If you work in marketing, or are simply just a social media user, it’s hard to remember a time before the term “content creators” existed—and many Gen Zers are growing up in a relatively new economy where it’s possible to make a name for yourself with a special skill, a little charisma, and a smartphone. The conditions that have developed over the last decade have allowed creators to build a well-respected career and are now essential to our economy.
Social media has effectively democratized content creation, whereas in the days before social media, content was controlled by few key cultural entities like Hollywood and other media enterprises not accessible by the general population. Not very long ago, an individual’s talents were only discovered through Hollywood, or were developed through the formal education system. With the rise of social media over the last decade alone, the barriers to entry in gaining an audience and recognition for talent have never been lower.
Content really began to hit its stride when Instagram came on the scene in late 2010. In a sea of valencia filters and white borders on 5 megapixel iPhone photos, anyone could begin creating content for the masses. Two years later, Vine entered the lexicon and introduced its audience to short-form looped video sharing for the first time. Vine and Instagram creators began monetizing their content through ad revenue and brand partnerships. Vine, of course, paved the way for TikTok, which now has over a billion active users on its platform—a massive captive audience—which naturally piqued the interest of marketers everywhere, and even Instagram admits that the future is vertical video.
Content has a fairly expansive umbrella and includes copy, filming and editing video and photography, or even just recorded audio. This means that companies can utilize the skills of established creators to generate content rather than relying on in-house produced content, which typically doesn’t allow for the same access to diverse ideas and audiences. This also exposes brands and products to a wider audience that expand brand awareness and reach. And in an ever-changing landscape, utilizing creator content allows brands to stay relevant.
In 1996, Bill Gates wrote an essay called Content Is King, where he predicted that content would be where the real money is in the coming years—and boy was he right. The economy has shifted around content, leading to what is effectively a content creator gold rush that we’re seeing today. And this creator economy is actually only getting started; it’s projected that most of the workforce will be involved in the creator economy in the future, so now’s the time to opt in.
Since this economy is inherently accessible to many, it now holds significant power. In a recent study, 47% of consumers age 18-24 say they’re more likely to buy a product if it’s used by a creator they like. And this content is seamlessly integrated into any platform’s algorithm. Creators tend to have a niche and create content based on this niche using their own special skills and talents. This means that ads appear far more organic and targeted than, say, a billboard.
Not only have brands taken notice, but social media platforms are quickly—and some might say frantically—rolling out new features to users that cater to brands and creators like TikTok’s Creator Fund or Instagram’s ever-evolving tools to collaborate with brands and monetize their work.
Whether you have a brand or work in marketing, you might already be incorporating creators into your strategies, but here is your sign to double-down in 2022 because the creator economy is here to stay.