Social media was intended to connect people in the virtual world and at best seen as a way to network. However, as it has turned out, the platform is now more about money and power than about being connected. Decades ago, such an opportunity did not exist where individuals can address the world and influence it. Thanks to the internet and the right platforms, anyone with compelling content can do that and more — generate traffic and dollars in the process. Influencer is the new celebrity, earning millions at the click of a button. Here’s a look into the top platforms and how people use them to make money.
YouTube needs no introduction. It is a free video-sharing platform that unites all age groups and backgrounds. Whether you are a boomer, Gen X, Y or Z, a millennial or a geriatric human closing in on his or her expiry date, YouTube is there for you, to entertain you, educate you or simply to bring a smile to your lips.
What began in the February of 2005 by three former employees of US e-commerce firm PayPal is now owned by search engine behemoth Google.
The platform has made video what it is today, liberating it from the so-called media professionals and dull TV production rooms.
The rise of YouTube on the dot com horizon was so spectacular that Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim sold YouTube to Google ten months after its official launch at a then-record price of $1.6 billion.
Thereafter, as they say, the rest is history.
Google’s ownership and new revenue model changed the scene altogether, and the platform made stupendous progress. The creation, distribution and consumption of video content became an individual choice, helping it to have an unparalleled social impact across the world, influencing popular culture, and internet trends. And, more importantly, creating multimillionaire celebrities along the way. In 2021, YouTube’s annual advertisement revenue amounted to $28.84 billion, up from $19.77 billion the previous year.
The first YouTube video
Making money on YouTube
The YouTube revenue model is fairly simple. Basically, you create and upload engaging content, generate thousands or millions of views and earn a share of what YouTube makes through advertising.
YouTube has different advertising formats, including pre-roll and display ads, based on clicks and page impressions. The platform keeps 45 per cent of this revenue and hands over the rest to content creators. This seemingly easy way of moneymaking has one drawback, though. YouTube creators are paid on the basis of monetised views, not the actual views of their content.
How you can do it
For making money this way, one has to join YouTube in the YouTube Partner program. To be eligible for this, the content creators must have at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of accumulated watch time over the prior 12-month period. With partnerships, the creator gets access to tools to monetise his or her content through Google Adsense.
Another way content creators make money is through influencer marketing via brand sponsorship. Once a content creator is generally accepted as an influencer on social media, top brands approach them to endorse their products through their content. This is often more lucrative and is independent of the clicks or impressions, once the agreement is made.
Fan funding is yet another mode to monetise the channel in which fans and followers make recurring payments in exchange for additional content, which could include live chats, special videos, badges or emojis. There are also third-party services like Patreon, which help creators monetise content. It is estimated that top video creators earn as much as $40,000 per month from their fan base, according to Investopedia.
Creators can also sell merchandise through their channels, albeit in a limited way. When this feature is enabled YouTube partners can sell as many as 12 merchandise.
PewDiePie ($6,834,645), Dude Perfect ($2,957,950), VanossGaming ($2,281,315), DanDTM ($2,207,725), JuegaGerman ($1,956,575) and Markiplier ($1,783,195) are some of the top earners in this category, according to Purple Moon, top promotional products supplier. (Monthly revenue through product sales in brackets).
Human beings thrive on creating memories that last for a long time — if possible forever. All our tools of communication — from writing to audio to video recordings — emphasise this aspect of our desire for immortality. Then what is the scope for a messaging platform that is ephemeral, one that kills off the messages after a few moments? Zero, that is what everyone thought. Until Snapchat arrived on the scene.
Snapchat is a messaging app that lets users send photos, videos, and text messages that disappear after a few seconds.
