Twitter launched a new app yesterday called Engage, which is aimed at celebrities and other public figures on its service.
However, it’s most interesting as part of a wider trend, as social apps and networks scramble to provide their high-profile users not just with better analytics, but with direct ways to make money from their followings.
Engage is described as a “companion app” for Twitter aimed at “creators, influencers and public figures”. The app is partly about a feed of the “most important follows and @mentions from influencers and loyal fans” (i.e. filtering out the trolls) while also providing an analytics dashboard.
“This is only the beginning. We’re already planning integrations with some of our partner brands through our Niche and Vine products,” explained Twitter’s blog post.
That mention of Niche is important: it’s Twitter’s in-house agency that connects influential users with brands, to make money from their tweets and videos.
Note this sentence from Twitter’s press release about Engage: “Select creators will now be able to upload and monetise their content directly within the app.” And also this one, about Vine: “Vine is also exploring monetisation opportunities with Twitter’s Amplify Open program to help creators make money on Vine.”
Or this from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, spelling out the motivation behind yesterday’s announcements. “We’re investing heavily in videos and creators. We want to be the best place for creators and influencers to build an audience and make it easier for creators to make money on Twitter, and soon Vine.”
This trend goes beyond Twitter though: helping influencers make money directly from their followings is a big priority for Facebook, from paying creators to use its live-streaming video feature to opening up monetisation for video uploads.
Instagram, Snapchat, Twitch, YouNow… Creator or influencer monetisation is an important trend in 2016, as these platforms want to a.) encourage their most popular users to post even more content rather than drift to rivals and b.) attract the brands who see these influencers as an increasingly-attractive way to offset the worries of ad-blocking technology.
These apps can give huge reach and (in some cases) useful data, but this year they all want to make their key creators direct money too.
Musicians can and will benefit from this, even if there’s likely to be some jockeying over who controls this new income stream and how it’s split between the artist/manager and the rightsholders for their music.
One final note: despite everything that’s been said this year about YouTube, safe harbour and the music industry, it’s inescapable that Google’s video service was the first to figure out direct monetisation for its key creators and influencers.
It has set a template that could be beneficial for artists as Twitter, Facebook and others follow in its footsteps.