Mike Faber, Co-Founder Wantoa marketplace SaaS that enables anyone to start their own e-commerce business as a seller with domestic brands.
Social media influencers, popular bloggers and podcasters (also known as creators) face three major audience monetization issues that can prevent them from realizing their true business potential. Running their e-commerce brand without the hassle of inventory management and order fulfillment allows creators to monetize their followers directly and efficiently.
Three Monetization Problems Faced by Creators
1. Indirect relationship between creator and audience
The first problem is that creators work hard to build their audience, but it’s not something they can own and manage. All their followers are subscribed to their social media accounts. There is no direct relationship between the creator and its audience, such as opting in to the use of followers’ email addresses.
Given the investment and effort required to build an audience, this seems like a risk factor for any creator-led business.
2. Cross-platform link restrictions
According to ConvertKit’s “The State of the Creator Economy 2022” report, full-time creators use an average of 3.4 channels simultaneously, cross-posting between Instagram, YouTube, and their blog or newsletter to drive audience engagement and growth.
However, social media platforms restrict cross-platform links, and Twitter recently banned cross-platform promotions, setting a worrying precedent. The evolution of platform terms and conditions to support their interests and defenses presents another risk to creator-led businesses.
3. Maintain Multiple Income Streams
Only about 21 percent of creators earn more than $50,000 a year and work full-time, sometimes more than 40 hours a week.
Unless they achieve celebrity status, creators earn mostly from brand deals like paid posts. A mid-level Instagram user with less than 1 million followers might want to get paid a few hundred dollars for paid posts.
Given the level of effort required to reach the top and the authority creators wield, all of these issues force them to look for alternative monetization methods. According to the ConvertKit report, full-time creators have an average of 2.7 income streams. It can be exhausting in the long run, so creator burnout is an occupational health hazard.
E-commerce as a direct monetization method
Creators are the most trusted source of product recommendations, with 71% of Gen Z buying from Tiktok, Instagram and YouTube influencers, 40% more than the general population. Social proof is a powerful marketing tool, and creators are the ultimate authority on their audience.
But creators are often paid for a single post, so e-commerce brands can gain hundreds or thousands of new customers who then generate repeat sales and continue to buy from the brand for years to come.
Some creators prefer to maintain customer relationships by endorsing their e-commerce brands. Nearly a quarter of them plan to start selling physical products, according to a ConvertKit report.
Run the Marketplace Using Third-Party Inventories
Creators don’t have to invest in inventory, manage warehouses, fulfill orders, or handle returns themselves. Instead, those interested can leverage the domestic dropshipping marketplace model and focus on audience growth and storytelling, while leaving e-commerce operations to their brand partners.
In marketplace mode, after customizing the e-commerce storefront as branded, creators can invite favorite brands as sellers. Their followers will be able to buy quality goods delivered by domestic brands within a few days.
The marketplace advantage creators get is the ability to easily add thousands of products across multiple categories, allowing multi-brand and cross-category shopping in one order with simple payment methods or buy now pay later options.
Here’s how creators can strategize around their audience needs, catalog curation, and marketing differentiation angles to maximize third-party market opportunities.
Why: Identify customer needs and pain points
Selling discretionary products is a lot easier when the needs of your customers closely align with your product catalog. Since many social media influencers appeal to their audiences based on their authority, values, or lifestyle, understanding customer needs can help creators identify these intersections.
For a fitness trainer or coffee connoisseur, identifying client needs is relatively easy. However, sooner or later, entertainers known for their fan giveaways and crazy stunts will need to come up with some overarching themes that will captivate viewers. Otherwise, they regard consumption as the most basic need.
An example of this might be identifying a shared desire for social change, such as charity or saving the planet. To identify this overlap between creator identity and customer needs, creators can examine their post history and draw inspiration from the posts with the highest follower engagement, such as likes, comments, or shares.
Running a creator-led e-commerce business also includes experimenting with new product categories and incorporating them into lifestyle or purpose-driven storytelling. Followers rely on the Creator as a guiding authority. Setting trends and checking out what resonates with your audience is not only at the heart of the influencer game, but it’s often easy and low-risk.
What: Choosing brands and curating your product catalog
Creators with a specific focus will once again have an easier time curating product catalogs. For example, fitness trainers choose their favorite brands that sell activewear, shoes, wearable electronics and dietary supplements.
Still, it’s important to make your product catalog easily discoverable in a logical order or sequence. What are the shopping starters and absolute must-haves, and what are the must-haves and add-ons? The marketplace product category tree should reflect the order of purchase choices from must-haves to low-priority items.
Entertainers’ e-commerce options are limited to branded apparel (called merchandise), or they sell popular consumer goods.
How To: Define Your Marketing Differentiation Strategy
Defining a marketing differentiation strategy can help creators stand out from other creators in similar markets. One way to achieve this is to have a mission to help your clients in any way you can, or better yet, change their lives.
For example, rather than selling repetitive workouts or a daily fitness plan, sell improving health by encouraging life goals backed by social proof. Instead of selling products, sell handcrafted, exclusive items from women-led businesses or small business owners who care about their customer communities.
Another helpful tip is to always emphasize exclusivity and members-only availability. Ask customers to email to be the first to be notified about new arrivals, creator-backed collections and sets.
Finally, tag products based on your values to allow filtering by attributes. This might include vegan, female-led or sustainable. For long-term success, it’s important to build a community around a post-purchase experience or memory. Create content that supports your sales through vivid storytelling while remaining relevant and authentic.
This audience monetization playbook can help creators achieve more satisfying long-term financial outcomes to ensure their hard work pays off.
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