A new report by Wealth of Geeks analyzing the top 50 digital influencers reveals the immense earning potential of social media content creation. Collectively, these top influencers garnered $700 million over the past year and boasted a combined followership of 2.9 billion users.
The report offers unique insights into the shifting dynamics within the influencer marketing landscape. Notably, TikTok has emerged as the platform of choice for many top creators as audiences increasingly flock to the video-sharing app over rivals. Additionally, the analysis found millennials to be the most heavily represented demographic among top influencers, reflecting their savviness in cultivating an online presence and monetizing content.
Underscoring the tremendous financial rewards possible, influencer MrBeast topped the list with earnings of $82.3 million over the tracking period – setting a new high water mark for social media success. As hungry audiences continue to wield influence over what’s popular and brands seek cut-through with coveted demographics, top content creators are likely to see their followings, influence and earnings accelerate even further.
Driving much of Tiktok’s appeal is the platform’s seamless integration of shopping features that further enable influencer monetization. As Brian Freeman, Co-Founder and CEO of Creatorland explains, “TikTok’s standout feature for influencers in 2023 is TikTok Shop. This platform allows creators to effortlessly earn affiliate income by listing products in their shop, capitalizing on TikTok’s organic traffic for sales conversions.”
Unlike sponsored content that requires active promotion, TikTok Shop taps into the platform’s robust e-commerce infrastructure and user intent to convert views into sales with minimal effort from creators. Early adoption of TikTok Shop in regions like Southeast Asia, where it already accounts for nearly 14% of total e-commerce, signals major monetization potential for Western influencers as well.
As Freeman predicts, “2024 will be all about income diversification for creators, with TikTok Shop leading the charge. This platform offers an easy avenue for new income streams, beyond traditional brand deals.” For top influencers flocking to Tiktok, Shop presents a turnkey option to not only engage massive audiences but turn them into customers.
Though it could be said that the TikTok Shop got off to a rocky start, particularly across Europe, Freeman’s comments give us a bit more insight into its future. Now that viewers can purchase products within the confines of the TikTok app, influencers have the prime opportunity to break into the lucrative world of e-commerce. This also offers TikTok the chance to compete against other commerce platforms such as Shopify, again exemplifying its status as one of the most dynamic platforms on the market for influencers and brands alike.
This data also exemplifies the popularity of short-form video content. Although the other two platforms allow for this type of work, TikTok is best known for these types of videos. Therefore, this finding highlights that although other platforms will work tirelessly to replicate TikTok’s success, they’ll never truly match its potential. Freeman exemplifies this idea by stating:
‘Like all social platforms, TikTok’s algorithm presents its challenges and opportunities for creators. However, TikTok uniquely positions itself as an entertainment platform, rather than a conventional social network like Instagram. This approach means TikTok favors content that entertains over overtly promotional material. Successful influencers on TikTok, therefore, need to blend their creative flair with brand messaging subtly, focusing on what endears them to their audience. This also extends to brands, which must allow more creative freedom in sponsored content to see effective engagement and sales results. Staying atop TikTok’s ever-evolving algorithm requires continuous experimentation, a keen understanding of audience preferences, and adapting content to be engaging first and promotional second.’
Although many of us would like to believe that influencer marketing is built on a foundation of creative freedom, the CEO of Creatorland reminds us that this is simply not the case. This industry thrives on social media marketing and successful brand sponsorships. The industry allows businesses to receive a wealth of engaging and personalized content, without having to make any work themselves. In turn, the source encourages influencers to stay up to date with TikTok’s frequent and intense changes so that they can continue to create content that gives brands a successful return on their investment.
This report also focuses on the most prominent demographics seen throughout the influencer marketing industry. Wealth of Geeks states that among the 50 candidates named on this list, 56% of them identified as Millennials, 40% were Gen Z, and only 4% fit into the Gen X demographic. At a surface level, we can conclude that the younger generations are most likely to benefit from the merits associated with influencer marketing. Freeman goes on to explain the nuances of the millennial generation and how they are the driving force behind the success of influencer marketing.
‘Millennials’ considerable purchasing power and content preferences, rooted in authenticity, diversity, and values, are pivotal in shaping influencer marketing trends. They tend to gravitate towards genuine, relatable content, steering influencers away from overly polished, ad-like posts. This demographic values content that aligns with their ethical stances, driving a surge in cause-related marketing.
They also advocate for diversity, pushing influencer content towards greater inclusivity. Their interest in niche, specialized content has given rise to micro-influencers, offering targeted, high-quality content. Quality is prioritized over quantity, influencing a shift in content strategy resulting in fewer one-off engagements, and longer-term partnerships and ambassadorships between creators and brands, as well as creator-led brands being highly appealing to this generation. Additionally, their multi-platform presence demands influencers’ adaptability across various social channels. User-Generated Content (UGC) resonates strongly due to its perceived authenticity, further shaping marketing strategies. These trends, centered around authenticity, interaction, and social consciousness, are defining the current influencer marketing landscape, particularly in how brands and influencers engage with the Millennial audience.’
UGC is a keen talking point within the influencer marketing industry and shows us that for brands to be successful, they must relinquish some of their power. Though it may be extremely difficult for certain brands to let go of their usual marketing strategies, relying on a content creator can offer them a plethora of expert insight and unique perspectives. Plus, these trends seem to resonate a lot more with the Millennial demographic, who have the highest purchasing power in our modern economy. Thus, the report’s findings as well as Freeman’s comments indicate that Millennials are the generation brands should be targeting, especially when it comes to influencer marketing.
But, since this report relies on such a small sample size, it would be inappropriate to discount the impact of older generations on the success of this dynamic industry. Therefore, although a vast number of the richest influencers are aged between 11-42, we should not ignore how Gen X is working to make this sector more profitable and advantageous.
The final finding from this report praises the work of Jimmy Donaldson, better known as MrBeast. Amassing a total of 377 million followers across all of his active platforms, Donaldson managed to earn a staggering $82.3 million from June 2022 to June 2023. These statistics showcase how audiences tend to admire their favorite influencer, allowing them to earn a thriving living. It also highlights what type of content is most popular on social media and indicates to marketers that this content can easily be replicated in several different campaigns.
‘There’s a commercial opportunity for just about anyone with an engaged social or cultural following. MrBeast’s content style has not only helped him stand out among other content creators but also consistently attracts massive viewership. His brand’s all about high-energy and big-hearted actions. His chocolate bar brand, Feastables, is a perfect example of how creators/influencers are diversifying by expanding into product lines and tapping into their existing audience base for successful product launches. MrBeast isn’t just creating content; he’s cultivating a community that’s eager to support whatever he puts out there. Big brands have been losing market share to niche influencers trading their attention for dollars. It’s a wake-up call to legacy brands: people will buy from people, and it has never been easier to do so’.
Jimmy Donaldson may be a one-off when it comes to famous YouTubers but his skills and strategy are incredibly transferable. Whether he’s posting incredible challenge videos or marketing his latest chocolate bar, Donaldson focuses on what his viewers want most. So, instead of taking a traditional marketing approach and marketing his brand to the masses, Mr.Beast highlights the importance of finding a niche audience. This audience is also linked to his social media presence, meaning that he can build a bustling fan base whilst also creating a vast portfolio of avid customers.
Wealth of Geeks’ 50 Richest Content Creators report gives us a unique look into the most profitable content creators across several popular social media platforms. But, once we start to dig a little deeper, we can see that this report also highlights how influencer marketing helps to boost other sectors and forms of marketing. So, by using the comments offered by the industry experts seen in this article, brands now have the potential to use influencer marketing in a plethora of unique and commercially successful ways.