Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Is social media the new Hollywood?

By Victor Potrel, VP of Platform Partnerships at TheSoul Publishing

Remember the days when you needed to be a movie star for billions of people to know your name? There was once a time when Hollywood was exclusive to fame, earned only by the talented men and women “making it” on the big screen. Fast forward to today where there’s no denying social media is now challenging this inner circle, opening this world to the average person – feeding the talent of today’s growing creative economy more and more with each day. 

In this new world, there are endless opportunities for individual creators and publishers, all of which finally have their chance to share their skills and earn celebrity status like the Hollywood elite. While actors have been successful at extending their voice and presence via social media, this opportunity is now available to grassroots creators and digital publishers building the brands of tomorrow – and digital platforms themselves are fully behind and supporting what can be considered today’s new-age Hollywood.

Social Platforms’ Formal Programs Offer Movie Star Level Support

Let’s take a look at YouTube. With the pandemic hitting the fast-forward button on digital, bringing consumption of social media to new heights, YouTube reported a 25 percent increase in watchtime during the first quarter of 2020 – and so far it has shown no sign of slowing down. This growth has benefited YouTube and also their creative community: the long running  YouTube Partner Program (YPP) has granted creators access to exclusive resources and also opened for monetisation opportunities via revenue sharing on advertising being served on their content. The program has been a game changer for many and supported going from a niche passion to a full time job and more. In only three years, YouTube has paid more than $30 billion to creators, artists, and media companies. 

YouTube has not been the only one to reward content creation with financial incentives. Facebook has later launched a similar partner program. TikTok also leans into the creative economy with multiple initiatives, from the Instructional Accelerator Program, targeted towards top publishers to the Creator Fund launched last year in the US and expected to grow beyond $1 billion in the US in the next three years. Creators have also been able to earn on non-advertising products, like with “diamonds” (TikTok’s virtual credits) that are presented in the form of gifts from their fans during live streams. 

It doesn’t stop there. Snapchat recently introduced a new feature called Spotlight, which offers a payout of up to $1 million every day to those whose posts make it to this exclusive feed. Instagram made recent efforts to invest in their creators, with features to increase monetization such as ads on IGTV and badges for Instagram Live. The Facebook platform has been actively providing various ways of monetising, offering a step by step guide to yield a return on your content, with options including in-stream ads, fan subscriptions, stars, and of course, branded content, which has been well established over the past few years. 

Social Media Presents A New Form Of Product Placement – Teleshopping on Steroids 

Does #ad look familiar? Brands are recognizing that social media is the place to be if they want to reach their target audiences in an authentic way, whatever their budget size. With creatives for nearly every niche market, there truly is opportunity for everyone. As a brand, not only can you support your creative communities (and customers) with these integrations, you can also make them actionable with measurable conversion rate and ROI. One of YouTube’s key investments is in e-commerce, with the goal of going full circle and connecting users, brands and creators further. TikTok is also pioneering a similar approach, with new shopeable livestreams

It’s not just new or “young” companies that have recognized this potential. A diverse group of established and up-and-coming businesses are harnessing the impact of today’s popular creatives to take their products to new heights. Take a look at Simmons, a 150-year old mattress brand, who just tapped TikTok celebrities Charli D’Amelio and Dixie D’Amelio to produce a new product line “Charli & Dixie x Simmons.” 

The success of this form of product placement is not limited to the specific sponsored creatives  themselves. It is often used in tandem with programmatic ad buys, to drive further reach to the integration or other large scale campaigns, indirectly benefiting the larger creator ecosystem in return. In fact, when asking worldwide retailers, more than one-third reported having purchased ads on TikTok. And that’s just TikTok.

Harnessing the Growth Potential of Building an Audience On Social Media

The collective growth potential social media platforms offer individual creators and publishers is in no way limited to the programs being put forth by the social media platforms themselves, or the paid partnerships acted on by millions of brands. Creators are capitalizing on the fame and fortune they’ve earned on social media and are translating it into new media brands, “the modern IPs” which could become the next Nike or LEGO. In terms of monetization, it means expanding and growing their brands across a vast array of ventures, from merchandising to restaurants and live tours.

What’s perhaps more interesting, is that the tremendous footprint of the global creative economy is now being recognized by The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which recently approved an “influencer agreement” that extends coverage to online content creators. This is the first open door to Hollywood’s biggest union – and likely won’t be the last. 

The fame and fortune creatives have built for themselves is undeniable. They are a creative force for change in the industry, enabled by open platforms. Reflecting on their growth at scale, it’s tough to question social media’s hand in helping today’s new creators earn their spot among, and maybe even above, Hollywood’s finest. The best part: the opportunity is still very much open to anyone creative and hardworking. It’s impossible to say whether it will succeed, but at least you can go ahead, create your handle and get in on the fun!