The dilemma of the social media content creators’ monetization frenzy.
As more and more social media platforms emerge, it is becoming increasingly difficult for social media platforms to retain their user numbers. So in order to capture users onto their platforms, social media giants are racing to outperform each other by paying content creators who generate conversation on their platforms.
Social media has over the years become a competitive industry with a few dominant actors
(Alphabet, Meta, Bytedance) each competing to get the maximum number of users on their platforms. Recently, this has been worsened by the emergence of Meta’s new platform, Threads, which has become the fastest-growing platform amassing 100 million downloads in five days.
Previously, platform payment was known to be a YouTube thing that paid content creators - people who create popular content to attract a following - for allowing adverts to run on their videos. Recently, however, there has emerged a ‘creators craze’ on social media platforms as they battle to remain the platforms of choice. For instance, Facebook earlier this year invited thousands of creators of Reels, its short-form video product, to get compensated based on the performance of their videos, not the adverts surrounding them.
Instagram for Creators is another platform offering users money, although Instagram remains influencer-oriented. Influencers are popular people themselves who specialise in a niche for example politics and fashion and lifestyle. They differ from content creators in that content creators grab the attention of people through creating content whereas influencers have an established reputation and their name carries weight. Snapchat pays content creators for their stories and videos through their Spotlight Rewards program while TikTok, Twitter, and, very recently, LinkedIn are either experimenting with the idea or paying content creators.
These programs are designed to encourage influencers to create more engaging content that will keep users on the platform longer, and it's working. It's clear that social media companies are competing to attract and retain influencers, but what are the impacts of monetization on social media platforms?
The monetization of social media has several implications for these platforms’ relevance as a public sphere for debate and engagement. For example, it could lead to an even deepened culture of consumerism, as influencers become increasingly incentivized to create content that only promotes products and services. We have already seen this culture pervade the content that influencers produce; what impacts would this then have on creators’ content? This could have a negative impact on the quality of discourse on social media, as it could lead to more superficial and less meaningful conversations.
Just imagine opening TikTok and finding promotional materials. And then you go to Facebook and find the same material and that goes on and on as you look at other platforms such as Instagram. The creators' craze might also homogenize all applications in producing similar pieces of content such that there becomes a lack of diversity. Marginalized voices will thereby increasingly be difficult to hear. This is because influencers with large followings are more likely to be rewarded financially, which could give them an unfair advantage over smaller creators.
However, it is also possible that the monetization of social media could have a positive impact on the platforms becoming a broadened public sphere. For example, it could give creators more resources to create high-quality content and it could help to make social media more accessible to marginalized voices, as creators could be rewarded financially for creating content that is relevant to their communities.
Ultimately, the impact of the monetization of social media on the platforms becoming a public sphere is still unknown. It is possible that it could have both positive and negative effects. However, it is important to be aware of the potential risks, so that we can take steps to address them early.