Creativity has reached new heights with the internet and social media. Gone are the days when your brilliant artwork was only framed on your parents refrigerator. Now it has the potential to go viral with a simple tweet, insta-post, or snap. The question is, where does all of that new attention lead to?
Digital influence, according to Techopedia, is the ability to create an effect, change opinions and behaviors, and drive measurable outcomes online largely through social networking. So, it is more than just a popularity contest, but still has some mystery behind it. As I learn more about branding and production to enhance my blog and future projects, I have noticed a variety of patterns in what gets loved and lost. Also, being interested in intellectual property and legal protection of creativity, I have noticed a gap in protection and awareness.
Certain niches or content tend to pick up more attention quickly. Women are the majority of online creators. Fashion and beauty get the most attention. The definition of quality content is based on a preference for polished personal branding. This is where the difference among titles comes into play.
- The blogger post has a few paragraphs similar to a journal entry with a lot of pretty pictures, sponsored links, and social media followers.
- The writer post has numerous paragraphs similar to a short story with a few illustrations or gifs, helpful links, and social media followers.
- The journalist post has numerous paragraphs similar to a news article with pretty pictures, source links, interviews, and social media followers.
For the consumer, the internet is a great asset because you have access to all kinds of content. For the creator, depending on your circumstances, the internet feels highly saturated. Which of these three posts would you pay the most for? Which of these three posts do you think receives the most revenue?
Monetizing creativity is not a new phenomenon, but the internet has taken it to another level. This new level of digital influence comes with some questionable characters. People can buy followers, likes, and comments. This diminishes the credibility and value of the digital influence industry, which was brilliantly called out in this article by The Luxury Spot. On the other hand, since this industry is still evolving, there are no concrete rules or rates. Creatives who are organically growing their following are being ripped off by brands. Refinery29 did a great article about this issue. I am glad to see others sharing information and insight on this, but we still have a long way to go to establish whether this industry is a passing trend or a substantial career.
Across the board, according to the digital influence experts, the one guaranteed way to monetize your creativity online is through e-courses. Initially, online courses with recorded lectures and live interaction were popular among some universities in 2012. This phase faded for reasons I am not sure of yet. Later, bloggers picked it up and adapted it to their niche. From DIY projects, to parenting tips, to business advice, there is an e-course on everything. There are even e-courses to teach you how to create an e-course. Now, we have celebrities doing e-courses: Serena Williams teaches tennis, Christina Aguilera teaches singing, and Dustin Hoffman teaches acting through MasterClass. These courses range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. That adds up to a pretty nice profit. The question is, does the value of the course equal the price? Is the curriculum viable? Is the information more than what you could Google yourself? Depending on what you are looking for, the course could be great or fluff.
Protecting creativity is also not new, but does need an upgrade. I worked at a pro bono trademark clinic this past semester and gained some insight in the business behind creating and filing trademarks and copyrights. Our clients were traditional small businesses looking to trademark logos and names, but the work got me wondering how these intellectual property laws apply to new media and digital influence. For example, someone creates something really funny or catchy on Vine or Snapchat and it gets a big response. Then, someone else with a bigger following (who might be a real celebrity or company) picks up the original clip, copies it, and posts it as their own with their face on it. Technically, your work is entitled to copyright protection once it is created. Can the original person present their Vine in court as evidence of copyright infringement? Since the majority of social media is free, the likelihood of anyone paying for litigation to protect their work is slim to none. We need to enhance the support and protection of those who create and innovate. What incentive is there to share your work when it is overlooked or stolen? The Fader did a great article on this issue.
When balancing popularity contests and mysterious algorithms with no support, it can seem capitalizing on creativity equally is not possible. With the variety of creators and innovators I have interacted with, I think we can shift this digital influence industry to be a more wholesome experience. This is not public radio or cable TV, where the advertiser, sponsor, and shareholder dictates what and who is seen or heard. This is the future of content and culture. The advertiser, sponsor, and shareholder might continue to make the bulk of the profit from this new medium of content, but the consumer is demanding more of a say in what they want to see and hear. We can make an impact on this. So many of us digital influencers are part of the “side hustle” club. Our skills and talents cover more industries than you would expect. Let’s think outside of the box to not only contribute to the never-ending feed of polished photos, funny videos, and trending hashtags, but to also take ownership of an industry we created.
What do you think about capitalizing creativity? What do you think about digital influencers? Can we bring equality to this industry? Let me know in the comments below. Also, remember to connect with me on Twitter and Instagram. I would love to hear from you.
Wearing: Angela Taioni dress and shirt; Michael Kors heels; Clutch made in Liberia
Big thank you to Uncle Nii Bonney and Auntie Damali for these beautiful clothes. They really are a work of art.