Creator Economy 2023 Trends + 2024 Predictions 🔮

A recap of the key creator economy trends in 2023 and predictions for 2024.

This week’s newsletter (a day earlier) is all about creator economy trends and predictions!

I break down eight key trends from this year, covering the evolution of the definition of a creator, the integration of AI across social media, tightened regulations for influencer marketing, and much more. I also dive into three of my predictions and big bets for 2024, including which social media platform will play a bigger role in influencer marketing.

Enjoy the read (and share with a friend), have a wonderful holiday, and see you in the new year!

Lines Blur Between Creators and Publishers

After a two-year phase primarily focused on creators, social media platforms revisited familiar strategies, placing renewed emphasis on publisher partnerships. They actively courted publishers, extending similar incentives offered to creators, such as ad revenue splits, as seen in the TikTok Pulse Premiere program.

Leading this shift, TikTok and Pinterest forged partnerships with publishers such as BuzzFeed and Condé Nast Entertainment to produce content centered around key verticals and seasons.

Some platforms redefined their concept of creators; for instance, Pinterest opened its Creator Inclusion Fund to all content producers, including publishers, digital magazines, and content collectives. LinkedIn also broadened its appeal by rebranding its 'LinkedIn for Creators' account.

Flipboard, historically oriented towards publishers, expanded its support for creators with the Flipboard Creator Collectivea program I’m a part of—granting them access to tools and resources traditionally reserved for publishers.

Growing Similarities Among Social Media, Streaming, and Search

TikTok continued to encourage creators to produce longer videos, venturing further into YouTube territory. Simultaneously, YouTube churned out new features for Shorts, catering to users seeking TikTok-like content. Instagram joined the trend by exploring 10-minute-long Reels despite its commitment to short-form videos.

The text content landscape grew more competitive with the introduction of Threads, TikTok’s rollout of Text Posts, and YouTube's expanding functionality for Community Posts. Both Twitch and Telegram incorporated Stories, while newcomer Artifact initially positioned itself as a “TikTok for articles” before evolving into an app for all types of content, assisted by AI.

Beyond social media, the convergence extended to support for music and podcasting, as TikTok and YouTube integrated features reminiscent of streaming services like Spotify and Apple Podcasts. In turn, these streaming platforms reciprocated with new social features.

Notably, social media platforms continued to delve deeper into social engine-like experiences. Already favored by Gen Z for discovering places, TikTok, along with Instagram, embraced this behavior. Google also made efforts to enhance its search experience by incorporating more visual and creator-generated content.

AI Became More Integrated Into Social Media

Snapchat initiated this trend with the launch of MyAI, a conversational chatbot. Following suit, LinkedIn introduced features such as draft posts, personalized profile suggestions, and Collaborative Articles, enhancing content creation and engagement through AI-driven interactions.

YouTube and Meta made significant strides in incorporating AI into their platforms. At the 'Made on YouTube' event, YouTube unveiled Dream Screen, AI Insights, AI Dubbing, and other features, empowering creators to integrate AI into their entire workflow within the YouTube ecosystem.

Announcing the formation of a dedicated team for building generative AI across all experiences at the beginning of 2023, Meta rolled out multiple rounds of AI features. These ranged from creative and editing tools to chatbots and ad tools, showcasing the broad application of AI within the Meta family of apps.

Popular creative tools, including Adobe, Canva, and CapCut, also embraced AI.

In tandem with these advancements, platforms established guidelines and policies mandating the disclosure of AI-generated content through labels. The extent to which these guidelines are enforced or adhered to by creators remains to be seen.

Platforms Respond to Users' Desire for Intimate Spaces

Messaging experiences underwent significant updates across social media, addressing users' desire for more intimate, closed spaces to share with select groups of people. Instagram took the lead with features like Broadcast Channels and Notes, complemented by upgrades to Direct Messages (DMs). The rollout of new Close Friends options on Instagram further emphasized this trend.

TikTok responded by expanding options for DMs, offering users greater flexibility in choosing who can send them messages. In addition, TikTok began hiring roles dedicated to building out more social components, aiming to foster richer social interactions within the platform.

VSCO and BeReal introduced related updates, allowing users to send messages. Meanwhile, Tumblr started testing semi-private communities, reflecting social users' desire to share in more controlled ways.

Brands Invest In Their Own Creator Programs

Following Walmart's lead with the launch of Walmart Creator in 2022, several brands, especially in the retail sector, have established their own creator programs to bolster social commerce.

Target launched the Target Creator Program, while Abercrombie & Fitch rolled out the Abercrombie Creator Suite, providing creators with perks and benefits through content challenges. Kohl's launched creator storefronts for holiday shopping, allowing consumers to explore and purchase products curated by their favorite creators.

Expanding beyond the retail landscape, companies such as Paramount, The Arena Group, and Cirque du Soleil launched creator programs to amplify their advertising solutions and attract advertisers seeking to connect with digital-first audiences.

Regulatory Bodies Globally Tighten Rules for Sponsored Content

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) updated its Endorsement Guides for the first time since 2009, addressing specific nuances such as disclosures for TikTok videos, de-influencing, and sponsored trips. Months later, the FTC took action on these updates by issuing warnings to the American Beverage Association, the Canadian Sugar Institution, and 12 health/nutrition influencers for inadequate disclosures.

