Dream bigger! The reach of creators is much more extensive than you may imagine

May 13, 2024
Emmy Liederman
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We already know creators have influence over niche communities on single platforms. On YouTube, 22,000 creators have reached the one million followers threshold. On Instagram, 500,000 have achieved 100,000 followers or more.

But once you’ve reached the summits of creator success on your platform, where’s the space to grow? If you feel tapped out by the possibilities present in your current community or current platform, it can be difficult to explain trends like this:

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The truth is, even after you hit mega-success as a creator, there’s always somewhere to go. Recent boosts in digital technology have poured money into just about anything creators can touch: digital retail, crypto and NFT initiatives, even TV streaming.

“Traditionally, the creator's sphere of influence has been limited to the blog and social media landscapes,” said Samantha King from Digital Marketing Group. “But as time progresses, we see that the ways in which creators connect with their audience extends far beyond the sphere of social.”

The next wave of successful mega-creators know they don’t have to stick to one platform to achieve success. In fact, there are ways to think outside the box beyond multiple-platform influence. Here are some ways creators are dreaming bigger—without dwelling on their follower counts.

1. Creators go mobile

Since creators already live and work online, it only makes sense to go mobile, where total users currently stand at more than 4.3 billion, comprising 55% of all web traffic.

Issa Rae, the TV star behind HBO’s “Insecure,” has run the gamut—from mobile to TV stardom and back to mobile. But despite Rae’s tech-savvy background, when Latoya Peterson pitched Rae the idea of turning “Insecure” into a mobile game, it seemed like a fresh idea.

“The idea of ‘Insecure’ as a video game never crossed my mind,” says Rae. 

Yet Peterson’s vision of breathing “life into the part of adulting that is very messy, that doesn’t make sense,” fit like a glove with Rae’s “Insecure” series. The result is “Insecure: The Come-Up Game,” a reflection of the series’ content. 

Issa Rae didn’t foresee her transformation into a Glow Up Games lyrical adventure around the corner. But the game’s adventures—including trips to nightclubs, rapping in front of the bathroom mirror, and “interpersonal drama” familiar to fans of “Insecure”—ring true to Rae’s brand.

But being on-brand doesn’t mean it has to be on-medium. Issa Rae’s expansion into the mobile market capitalizes on the show’s success while introducing her to an entirely new audience.

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2. Creators go omnichannel

Rae’s success also highlights one potential area of expansion for creators: literally any other channel.

“Many forget that influencers have reach beyond their posting to their feeds,” says Lindsay Anderson, Product Manager at The Smart Wallet. “An influencer that posts regularly on Instagram might also be actively posting videos on YouTube, streaming on Twitch, or collaborating with other influencers on their channels/accounts.”

Mr. Beast, for example, is best-known as a YouTube star. But that doesn’t encompass the Mr. Beast brand exactly, does it? 

Mr. Beast is everywhere—opening the doors to a virtual restaurant, helping charitable causes, launching a full-on Willy Wonky-style candy brand. 

The advantage of launching new enterprises like this is creators can leverage their popularity on one platform to encourage distribution in another. 

For Mr. Beast, that means a “ghost” presence at burger restaurants for the Mr. Beast Burger. It’s almost like a franchise: restaurants can sign up to offer the burger with their existing equipment, offer the burger in online sales, and not impact their in-store traffic. 

The pitch to local restaurant owners is they can earn hundreds in extra profits every day with little extra work—just by leveraging the Mr. Beast name. 

“Brands miss the mark when they overly prescribe what an influencer can and cannot do. The agreement needs to be the influencer/creator lead. If they’re buying into what you’re paying them to do, their followers are going to be more likely to accept it. Otherwise, the ‘gross factor’ of being sold a bill of goods will turn their followers off to them and—worse—you!Those relationships you’re building today can and should grow with the influencer. If they move into TikTok and you’re not there—awesome. I predict this will be an excellent opportunity for brands and creators well into the 2030s,” says Shane Allen from ConsultTheFuture.com.

3. Creators go meta

The metaverse could be an $800 billion industry by 2024. If there was ever a good time to plant your “creator’s” flag in this new digital real estate, it’s now.