Three students of Stanford University, Reggie Brown, Evan Spiegel, and Bobby Murphy came together to found Snapchat in 2011. According to reports and legal documents, it was Brown who came up with the idea of disappearing content on a social media app. He then approached Spiegel who agreed to the idea and together they approached Murphy to write the code. Picaboo, the forerunner to Snapchat, was thus launched on iOS on July 8, 2011. However, in three months, Brown, the man who thought of the idea was forced out of the company and Picaboo was rebranded as Snapchat in September 2011. Four years later, in September 2014, Brown settled with Spiegel and Murphy for $157.5 million and was credited as one of the original authors of Snapchat. A year into its existence, Snapchat added videos with a life span of 10s to its arsenal and the number of ‘snaps’ jumped to 50 million per day. In 2013, it added two new features, stories and chat, followed by Geofilters, Discover, Lenses and a money transaction feature.
According to some estimates, Snapchat had 319 million daily users end of 2021 and over 280 million people use Snapchat daily. The app generated $2.5 billion in revenue in 2020, a 47 per cent increase year on year.
How to make money on Snapchat
Top ways to make money through Snapchat are:
Spotlight: Users can submit their viral snaps for a chance to earn millions on offer per month from Snapchat.
Affiliate marketing/Sponsored posts: As your number of followers grow, so does your power to influence people. At some point, you will be able to promote products in exchange for a fee. Identify potential sponsors yourself or work with platforms such as Miss Our that help you connect with sponsors. You can also affiliate with brands and vendors such as FlexOffers or Amazon to cash in on your influence.
Snapchat offers different advertisement formats including Collection ads, Commercials, Filters, Filters, Lenses, Single image or video ads and Story ads.
Social media watchers call TikTok the new Facebook, and the statistics bear them out. Last year the short-form video-sharing app became the first non-Meta (formerly Facebook Inc) app to cross the 3 billion download mark.
To dumb it down, TikTok is a short-form video-sharing mobile platform that allows users to create, edit, and share clips. These short videos are spruced up with filters and soundtracks from the latest music fads.
Zhang Yiming, a former software engineer, is the founder and CEO of ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok and its Chinese version Douyin. The 37-year old is currently worth over $59.4 billion, according to Forbes’ Real-Time Billionaires List, making him the 22nd-wealthiest person in the world.
When did it start?
TikTok started life as a video sharing platform in China, where it was launched in September 2016 as Douyin. It became wildly popular, and the parent company ByteDance unveiled an international version the following year. Although it primarily focused on lipsyncing and dancing videos, TikTok later became a fully-fledged video service.
In November 2017, Bytedance acquired Musical.ly, a social network whose lipsyncing and dancing videos attracted young people, for $1 billion. The Chinese company then rebranded Musical.ly and TikTok into one app the following year and raised $3 billion.
ByteDance had previously operated the AI-powered news aggregation platform Toutiao. A similar AI platform allowed TikTok to identify users’ interests and feed them relevant videos.
The growth of TikTok
In two years, TikTok’s growth has been phenomenal, racking up more than 1 billion DAU’s (Daily Active Users), with a likely worth of $200 billion. That made it one of the world’s most valuable companies.
TikTok reached 3 billion downloads in June 2021, making it the seventh-most downloaded app of the 2010s and the world’s most downloaded app in 2020, according to App Annie, a mobile analytics company. In March, users spent 2.8 billion hours, or nearly 320,000 years, on the app.
What’s the app’s current value?
TikTok has been valued at $50 billion, according to a report in gobankingrates.com, which placed the parent company ByteDance’s worth between $200 to $400 billion. The South China Morning Post said the valuation has fluctuated between $325 and $450 billion in recent months.
How TikTok makes money
Advertising is one of the primary sources of TikTok’s revenue as it offers paid advertisements for brands to promote their products and services. In-feed ads, brand takeover ads, top view ads, branded hashtags, and branded effects are among the advertising vehicles. Brands can enhance their marketing through in-feed videos, brand takeovers, hashtag challenges and branded effects.
In-App purchases and e-commerce offerings are other revenue streams.
How you can make money through Tiktok
Hugely popular TikTok users can make money through the platform. Here are some of the ways to earn money.
TikTok Creator Fund: The fund rewards users for creating engaging and popular videos on the platform depending on the number of views generated by their videos, which should be in line with TikTok guidelines. But to be part of the creator fund scheme, the user must fulfil certain conditions.
Influencer marketing: Like all social media platforms, companies hire influencers to promote their goods or services in their videos to generate sales.
