Just a few years ago, the term "influencer" was met with a collective groan. They were a breed of social media user widely understood as unserious clout-climbers or sell-outs. But the stigma around the business of influencer marketing has dissipated with the rise of Gen Z. They're entrepreneurs, and we call them "creators."

According to a 2020 report by VC firm SignalFire, the global creator economy is 50 million strong, and counting. Creators are a new class of small businesses, using tech platforms to generate content and monetize their personal brands and followings. This includes everyone from children reviewing toys and earning commission via YouTube to cosplayers making tips for selfies via OnlyFans. Two million global creators are already making six-figures. Mediakix data shows the influencer marketing industry is projected to be worth $15 billion by 2022, up from $8 billion in 2019.

Creators draw users to tech platforms and fuel their businesses. Companies like Instagram and YouTube created the creator, and now they’re competing to win their loyalty — and their followers’ loyalties — with payouts and constant product development. 

A new letter from YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki claims the company has paid out over $30 billion to creators and media organizations over the last three years. Meanwhile, Snapchat has been doling out $1 million per day to creators on its platform through a program called Spotlight, which debuted on the app in November. Last summer, TikTok announced its $200 million creator fund.

Media companies are all aiming to be the home for creators and a one-stop-shop social media hub, which often plays out in an ongoing game of copycat. TikTok was the most-downloaded app on Apple's App Store in 2018 and 2019. Last year, ByteDance’s revenue more than doubled to approximately $37 billion. Instagram and Snapchat responded to their competitor’s success by mirroring it with Reels and Spotlight, in-app short-form video feeds. YouTube is currently rolling out its own short-form video feature, Shorts. Meanwhile, Twitter introduced Fleets, its version of Instagram Stories (which, it’s worth mentioning, Instagram launched in 2016 to mirror Snapchat). 

Looking at some other metrics, YouTube and Instagram’s efforts seem to be paying off. In December, Instagram.com counted 4,260 daily page views per million users. It also reached an average web traffic Alexa Rank, which measures global web traffic and engagement, of 21.

YouTube Shorts reportedly has 3.5 billion daily views in India, where the company started beta-testing the feature last fall. YouTube’s current average Alexa Rank is at number 2. Meanwhile, TikTok.com is at 122.

Facebook’s current Alexa Rank is at number 7. The platform’s market share is still strong, but could be falling behind. Last week, Facebook posted its latest annual performance update, which showed that the platform added 299 million active users throughout 2020. But, while Facebook continued to grow globally, its count of Daily Active Users (DUA) stalled in the US and wavered during the year. 

Facebook started Q1 with 195 million DUA in the US and Canada. That number grew to 198 million by Q2 and shrank back to 195 million by Q4.

By prioritizing Instagram, Facebook might sacrifice the success of its namesake social media platform. 

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online, jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings, and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.

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