Living off the Internet

From Myspace to Orkut to Facebook to YouTube, social media has become a necessity for people of all ages to stay connected with friends, family, and even strangers. But while some update their social media sites to let their acquaintances know how they’re doing, others upload posts, pictures, or even videos for a very different purpose: to make money.

The most  popular social media platforms today are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Vine, not to mention the constant influx of other new, easily accessible ones. The entertainment, convenience, and interactivity of these sites is just a click away. The interactivity, for example, comes from the ‘follow’ feature, where users select the accounts they wish to keep up with.

Recently, many people have taken advantage of this system and the applications’ growing audience to become “Internet famous.” This fame demonstrates how widespread the poster’s popularity, and consequently, viewership of his or her content, is. This becomes the perfect opportunity to make money. Whether it be in the form of advertisements or sponsorships, companies take advantage of these internet celebrities’ rising attention and viewership by offering them marketing deals. In some cases, the profit they make from these deals is so high that being a YouTuber, Viner, Blogger, or even Instagrammer has become their sole job.

The appealing similarity between all these platforms is that niches exist within each one. You have the skit, comedy, and even gaming channels on YouTube, and the fashion, food, and traveling accounts on Instagram. These niches allow viewers to browse with a focus, accessing content related to their own interests. Gaming channels have been on the rise on YouTube, even to the point that the most-subscribed-to YouTuber, PewDiePie, has garnered his success from posting videos of himself playing games. With over 35,000,000 subscribers on his channel, PewDiePie’s full-time job is posting on YouTube, and understandably so, considering that he makes a reported (but unconfirmed) ₤2.6 million a year from his account.

While many YouTubers have taken advantage of the increasing opportunities to monetize their videos, others have been doing the same with six-second looping videos on Vine. Most popular for the comedy posted on the platform, Vine contains many short videos that become sensations, looping for over millions of views and users garnering millions of followers. Just like YouTubers, Viners with immense fame have also made money off the videos they post on their accounts. Cody Johns, a Vine star with over 3.1 million followers,  earned enough money to pay for his college tuition in a single advertisement campaign. Johns explains that he is “literally making a living off this [platform].” His brother, Marcus Johns, is also a Viner, and with over 6 million followers, even contemplated dropping out of university considering the amount of money he was making. These two brothers are just a few examples of the top-tier Viners; there are many others who are reaping huge benefits as well.

As much as money may be an important reward, it’s important to recognize that money isn’t the only advantage that comes from being a big star on these social media sites. These Internet-famous individuals get invited to red-carpet events, they interview and are interviewed, and they even have their own “meet-ups,” events for fans to meet them. Some Instagrammers have started their own clothing lines and some YouTubers have published their own books. Some Viners have gone on to star in TV shows, while other YouTubers have even broadcast their own shows on TV. Interactions between the audience and the stars, Internet and TV personalities, have been on the rise; they show the tremendous power of Internet entertainment.

Now, with Internet popularity in mind, I’m not saying that the money and fame they earn from being social media stars pollutes the quality of entertainment or effort they put into their channels. However, posting a Vine to make people laugh and doing so to make (a lot of) money are clearly different motives. Television has been doing it for many years now, so it might be obvious that social media, a growing platform for entertainment, is turning into an area for marketing and monetization. With varied, unique ways of creating imaginative content, and profit, on the Internet, it is crucial to recognize the the influence of these ever-changing platforms.