Some 'link-in-bio' startups are taking a more active role in how creators make money, including paying them directly
- Some “link-in-bio” startups that offer webpage tools to creators are introducing new money-making features.
- Companies like Linktree, Beacons, and Koji are adding features for tipping and exclusive content.
- On Wednesday, Linktree announced it would pay out $250,000 in a new “Passion Fund” for creators.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
As the creator economy has grown, there are now a dizzying array of startups trying to help influencers reach new followers and make money.
But many of these new platforms exist in silos, which makes it complicated for a creator to direct their followers from a TikTok video to their Cameo, Patreon, or Pearpop accounts, for example.
A new crop of startups is looking to make that process easier. These companies, referred to as “link-in-bio” platforms, are building tools that allow creators to make a mini-website promoting their work that they then link to in their social-media profiles.
The concept is simple.
Influencers need a single place to promote their content and anything they’re selling to followers, similar to the way a restaurant might share its menu using a white-label web service like SinglePlatform. As creators look at merchandise, exclusive content, tipping, and subscription deals as new sources of revenue beyond brand deals, having a single place to promote their offerings has become more valuable.
“Most creators are creating content on multiple platforms and trying to monetize on multiple platforms,” said Neal Jean, a cofounder of the link-in-bio startup Beacons. “Because of that growing fragmentation, they really end up needing a very general connective layer in the middle, which usually ends up being something like Beacons, Linktree, or some other website builder.”
Interest among creators and VC firms in companies like Beacons or Linktree — the category’s market leader, according to several industry sources — is on the rise.
Beacons said it has 300,000 users and is adding 3,000 new sign-ups each day. Linktree already has 14 million users and said it’s adding 30,000 more each day.
Both companies have completed multimillion-dollar fundraising rounds this year, with Linktree closing a $45 million Series B fundraise in March, and Beacons announcing a $6 million seed round on Monday. Other companies like Koji, Lnk.bio, Tap.bio, Direct.me, and Campsite are also competing in the space, which some say has a relatively low barrier to entry.
How a link-in-bio page can drive revenue for a creator
Influencers can use link-in-bio services in a variety of ways. Some use their link-in-bio pages to promote all of their social-media accounts. For others, the tool can be an effective way to drive traffic to a fan donation page.
Take the case of Sam Pope, for instance. Pope is a 31-year-old singer and TikTok creator. He joined TikTok last year after his plans to tour as a cast member of the Meatloaf musical, “Bat Out of Hell: The Musical,” were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With live performances off the table, Pope began uploading videos of himself singing on TikTok. His account took off, and he started looking for ways to earn money from his newfound social-media fame (he now has around one million followers).
Pope joined the TikTok creator fund, a program where TikTok pays users directly for posting videos, but said it didn’t provide any substantial payouts.
“It’s pretty basic and abysmal,” he said. “You might get £30 or £40 from a good video. Most of the time it will be a pound here, 50 pence there.”
Searching for other ways to make money while in-person performing was on hold, Pope created a line of merchandise on Spreadshirt and set up a Buy Me A Coffee account (a Patreon-style donation tool). He also set up an account on Linktree, which helped connect TikTok fans to his Buy Me A Coffee profile. The profile has since garnered £666 (about $940) in donations.
Will link-in-bio startups continue to grow as social-media apps add more monetization features?
The link-in-bio category is crowded.
“To build a one-page website builder, that’s what those link-in-bio companies are, is trivially easy,” said Koji CEO Dmitry Shapiro. “Junior developers can do that in a few days. That’s why there are 50 of them.”
To differentiate their offering, some startups have introduced direct monetization features into their platforms.
Koji works with in-house and third-party developers to offer a variety of monetization tools, including a digital billboard feature and a Cameo-copycat feature called “Shoutout.” Beacons lets users make their TikTok videos “shoppable” by adding affiliate links to embedded videos on their pages. It also has its own built-in donations feature and offers creators the ability to sell exclusive content to fans. Linktree offers similar donation and content services, and announced on Wednesday that it’s starting a $250,000 “Passion Fund” with payment-processor Square to pay a select group of users up to $20,000 in support of their work as creators. Some link-in-bio companies also let users collect contact information from fans like emails and phone numbers, allowing them to build out a contact list of their followers.
These middleman companies could potentially be undercut by the platforms themselves, however. Social-media platforms like Twitter and Instagram are testing their own built-in monetization features that could render a third party irrelevant.
But for now, the idea of an independent landing page for an influencer’s digital identity is attractive to many creators who need to manage profiles across a bunch of different apps and monetization services.
Pope, for example, built his main audience on TikTok, but uses YouTube to post music videos and Instagram’s direct message feature to connect with users interested in hiring him to write songs.
Ultimately, he hopes to get back to performing in person, using his new online audience to promote his work.
“For me, it’s all related to going back to performing live,” Pope said. “As much as I like making TikToks, it’s not the same as performing in a pub or a venue.”
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