Creators will soon be able to set up digital storefronts on Instagram. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement on Tuesday along with a slew of other monetization features. The company is trying to lure and keep influencers on its social media platforms amid stiff competition from the likes of TikTok and Twitter, which recently introduced a "tip jar."
"If you have an idea that you want to share with the world, you should be able to create it and get it out there easily and simply across Facebook and Instagram and then earn money for your work," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. His keynote kicked off "creator week," a three-day virtual event Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram are hosting for influencers, "designed to help them build their careers and personal brand, support their wellbeing, and connect them with their peers," according to a company statement.
The digital storefront feature lets creators sell their own products, as well as link their accounts to Facebook's existing merchandise partners (Bravado/UMG, Fanjoy, Represent and Spring).
Influencers can also recommend products and earn a commission when their followers make a purchase. Those brands set a commission rate; in such cases users will see an "eligible for commission" label on creators' pages. The company said it will be testing this feature over the coming months.
Starting this week, creators will be also able to earn extra cash by attaining "badges" on Instagram and "stars" on Facebook, though the company didn't reveal specifics about how much they'd be paid. The idea is that creators will be rewarded for achieving certain milestones, such as broadcasting for a certain number of hours on Instagram Live.
The company has already used badges and stars as a form of tipping, but this new feature adds another layer of compensation.
Facebook has said it will begin taking a cut of creator compensation in 2023, though Zuckerberg noted that its share will be "less than the 30% that Apple and others take."
"I really believe that people are naturally creative and we want to share what we make with others. And a lot of times we want to turn that into a career," Zuckerberg said. "You just need access to the right tools, and that's what we hope to continue to build for all of you."
The new features will further embed ecommerce into the user monetization features of Facebook and Instagram, which already offer a degree of online shopping tools. It is part of a broader trend of social media companies competing to keep their users engaged by attracting content-makers.
TikTok is reportedly testing incorporating ecommerce, for instance, while Snapchat has launched a "creator marketplace" to match brands with augmented reality creators. Platforms are also increasingly offering other monetization options, including ad-revenue sharing and launching funds earmarked for creators.
Instagram head Adam Mosseri, who's led the Facebook subsidiary since he took over in 2018 when Instagram's founders left, also noted that the emphasis on helping creators make money on Instagram is part of a broader "shift in power from institutions to individuals."
He said it was in much the same vein as the rise of fans rooting for athletes rather than teams and the surge of journalists going it alone on platforms like Substack and Patreon rather than relying on publications.
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When TikTok proudly announced in 2019 that it would ban political advertisements on its platform, the social networking service was met with widespread praise. At a time when Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram refused to take a stand against political powers, many praised TikTok's commitment to neutrality.
Yet two years later, it's clear TikTok has succumbed to those forces as well: A report published Thursday by Mozilla suggests that misleading political ads and "dark money" have seeped onto the app.
A team of Mozilla researchers found that TikTok influencers in the U.S. are "being paid by political organizations to post content espousing their views," and that not all of these posts are disclosed as paid partnerships.
The report, titled "Th€se Are Not Po£itical Ad$: How Partisan Influencers Are Evading TikTok's Weak Political Ad Policies," charges TikTok with lax oversight and policies that contain loopholes that have enabled these posts to appear.
"TikTok does not effectively monitor and enforce its rule that creators must disclose paid partnerships," the researchers wrote, "nor does the platform proactively label sponsored posts as advertisements."
In response to the Mozilla report, TikTok released a statement on Thursday saying, "Political advertising is not allowed on TikTok, and we continue to invest in people and technology to consistently enforce this policy and build tools for creators on our platform. As we evolve our approach, we appreciate feedback from experts, including researchers at the Mozilla Foundation, and we look forward to a continuing dialogue as we work to develop equitable policies and tools that promote transparency, accountability and creativity."
Image courtesy of Mozilla
The use of political ads on social media drew attention following the 2016 presidential election when it was revealed that Russia weaponized social platforms by spreading misinformation in an attempt to influence the election. Facebook banned political ads after the 2020 election "to avoid confusion or abuse following Election Day," but lifted the ban in March.
