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The creator economy boomed in 2021. Some estimates project that it could become a $100 billion industry in 2022. As the creator industry scales, social media giants like Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram are racing to update their algorithms and implement refreshed creator monetization features. The obstacle with these legacy platforms is that the economics of their algorithms and incentive structures favor the most followed one percent of creators and corporate interests, shifting control and ownership away from the majority of creators and their fans.
Virality vs. value
As the algorithmic focus moves to virality rather than value, the longevity of community and economy-building is lost. To ensure the long-term growth and sustainability of the creator economy, creators and fans must be given financial ownership over their interactions. While algorithms may help generate views and increase discoverability, they do not optimize for what matters most: genuine community building. Instead, this technology can pressure creators into crafting their personas to game the algorithms, resulting in a roadblock to building authentic connections with their fans. When virality is privileged over community, it’s the tech giants and advertisers who extract value—not the creators or their followers.
As a whole, legacy social media platforms are underpaying and undervaluing creators for their content. A prime example of this can be found in TikTok’s $1 billion creator fund, which promises to reward creators with payouts based on factors such as views and engagement. Recently, top creators MrBeast and Hank Green claimed that they were receiving between $0.02 to $0.03 from the creator fund for every 1000 views. Despite one of MrBeast’s TikTok videos garnering millions of views, he received only $18.64 for the day. This is a rate of pay that cannot support content creators, let alone provide a living to those with smaller followings.
Web3 helps creators and fans alike
Fortunately, there are an increasing number of ways to help creators make a sustainable, recurring form of income through direct engagement with their fan communities. A key consideration when deciding between alternative revenue streams rests with the idea of removing intermediaries. Bypassing these intermediaries, creators can have greater command over their content and how they interact with fans. While traditional monetization models such as fan clubs have historically been rather transactional and one-sided due to third-party intermediaries, the adoption of cryptocurrencies, tokenization, and Web3 is reinventing the experience to become more collaborative.
Social tokens and NFTs offer perhaps the most user-friendly way for creators to regain their creative autonomy. In exchange for purchasing a creator’s social token, fans can unlock access to digital or IRL goods and services from the creator, whether that’s exclusive merch, backstage meet and greets, or a private Discord server, while demonstrating their dedication to the fandom. This system removes fee-taking middlemen and enables creators to keep their earnings and own their relationships with their fans, creating a mutually beneficial economy based on reciprocity.
A strong community allows a creator to be sustained with a smaller, but highly engaged audience, creating niche groups drawn together by shared interests. On Rally, three-quarters of creators have been able to create six-figure economies and sustain themselves without having to sell out to third parties. Nowhere is this better seen than in the case of Joe Pulizzi’s $TILT coin, which supports content creators looking to become content entrepreneurs. Among other benefits, holding the token grants access to giveaways, exclusive reports, and private Discord chats that help educate creators on how to grow their businesses. Joe reinvests revenues directly to his followers by distributing token rewards, in turn strengthening the community.
Platforms are already examining their algorithms for biases and making adjustments to encourage discovery and break feedback loops. To build a sustainable ecosystem, however, rewards need to be restructured in a way that ensures creators are benefiting like they deserve to be. Web3 provides the infrastructure to accomplish this. By establishing digital economies, creators can reclaim their autonomy and unlock new opportunities to build deeper, lasting relationships with their followers. In an online world where stars rapidly fade in and out of the limelight and so much attention is paid to the viral moments rather than to the creators behind them, building a community stands as the antithesis, and is ultimately more valuable.