The disconnect between internet fame and financial security is hard to comprehend for both creators and fans. But it’s the crux of many mid-level web personalities’ lives. Take moderately successful YouTubers, for example. Connor Manning, an LGBT vlogger with 70,000 subscribers, was recognized six times selling memberships at the Baltimore Aquarium. Rosianna Halse Rojas, who has her own books and lifestyle channel and is also YouTube king John Green’s producing partner, has had people freak out at her TopMan register. Rachel Whitehurst, whose beauty and sexuality vlog has 160,000 subscribers, was forced to quit her job at Starbucks because fans memorized her schedule.
In other words: Many famous social media stars are too visible to have “real” jobs, but too broke not to.
+Commentary: This was an insightful piece into the mind of a YouTube creator who has had a come-to-Jesus moment. While it is easy to applaud such a forthright & frank discussion it seemed to focus on only two aspects — vanity metrics & “selling out” — both of which is a very limited way of measuring success online. Instead of talking about reach, engagement, etc… it reduces the signs of “success” to likes on InstaGram, comments about sponsorships, and Subscribers/Viewers/Followers.
It does open up the can of worms that is sponsorship & the influencer schemes that some companies engage in for marketing ploys. Yet again, realizing from the outset, that they only thing they will measure your worth on is how many followers, plus how much engagement they receive from it. Again they are companies with an eye towards the bottom line, and if you don’t understand the mechanics of how internet marketing works, then you should clearly expect to be taken advantage of.
The amounts offered them, and the ability to earn more comes from them fundamentally understand what a marketer is looking for, and how to deliver on that in a way that will satisfy both parties. These are the things there is not a YouTube tutorial for. While they seemed to have a very superficial understanding of how it works, they don’t seem to grasp what would give them leverage in these situations.
This isn’t to say that they even should, it is heinous that we expect Authors, Bloggers, Musicians, YouTube Personalities, and others to be both creators & full-time marketing gurus as well. If they follow even a smidgen of the people who call themselves “social media evangelists” (and there are plenty of those around) then they will be following people who basically make a living off of giving crap advice.
Putting aside the veritable smorgasbord of bad advice out there, several people have been able to raise themselves up out of the middling range into more prominent (and let’s hope more lucrative) positions. One example that springs to mind is Chescaleigh. She started with a natural hair tutorial and after many years, and some considerable branding has parlayed that into a prominent position at MTV. Not sure how influential or relevant they still are, but she clearly is getting paid. She is also an outlier & black swan.
As far as it seems visible, neither Kat Blaque or the author of this article talk about the business side, or the analytics or demographics of their enterprise. Which would include things like amount of views, length of views, etc…as opposed to how many people are following them, like a post, or share it.
For this new generation of content creators, who’ve in many cases were never been paid for their creative labor, this is a come-up that they take as opportunity. While ignoring their place in the creative cycle, that their influx of free & barely paid labor is simply part of the consumerist life-cycle that sees others who previously charged for such things are being priced out by a race to the bottom. Yes, they’ve created this cycle that they are wont to complain about. Only now realizing it won’t pay the adult bills, or feed & clothe them in the manner they are used to.
This isn’t new, but they are only just now becoming aware that their coming up, and entrance into this economy only eroded the prices practicing creatives & freelancers had been able to charge. That as soon as they were giving it away for exposure, they basically let the floor drop out beneath an entire industry. That their novice knowledge of technique, basic understanding of the internet economy, and lack of marketing skills is perceived as ‘authentic’ in the same way reality TV shows are mistaken for real.
While they are quick to complain about it, they actually had a hand in creating this, and I don’t blame them for being naive to this. It is just that this situation, added to #Freebooting on Facebook, they are clearly at a bad nexus for ascendancy. What isn’t covered here is a broad look at the Snapchats & Periscopes or even Vines that also are at play in this field. That this now widened source of content is clearly eroding away what they had traditionally been doing. So this will, with little to no effort decrease their ability to earn if they aren’t also commodifying themselves in these other genres or areas.
So it isn’t as easy as not getting “what you are worth” but is a more nuanced & shifting landscape. Plus a 12 year old coming up now, that has been a fan of what they have done, who will just do it for the exposure, and labels themselves a “growth hacking” guru can now usurp away anything you are currently doing, based on what is quickly becoming irrelevant scheme.
That doesn’t mean it will go away, but with Facebook’s determination to compete with YouTube & Periscope it will certainly give them competition and it wouldn’t surprise me that we see many of the people retiring from being Internet Famous as they age out of their parent’s Healthcare Insurance, etc…and have to honestly start coming up with realistic solutions. This won’t change the now lowered bar, there will always be someone younger who will do it for the exposure. That was the lesson that this article taught a wiser more seasoned veteran to the internet economy.