Amid Economic Downturn, Platforms Turn To Social Commerce

Edition #43

Usually, brands are left scrambling when their creator partners are in the news for the wrong reasons. This time, it's the other way around. With crypto exchange FTX collapsing, creators who partnered with them were left having to explain themselves to their fans.

On a more serious note, celebrity talents like Tom Brady, who promoted the exchange, are being sued. With brands continuing to increase their investments in creator and celebrity partnerships, more of these scenarios are likely to happen. It will be important for creators to do their research before big paydays, especially when endorsing brands in new and risky industries like cryptocurrency.

There won’t be a newsletter next week due to Thanksgiving, but I’ll be back the following week, breaking down my predictions for the creator economy in 2023.

Today’s Edition:

  • Social media platforms add new social commerce features to diversify revenue streams

  • MrBeast and East Carolina University partner for a credential program to prepare students to work in the creator economy

  • YouTube makes Q&A sessions easier for creators and viewers with a new Live Q&A feature

Social Media Platforms Add New Social Commerce Features To Diversify Revenue Streams

With the holiday season here, social media platforms are diving deep into social commerce. TikTok, YouTube, and even OnlyFans made significant moves to integrate shopping into their apps this past week.

TikTok Shop Comes To The U.S.

TikTok started rolling out TikTok Shop in the U.S. Previously, it was only available in the U.K. and seven countries in Southeast Asia. The feature allows creators and brands to sell products to users directly in-app through videos, LIVE, and a product showcase tab on their profile. TikTok will take a 5% commission on purchases, but it will lower that fee to 1.8% for the first 90 days for new creators and brands.

YouTube Makes Shorts Shoppable

YouTube, which has already supported shopping across its platform, is expanding more of its capabilities for creators. First, it's testing shopping features for Shorts, its short-form video. Eligible creators can add product tags from their stores to their videos, which viewers can click through to browse and shop.

In addition, it's experimenting with an affiliate program, where creators can earn commissions for sales they drive through recommended products featured in both Shorts and long-form videos. YouTube, merchants, and creators will split the sales.

OnlyFans Adds Creator Merchandise

OnlyFans, which has a creator community that is expanding beyond adult content creators, also announced new shopping features. Through a new integration with Spring, creators can design and sell their own merchandise through an embedded, scrollable storefront that appears on their profiles.

Platforms Look To Diversify Revenue Streams

Platforms are ramping up their shopping efforts to diversify their revenue streams and creators' revenue streams. The economic downturn has contributed to decreased advertising spending, leading platforms to turn to social commerce to recoup some of their lost ad revenue. At the same time, social commerce provides another way to cater to creators on their platforms who want to monetize their digital presence.

Now is the perfect time for these platforms to integrate shopping features since consumers are eager to purchase from their favorite creators and brands during the holiday season. Unfortunately, social commerce in the U.S. is far behind other parts of the world. Getting it to a point like China, where it's an estimated $300 billion market, will require a lot of experimentation and time. As seen with these examples, this means in-shop apps, affiliate marketing, shoppable content, and integrations with other players in the commerce space.

MrBeast & East Carolina University Partner For a Credential Program To Prepare Students To Work In The Creator Economy

Jimmy Donaldson, better known as MrBeast, and East Carolina University are partnering on a credential program to prepare students to work in the creator economy.

As the most subscribed YouTuber and employer of over 250 full-time/contract workers across his businesses and charities (MrBeast Burger, Feastables, Beast Philanthropy), there isn't a better person to lead the charge.

What The Credential Program Entails

With the program, MrBeast, key players on his team, other notable YouTubers, and ECU academicians will develop a curriculum that will meet the demands of the growing creator economy for highly skilled workers. Accessible online and also open to those who don't currently attend ECU, program courses will focus on preparing students for entry-level positions like camera work, editing, analytics, and more at creator-led businesses.

A Need For Creator Support Talent

Becoming a creator is a growing career path. There is an increasing need for people who can support creators, from videographers to content strategists to business operators.

Although many people want to work for their favorite creators, many might not have the necessary skill set. By offering this program, MrBeast, ECU, and Co. will help empower those interested in creator economy careers with the foundations to contribute meaningfully to a creator-led business.

Many creators today hire talent to work for them, but training them can take up to a year. This limits a creator's ability to take advantage of business opportunities and grow at the pace they want. With the creator economy evolving quickly, the ability to move fast is critical. A program of this kind can create a pool of talent that can onboard and ramp up much faster, which is beneficial to both the creator and the employee.

Disrupting Higher Education

ECU isn't the first college or university to offer creator economy-related courses. But it's notable because it's one of the first that caters to people who want to work behind the scenes in the creator economy instead of being creators themselves. Like everything else, the creator economy is disrupting higher education. And that’s a good thing.

YouTube Makes Q&A Sessions Easier For Creators & Viewers With A New Live Q&A Feature

YouTube introduced Live Q&A, a new feature for live streams and Premieres.

How Live Q&A Works

To get started, creators tap a Start A Q&A button and type in a prompt for their viewers. The prompt will become a pinned chat, which viewers can use to submit their questions. As questions are submitted, creators can view them in chronological order. When creators select questions to answer, they become a pinned chat and are highlighted to viewers. Creators can also report questions that they deem inappropriate.

Plus, they can switch between other chat settings like Top Chat and Live Chat. The former filters out potential spam to make the chat easier to read, while the former is an unfiltered view of the chat.

Seamless Q&A Management

Live Q&A empowers creators to engage with their audience in real-time. Through Q&A, creators can provide value by answering questions directly from their viewers.

Q&As aren't new, YouTubers have been doing them for years. However, it was often a challenging experience for creators and viewers. Creators would have to keep track of questions as they flood the chat, and viewers that joined in the middle of a live stream often wouldn’t know what questions a creator would be answering. Native support for organizing questions makes it easier for creators to seamlessly manage fan Q&As and leverage them to build connections and community.

More Support For Live Streaming

Along with Polls, YouTube's Live Q&A feature adds another way for creators to make their live streams more interactive and engaging. It also follows the release of co-streaming feature, Go Live Together.

YouTube is playing a bit of catch-up with competitors like Twitch and TikTok, which already support co-streaming and Q&A. YouTube should continue to be aggressive with new features for live video, particularly around shopping.

On The Blog (ICYMI)

  • Spotify allows artists to be part of this year’s Spotify Wrapped

  • YouTube brings together creator content and streaming content with Primetime Channels

  • NBCUniversal launches a creator accelerator program to develop next-gen TV talent

  • YouTube expands its healthcare certification program to creators

  • Walmart leans into social commerce with the launch of a creator platform

  • Shutterstock partners with OpenAI for AI-generated content

What I’m Reading

  • How Generative AI Is Changing Work (Harvard Business)

  • More And More Influencers Are Launching Their Own VC Funds — Here’s Why (Dot.LA)

  • Instagram Wants Creators To Normalise NFTs (Vogue Business)