Supercreator Daily: Is Instagram really the best platform for you to earn a living?

It’s one thing to share and promote your creative work on a social app. But it’s another to host your entire business on one.

Instagram flooded the zone yesterday with a torrent of product releases and announcements dedicated to creators who live off their creative work — or have a desire to do so.

First, the Facebook-owned photo and video app announced a native affiliate tool that will allow creators to earn commissions for their purchases they inspire people to make. The company said sellers can set their own commission rates and affiliate posts will be labeled “Eligible for Commission” so people will know their purchase will support the creator. (The Federal Trade Commission, which requires explicit disclosure from influencers who earn affiliate revenue, declined to comment on whether this label satisfies its guidelines for social media endorsements.)

Creators with their own product lines can also now link their shop to their personal profile, in addition to their business profile to display and sell products directly to fans. Eligible creators in the US will also be able to release exclusive product launches from the Instagram app by linking their account with one of Instagram’s four merch partners by the end of the year. Additionally, creators can earn extra money when they hit specific milestones when using Badges on Instagram Live and Stars on Facebook. For example, according to an Instagram spokesperson, Instagram creators are eligible to earn an extra payout when they go Live with another account. And today Facebook launched the Stars Challenge, a program that gives creators free Stars for broadcasting a certain number of hours or earning a set number of Stars within a designated time period.

The announcements came during day one of Creator Week, an invite-only event featuring a week of virtual professional development programs for aspiring and emerging creators across Instagram and Facebook, which owns the popular photo- and video-sharing app. Facebook says it designed Creator Week to help creators build their careers, support their wellbeing and connect with their peers. (Disclosure: The Supercreator accepted an invitation to attend.)

The event comes just weeks after Zuckerberg and head of Instagram Adam Mosseri announced a suite of new features, many which have been released during Creator Week. Facebook is also working on a marketplace that would facilitate brand partnerships by pairing up creators with advertisers who want to reach their followers.

Sessions so far have included media training, entry-level tutorials on breaking into entertainment, starting a podcast, funding a merch line, plus talks on minimizing burnout and misconceptions about the app's algorithms. Creator Week also features global programming, including virtual events and France and other markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“I think that any good vision of the future has to involve a lot more people being able to make a living by expressing their creativity and by doing things they want to do, rather than things they have to,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a video to kickoff Creator Week. “At the end of the day, I really believe people are naturally creative and we want to share what we make with others — a lot of times you want to turn that into a career as well.”

Facebook’s pivot to creator empowerment has been swift, even if they’re late arrivals to the party. As I mentioned last month, Zuckerberg once described Facebook as a communal “digital town square” before repositioning the app as a cozier “digital living room.” Now Facebook is commercializing itself as a digital shopping mall.

Zuckerberg gushes about the next generation of creators who are now able to build businesses on Facebook’s apps without acknowledging his company’s role in stunting the economic well-being of the current one. “We believe that you should be rewarded for the value you bring to your fans and to the overall community,” he said during the aforementioned Creator Week kickoff video. But for a decade, this energy was missing in action as Facebook ran ads against high-quality creative work without sharing any of the revenue of with the creators themselves. Meanwhile, creators resorted to non-creative day jobs to survive extraordinary student debt and economic recession. So you can imagine my exasperation as I watch Zuckerberg and Mosseri sit on their high horses while they rail against Apple store’s 30-percent App Store tax.

Where Zuckerberg and I agree is on the notion that creators need the tools and the economy around them to sustainably live off their work. And I’m glad his company has invested resources into building accessible versions of these tools — no matter how opportunistic the timing may be. “Our goal is to be the best platform for creators like you to make a living,” Zuckerberg said. “And if you have an idea that you want to share with the world, you should be able to create it and get it out there easily and simply -- across Facebook and Instagram - and then earn money for your work.”

But I’m skeptical that the best place for creators to earn a living is not on an app like Facebook, which owns the relationship between creator and fan and the digital real estate on which the connection occurs. Eventually, Facebook will set the terms on how much of a cut it will take from the revenue creators earn and maintains the discretion to reset them according to its whims. While it’s one thing to share and promote your creative work on a social app, it’s another to host your entire business on one.

Here’s everything else you should know today:

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Supercreator Select: “How did you find your mentors?”

Each week, I answer a reader-submitted question on current events or how to work and live as a creative professional. For this week’s Ask Michael column, a reader asked how I found and maintain a connection with my mentors. Here’s a snippet of my answer:

I’ve been blessed with a community of extraordinary mentors at every step of my career. But the wild part is I never set out to attract them. And many of my mentors weren’t looking for “mentees.” At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships and relationships are built on trust.

I also think what’s helped me is that I’ve almost always had a high level of clarity about the kind of work that fulfills me and a willingness to learn and be coached. These qualities tend to situate me near people who want to see me win and are willing to share their experience and connections to help me level-up.

My complete response will be featured in this weekend’s issue of the Supercreator Select, a new exclusive bonus newsletter for premium subscribers to The Supercreator and also includes weekly interviews and a breakdown of the stories I’ll be covering in the upcoming week so you can focus your attention on the stories that matter to you and your creativity.