The key to creators finding inroads in the metaverse, X.LA believes, is revenue-sharing. A creator might not have the developmental prowess to create an engaging presence in the multiverse, true. But like any other channel, a creator can leverage their audience to partner with people who can offer that.

“[X.LA believes] that, very soon, all of us will be entrepreneurs and co-creators in the metaverse,” says Constantin Andry, COO and Head of Business at X.LA. “A key point here is that [X.LA’s service] will enable creators to widen their reach by leaving their mark across multiple metaverses.”

Andry sees creators succeeding by pairing with metaverse-enabled businesses and using smart contracts to enable revenue-sharing. This creates a win-win: Businesses and metaverse shops get the creator’s audience, and the creator gets to plant a flag in the metaverse.

A Wunderman Thompson report suggests the metaverse will overhaul the way we all interact. Already, 76% of people report their everyday activities depend on technology. 

“The Foo Fighters hosted a virtual live show after the Super Bowl on the metaverse, and while some critics scrutinized the show for its technical difficulties, viewers across the globe were able to experience a live concert like never before from the comfort of their own living rooms. Travis Scott also hosted a live show on Fortnite back in 2020, which drew in over 27 million players… It’s wise for marketers and creators to start strategizing on how they can utilize the platform,” says Justin Kline, co-founder of the influencer marketing agency, Markerly.

4. Creators go crypto

Though a recent crash in crypto prices is reminding some of the bursting of the dot-com bubble, it doesn’t mean crypto is going anywhere. After all, dot-coms have stuck around, too.

NFTs, for example, are a dream come true for digital artists looking to leverage their skills. Big brands like Pizza Hut and Taco Bell have paid digital artists to create NFTs. Pringles even created an exclusive flavor, CryptoCrisp—complete with 50 packages, which only exist as digital artwork. 

The key here is finding a match between crypto and NFT audiences and the brand. Taco Bell, for example, almost immediately sold out its NFT collection. 

Brands sometimes partner creators to promote these NFTS as well. Just recently, Instagram announced it would start testing NFTs on its platform with select creators. Creators can leverage Instagram stories, the main feed, or even DMs to promote NFTs to their followers.

Expect that to overlap with Meta’s other properties, including Facebook and, of course, the Meta Metaverse.

5. Creators go cartoon

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Dreaming bigger also means redefining what it means to be a creator. When we think of creators, we might think of photogenic make-up artists on Instagram or helpful tutorials on YouTube.

But what about turning art itself into the creator? That’s what Mr. Saint-George is. Artist Xavier Charpy, a 22-year-old student living in Paris, created his “bear” character to coincide with fashion tips and outfit inspiration.

“I never figured I’d end up taking style tips from a cartoon bear,” writes Jason Diamond for GQ.

Yet that’s exactly what’s happening. Innovative creators like Fei Wang, the mind behind Mr. Slowboy, first started off blogging about style and fashion.

Eventually, Wang’s creative illustration tendencies helped supplement his writing—until the illustration itself took off. 

Style illustration is nothing new—GQ points to mid-century movements in Japan and France with the same habits—but creators are starting to realize they don’t have to plop themselves in front of a camera to leverage what they do best. 

6. Creators as businesses

When a creator first hits it big, it’s often on one platform, with one audience. The first step to dreaming bigger is to think of the audience as a business—a full-fledged business, with multiple revenue streams that go beyond advertising.

For instance, any creator with a sizeable audience can start thinking about other sources of revenue:

  • Advertising or revenue sharing
  • Sponsored content and posts
  • Tipping, such as through platforms like Twitch
  • Product placement in videos and social posts
  • Paid subscriptions, such as Patreon
  • Digital content sales
  • NFTs
  • Merchandising
  • Cameos and other shoutouts
  • Live/virtual events and workshops
  • Fan clubs or exclusive VIP communities

Consider Casey Neistat, for example, a YouTube creator with millions of followers. Casey isn’t content with advertising money via YouTube content, instead expanding to offer merchandise such as T-shirts. These T-shirts feature Neistat’s trademark glasses, for example, adding to the exclusivity of the merchandise.

