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Creator Economy

  • 4 mins

How to make your fans the customer, not the product

Cam Mulvey

May 22, 2023

How to make your fans the customer, not the product

With personal data at the heart of targeted advertising, the misalignment between platforms, creators, and financial supporters has become increasingly apparent. However, a new paradigm is emerging — one that empowers creators to directly monetize their fanbase. 

In this article, we delve into the concept of direct monetization, exploring its benefits and providing actionable steps for creators to forge a path towards sustainable revenue streams

How we got here 

When you use social media platforms, you typically provide a lot of personal information, such as your name, age, location, interests, and even your online behavior. This data is collected and used by the platform to create targeted advertising that is more likely to be relevant to you. Advertisers are willing to pay more money for targeted ads because they are more effective, so social media companies can boost their profits by selling access to this data.

Ever since the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal, creators and users alike have been more considerate about how they use social media platforms. In more recent memory, data privacy concerns about TikTok have brought social media platforms back to the forefront of our social dialogue. 

As users continue to re-evaluate their social media usage, they are becoming more open to adopting new platforms. With this shift comes an opportunity for creators to guide users by producing and promoting content on these new platforms. By doing so, they can help steer users toward platforms that align with their interests and values, unlike the existing, unaligned, algorithms.  

Not only are creators often unaligned with the platforms that host them, but they’re also unaligned with the dollars that pay them. Over 80% of content creators rely primarily on “indirect monetization,” such as selling ads in their content. While marketers who pay for these ads prioritize massive reach and views, creators' top priorities tend to be “creating the best content I can” (35.3%) and “connecting with my audience” (34.9%). 

This misalignment can create a challenging dynamic for creators, as they may feel pressure to compromise on their goals in order to achieve financial success. However, some creators are beginning to recognize the importance of realigning their goals with the interests of their financial supporters. As a result, they are taking action by shifting the source of their financial support and directly monetizing their fanbase.

What is direct monetization 

Direct monetization refers to a financial model where creators are supported directly by their fans, rather than relying on an indirect third-party (like an advertiser). In the creator economy, there are various ways to achieve direct monetization. Methods like merchandise sales, tipping/donations, and subscriptions establish a direct financial relationship with their audience, fostering a more sustainable and independent approach to monetizing their creative endeavors. 

Benefits of Direct Monetization 

Users reward content quality

Under direct monetization models, creators are more likely to be rewarded for the quality of their content. Instead of solely relying on metrics like views or clicks, fans who directly support creators appreciate and value the content itself, allowing creators to focus on producing high-quality, meaningful work.

Enhanced creative control 

With direct monetization, creators have greater control over the content they produce and the way they monetize it. They can focus on creating the content they are passionate about, rather than tailoring it to fit the demands of advertisers. This autonomy enables them to maintain their unique style and authenticity.

Fans are more consistent 

Direct monetization models foster stronger connections between creators and their audience. By offering exclusive perks, behind-the-scenes access, or personalized interactions, creators can deepen their relationship with their most dedicated fans. This engagement not only enhances the overall fan experience but also cultivates a sense of loyalty, making fans less likely to stop supporting creators without notice, unlike brands tied to advertising.

Diversification of revenue 

Relying solely on ad-based revenue models can leave creators vulnerable to fluctuations in advertising trends or platform algorithm changes. Direct monetization allows creators to diversify their income sources by leveraging multiple revenue streams

How to monetize fans directly 

To effectively monetize your fans directly, it's important to identify your true fans and develop a strategy that aligns with their interests and your goals. Here are key steps to follow in order to successfully monetize your dedicated fan base and create sustainable revenue streams:

  1. Identify your True Fans: Your true fans are the ones who are highly engaged and show consistent support for your work. Look for those who comment on all your posts, follow you across multiple channels, or actively participate in your community. These are the fans most likely to directly support you financially.
  2. Craft your direct monetization strategy: Consider different approaches to generate revenue from your true fans. This can include selling products, such as merchandise or digital goods, offering services like consulting or coaching, or providing access to exclusive content through subscriptions or memberships.
  3. Develop a long-term plan: It’s important that the model works for both you and your fans. Before launching your direct monetization strategy, create a plan that aligns with your goals and the needs of your fans. Test different monetization models or platforms quietly to ensure they are intuitive to you. This planning phase helps you refine your strategy and increases the chances of success when you eventually launch to your audience. 
  4. Promote your offering: Once you are ready to launch, don't shy away from self-promotion. Share the value and benefits of your direct monetization channels with your audience. Use your launch to gain momentum and initial traction with a blitz of new content. Data suggests that creators who promote their premium channels regularly can increase their earnings potential by 33%.

Remember, building a sustainable direct monetization strategy takes time and experimentation. Continuously engage with your fans, gather feedback, and refine your approach based on their needs and preferences. By nurturing your true fans and providing value through direct monetization, you can create a more sustainable and rewarding career as a creator.

If you want to monetize your fans directly with Sute and you’re an edu-creator in the field of entrepreneurship, career development, or financial literacy, apply now!