Today’s creator economy is a far cry from the days when fan bases grew organically and web stars were happy to send free content coursing through social media, just for kicks. It’s a legit industry now, complete with business events and strategy sessions.
The latest comes courtesy of Instagram, which kicked off its first Creator Week on Tuesday with a few announcements designed to help enterprising influencers make money.
During the online event, Insta and parent company Facebook revealed that they’re testing a new affiliate linking tool, while also busting Shops out of business accounts only and allowing them to live on creators’ personal Instagram profiles.
“I think that any good vision of the future has to involve a lot more people being able to make a living by expressing their creativity and by doing things they want to do, rather than things they have to,” said Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg, “and having the tools and the economy around them to support their work is critical.”
The goal is to enable creators to make a living off of the platforms, he added. That’s driven the social media giant to start testing a native affiliate tool that lets creators earn commissions off of purchases they inspired people to make.
Unlike most affiliate linking programs, sellers here can set their own commission rates. The tool can also become its own form of marketing: Affiliate posts are labeled “Eligible for Commission,” so fans understand that their purchase supports their favorite creators — almost like a different spin on tipping.
Affiliate linking can be a lucrative practice for influencers who don’t have their own merchandise. But those who do have product lines are getting a new ability to link their Instagram Shop to their personal profiles in addition to their business accounts.
The company believes the heightened visibility can help push products, as it will have a more direct connection to a creator’s fans. It also hopes it will motivate more creators to launch their own Shops, if they haven’t done so yet.
They can set up a new Shop, as well as “drive excitement with exclusive product launches,” the company added, by linking their Instagram accounts with one of four merchandise partners — Bravado/UMG, Fanjoy, Represent and Spring. The latter will roll out to eligible creators in the U.S. by the end of the year.
The company also plans to further pad creators’ wallets: “Lastly, we’re going to be introducing new ways to earn extra cash for using Badges on Instagram and Stars on Facebook when you reach certain milestones,” Zuckerberg added. “We believe that you should be rewarded for the value you bring to your fans and to the overall community.”
The momentum of the creator economy is undeniable at this point. It was growing even before the pandemic, but now is estimated to be more than 50 million strong, and Facebook and Instagram want to make sure it has the biggest slice of the pie.
“At the end of the day I really believe people are naturally creative and we want to share what we make with others — a lot of times we want to turn that into a career as well — everyone here today is proof of that,” the CEO added. “You just need access to the right tools, and that’s what we hope to continue to build for all of you.”
Of course, Facebook benefits, too, and on more than one front. Certainly more platform-driven Instagram shopping and sales add to its bottom line. But even at its barest essence, anything that spurs activity and engagement gives users more reason to come back again and again — giving the company every reason to court everyone, from large brands to scrappy indie creators and everyone in between.