Feb 03 2022
A recent trend we have seen from various social media platforms is the introduction of paid subscriptions. This is where creators and influencers can offer fans and followers exclusive features and subscriber-only content for a monthly fee.
A number of platforms have had fan subscriptions available for a while, but others have just joined the game.
Instagram recently announced it is testing fan subscriptions with a selection of ten influencers. Instagram users in the US can subscribe to these creators and access exclusive content and features, including a purple badge by their username that informs the creator of their subscriber status. Creators can decide the price range of their monthly subscriptions, and have the offer of between $0.99 to $99.99.
TikTok has also revealed it is currently testing support for creator subscriptions. The new feature will allow creators to charge fans and followers for access to subscriber-only content on the platform, though TikTok is yet to confirm when it will roll out to creators, who is currently testing it, or what the pay structure will look like. Adding in a paid subscription feature is the next step from TikTok’s current offering of tips—where fans can send creators money through their profiles.
Even Twitter has its own version of a fan subscription: the “Super Follow”. The Super Follow enables Twitter users with more than 10k followers to set a monthly subscription fee (up to $9.99) to monetize exclusive content for their most engaged followers in the app. Twitter also offers profile tipping and ticketed Spaces as creator monetization features.
Given these additional monetisation channels offered by platforms, it begs the question: does this impact an influencer’s appetite for brand partnerships?
The concept of creator subscriptions isn’t new; since 2013, Patreon has offered creators financial tools to allow subscribers to support them and offer a semi-predictable income stream, in return for exclusive content.
Patreon’s popularity primarily comes from its flexible, tiered subscriptions. Fans are able to choose the level of content they want access to—for basic access, fans can pay as little as £1, and more dedicated fans can pay upwards of £20 a month. This flexible feature is something social platforms have implemented into their own subscription features.
The new streams of income for influencers pose a threat to the ‘traditional’ stream of income for influencers: brand partnerships. Considering influencers with subscriptions can drive their own income, they may become less willing to participate in brand partnerships and publish ads or sponsored content to an already-paying audience.
However, it could also be a blessing for brands. Influencers may be more conscious of the quality of content they are providing their audience with, so any brands they decide to work with will result in stronger relationships and higher quality content. The additional consideration of the content published will also mean influencers may be seeking long-term partnerships with brands, rather than the one-off post. Having a long-term ambassadorship with a brand that is authentic to their lifestyle still offers audiences genuine, honest content.
In addition, most platforms offering subscriptions take a portion of the subscription fees, so creators don’t have access to the whole amount. This means creators relying on cheaper monthly subscriptions likely don’t have enough of an income to consider refusing brand partnerships.
Partnering with brands also offers influencers a higher level of social media “clout”. When working with a luxury brand, influencers are able to piggyback off the brand’s reputation and following. Loyal fans of the brand will check out an influencer’s profile and if they enjoy the content, will follow and engage with the influencer, boosting their appeal for brand partnerships.
So, although paid subscriptions do offer influencers an additional income stream, they don’t erase the appeal for influencer brand partnerships. Brand partnerships offer influencers more than a nice paycheck—partnerships increase exposure, improve reputations and long-term relationships add a layer of authenticity to content published.
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