of the $15 billion that one of them, Mediakix, estimates will be spent on influencer marketing by 2022. The third layer is the most interesting, because it’s the one that potentially transforms creators and influencers into a kind of startup founder.
“Layer three, is … the most exciting one … and that is a layer where companies are built to treat creators as founders,” Yuan says. “Treating them as SMBs and giving them the tools and infrastructure to succeed, not just with creating content, but with also building out their business.”
While creators initially just monetized via ads, now they have patronage models, subscription models, branded product sales, and — of course — sponsorship models with big brands.
Just maybe, personalized e-commerce. Or, Home Shopping Network times a million.
“When you look at Asia, the biggest trend that has been dominating the creative economy there is e-commerce,” Yuan says. “So livestreaming times e-commerce, and we don’t really have that yet in the U.S. But I suspect that the next 5 to 10 years there will be platforms that emerge that help creators monetize and get another format, which is selling merchandise, but selling them live.”
Which might just mean that not only will be there be 100 million content creators, but that a lot more of them will be able to afford to create content full-time.
If, of course, current trends continue.