Coverage ideas: Making money as an influencer or creator

President Biden and Olivia Rodrigo take a selfie when she visited the White House on July 17. Photo via the White House.

A 2019 survey showed more kids in America and the U.K. wanted to grow up to be a YouTube star than an astronaut. The past year and a half of being at home for learning, working and even socializing has made the impact of social media marketing even stronger. Influencer marketing is expected to grow to be worth $13.8 billion in 2021, and lots of people want a piece of that. Most brands are using Instagram, but TikTok is on the rise. One significant indication that influencers and creators are now an established industry? The New York Times has moved most of the stories on this topic from the Style section to Business.

Key question: What is the impact of influencers at your school?

  • How are students and adults in your school community being influenced? What are the ways in which they are making decisions based on what they see and hear from influencers on social media? Are they more likely to be swayed by advocacy/issue please or products/sales?
  • Who are the most influential influencers among students at your school? Why? What do they promote?
  • Who is influencing? Are any people at your school influencers? What platform(s) do they use, and how big is their following? 
  • Do any people at school want to be influencers? What are they doing to make it a reality?
  • What are the stats for your student body and social media — what platforms, how much time spent, what do they do?
  • Use the opportunity to review platforms and posts — from YouTube to Instagram and TikTok. 
  • What is the popular content among people in your school community (even non-influencer content)?
  • What are some of the ethical issues related to time spent, disclosure of payment for a post, credit and more? What does your audience think?
  • To Fight Vaccine Lies, Authorities Recruit an ‘Influencer Army’ (The New York Times, Aug. 1) — “These days, young people are more likely to trust the advice of their favorite content creator than a mainstream celebrity, according to a 2018 study by the marketing agency MuseFind.”
  • What Won’t the Nelk Boys Do? (The New York Times, June 29) — “Known for their pranks, parties and crude humor, the YouTubers are used to getting in trouble. But for them, the backlash is the brand.”
  • Black TikTok Creators Are On Strike To Protest A Lack Of Credit For Their Work (NPR, July 1)
  • Young Creators Are Burning Out and Breaking Down (The New York Times, June 8) — “Gen Z creators are struggling with the challenges that come with building, managing and monetizing a following online.”
  • Can Streaming Pay? Musicians Are Pinning Fresh Hopes on Twitch. (The New York Times, June 16) — “According to Spotify’s own figures, 97 percent of artists there generated less than $1,000 in payments last year. (Spotify points to the growing number of musicians earning large sums as a sign of its value.) Twitch, by contrast, is an alternate universe where even niche artists can make thousands of dollars a month by cultivating fan tribes whose loyalty is expressed through patronage.”
  • The Superstars of Tourette’s TikTok (The Atlantic, July 19) — “How disability influencers are using TikTok to fight stigma.”
  • Inside TikTok’s highly secretive algorithm (The Wall Street Journal, July 21) — “A Wall Street Journal investigation found that TikTok only needs one important piece of information to figure out what you want: the amount of time you linger over a piece of content. Every second you hesitate or rewatch, the app is tracking you.”
  • Next IPhones Cater Deftly to Creators and Influencers (Bloomberg, Aug. 17)

The list reflects what I have read, heard and seen in my own media diet, so it comes from my perspective. Chicago is also over-represented because that’s where I live and work. The list is not meant to be comprehensive or exclusive of other ideas. Many of the stories were covered by multiple outlets, but links here lean toward sites available without a subscription, particularly nonprofit news sites like NPR and The 19th.

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