Sponsored content: Users can strike deals to create content for the TikTok account for companies, or get the company to sponsor the videos.
Branded merchandise: Highly popular TikTok stars can create their own line of products.
New careers: Tiktok stars can use their stardom to launch new careers in music, painting or acting.
Consultant: A TikTok expert can help guide others. People will pay consultants to create strategies, build brands and boost followers.
How popular is TikTok?
With more than 1,212 million users, TikTok is one of the most popular apps around, capturing one-third of all social media users in four years.
Recently, TikTok surpassed tech giant Google as the most popular website of the year, says a report by IT security company Cloudflare.
Spotify is a paid audio streaming provider and needs no introduction for music lovers. It is currently one of the top music streaming platforms. Spotify had 180 million premium subscribers worldwide and had 11 million creators (Q4 2021), according to Statista.
Swedes Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon founded Spotify on April 23, 2006, in Stockholm. Its subsidiaries include Spotify Ltd, Sonalytic Ltd., Spotify Mexico, Spotify USA, Spotify AB, Spotify India Private Ltd, Soundtrap AB. Spotify’s market capitalisation on the New York Stock Exchange stood at $19.53 billion. As of March 2022, Spotify has more than 422 million monthly active users, including 182 million paying subscribers.
How to make money:
There are at least two ways:
(A) You create audio content — music, podcasts — and upload it on Spotify. Payment? For every 250 streams for your content, you make US$1 (Spotify generally pays between $ 0.003 and $ 0.005 per stream). So for every 1 million streams, artists make an average of anywhere from $3,300 to $3,500. The amount depends on your distribution contract and listener base.
(B) Another way to make money is via Spotify playlists. You may create a playlist, and directly sell placements on your playlist to artists, labels and/or artist managers.
‘Hundreds Register for New Facebook Website’ It will be difficult to imagine now, but that was the headline of one of the first reports about the social media giant, now accepted as an element of nature like air or water, albeit in virtual space. The year was 2004 and the publication was Harvard Crimson, the daily student newspaper of the university.
Mark Zuckerberg had only the previous week launched thefacebook.com, a directory in which fellow Harvard students entered their own information and photos into a template.
Following the great response, Zuckerberg’s roommates, Dustin Moskovitz and Christ Hughes, helped him add features and make the site available to others. In a few years, Facebook quickly became popular around the world. The hundreds soon became thousands, crossed millions and the user base is now close to three billion. Such is the impact of Facebook that there is no aspect of modern life that is untouched by the social media giant, turning it into a monster or messiah depending on which side you are.
How did it grow?
Zuckerberg dropped out of college to focus on his company, where he became CEO and president. In May 2005, Facebook received $12.7 million as its first major infusion of venture capital. By September 2006, anyone with an e-mail address could join a regional Facebook network based on where he or she lived.
As of May 2022, Meta (Facebook) is worth $562 billion, placing it among the world’s top 10 valuable companies by market cap.
How does it make money?
Facebook makes money primarily by selling advertising space on its various social media platforms.
How can you make money?
There are different ways to monetise content on Facebook for users.
Instream ads help you earn money by including short ads before, during or after videos. Earnings are determined by the number of video views and who the advertisers are.
Fan subscriptions allow the audience to directly fund a page through monthly or recurring payments. Supporters can be identified by a special badge and rewarded with perks such as exclusive content and discounts.
Revenue can also be generated by publishing content that is influenced by a business partner.
Got brilliant visual ideas? Pin it, curate it, and share it via Pinterest. The platform is a “visual discovery” database engine for the world. Here, you find ideas — recipes, home and style inspiration — and more. The billions of “Pins” on Pinterest are now worth billions too! Here, you can find ideas to inspire you, from every part of the planet. Everything looks beautiful and aesthetic on this app. Save the “Pins” you discover, and create “boards” to keep your ideas organised and easy to find.
