Being an online creator isn’t a niche career anymore. 31 percent of social media users discover new products through influencers. According to a report by Adobe, the global estimate of total creators is around 300 million.
By 2027, the creator economy could be worth $480 billion, according to Goldman Sachs’ research. The creator economy encompasses a wide range of individuals, including content creators, influencers, YouTubers, podcasters, bloggers, artists, musicians, writers, and more, who earn income through their online content and engagement with their audience.
- The creator economy is the modern economic landscape where creators leverage digital platforms and technology to produce and distribute content that promotes products and services directly to their audience.
- A successful creator has three main characteristics: authenticity, expertise, and entertainment.
- While some creators work as a side hustle, others can build lucrative careers spanning years.
- Many creators find success by focusing on particular niches or becoming subject-matter experts.
- Creator economy trends include creators as equal partners, the rise of short-form content, and creators taking ownership of their platforms.
Creators make a big impact on purchasing decisions
A creator or social media influencer is an individual who has established a significant presence and following on various social media platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, blogs, and others. They can impact their followers’ opinions, behaviors, and purchasing decisions due to their credibility, expertise, authenticity, and relatability.
What makes a creator? Here’s a breakdown of what they do:
Content creation: They produce original content such as videos, photos, articles, and more, often centered around a specific niche or topic.
Engagement: They interact with their followers through comments, likes, direct messages, and live streams, fostering community.
Promotion: Brands and companies often collaborate with influencers to promote products, services, or campaigns, leveraging their reach and influence to connect with their target audience.
A successful creator has these three main characteristics:
Authenticity: Many successful influencers are valued for their authenticity, as they often share personal experiences, stories, and insights, making them relatable to their audience.
Expertise: Influencers might have a strong knowledge of a particular subject, such as fashion, beauty, fitness, travel, technology, or any other area of interest.
Entertainment: They create entertaining and engaging content that keeps their followers entertained and coming back for more.
Creators can range from micro-influencers with a smaller but highly engaged following to macro-influencers with a massive reach. A subcategory is user-generated content (UGC), or any content, such as text, images, videos, reviews, or other media, that is created and shared by regular users or consumers of a particular product, service, or platform.
The impact of this content is significant because it can shape trends, popularize products, and even drive social change through their online presence. However, it’s important to note that the influencer landscape is dynamic and constantly evolving, and regulations and industry standards may vary across different regions and platforms.
Creators go from side hustles to full-time careers
Creators don’t fit into narrow categorizations. With online spaces and trends evolving rapidly (56 percent of consumers say one of the main reasons they follow creators is for entertainment), the term “creator” is flexible by necessity.
Balancing with other careers
While some top performers make millions of dollars a year, experience matters. 85 percent of creators with less than one year’s experience earn under $25,000 annually. While 47 percent of creators with more than four years of experience earn more than $25,000 annually.
Content creation is a lucrative side hustle for many people—even if it’s not full-time yet. The rise of “CareerTok” shows how thousands of people balance being a creator with their day jobs. These TikTok creators started a trend by posting about work/life balance, daily routines, career steps, and interview tips.
Blurring the lines
While traditional media pushes people into a few large categories like actors or musicians, many digital creators succeed by blurring these lines: Hank Green, for instance, has built a large audience across multiple platforms through YouTube vlogs, best-selling novels, musical albums, and viral science-related TikTok videos.
Owning the niches
Other creators find success by focusing on particular niches—posting insights and deep dives into specific topics. These creators can stand out and quickly gain traction on social media by differentiating themselves from the crowd. Isabel McGuire is a perfect example: this TikTok-famous electrician has almost 200,000 followers by posting content about her everyday work and career experience.
Connecting with your ideal customers through influencer partnerships
Find out everything you need to know about the different influencer tiers, compensation, and influencer marketing strategies with our Ultimate guide to influencer tiers: from nano creators to megastars.Download
The inner workings of the creator economy
The creator economy refers to a modern economic landscape where creators leverage digital platforms and technology to produce and distribute content that promotes products and services directly to their audience. This concept has gained significant traction with the rise of social media, content-sharing platforms, and online marketplaces.
Key attractors to the creator economy include:
Independence: freedom to produce content or offer products/services on their terms, without the need for traditional gatekeepers or intermediaries.
Monetization: make income for work through various channels, such as advertising, sponsorships, subscriptions, merchandise sales, crowdfunding, and more.
Direct audience engagement: build and engage with their communities and fan bases, often developing strong relationships and direct lines of communication with their audience.
Diverse content types: share creatives through various content types, including videos, podcasts, blogs, live streams, digital art, music, educational courses, and more.
