Influence Weekly #259 - Creators Query Whether Platforms Punish Branded Content and Linking Out

Influence Weekly #259
November 18th, 2022
Executive Summary
  • Creators Query Whether Platforms Punish Branded Content and Linking Out
  • How brands are using TikTok, BeReal and Roblox this holiday season
  • MrBeast has unseated Pewdiepie as the most-followed creator on YouTube
  • How Apple’s Privacy Setting Helped TikTok Fight Facebook

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Great Reads

Creators Query Whether Platforms Punish Branded Content and Linking Out
Creators are finding that brand-sponsored content on platforms like Instagram and TikTok are not performing as well as organic posts, occurrences that are potentially spurred by algorithms suppressing certain content that does not directly benefit them. As well as general frustrations, this has the power to impact the relationship between creators and their brand partners.

Kayla Cummings, a creator whose Instagram account @itshoneydone boasts 194,000 Instagram followers, posted an Instagram story in partnership with a brand, the main source of income for the DIY and home-focused creator, and received around 16,000 views. The next day, she posted a piece of organic content and received double the views.

Abraxas Higgins, a creator with 16,000 Instagram followers, can get over 28,000 views for a reel of him playing the piano. For a partnership with fashion brand Ted Baker, he got less than a fifth of that.

These experiences reflect a broader pattern where creators feel Instagram, and sometimes TikTok, suppress branded content and posts that encourage users to leave the platform via an outside link, five creator sources told Adweek. Some said it seems as though views for this type of content have been particularly low recently.

The 2022 YouTube Rich List
Using SocialBlade’s database of YouTube channel data, we isolated the top-earning channel in every country and an estimation of the channel’s lifetime earnings. We broke down the results by region and channel type.

Key Findings
 - American kids’ channel Cocomelon is the highest-earning YouTube channel of all time, with an estimated $282.8m amassed from its videos since its creation in 2006.
 - A creator with content made for children had the most profitable channel in five of six continents.
 - As well as Cocomelon in North America, Europe and South America also have kids’ channels as their highest earners. Russia’s Like Nastya ($167.5m) and Argentina’s El Reino Infantil ($102.2m) have both amassed more than $100m from YouTube revenue in their channels’ history.
 - With more than 22 billion views, American YouTuber FGTeeV has earned the most of any gaming channel in their career, making over $47m in that time.

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Campaign Insights
How brands are using TikTok, BeReal and Roblox this holiday season
American Eagle will test the platform by focusing on a new product every day and giving out a promo code to track if the app is driving sales. For example, the brand recently posted a BeReal featuring an oversized crew neck sweatshirt. The discount for the sweatshirt was automatically applied online the day it was featured.

American Eagle will also tap creators for a TikTok hashtag challenge the weekend before Thanksgiving to bring attention to holiday outfits. The #AEHolidayCard challenge will have creators staging their holiday card photo shoot in American Eagle apparel. Viewers can do the challenge themselves, and winners will receive printed versions of their holiday cards as well as an American Eagle gift card.

Kohl’s is leaning more into TikTok, where its Kohl’s Cash, a coupon that customers earn when they spend money at Kohl’s, tends to do well, Christie Raymond, Kohl’s chief marketing officer, previously told Ad Age. Creators will feature Kohl’s Cash in their TikTok videos, and the retailer will also be running an interactive TikTok offering that allows consumers to shake their phones for surprise deals. The retailer is also using a gamified augmented reality lens on Instagram and Facebook.

Influencer Marketing in Cuba
In Cuba, this practice of identifying an influencer by the number of followers they have is also widely-accepted by brands and businesses. However, there are growing concerns because of other variables before entering a partnership, including the kind of audience the influencer has (not only the number), their previous partnerships, the quality of comments received, and their credibility in the eyes of their audience.

It’s common to see influencers with a media kit or updated CV with their statistics, type of content, reach and platforms they work on, as well as plans with different prices or kinds of partnership to suit brands’ needs. Those seeking a partnership are also beginning to pay greater attention to these figures and metrics, as tools to predict whether a partnership will bring a return on their investment or not.

The most sensible thing to do would be to attribute this evolution to a world that is moving more and more towards professionalizing the role of influencer marketing, as a highly-complex process that requires experience.
Interesting People

Tj Power, The Co-Founder Of Neurify And Content Creator, On Social Media’s Impact On The Mind
Neurify is a company that teaches individuals, schools, and organizations to understand their mental health better and rebalance their brain chemistry. To accomplish this, Tj frequently travels around Europe to different schools and organizations to share this knowledge through lectures. 

He shares, “At the moment, we’re launching a range of new things. We have a community for individuals to join to learn and connect with one another and then a variety of different ways that individuals can learn this stuff on their phones with videos and things like that.”

Regarding marketing, Tj and his team have relied primarily on word of mouth and referral marketing, which has led to many new clients. 

Creating Mental Health Content
Tj shares that the best-performing mental health content is usually about overthinking and helping people get out of their heads. He finds that short-form videos on this topic are great for engagement. 