Pinterest Founders: Evan Sharp, Paul Sciarra and Ben Silbermann founded Pinterest in December 2009 in San Francisco, California. It employed 3,225 people (as of 2021). The service is available in: Hungarian, Thai language, Romanian language, Malay, Arabic, Tagalog and various other languages. It is listed on the New York stock exchange with a current market capitalisation of $13.61 billion.
Twitter emerged from Odeo, a podcasting venture founded by Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass, according to Britannica. Jack Dorsey introduced the idea of a short message service (SMS) to communicate with groups of recipients, and Glass proposed the name Twttr, which later became Twitter.
The idea was close to a short messaging service used to share updates with friends. The company was founded by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Noah Glass, and Biz Stone. Dorsey became the first chief executive officer (CEO) in 2007 but was ousted next year.
He returned as CEO in 2015, only to step down in 2021, and was replaced by chief technology officer Parag Agrawal.
Twitter is a free social networking and microblogging service to distribute brief messages over the internet to recipients through a computer or mobile phone. Its primary purpose is to connect people and allow users to share their ideas, thoughts and information with a broader audience.
The short messages called “tweets” cannot exceed 280 characters, and they can be on any subject. Users can track specific topics by adding hashtags (e.g., #keyword), which can help create a dialogue.
Twitter was launched in 2006 in San Francisco, California, US. A year later, Twitter, Inc. was created as a corporate entity, and Dorsey became the first chief executive officer.
The growth of Twitter
Since its inception, Twitter has grown exponentially due to its ability to spread information fast. Although people use it to send messages for social networking, its growth was driven mainly by its capability to act as an amateur news reporting and marketing tool.
Celebrities and influencers use it put out content to their legion of supporters and admirers. Not all messages are serious; even jokes and recipes are shared on Twitter.
Power over people
Twitter has the power to influence people, and hence it has become a vital tool in domestic and international politics, helping to promote policies and interact with citizens and other officials.
According to reports, Twitter has 396.5 million users making it the 15th most popular social network behind platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and Pinterest. It has around 206 million daily active users.
In the United States, the microblogging service has a reach of 77.75 million users, followed by 58.2 million in Japan and 24.45 in India. Brazil has 9.05 million active users, while there are 19.05 million active users in the United Kingdom.
Twitter has a market cap of $34.85 billion as of April 2022, making it the world’s 535th most valuable company by market cap, according to companiesmarketcap.com.
The company went public in 2013 with an IPO price of $26. The IPO raised $1.8 billion, giving it a market value of $31 billion. The closing stock price on April 21, 2022, was $46.72.
How Twitter makes money
Twitter makes most of its money through advertising and data licensing. Advertising, which forms about 86 per cent of the company’s revenues, includes Promoted Tweets or Promoted Ads (advertisements that appear in search results), Promoted Trends (placing promoted content among trending topics), and Promoted Accounts (placing promoted accounts in the list of accounts suggested for users).
Data licensing makes up around 14 per cent of the revenues, which come in the form of subscriptions to sell public data to companies and developers. The data gives insights into platform trends and user demographics.
How to make money on Twitter?
Like all social media platforms, you need a solid following to make money on Twitter. Not just that. Your followers should trust you, and that trust will translate into views and money. To keep the audience base sated, you need to create content. Not good content, but great content regularly.
Here are some ways to generate revenue through Twitter.
2. Affiliate marketing: This is basically promoting the products or services of other companies by writing about them and providing a link in your tweets. When customers buy the product using the link you shared, companies will pay you a commission.
3. Tweet ghostwriter: If your writing skills are good, write tweets for other accounts. Charge a fee for every tweet you write.
4. Create Twitter Ads: Are you a creative person with graphic skills? If yes, you can design Twitter Ads for others, including companies that don’t have social media departments.
5. Monetise your content: Through Twitter Media Studio, you can monetise your videos on Twitter by placing ads or sponsorships.
6. Promoting your business: If you have your own company, you can promote your products or services through tweets. And also drive traffic to your company website. Offer freebies through tweets in exchange for email addresses, and that will allow you to build lists for email marketing.
7. Tip Jar: Set up Twitter’s Tip Jar feature, which allows users to monetarily “tip” content creators through payment platforms. So you could get tipped by viewers who see your Twitter content.