Platforms and marketplaces to find audiences and brand partners: YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Patreon, Substack, and Etsy provide spaces for creators to showcase and distribute their work. Plus, creators can work with brands through partnership management platforms such as impact.com.
New career paths: the emergence of new career paths where anyone can make a living solely from their creative endeavors.
Innovation: as creators explore new formats, engage with emerging technologies, and find novel ways to connect with their audience, they can innovate and explore new creation methods.
Additionally, the creator economy democratized content creation and distribution. This allows people from diverse backgrounds to share their passions and expertise with a global audience.
It has also challenged traditional work, income generation, and entrepreneurship notions. As a result, anyone can pursue creativity and build a sustainable career while maintaining a direct and personal connection with followers.
Creators, brands, and consumers all play a role in the rapidly-growing creator economy. Understanding these roles and opportunities is crucial for healthy partnerships with content creators and influencers.
It’s important to note that the creator economy is constantly evolving, and its dynamics can vary based on technological changes, audience preferences, and market trends.
Many creators become experts in their niche fields like fitness, technology, or travel. Or, they build up goodwill with their audiences through honest, practical reviews and recommendations. Skilled content creators and influencers foster trust with their followers over time—growing their personal brands and participating in vibrant online communities.
Creator partnerships offer companies a low-risk, cost-effective way to boost brand awareness and sales. Brands can pay for results instead of spending the entire marketing budget upfront on a broad campaign. Investing in creators who convert customers and reach niche, target audiences.
The creator economy gives audiences unprecedented access to their favorite writers, vloggers, photographers, and trendsetters. Instead of passively consuming content designed for as broad an audience as possible, people can seek content matching their interests and values.
Succeeding in the creator economy
Many marketing teams and brands have found success by leaning on the strengths of the creator economy.
The Kiss the Ground team used high-quality content to connect with their target audience: people focused on sustainability and climate change activism. Through 52 influencer posts, clips, and reels, Kiss the Ground drove over five million impressions (2.5 times the expected results).
Coach wanted to reach a particular audience through their creator/influencer campaign: female-identifying US consumers aged 18-34. With impact.com’s flexible contracting options, Coach attracted new partners and generated hundreds of successful posts—connected with over 2.3 million people by the end of the campaign.
What’s in store for the creator economy?
Research shows that 64 percent of people make purchases based on influencer recommendations at least some of the time. Since brands know how vital consumer trust is for their bottom line, it seems like partnerships with content creators and influencers are here to stay.
While expanding your partnership program, keep these trends in mind:
Creators as equal partners
Creators and influencers want to be true partners with brands—not just sources for clicks. These creators established their audiences by taking the initiative and expressing their voices. As more brands build relationships with creators, they’ll have more options for brand partners. Creators cite high compensation and creative freedom as top qualities that will make them commit to a long-term brand partnership.
The rise of short-form content
Short-form videos (generally under 60 seconds) are taking off. These bite-sized shorts, reels, and clips are punchy “snackable” (easy to digest) for consumers [learn more from our iPX 2023 talk “The rise of short-form content”].
For brands, this means high returns on investment. Short-form video offers the best return on investment of any kind of content—with one-third of marketers planning to invest more in it this year. Plus, 57 percent of Gen Z and 42 percent of Millenials prefer to learn about products through short-form videos the most.
Creators taking ownership of their platforms
As digital technology advances, content might move into the hands of creators even more. Right now, brands like Instagram and TikTok host creators on their platforms. But with the rise of Web3, more creators could own a part of their platforms: having a say in how the place they create content for is managed.
The ecosystem and economic landscape has emerged around persons who create and distribute content on digital platforms, often leveraging their personal brand, skills, and expertise to engage with and monetize their audience.
The concept of the creator economy has evolved due to the changing digital landscape and platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, offering individuals opportunities to create, share, and monetize content. While it lacks a single founder, the idea of people producing content for audiences dates back to blogging and podcasting.
The creator economy experienced significant growth and is estimated to be a multi-billion-dollar industry. The exact size of the creator economy can vary depending on how it’s measured.
Driving the creator economy
The creator economy’s success highlights the power of the personal touch. Whether you’re a micro-influencer with less than ten thousand followers or a celebrity with 5 million, you have something brands want: an engaged audience who trusts you. Traditional advertising doesn’t even come close for brands wishing to raise awareness and boost revenue.
Sign up to impact.com/creator today—a platform built for brands and creators—to discover, collaborate and grow your campaigns.
Check out these resources to learn more:
- 5 ways brands can build long-term success with creators [+ examples] (blog)
- The state of influencer marketing for consumers in 2023 (Infographic)
- TikTok and commerce: 4 reasons why brands succeed with “shoptainment” (blog)
- Influencer Partnership Strategic Planning [intermediate level] (FREE PXA course)