TikTok, however, said in 2019 that political advertising did not fit the app's "light-hearted and irreverent" experience. The Mozilla report suggests that TikTok has not only failed in this promise, but has eschewed the transparency mechanisms in place that other platforms have adopted in the wake of the attention on the dangers of political ads.
Mozilla found that several right-wing TikTok influencers appear to be funded by Turning Point USA, a tax-exempt nonprofit which has a dedicated influencer program intended to fund conservative content creators on social media.
The report points to one post by a TikTok user with 67,000 followers that appears to have been recorded at a Turning Point USA conference. The post features the hashtags #tpusa and #trump2020, and includes images of people in red Make America Great Again hats and holding Trump flags. It does not include a hashtag that indicates it is sponsored content.
Image courtesy of Mozilla
On the other end of the political spectrum, Mozilla pointed to a report by Reuters that found influencers were paid by a progressive PAC, The 99 Problems, to create pro-Biden TikTok posts without disclaimers.
According to the Mozilla researchers, TikTok doesn't enforce its rule that creators must disclose paid partnerships and it doesn't "proactively" label sponsored posts, saying it "doesn't seem to monitor influencer advertising."
Mozilla queried the TikTok Application Programming Interface to see the metadata associated with each TikTok post. Posts with advertiser-funded hashtag challenges were marked as advertising in the metadata, whereas influencer posts that used the hashtag #ad or #sponsored were not.
Like other social media services, the Federal Trade Commission requires advertising disclosures for social media influencers by using the hashtag #ad. Mozilla says other platforms are better at monitoring these advertisements by offering influencers "straightforward" ways to disclose their partnerships like checking a box on YouTube, disclosing the post is a sponsored video. Instagram also has a tool creators can use to mark their content as branded. (TikTok also differs from other social media platforms in that it doesn't have a publicly-searchable database of advertising data.)
"Of course, it's hard to know exactly how self-disclosure ad policies are being enforced across platforms but TikTok is significantly far behind Instagram and YouTube when it comes to providing tools and enacting clear, strict, and transparent policies," the Mozilla researchers wrote in the report.
The Mozilla researchers made recommendations to TikTok to address these issues it uncovered, such as developing mechanisms for creators to disclose paid partnerships, introducing an ad database that includes paid partnerships, and updating its policies and enforcement processes on political advertisements to ensure they address all ways that paid political influence occurs on the platform.
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The company announced Wednesday an undisclosed Series C funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, whose portfolio spans the buzziest consumer platforms from ByteDance to Cameo.
Using up to 30 "multivariate tests," Jellysmack said it can determine what titles and editing tricks will help videos rack up views and engagement across Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and Youtube.
About 200 content creators use the service, like YouTubers like PewDiePie, MrBeast and Bailey Sarian. The startup trims down the length of their videos and edits thumbnails and subtitles. Once videos go live on YouTube, Jellysmack runs paid advertisements and targets "an audience that is highly likely to be interested," said spokesperson MK Glenning.
Take Brad Mondo, a hairstylist and social media personality with nearly seven million YouTube subscribers. A year after joining Jellysmack, the company said his Snapchat followers grew by ten times and his Facebook followers by four.
"Media consumption has pivoted massively in recent years with mobile video content rapidly outpacing TV," Yanni Pipilis, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, said in a statement. "There are now 50 million creators but only 0.1% are able to make a full-time living from their content.
The startup, founded in 2016, boasts 10 billion global video views and 125 million viewers across social platforms each month. It also publishes videos on Jellysmack's own social channels, spanning beauty, soccer, gaming and entertainment.
Jellysmack went profitable in 2020, and doesn't charge creators. Instead, it makes money instead through a revenue share model using income generated from the social platforms under their management.
And it wants to go global. The investment from Softbank's CEO and Chairman Masayoshi Son will help the company expand internationally. Glenning would not disclose the amount of this funding round, but prior to it, said the unicorn had raised $40 million.