Another top-performing topic is content explaining how different brain chemicals work. A popular post on TikTok about brain chemicals recently went viral for Tj with over 1.8 million views. 

History Influencer Tani Berlo Combines Fashion, Beauty
Every creator has their challenges. However, Tani shares that most of her challenges are external and related to the platform or brand collaborations rather than her own creative process.

“The content side of things hasn’t been much of a challenge. I think the hardest part about being a TikToker is being a little ‘too early to market,’ so a lot of brands don’t really know what to do with TikTok yet, so it’s harder to make an income from content creation on TikTok at the moment. I’m sure brands will catch up.”

Another challenge is not knowing what TikTok content will take off. 

Tani explains that 99.9% of the time, the videos that go viral are the ones you don’t think will take off. For example, her most viewed video featured a sarcophagus found under the tombs underneath North Dame. This viral video was a complete surprise to Tani. 

MrBeast has unseated Pewdiepie as the most-followed creator on YouTube
YouTube genius and 21st century philanthropist Jimmy Donaldson, otherwise known as MrBeast, has surpassed Felix Kjellberg, known as Pewdiepie, as the most-subscribed YouTube creator ever. According to Dexerto, Donaldson sailed past Kjellberg's 111,846,079 subscribers just after 4 p.m. EST on Nov. 14.

It's the end of Kjellberg's incredible, unmatched dominance on the platform. Despite a history of public admonishments from both YouTube and the media over the use of racist language and antisemitic jokes, Kjellberg has been the most-subscribed creator on YouTube since August 2013. He was the most subscribed channel on YouTube until 2018, when Bollywood production behemoth T-Series surpassed him.

Donaldson and Kjellberg have been contemporaries and friends for several years. In 2018, Donaldson poured thousands of dollars into a marketing blitz in support of the "subscribe to Pewdiepie" campaign, a highly publicized run off between Kjellberg and T-Series for the title of top-subscribed channel on YouTube.

Influencers Are Launching Venture Capital Funds
From brand deals to creator funds, influencers are finding new ways to make their personal brand a business enterprise. Their latest method? Venture capital.

TikTok stars Charli and Dixie D’Amelio made waves earlier this year, when they started their fund. So did TikTok stars Noah Beck, Josh Richards and Griffin Johnson with the launch of Animal Capital—a $15 million fund targeting pre-seed and series A-stage startups. Up to this point, the fund has invested in 26 companies, including the plant-based chicken company Daring Chicken and the event partnership platform Recess.

Animal Capital managing partner Marshall Sandman says turning to venture capital allows influencers to plan for their economic future—one that isn’t reliant on internet fads. While Sandman says many influencers are “cash heavy” thanks to large brand deals, investing offers one method to grow that existing wealth.

“Traditionally, there’s a pretty tight lifecycle on being an influencer,” Sandman says.

Not to mention, influencers tend to have flexible schedules, which Sandman says, allow them to create time dedicated to the fund. And influencers aren’t just writing checks. Sandman says many of them actively speak with founders and help connect them with other companies.
Industry News

Awin And ShareASale Integrate Sideqik Influencer Marketing Features
The partnership’s primary goal for the Awin and ShareASale teams is to provide the best solutions for their clients, especially as the creator industry continues to evolve. 

“We are starting to see more this blending between the affiliate and influencer channels, so these solutions we provide to our clients make this a really seamless and great experience where they can work for their affiliate teams, and their influencer teams can work together closely. Brands are often challenged with tracking direct ROI as well.”

She adds, “I know that often there’s a lot of pressure that comes with making the investment in an influencer marketing campaign, and this is a really easy way for brands to see direct performance to build individual relationships, long-term relationships, and really see the direct ROI as well.”

The direct impact on Awin’s business is the ability to provide greater flexibility and options to their clients, especially as these different worlds blend together more. 

“We’d often find that there were two separate teams that weren’t really communicating, so there would be a social and an influencer team working on something, and then you have the affiliate team or a digital team that may be working with influencers in their channel.”

Combining different tools allows companies to streamline their teams and bring them together more, increasing the efficiency of their business. 

Pixlee TurnTo acquisition wins TheVentureCity their second big exit in just over a year
TheVentureCity’s portfolio company Pixlee TurnTo, a user-generated content, ratings & reviews, and influencer marketing platform, has been acquired by Emplifi, a leading customer experience platform. With the combined abilities post-acquisition, brands will have one platform to amplify the right message to the right audience on the right channels with increased authenticity, relatability, and credibility.

This marks TheVentureCity, a global early-stage venture fund, investing in product-centric startups across the US, Europe and Latam, its second big exit in just over a year, the last one being their portfolio company Returnly, which was acquired in April 2021 by the fintech Affirm. 

Pixlee TurnTo’s leading-edge, customer-powered solutions give brands the tools to market to, sell to, and care for consumers authentically, cost-effectively, and at scale. Emplifi will incorporate Pixlee TurnTo’s capabilities across its social marketing, live commerce, and customer care workflows as part of its unified CX Cloud platform.

