Based on my article for a16z with Connie Chan which can be seen here.
When influencers can monetize on-platform, the platforms benefit economically and retention-wise. It may not be a huge impact on revenue, but it’s strategic in keeping influencers on-ship. It’s also fun for fans to get increased access to someone they admire/want to learn from.
So how can influencers make money without selling physical goods? On Weibo, often called the Twitter of China, influencers can sell V+ channel memberships that may include private chat groups and/or paid content in the form of articles, posts, Q&As, and live streams.
#1 shocker from joining these paid group chats was just how much people talk: oftentimes I would open Weibo and have 1K+ messages per group [for fans only interested in what the influencer has to say, there’s a button to read only their comments]
A few examples:
My favorite paid group chat was 恶魔奶爸 Sam’s Millennial Self-Help Group with 14K+ users paying $30/yr. The group is most often used for job advice, but I’ve read chats about everything from tv shows to family tensions and even rants about love lives.
Sam, the group leader, answers a few questions daily, but most conversations are among group members. Think of Sam as a host, not a moderator. Chats fill a different niche than public posts — there’s lower pressure, and the freedom to chat without the need to feel smart.
For the record, the blogger does a good job in setting the fan straight: rather than thinking about getting another person’s body, it’s important to realize that every body is 独一无二 unique and there is not just one standard definition of beauty (I tipped him for this answer.)
Some final notes:
1) What’s exciting is that these methods enable a new set of influencers to monetize. @ljin18 has written more on the Passion Economy.
2) These methods of monetization are more fan-friendly than sponsored posts.
I hope you enjoy, please let us know what you think! As always, thanks to @laurenmurrow for the help with this post as well as my buddy @mindizhang1 from Chicago for the help translating basketball slang!