The creator-as-business concept harkens back to Kevin Kelly’s notion of 1,000 true fans, which states that creators don’t need a sizable audience in order to create a powerful one. 

Rather than thinking big in terms of audience size, one way creators can think big is to expand their potential for revenue. That means expanding media and revenue sources—monetizing, for lack of a better word.

7. Creators go TV

Given that some creators have audiences that would compete with anything on TV, it’s only natural that some of them have officially made the leap.

Consider Charli D’Amelio, the TikTok influencer whose Superbowl-levels of followers have made her a household name—inside the universe of the smartphone, at least.

D’Amelio is now launching The D’Amelio Show in partnership with Hulu. Given that D’Amelio’s family is just as famous—Dixie, Charli’s sister, has tens of millions of followers herself—it’s not a stretch to imagine the show can become the next reality TV show hit.

Set to debut Sept. 3, the show highlights how some creators have achieved audience levels so big there is nowhere to go but to more mainstream sources of entertainment. Consider the crossover success of Addison Rae, another creator who has transitioned to acting, most recently in Netflix’s “He’s All That.”

8. Creators go offline

Some creators may have never imagined building a personal following, even while recognizing the incredible leverage their audience gives them. 

One example here is Alicia McCarvell, a creator famous on Instagram and TikTok. Collaborating directly with Jimmy Mac Eyewear isn’t anything new—but McCarvell’s approach was. Rather than focusing on digital sales, McCarvell’s efforts with Jimmy Mac focused on the retail space.

For some creators, dreaming bigger requires going offline. It’s essentially an update of the classic retail partnership: two brands getting together to offer exclusive promotions in a retail setting.

In other cases, creators may go directly into businesses for themselves. This is a riskier proposition—businesses fail all the time—but gives the original founder of the business more leverage if the business takes off.

That’s the case for Emma Chamberlain of Chamberlain Coffee. Chamberlain initially built her brand as a YouTube influencer and coffee reviewer. But she grew such a loyal following through her reviews that Chamberlain eventually decided to branch out on her own.

The result has put Chamberlain in the driver’s seat of her very own coffee business. And while Chamberlain Coffee is as online as it is offline, it remains an almost entirely separate source of revenue for Chamberlain.

To Shiv Gupta, founder and CEO of Incrementors.com, this is an essential next-step for many creators, and a key warning against becoming too reliant on any one platform. “Creators must weigh the benefits of specific platforms' distribution potential against the risk of growing reliant on them,” says Gupta.

How can brands leverage creator influence to grow?

It’s not news that brands can leverage their creator relationships to access massive, highly-engaged audiences, many of whom have specific tie-ins to niches and industries that make them ready to shop.

What is changing is the technology brands can use to grow in outside-the-box ways themselves. For instance, there’s some overlap with how creators and brands can exploit the metaverse.

“As web-3 and metaverse tech emerge into our world we believe there are going to be more opportunities for collaborations with everyday micro-influencers,” says William Gasner of Stack Influence. 

This is an example of the rising prevalence of micro-influencers. On Instagram, for example, 91% of influencers are micro-influencers which has become a rising trend over recent years.

But the metaverse and new platforms aren’t the sole reasons to consider micro-influencers. 

Recent changes to privacy regulations with cookie tracking and app data have also made it more expensive to make conventional digital analytics feasible. While brands could once count on cookies and trackers to place highly-selective and targeted ads online, those powers are going away.

According to Mashable, only about 4% of users are still allowing marketing campaigns to target and track them. And even then, we have to wonder, who exactly is that 4%?

The solution to this problem? Working with micro-influencers and their highly-targeted audiences. This has created a new medium for brands to target, engaging with enthusiastic micro-audiences who might be a perfect match for what the brand has on offer.

New trends in creator growth—and brand growth

Creators who seem to reach the “top” of their fields don’t have to plant their flag and declare themselves done. Maybe that counts for Mount Everest—when there are no higher mountains to climb. But today’s creators (and today’s brands) aren’t limited to just one mountain. To dream bigger, they can simply move on to the next one.

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