More and more companies are relying on the relatability and star power of influencers to lift their brand. In seeking out “social proof” of their ability to create impact, we may have a few go-to metrics: followers across social media, perhaps quality of interactions. But we can also look to their influencer status all across the internet.
Today, that proving ground extends far beyond YouTube ad revenue. Here, we’re providing an overview of all the places your current or prospective influencers may have a presence—along with the benefits and drawbacks of each platform.
The Original Proving Ground: YouTube
“YouTube creators are living proof that an open and responsible internet can change the world for the better […] we’re going to continue to give them the tools they need to do that,” said Chief Product Office for YouTube Neal Moran in a recent blog post. In many ways, YouTube was the original proving ground for influencers and rising internet stars. Famous beneficiaries of their model include impending late night host Lilly Singh, Epic Rap Battle stars Lloyd Ahlquist and Peter Shukoff, and countless others across the entertainment, beauty, and comedy landscape.
However, in recent years the platform has waned in its stability, and creators are looking to other opportunities to maintain steady income—including influencer posts with brands and organizations. “The algorithm can change, your channel could get hacked, a million things could happen,” said YouTube star Samery Moras to CNN. “Never rely on YouTube ad revenue if you want to make a living.” The company has responded to the hesitance of creators with a host of additional revenue streams, including SuperChat (where fans can pay for their question or comment to be moved to the front of an online queue), merchandise partnerships, and multiple tiers of fan support (likely mimicking virtual support rival Patreon).
Benefits: stable infrastructure, and ever-increasing revenue streams
Drawbacks: a changed algorithm or update to Terms of Service could threaten livelihood without warning
The Rising Star: Facebook
At this year’s VidCon, Facebook unveiled a host of utilities for creators that are clearly designed to take on YouTube’s dominance in the influencer space. Facebook Creators can join the program if they have 10,000 followers and 30,000 minutes of video watched from videos that are at least three minutes long, according to USA Today. Once they reach that threshhold, they’ll have access to strong analytics, a new digital “tip jap” called Fan Subscriptions, and the opportunity to earn Stars during Live Streams, each amounting to $0.01 of revenue.
Facebook has a number of spaces in which creators can earn revenue, including Facebook, Instagram, and IGTV. The Monetization Overview tool that’s newly been made available to creators allows them to see their earnings aggregated in one place. The accompanying Brand Collabs Manager “lets creators better manage audience engagement and improve ad targeting.” In total, Facebook sees an opportunity to expand its already massive influence into creator support, and has a built-in rapt audience that may make it worth the while of a number of makers.
Benefits: a massive existing user base already using the associated platforms
Drawbacks: the user agreement includes a lifetime license to use content developed as a creator, even if the user leaves the program
The Newcomer: Snapchat
Earlier this week, Snapchat unveiled its Creator Shows initiative, an opportunity for celebrities and high-level influencers to develop and produce shows that would be “aired” alongside Snap’s 80+ original shows. It’s an opportunity to take content that these creators are already sharing on their Stories, and put it under a marquee of sorts. After a dip in usership and popularity, the company is on its way back to prominence—in large part because of its focus on original programming—with 4 million new users in 2019, and an estimated reach to 90% of all 13-24-year-olds.
The lineup, when it debuts later this summer, will feature outings from celebrities like Serena Williams, Kevin Hart, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but will also highlight the work of social influencers like Emma Chamberlain, Maddie Ziegler, Loren Gray, and Rickey Thompson. Given the growing popularity of Snapchat’s programming, the ability to participate in this program could do wonders for an influencer’s visibility.
Benefits: Snapchat’s considerable investment in programming means that influencers in this program will be well supported, and their talent properly fostered.
Drawbacks: the threshold to participate in the program is quite high, so only influencers in an upper echelon can take part.
Moving Toward Mainstream: Twitch
Frequently thought of as a platform primarily for gamers, Twitch is rapidly outgrowing its niche reputation. “Nowadays,” says Powerspike, “you can watch ‘streamers’ (the influencers who stream on Twitch) do anything—painting, cooking, podcasting, camping, and more—and if you like their content, you can follow them to receive updates any time they go live.” And viewers are taking advantage of that opportunity; where the platform saw 590,000 daily concurrent views in 2016, 2019 saw 1.2 million at the press time of this article…23 days into the year.
The average Twitch user spends 1.5 hours watching their favorite Twitch streamers, eager to communicate with them via online chat and listen for shout-outs, giveaways, and other engagement strategies. More to the point, users are open and ready for the monetization of the site. 80% are reportedly open to sponsorship of their favorite streamers and esports teams, and companies like KFC, Mobil1, and Gillette are taking advantage of this audience readiness.
Benefits: rapid growth of the platform and diversification of its users means more opportunities to get in on a ground floor of sorts.
Drawbacks: it is still generally perceived as a niche avenue, and may take some time to more fully emerge as a safe bet.
Influencer marketing will only continue to grow, as brands and companies seek new ways to make their wares feel familiar and relatable. And the opportunity to find new faces that match your brand will only grow…if you know where to look. These platforms are only the start, and yet they could yield a great new connection when explored thoughtfully.
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