Months before Vine died, 50 of the platform’s top creators met with executives with a proposition. Pay each creator just over $1 million and change some features on the app in exchange for guaranteed, regular content. Vine declined and was dead a year later. The creators moved on to greener pastures, continuing to grow their careers on other platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat. Snapchat, though, has recently had trouble keeping its own creators happy.
In February, Snap announced it would be rolling out viewer analytics — the numbers content creators use to demonstrate their reach for business deals — to a select group of influencers and creators. It seems like that hasn’t been enough. “They [Snapchat] suck,” Shaun McBride, a.k.a. Shonduras, one of the very first Snap stars, told Ad Age this month. “They always sucked. They’ve never been nice to us [creators]. They literally sucked from day one.” He says he’s all-but abandoned Snap for other platforms and outlets. “They should know that if they don’t help creators, they will fail.”
This is the fate Instagram is trying to avoid. It’s currently testing new, creator-only features that are expected to be released next year. Per The Hollywood Reporter:
Creator-specific tools that will be part of the new accounts include growth insights such as data around follows and unfollows; direct messaging tools that allow users to filter notes from, for example, brand partners and friends; and flexible labels that allow users to designate how they want to be contacted. The new features are being tested with a small beta group before they roll out to the wider community next year.
Back when Vine was gasping its last, dying breaths in 2016, a number of teens told New York that their favorite creators from the platform were migrating to Facebook instead. So they migrated there to watch. Facebook offered a wider audience and better opportunities for making money. In the years since, Facebook’s push on video or bust went, well, bust. But Instagram, Facebook’s beloved and much less embattled social-media platform, has more than filled that space. And it has clearly learned what not to do, likely by watching the very company it aped. (August 2018 marked two years since Instagram stole the Stories functionality from Snapchat and then effectively beat them at their own game.) If you want to keep your general user population engaged and happy, you’re going to need to coddle your influencer and creator population.
With IGTV, an in-app hub for long-form video and original content launched this summer, Instagram tried to fashion itself a YouTube killer. It hasn’t worked. Most of the creators Instagram partnered with for IGTV’s launch never followed through with actually creating content. (Likely because there was no incentive to do so.) Which meant the average user has nothing to watch. Which in turn meant other creators haven’t seen the point in expending time and energy to create videos for a platform where relatively nobody will watch them. (Compared to YouTube, where creators see greater returns.)
These new creator feature tests indicate Instagram is still trying to find ways to keep talent happy. Ashley Yuki, an Instagram product manager, told The Hollywood Reporter it’s part of an internal effort to “create this space where we can now start to specialize the experience for the needs of creators,” calling creators “an important part of our community.” She’s absolutely right about that. Anybody who thinks otherwise should just open up Vine and see what’s being posted. Oh, that’s right. You can’t. Because Vine is dead.