Why Jellysmack launched JellySmash, its own creator-production studio
“The analogy I always use for creators is, ‘Do you think Oprah Winfrey’s a creative genius?’ They’re like, ‘Yeah.’ ‘Do you think she chose the cameras? Do you think she chose the guests?’ She doesn’t pick anything,” Atkins says. “Now, ‘do you think she has total creative control of her vision?’ They’re like, ‘Yeah.’ What I want you to do is the thing you want to do. I don’t want you to worry about, like, payroll.”

Doubling down on that idea is JellySmack’s newest offering, JellySmash, a production studio for creators looking to scale their content.

Jellysmack already partners with major talent including MrBeast, Bailey Sarian, and Nas Daily, providing a suite of growth-aimed services, such as catalog licensing and data-driven distribution. But JellySmash, which officially launched in October after a year of internal development, was created specifically to help creators come up with new content ideas; shoot, produce, edit, and performance test videos; and create more monetizable content strategies for short-form creators.

How Apple’s Privacy Setting Helped TikTok Fight Facebook
ATT kneecapped the Facebook ad targeting systems, motivating advertisers to look for new places to spend their money. Even though ATT hurt TikTok in the same ways, the short-form video app was in the perfect position to offer an alternative to Meta: its popularity was exploding, its newness meant ad prices were low, and it had designed novel advertising models built for the new privacy world order.

The privacy setting “showcased the risk of having the majority of your eggs in a single basket,” Donahue said.

TikTok just lowered its expected ad revenue for the year, but its still projected to grow 155%, up $6.01 billion from 2021, according to Insider Intelligence. Meanwhile, Insider predicts that Meta’s worldwide ad revenue will drop for the first time ever, down 2% from 2021, a $2.25 billion dip. It would be absurd to give ATT all or even most of the credit for those numbers; the recession played a big role in Meta’s losses, as did the company’s own long shot bet on virtual reality and “the metaverse.” Likewise, Tiktok’s gains have a lot to do with cultural shifts. But there’s no question that TikTok snatched up advertising dollars that might otherwise have gone to Facebook and Instagram, and Apple’s Privacy setting had a lot to do with that.

“ATT accelerated the shift to start funneling more money into TikTok,” said Jasmine Enberg, a social media analyst at Insider Intelligence. “While Facebook, Instagram, and others suffered under ATT, in some ways TikTok benefited.”

TikTok Silently Prepares to Launch In-App Shopping
In an email statement, a TikTok spokesperson told Gizmodo:

“We are always guided by demand and exploring new ways to enhance the TikTok experience. We’ve seen the positive impact of TikTok Shop, and we’re excited to continue experimenting with this new commerce opportunity to support businesses of all sizes and enable our community to discover and engage with products they love.”

This effort is apparently all part of what’s been dubbed “Project Aquaman,” which despite the incredibly fishy name is actually a push to turn the app into a kind of bazaar for online retail, where influencers run their own shopping stall through their creator account. China is a major center for a kind of livestream shopping experience, where high profile creators shill products and offer deals to their legion of followers. It has become a multi-billion dollar industry in that country, and could prove extremely lucrative if TikTok manages to make it popular in the U.S.

The app is using everything at its disposal to try and make it to the top of the digital retail heap, including user data according to an October report from MarketWatch. The company has been reportedly buying data on users’ wishlists and shopping carts while also targeting users with algorithmic-based ads for items they may want to buy.
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Great Paywalled Content

Could BeReal be the first successful social media channel to grow without ad support? - Digiday
BeReal’s strategy is notably a different approach than those of the more legacy social media platforms — which have favored ad-funded models to reach users who were encouraged to spend endless amounts of time scrolling to be fed ads.

But the fact is, BeReal’s very essence isn’t to keep users on its feed for long periods. So the question still remains: How viable is it to create any sort of monetization on the BeReal platform — whether ads, subscriptions or something else — where the app model works by sending users notifications at random times each day for them to post a photo viewed by their friends?

Unless users can build a vast network of friends — and quickly — it doesn’t seem (at least right now) as if the model lends itself to typical advertising or even subscription models that rely heavily on reach and discovery.

As Ed East, group CEO and founder of creative agency Billion Dollar Boy suspects, the app’s intentional limitations encourage a spontaneous creativity that feels fresh and exciting. And it’s that element which has resonated with Gen Z.

Gen Z and millennials turn to social media to holiday shop - The Washington Post
What’s more, social media is a key starting point: 6 in 10 shoppers say they get “inspiration and ideas” from the sites, according to a global survey by the IBM Institute for Business Value, in association with the National Retail Federation.

“Social media provides exposure to so many more products that we would never have access to,” said Logan Stenseng, 24, of Iola, Kan., a small town about 100 miles southwest of Kansas City. He uses Pinterest for gift ideas but also hunts for bargains on Facebook Marketplace. “You also see what’s trendy in other places, and things that are very useful or practical that are helping other people that you can’t find in stores here.”

The platforms allow for a seamless browse-to-buy shopping experience, said Bobby Stephens, a partner at Deloitte who focuses on the retail and consumer products sector. And he expects more companies, brands and platforms to move in that direction as consumers continue to gravitate to product reviews, pick lists and unboxing videos.
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