Working with brands is no longer a ‘reliable’ stream of revenue for online creators, Linktree report suggests


Source: Linktree.

Approximately 70% of creators earn only a fraction of their total income from brand deals, according to Linktree’s first Creator Report, which surveyed its customer base of online creatives, entrepreneurs and small businesses. 

The market-leading ‘link-in-bio’ platform continues to lead in the growing ‘creator economy’ service sector; it achieved unicorn status last year following a $150 million round that shot its valuation to $1.7 billion.

Through access to its customer base, which consists of a staggering 24 million global users, the social media startup crunched data from more than 9500 creator surveys along with internal research to better understand the needs and concerns of those using the platform as a professional tool. 

Along with unveiling that only 10% of total income is currently derived from brand partnerships for the majority of online creators, the report suggests few of those who have launched independent businesses on digital platforms have achieved financial stability. 

The data speaks to demands of operating as a content creator — such as the expectation to be ‘always on’ and accessible to your audience, as evidence of the changes required to make the industry sustainable for participants. 

For many creators, finding ways to monetise their passions has been “a challenge we are more determined than ever to solve”, Alex Zaccaria, co-founder and chief executive of Linktree says.

Services to help fund entrepreneurs and micro-businesses 

Linktree told SmartCompany previously its goal is to scale up its existing platform — which allows users to collect links to their digital presence online in one place — with products and services to help its users monetise through more direct income streams that connect fans directly to creators. 

It has come as the startup’s user base has rapidly expanded beyond Instagram influencers. 

Between 2020 and 2021, the platform’s influencer, small business and music verticals grew by an average of 300%.

The report found that two out of every three creators had not engaged in any brand partnerships at all, and nearly 70% of creators do not use brand partnerships on their social channels to earn income.

Of those that do, just over half (53% of creators) earn under $100 from a single brand collaboration.

Eric Jacks, chief strategy officer at Collab, Inc. which partnered with Linktree on this research, said the finding that 68% of part-time creators make less than $1000 annually underscored the market opportunity to better equip creators to fund the content they make. 

The findings on the business of online creativity showed “how important it is for creators to find partners, platforms, and services that streamline monetisation opportunities”, Jacks says.

Over the past 12 months Linktree has raced to enable its platform to be used as a gateway to other revenue streams. 

In late 2021 the startup partnered with Shopify to launch e-commerce storefronts directly from the platform, and launched its Passion Fund to help entrepreneurs, activists and artists monetise their online presence.

The platform now has payment integrations with Shopify, Square, Venmo, PayPal, Spring, and GoFundMe to streamline payments for its users. 

Creators are increasingly speaking to niche audiences

The report also highlighted a shift in the industry’s valuing of giant followings over niche, and more engaged audiences. 

This comes as businesses looking to partner with influencers increasingly look to work with people that align with their brand’s values and audience.

Of those surveyed, 66% said they consider themselves “niche” creators.

These creators (62%) believe creating specialised content helped them maintain their engagement. 7% of niche creators earn over US$100,000 ($134,000) a year compared with 5% of non-niche creators. 

The survey also showed 37% of niche creators consistently worked with brands, compared with 26% of the creators who didn’t consider their content as catering to a specific audience. 

Finally, the report showed people engaged in creating content online full-time found the demands of ‘always-on’ work overwhelming. 

Of those surveyed, 13% of full-time creators are extremely stressed. 71% said they were actively taking measures to relieve stress.

Regardless, more people are still flocking to the burgeoning industry. 

Linktree’s survey found 36% of respondents had only been creating content for less than a year, with TikTok emerging as the fastest growing platform.

The report said 12% of newcomers saw the video creation service as their largest platform. 

Zaccaria says the company’s mission continues to be to “develop products and integrations for creators that evolve with them and make their lives easier”.

“The feedback we are driving as a business enables that process and demonstrates why we built this business in the first place.”

You can read the entire report here.


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