Mike Faber, co-founder of Salea SaaS marketplace for anyone to start their own e-commerce business with national brands as sellers.
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. Managing their e-commerce brand without the hassle of managing inventory and fulfilling orders can allow creators to monetize their subscribers directly and efficiently.
Three monetization issues creators face
1. An indirect creator-audience relationship
The first problem is that creators work hard to grow their audience, but it’s not something they can own and manage. All of their followers are subscribed to their social media accounts. There is no direct relationship between the creator and their audience, such as an opt-in consent to use the subscriber’s email address.
Considering the investment and effort required to build an audience, this seems like a risk factor for any creator-led business.
2. Limitations of cross-platform linking
Full-time creators use an average of 3.4 channels simultaneously, posting between Instagram, YouTube and their blog or newsletter, for engagement and audience growth, according to the ‘State of the Economy Creator 2022’ report from ConvertKit.
Yet social media platforms limit cross-platform links, and Twitter recently banned cross-platform promotion, setting a worrying precedent. Changing platform terms and conditions to support their interests and fairness poses another risk for creator-run businesses.
3. Maintain multiple streams of income
Only about 21% of creators earn a living wage above $50,000 in annual income, working full time and sometimes more than 40 hours a week.
Unless they achieve celebrity status, creators’ income comes primarily from brand deals such as paid posts. A mid-level Instagramer with less than a million followers can expect a few hundred dollars in compensation for a paid post.
Given the level of effort required to reach the top and the authority creators have, all of these issues force them to look for alternative monetization methods. Full-time creators tend to have an average of 2.7 streams of income, according to the ConvertKit report. It can be exhausting in the long run, so designer burnout is a workplace health risk.
E-commerce as a direct monetization method
Creators are the most trusted source for product recommendations, with 71% of Gen Z purchases from Tiktok, Instagram and YouTube influencers, 40% more than the general population. Social proof is a powerful marketing tool and creators are the ultimate authorities for their audience.
But creators are usually paid for a single item so that the e-commerce brand 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 would prefer to keep the customer relationship to themselves by endorsing their e-commerce brand. Nearly a quarter of them plan to start selling physical products, according to the ConvertKit report.
Manage a marketplace with third-party inventory
Creators don’t have to invest in inventory, manage a warehouse, fulfill orders, or handle returns themselves. Instead, those interested can take advantage of the domestic dropshipping marketplace model and focus on audience growth and storytelling while leaving e-commerce operations to their brand partners.
In the marketplace model, after customizing their e-commerce storefront to be on-brand, creators can invite top-rated brands as sellers. Their subscribers will then be able to purchase high-quality products delivered by national brands within days.
One in-market advantage that creators gain is the ability to easily add thousands of products across multiple categories to enable multi-brand and cross-category purchases in a single order with simple checkout methods or buy-it-now and pay-to-pay options. ulterior.
Here’s how creators can strategize around their audience’s needs, product catalog curation, and marketing differentiation angles to maximize third-party market opportunity.
Why: identify customer needs and issues
Selling discretionary products is much easier when there is a strong match between customer needs and your product catalog. Since many social media influencers attract their audience with their authority, values, or lifestyle, understanding customer needs can help creators identify where those intersect.
For fitness trainers or coffee connoisseurs, identifying customer needs is relatively easy. However, artists known for their fan freebies and crazy stunts sooner or later have to come up with an overall theme that will appeal to their audience. Otherwise, they are stuck with consumption as their most basic need.
An example of this might be identifying a shared desire for social change, such as charity or saving the planet. To determine this overlap between creator identity and customer needs, a creator can check their post history and take inspiration from those with the most engagement, such as likes, comments, or shares.
Running a creator-led e-commerce business is also about experimenting with new product categories and integrating them into a goal-driven lifestyle or storytelling. Followers rely on the Creator as their guiding authority. Setting trends and checking what resonates with audiences isn’t just central to the influencer game, it’s often easy and low-risk.
The what: select brands and organize your product catalog
Creators with a specific goal will again have an easier time organizing a catalog of products. A fitness trainer, for example, will choose the brands they like the most that sell sportswear, shoes, wearable electronics, and dietary supplements.
Nevertheless, it is important to make the product catalog easily discoverable in a logical order or sequence. What are the shopping starting points and the absolute must-haves, and what are the nice-to-haves and add-ons? The marketplace’s product category tree should reflect the sequence of purchase choices, from must-haves to lower-priority items.
Artists have their e-commerce options limited to branded clothing (known as merch), or they sell popular consumer packaged goods.
The How: Define a marketing differentiation strategy
Defining a marketing differentiation strategy is what can help creators stand out from other creators in similar markets. One way to do this is to make it your mission to help your customers any way you can, or better yet, to change their lives.
For example, rather than selling exercise reps or daily fitness routines, sell better health by encouraging life goals backed by social proof. Rather than selling products, sell exclusive handmade items from women-led businesses or small business owners who care about their community of customers.
Another helpful tip is to always emphasize exclusivity and members-only availability. Request emails from customers to let them know first about new arrivals, collections, and designer-supported sets.
Finally, tag products based on your values to enable filtering by attributes. This can include vegan, female-led, or sustainable. For long-term success, it’s important to build a community around post-purchase experiences or memories. Create content that supports your sales with vivid storytelling while being authentic and relatable.
This audience monetization playbook can help creators achieve more satisfying long-term financial results to ensure their hard work pays off.
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