Why Mark Zuckerberg Wants Influencers To Get Rich

 Why Mark Zuckerberg Wants Influencers To Get Rich

Mark Zuckerberg would like the thousands of influencers on Facebook and Instagram to stay put there. He’d also like attract new ones. To incentivize both groups, he’s willing to help them get paid better.

Facebook is considering a number of new creator monetization tools, Zuckerberg announced on Monday, including allowing affiliate revenue sharing between companies and influencers and a digital marketplace for the two to connect and strike deals. It’s also mulling an expansion to Instagram’s Storefront, a shopable content feed currently restricted to major celebrities such as Kim Kardashian.

“If we help creators make more money on their content, that will help a broader creator economy emerge, which will make it so there’s more content across the services, more ways to connect, and that will be awesome,” Zuckerberg said. The chosen venue for his comments was meant to reinforce his interest in influencers: an Instagram livestream, a popular ways for creators to interact with fans.

Zuckerberg shared few specific details about what Facebook is working on, and until he does, it’s impossible to gauge whether these new features can be sucessful. But the announcement underscores the growing importance of influencers to Facebook and the growing arms race among social media companies to win over these stars and enrich them.

Why? Well, platforms such as Facebook and Instagram need influencers because influencers help drive engagement to these platforms. But very few creators are loyalists, and they’re prone to seeking out new sites and avenues for making more money, drawing their attention—and audiences—from one platform in favor of another.

Facebook and Instagram represent the old guard of the industry and are juggling a twin eagerness: hold tightly onto the influencers who’ve grown up on their apps and lure away some of the ones native to competitors such as Snapchat and TikTok.

The concept of a social media influencer first arose from the digital celebrities who acquired fame on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter

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during the early and mid 2010s. And while YouTube made early, prescient moves to share ad revenue with these new stars, other companies offered few paths toward earning money, largely leaving the influencers to fend for themselves.

This changed when TikTok emerged. On TikTok, it’s possible to aquire more fame more quickly than anywhere else thanks to the app’s architecture. Meaning, there are now many more social media influencers than there were two or three years ago.

To keep the hoards happy, TikTok introduced monetization features much earlier in its life than rivals did. Influencers can earn tips from livestreams; arrange brand deals through an in-app marketplace (which is exactly what Facebook seems intent on copying); and possibly join the company’s Creator Fund, a financing program for a select pool of TikTok influencers.

YouTube’s ad-revenue-sharing program remains the most lucrative piece of monetization out there, where top talent earns $10 or more per C.P.M., or cost per 1,000 views, producing the biggest annual paydays in social media celebritydom.

Snapchat, meanwhile, is paying out as much as $1 million a day to the users publishing popular content in its new, widely popular Spotlight feature. Twitter is working on adding a subscription model, where users would pay to follow someone’s tweets. And Clubhouse, the audio chat app, has pointedly made creator monetization a top priority in its second year of existence, rolling out a digital tipping feature a few weeks ago.

Facebook and Instagram already offer some similar features. On Facebook, influencers share in ad revenue from Facebook videos as they do on YouTube, and on Instagram, they get part of the advertising dollars brought in through longform Instagram TV videos while accumulating tips on livestreams when fans purchase and give them digital goods called “badges.” And they can post brand-sponsored Reels, the short videos on Instagram meant to compete with TikTok.

Speaking about creators on Monday’s Instagram livestream, Zuckerberg arrived at this conclusion: “If this is going to be people’s job, they need to be able to make money doing it.”

True enough. It just remains to be seen if they want to do that on Instagram, Facebook—or someplace else.