Throughout the year, regulatory bodies in the UK, France, India, and Mexico also made concerted efforts to update guidelines for creators and brands. Additionally, Illinois became the first state to pass regulations for child influencers, which go into effect in the new year.

Violators now face penalties ranging from temporary social media bans to hefty fines or even imprisonment—a clear indication of regulatory bodies acknowledging the power of creators and influencer marketing while emphasizing stricter regulations to safeguard consumers.

YouTube & TikTok Race to Bigger Screens

YouTube's acquisition of the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket at the end of 2022 foreshadowed ongoing competition for bigger screens among social media platforms. Both YouTube and TikTok aimed to extend their presence to over 2 billion non-mobile screens, reaching new users and unlocking additional revenue streams.

Capitalizing on its new sports offering, YouTube attracted subscribers to YouTube TV, its fastest-growing product, through innovative updates, creator content, and integrations.

TikTok's initiative for bigger screens involved bringing TikTok videos to various physical settings, from billboards to gas stations, airports, and movie theaters. After a series of partnerships with advertising and video networks like GSTV, ReachTV, and Redbox, TikTok introduced "Out of Phone," an out-of-home (OOH) solution. This allows advertising partners and brands to display content in public spaces, providing an opportunity to leverage engaging creator content beyond the For You Page.

Meta also signaled its intent to expand beyond mobile by testing Instagram Reels on the Meta Quest.

The Rise (and Fall) of Standalone Apps

The rise, fall, and resurgence of Meta's standalone app, Threads, served as a notable example of major social media platforms investing in standalone apps to support their overarching initiatives.

TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, introduced Lemon8—an app combining elements of Instagram and Pinterest in the US and UK. Although Lemon8 initially surged in download charts, its growth later plateaued.

ByteDance found success with CapCut, leveraging its marketing channels for TikTok. Subsequently, it launched CapCut for Business, catering to businesses, brands, marketers, and creators to craft ads and branded content. Pinterest also expanded Shuffles, its collage maker app, proving instrumental in attracting Gen Z, one of its fastest-growing demographics.

YouTube entered the standalone app scene with YouTube Create, a CapCut-like editing tool designed to lower the barriers to entry for the platform.

Predictions for 2024

LinkedIn Emerges A Channel For Influencer Marketing

In 2023, LinkedIn fulfilled its potential as a space for creators, including industry thought leaders and experts, B2B marketers, and individuals active on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. This expanded talent pool led to a significant uptick in brands activating creators for sponsored content. Notable examples include Teal, Intel, Zendesk, Semrush, Dove, Walgreens, and Adobe.

Building on this momentum and spurred by heightened interest in influencer marketing by B2B brands, 2024 is poised to be the year LinkedIn emerges as a channel for influencer marketing. With over 17 million LinkedIn members identifying as creators and the recent additions of a Brand Partnership label, a Brand Partnership Search, and new analytics for posts and newsletters, there is a solid foundation for brands to expand their influencer marketing efforts.

While LinkedIn has yet to play a substantial role in facilitating creator-brand collaborations like other platforms, it's also quite probable that it will take the leap in the new year.

*Reach out if you’d like to partner with me on LinkedIn!

TikTok Launches Its Version of Amazon Prime Day

Despite facing a projected loss of $500 million by the end of the year, TikTok Shop is experiencing early success. TikTok Shop provides a seamless shopping experience, empowering creators to create new revenue streams, aiding brands in guiding consumers through the purchasing journey and enabling viewers to easily purchase discovered products.

Already leveraging promotional events to increase adoption, I predict TikTok will take it up a notch and launch its own shopping event — potentially called TikTok Shop Day. This event will compete with major retailers' shopping events, such as Amazon Prime Day. Similar to these events, TikTok will heavily rely on creators to raise awareness, highlight key deals, and curate products for viewers.

While Amazon Prime Day remains a favorite for creators engaged in affiliate marketing, TikTok has the potential to disrupt the market by offering appealing incentives to creators, brands, and shoppers. Rumors have circulated that TikTok might eventually restrict linking capabilities. If these rumors materialize, it would be unfortunate for creators; however, it could lead to more adoption of TikTok Shop.

Creators as a Distinct Consumer Segment

This year, companies focusing on products and services for creators encountered challenges, such as convincing creators to adopt their products and reducing interest from venture capitalists. While macroeconomic conditions play a role, a more pressing issue is the overestimation of creators' needs and willingness to pay.

Despite challenges in selling to creators for these companies, it doesn't mean they are not viable consumers. In fact, 2024 will see more companies that aren't creator-focused viewing the 300 million-plus creators as a distinct consumer segment, similar to how companies approach small businesses.

It won’t be just about launching new products for creators; instead, companies will focus on making small but impactful adjustments that clearly communicate their value to creators. This involves running campaigns dedicated to creators, incorporating their testimonials into marketing channels, and engaging creators for sponsored content that highlights the specific value of their products and services.

Some examples of companies doing this already include Visa with its Visa Ready Creator Commerce Program, TurboTax with the 'You Do Your Thing' campaign, Samsung's Bespoke AI Oven, and Apple featuring a testimonial from tech creator MKBHD during an Apple Event presentation.

Thank you for reading! If you've enjoyed this, please consider sharing it with a colleague or friend. If you have any feedback, ideas, tips, or questions, or would like to collaborate, please don't hesitate to reach out here or send me a DM.