SAN FRANCISCO – Over the past 18 months, Chris Cox, Facebook’s top product executive, has been amazed to watch Instagram come to life in ways he’s never seen before.
As young people seek to express themselves digitally during the pandemic, Mr. Cox has been drawn to the content of creators like Oumi Janta. The Senegalese skater, who lives in Berlin, became famous when she posted a video on her Instagram account of herself dancing on skates to techno music. Her viral success – and that of others – made Facebook, which owns Instagram, realize it needed to do more with creators, Mr.
The problem was that Facebook was late. Many creators – those who create and profit from meme-y online content – have flocked to rival platforms like YouTube and TikTok, which have invested in digital tools for previous influencers and give them a way to monetize their viral videos.
So Facebook started playing catch-up. To attract the next generation of viral stars, they started throwing millions of dollars to top influencers to use their products. It has adapted its biggest apps to compete with its competitors. Last month, it held “Creator Week” to honor influencers. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive officer, also said that he wants to “build the best platform for millions of creators to make a living”.
“Covid is an inflection point,” Mr. Cox said in an interview, “where the industry and creators in general start to become a more creative economy.”
Facebook is looking to overcome its slow start with creators as it tries to stay culturally relevant. The social network has frequently spawned memes like Chewbacca Mom (an image of a woman laughing hysterically while wearing a Star Wars character mask) and ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (where people pour ice water) to the top to raise awareness and raise money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis research).
But that was years ago. As YouTube, TikTok, and other competitors became more and more popular, they created more trends and memes. The Sea Shanty sensation, which features creators and performers of traditional whaling songs with modernized lyrics, has been one of the biggest mainstream memes of the past 18 months – and it’s just started. on TikTok.
Talented creators help Facebook regain its buzz and capture more entertainment, especially after being repeatedly criticized for spreading misinformation, malicious speech, and mainstream posts. divisive treatment. The more popular videos, photos, and posts a creator puts on Facebook and its apps, the more likely users are to keep coming back to the network. And when the company finally asks for a cut of creator earnings, that can create an additional potentially lucrative revenue stream.
“Facebook is basically saying, ‘Hey, Instagram is the influencer platform,’” said Nicole Quinn, a venture capitalist at Lightspeed Venture Partners who researches the influencer and creator markets. the biggest, and now we’re losing our influence in that space. “If I were Facebook, I would think, ‘I need to stay relevant. How do we bring people back here again? ‘”
However, it won’t be easy to win over the creators, who have more and more options. In addition to Facebook, YouTube and TikTok, other platforms are also chasing influencers. Last November, Snapchat started paying creators up to $1 million per day to post on its platform, and it’s rolling out more ways for creators to make money, such as money. boa. Twitter has also introduced a cap and will soon allow creators to put their content behind a wall of fees and charge a monthly subscription fee.
According to SignalFire, a venture capital firm, at least 50 million people around the world now consider themselves content creators.
“There is an overall arms race going on to attract and retain innovators,” said Li Jin, founder of Atelier Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on the creative economy. created all over social media. “All major platforms recognize that the connection of value comes from creators creating content that keeps people coming back often.”
This change has posed many challenges for Facebook. The company has focused primarily on selling advertising to large brands and small and medium-sized businesses. It also failed to seize the opportunity to capture creators.
In 2016, after the short-form video app Vine shut down, top creators like Logan Paul and Piques took to Facebook to post their videos. But Facebook didn’t have enough tools for influencers to make money at the time, so many turned their efforts to YouTube.
One problem for Facebook and Instagram is that users’ posts and videos are only served to their followers, meaning it can take years to build a large audience to monetize. Facebook also has more than three billion users worldwide, so standing out from the crowd isn’t easy.
In contrast, TikTok has a “For You” discovery algorithm that allows new users with no followers to easily upload videos and show them instantly to millions of other users. TikTok also soon forges relationships with popular creators on its platform by building “partnership” groups, helping creators grow and manage their followers, and stay relevant. their technical support issues.
Some creators – such as Jon Brownell, 29, a lifestyle and health influencer with more than two million followers on Facebook – say they feel left out by the social network.
Mr. Brownell said he struggled to speak to anyone at Facebook after his page was hacked in 2017. He said he went to Facebook’s office in Playa Vista, California, four separate times to Tried talking to a staff member for help, but was never able to speak to anyone. Although he eventually regained control of his Facebook page, he was unable to post sponsored content on his page for weeks, causing a financial shock.
“The claim that Zuckerberg has always supported creators is a lie, exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point,” Mr. Brownell said, emphasizing his remarks emphatically.
Cox said Facebook was listening. The company is adding its own partner groups to better respond to influencer concerns, he said. He added that Facebook has creators who lead large groups of followers on the site. Those include Hala Sabry, a doctor who founded the Doctor Moms Group in 2014, where female doctors and parents come together to support each other online. Cox added that Facebook’s experience with small businesses has established the company to support creators and help them build sustainable business models.
Facebook is also promoting more of its tools and features to help creators make money. That includes a paid monthly subscription to influencer sites and the ability to post ads in short-form videos and live streams. Mr. Zuckerberg has pledged that Facebook will not cut the income of creators on the platform until 2023 at the earliest.
Facebook is also returning to a familiar strategy: look more like its competitors. This month, Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, said the app will make changes to keep pace with the popularity of video-sharing apps. That includes tweaking Instagram’s algorithm to start showing users more videos from people they don’t follow – in other words, doing what TikTok does.
“We are no longer a photo-sharing app,” Mosseri said in an Instagram video this month. (He later tweeted that Instagram isn’t abandoning photos but moving to video.)
Facebook is building other products to appeal to all types of creators, from writers to podcasters and more. Last month, they announced Bulletin, a newsletter service aimed at engaging independent writers and authors to build their audiences on Facebook. It also released Audio Rooms, a feature where people hold live audio chats with fans and followers. The company is using these tools to target the podcasting market and compete with apps like Clubhouse and Twitter “Spaces.”
Recently, Zuckerberg has also paid attention to self-imposed photos. He recently posted a photo of a surfboard he had booked, with an artistic drawing of his face covered in a completely white sunscreen, a meme that went viral. widely circulated online last year.
Over the weekend of July 4, Zuckerberg also tried creating a meme of his own. He posted a video of himself surfing on an electric surfboard in Lake Tahoe, California on Facebook, clutching a giant American flag flying in the wind. The video is set to the sound of John Denver singing “Take Me Home, Country Roads”.
The creator pounces; it became meme-ified almost instantly.