Instagram, TikTok testing paid subscriptions for content creators shows it is the new social media norm

Instagram, TikTok testing paid subscriptions for content creators shows it is the new social media norm

Two of the most popular social media platforms are now planning to incentivise their creator base. Instagram has started testing subscriptions in the US, a feature that lets creators offer paid access to their followers for exclusive content on Instagram. Similarly, TikTok is testing paid subscriptions that will let creators put their content behind a paywall for exclusive access.

Instagram has started its testing phase with a small group of only ten creators, though it says that it will add more creators to the test in the coming weeks. Started earlier this week, Instagram subscriptions let creators provide exclusive access to Instagram Live videos and Stories to viewers paying a monthly subscription fee.

The price for this content can be decided by the creators themselves. There are a total of eight price points they can choose from. These range from $0.99 (about Rs 74) per month to $99.99 (about Rs 7,500) per month. Creators are likely to go on the lower side to attract more followers under the subscription model at first.

Users paying to subscribe to the exclusive content will be marked with a special purple-coloured badge on the influencer’s presence. This will help differentiate them from unpaid users in comments and reactions. The subscription service is also aimed at initiating deeper-rooted interactions between the influencers and their followers, as only a select group of paying followers will be able to take part in such content.

In an interaction with TechCrunch, TikTok confirmed that a similar trial is underway for its own influencer base. The limited test is not broadly available and not many details have been shared by TikTok at the moment. Though the intent is clear, to retain and grow the creator community on the popular short-video app.

The monetisation efforts by the two social media giants are the latest in line to provide a stable income source to their influencer communities. TikTok recently also started testing its tipping feature outside of TikTok Live. While the Live videos on the platform already support the ability, TikTok is now testing the “Tips” button with content creators who have more than 100,000 followers on the app. As can be understood, the feature will let viewers tip the content creator with direct payments.

A new, better model?

Previously, YouTube and Facebook adopted a different revenue model for themselves and their creators. Influencers attaining a certain number of views and subscriber base are paid directly by these services. The payout is dependent on the number of times and the duration for which ads are seen within these videos. In return, the platforms generate revenue simply from the increasing number of viewers (and ads and service subscriptions), thanks to these content creators.

What the new-age social media apps are promising is a more direct way of generating income for their influencer base. The subscription models will ensure that the creators get close to the amount they ask for, and not rely on a fixed, usually very small, amount from ads.

Note the “close to the amount” tangent to this. This is because the platforms are likely to charge a fee on each subscription that the influencers bring in. In addition, an in-app purchase fee may also be applied by Apple and Google on this amount.

Other than TikTok and Instagram, Twitter has also launched a similar subscription service under the name “Super Follows.” The terms of the service clearly mention this split, wherein a creator’s take-home amount will be calculated after Apple/ Google’s cut and Twitter’s share. The figure is still impressive for each subscription.

The big difference, however, will be that while the earlier model granted money on a per-view basis (after a threshold), the new subscription model will have creators maintain and grow the attention of their follower base. This will need constant upkeep from a creator in the long run and one-hit wonders may never pay off in such a system. Whether it means more money for the influencers than before, we will have to wait and see. For the viewers, this is sure to be a new way to show their appreciation to their social media idol.


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