There are decades when nothing happened, and then there are weeks when decades happen
When I look back at the year gone by, I am reminded of this saying - “There are decades when nothing happened, and then there are weeks when decades happen”. The year 2020 is one such unprecedented chapter in the history of the world. Almost overnight, a lot had changed and it was Omni-directional forcing entire ecosystems to evolve like never before. Digital devices and virtual platforms became our window to the world. We turned to indoor entertainment and in several cases ended up picking up on new hobbies like cooking/baking, binging on Korean dramas, learning a new language, blogging, and more. Digital became the go-to-medium for most of us to consume content and keep us entertained and informed. Interestingly, India registered a 60% growth in paid OTT subscribers during the pandemic and the smartphone consumption that was 37% higher than pre-covid times at the peak of the lockdown has now stabilized to 13% more, and video streaming alone notched up 21 billion weekly viewing minutes in April as per the annual M&E report by BCG along with CII. As the world is sitting back at home increasingly consuming digital content, newer digital business, and creative monetization models are cropping up as the creator ecosystem is exploring growth opportunities. Let’s dive into how that came about and what the future holds for the creator’s ecosystem.
Growing demand for creative content
Digital content consumption is not a new trend or concept. However, the exponential demand for creative content - one that is unique, inspired, and relatable is definitely a pandemic after-effect. Look at creators like Yashraj Mukhate, AbhiandNiyu, MostlySane. They used humor, satire, emotions inspired by everyday life experiences to create original content - one that kept us entertained, educated, and informed. It was a first time experience for a lot of viewers to see these creators in their most raw and original self expressing their struggles coping with the pandemic, making them more relatable. These creators witnessed a manifold increase in followers thanks to the growing digital audience (India will triple data usage to 21EB per month (one billion GB) by 2025 as per Ericsson Mobility Report). As per a BARC and Nielsen Report, pre-covid, Indians spent roughly 3 hours and 22 minutes on their smartphones per day which increased to 3 hours 54 minutes in phase two of the lockdown, that is, mid-April to early May.
Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Reddit, and LinkedIn have reported a significant growth in engagement month over month during the pandemic. According to eMarketer, Facebook saw a 70% increase in usage of all of its apps in the month of March. Twitter reported having about 12 million more daily users in the first three months of 2020 than in the last three of 2019. With the growing demand for content and an increasing number of creators, garnering engagement and attention is a primary concern. Hence, consistency, originality, and creativity are core to building a high recall with the audience.
The Impact of COVID-19 in creative monetization
The global pandemic resulted in several brands losing their runway money and a reduced spending appetite. This led to hard business decisions like layoffs (OYO, CureFit, Swiggy), reduced marketing and ad budgets, hence, no influencer campaigns. While big brands have continued to invest and direct their ad spends on digital platforms, the choice of influencers is mostly tier 1 and driven by the number platform of followers instead of content originality and relatability. Two-thirds of FMCG companies globally have either maintained their influencer spending at pre-covid-19 levels or increased it slightly, while nearly a fifth (19%) raised it significantly, stated a report by advisory firm Duff & Phelps and its division Kroll. So, for the majority of creators their major source of revenue pre-covid, brand collaborations, was impacted. This pushed them to find newer models of creative monetization.
Content Creators evolving in the post-pandemic world
In the post-pandemic world, creators are looking at building on their newfound engagement with the audience and not just be viewed as a supporting arm to a brand campaign. Many of them have already launched their retail brands or inked development deals with streaming services or TV networks. As the creator ecosystem looks at evolving and growing in 2021, some tactics they should keep in mind:
· Authentic - in and out: No one expects social media creators to look like they’ve come out of isolation or at the same time looking ready for the red carpet isn’t going to be the way. Creators should focus on being authentic with their content
· Find new platforms: Lean into virtual platforms in order to connect with audiences. Live streaming has become extremely popular. The virtual events are getting more and more innovative and immersive so focussing on that can be helpful. There is also an unprecedented growth in the number of short video apps that can be used to tap into tier 2 audiences like Mitron, Moj, Roposo, Chingari
· Creators should have an entrepreneurial mindset: Creator that’ll think as entrepreneurs will win in the longer run. Instead of looking at short-run one off-brand deals, creators that think of their follower bases as distribution channels and layer products/ services on top of it are the ones who’ll win the game
· Build loyalty and aspirational value for your brand: Creators can also turn their followers into paying customers, by sending personalized video messages to the fan or by creating a subscription-based membership program
· Explore technology, build a more engaging experience: There will be a rise in the adoption of technologies like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality with audiences demanding better and more engaging experiences
As we are about to wrap one of the most baffling and unprecedented chapters of human history, the biggest takeaway is evolution. The global pandemic has reshaped and reinvented consumer behavior, transaction habits, priorities, and most of all their expectations from their favorite creators. The opportunities for creators are only going to multiply but only the ones who develop communities on the back of relativity, authenticity, and originality will be able to reap the benefits.
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