Instagram, a photo and video-sharing social networking service, launched in October 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger was acquired by Facebook in April 2012 after Instagram gained massive popularity.
Along with the popularity came ways to make money out of the social networking site, for both companies and individuals. Direct product sales to influencers and their recommendations started gaining traction and with it came money.
How to make money on Instagram:
• By promoting your business
• By selling your items
• By earning badges
• By monetizing your videos with adverts
All top influencers have more than 200 million followers. Influencers with a million followers can earn somewhere around $670 per post, according to a search marketing website. A content creator on Instagram with 100,000 followers can earn nearly $200 per post, while someone with 10,000 followers can make about $88 per post. “Even if you have 1,000 followers who are engaged, the potential to make money is there,” Neil Patel, a widely known digital marketing specialist, writes on his blog.
LinkedIn started its successful journey in the living room of its co-founder Reid Hoffman’s in 2002. It was officially launched on May 5, 2003. Microsoft completed its acquisition of LinkedIn in December 2016 and the networking site bloomed under the leadership of Ryan Roslansky.
Remember, LinkedIn is not a social networking site, but a professional networking site. The platform is mostly used by people trying to advance their career, get higher pay or dig into more challenging work. LinkedIn leads a diversified business with revenues from membership subscriptions, advertising sales and recruitment solutions.
The professional networking platform helps entrepreneurs/businesses to establish, enhance and promote professional brands. It also helps an introvert to find and present their skills without much ado. LinkedIn also makes it easy for recruiters to find talent without the ceremonial meet and greet.
ProFinder is another platform provided by LinkedIn where freelancers can find work and make a living. LinkedIn content publishing on the other hand provides writers a platform to showcase their work, which in turn drives views to the article and lots more potential money.
The primary goal of the site is to provide jobs for professionals and amateurs alike. However, LinkedIn does not pay directly for views, and there is no direct monetisation system on LinkedIn. The platform can be used to drive traffic to your article and site, and in turn, make money from them.
SoundCloud is the world’s largest online music and audio streaming platform. Users can upload, stream, promote, and share music and podcasts. It currently has an estimated 150 million tracks — and growing. SoundCloud is preferred by independent artists. The app has helped launch the careers of some well-known artists.
SoundCloud Founders: Alexander Ljung, Eric Wahlforss founded the platform in August 2007, in Stockholm, Sweden. Currently based in Berlin as a privately-held company, SoundCloud has 175 million (unique) monthly listeners. It is led by CEO Michael Weissman (from Jan 1, 2021 till the present).
How to make money
There are two ways: upload your track (for paid download by anyone) or have it streamed (for paid “streaming”, or audio play by anyone). You can sell your tracks using SoundCloud and SoundRain. Connect your account with SoundRain and select any tracks you wish to sell. Payment is $0.99 per download. If you are a content creator on SoundCloud, payouts range from $0.0025 to $0.004 per stream: for every 1,000 audio plays, independent artists can receive between $2.50–$4. SoundCloud has 76 million registered users (i.e. those with accounts) and 175 million monthly listeners. There are about 25 million creators on SoundCloud. The company has generated $166 million in 2019 and $218m in 2020. A free version is available for iOS and Android devices. For creators, there are also paid tiers that include SoundCloud Pro Unlimited and SoundCloud Repost.
Apple Music is a subscription-based music streaming service offering access to more than 90 million songs. It combines all your music in one place and offers live radio stations and integration with Siri so voice commands can control most things.
Apple Music started in 2015 after Apple acquired Beats Electronics the previous year.
Apple Music had 11 million subscribers in the first year. A year after launch, Apple Music received its first major redesign, fixing many of the interface issues.
Since then, Apple Music has grown steadily and is currently valued at around $10 billion.
How popular is it?
Apple Music accounts for 15% of global music platform subscriptions, which means that it has surpassed 78 million paid subscribers.
How can you make money?
When a subscriber streams your music, you get paid a proportionate share of Apple Music’s subscription revenue per month. On average across all countries, Apple Music pays $0.00599265 per stream.