In addition to the Supercreator Select, premium subscribers enjoy:

  • Commenting privileges and invitations to members-only pop-up discussions

  • 24/7 access to the full archive

  • A link to my private calendar to book Supercreator One-on-Ones, virtual office hours to discuss whatever’s on your mind and get face-to-face professional support

Subscriptions also enable The Supercreator to deliver an ad-free reading experience minus aggressive pop-ups, annoying auto-play videos or third-party sponsored content. Subscribe to The Supercreator to get the Select sent straight to your inbox this Sunday. Already a subscriber? Login at any time to manage your account.


Read All About It

Rebecca Jennings at Vox on the emptiness of “couple goals” TikToks:

Celebrity PR relationships have existed since long before the internet, but there’s something deeply cynical and sad about newly microfamous teenagers orchestrating one themselves. Consider, for instance, the number of apparently straight teens on TikTok making content that many have considered queerbaiting(though could, on the other hand, be an earnest means of exploring their own sexualities). Even if you’ve never been in love before, it’s easy to mimic the outward appearance of a romantic relationship, and it’s even easier when both parties understand that doing so successfully will grow their following.

Ed Kilgore at Intelligencer on Vice President Kamala Harris:

To put it more bluntly, Harris will likely become the public face of a doomed effort to enact major voting-rights legislation that cannot be enacted without the filibuster reform Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (with a few other Senate Democrats probably quietly abetting them) have made impossible. And even if conditions on the border improve (which is a development hardly within the full control of the U.S. government), Harris will be identified with an exceptionally fraught issue that divides Democrats and energizes Republicans. Thus, through no fault of her own, she may suffer in public perceptions, particularly as Republicans focus their fire on her as a riper target (and as an obviously easier object for racist and sexist contempt) than the hard-to-demonize Uncle Joe. There is already a “polling gap” between the two members of the Biden-Harris ticket, as The Hill noted last month.

Willy Blackmore, Marisa Carroll, Ben Jacobs, Nia Prater, Valeria Ricciulli, Caroline Spivack, and James D. Walsh at Curbed on New York City’s upcoming mayoral primary:

While this is ranked choice’s biggest test yet in New York, it’s not the first. A few special elections have been decided on ranked-choice ballots since February, and the instant-runoff system was first put into practice when none of the nine candidates in the City Council race for District 31 in Queens reached the “50 percent plus one vote” threshold necessary to claim victory. Over the three weeks after the deadlock, Board of Elections officials hand-counted ballots, whittling down the field until Selvena Brooks-Powers, a veteran government strategist, tallied 51.6 percent of the 7,451 votes. And with the most recent mayoral-primary poll showing Eric Adams in the lead with just 22 percent of the vote, it’s highly likely the naming of a winner could be similarly drawn out — with second or even third and fourth picks making all the difference.

Tyler R. Tynes at GQ on NBA-star-turned-TV-host Dywane Wade:

It’s been a big year for Dwyane Wade: He became a minority owner of the Utah Jazz, he’s a fixture in TNT’s basketball pre-game shows, and now the future Hall of Famer and NBA Finals MVP is the host of a new game show on TBS called The Cube, which premieres this week on June 10th. The Cube puts teams of two players inside a Plexiglass box, where they are given nine lives to complete seven challenges, each worth more money, with an ultimate prize of $250,000. The contestants aren’t just trying to get rich: In one episode, for example, one duo needs the money in order to renovate a basketball gym for “at-risk youth” in Texas.

Peter Kiefer at Los Angeles Magazine on Twitter power broker Yashar Ali:

On Twitter, Ali often shares very intimate, often moving details about his family, his friends, and his constantly shifting state of mind. But for a journalist who puts so much of his private life into the public sphere, he is secretive and resistant to scrutiny. Several years ago, when he transitioned out of working in politics, he stopped going by his birth name and switched to Ali, a move he says he made to protect his family. He rarely consents to interviews and ignored several requests before consenting to meet with me, two times over three months. There are very few photos of him on the internet, and he darkens his silhouette during online appearances. He required that all of his on-the-record quotes be pre-approved and firmly rejected a photo shoot, claiming he didn’t want to be recognized by Scientologists. But the church isn’t the only one on his trail. While reporting this story I was contacted by a well-known private investigator, who was digging into Ali’s past on behalf of another client.

Michelle Santiago Cortés at Refinery29 on Main Character Syndrome:

People who have Main Character Syndrome think life is a movie and embrace the memes that encourage this outlook, saying things like: “you have to start romanticizing your life.” It’s a departure from reality, and it’s little wonder that “main character” can also be used as an insult to describe a person who thinks everyone is as obsessed with them as they are with themselves. It’s become so common, in fact, that people who are insecure and feel like they’re becoming a parody of their own personality, have even started declaring that they are #NotTheMainCharacter — the latest main character trend to take over TikTok.

Whether you resist or embrace the designation of “main character,” what’s clear is that, during the pandemic, main character memes have helped us to accept life’s highs and lows as entertaining plot developments, to consider our misfortunes proof of the importance of our story, and to justify indulgence as being key to our archetypal hero’s journey. It’s no coincidence that the earliest main character meme to go viral came out in May 2020: a TikToker had “hunkered down” in her childhood home and her daily walks through her neighborhood served to remind her — and her whole block, apparently — that all this is her story. “This is the time that I walk through my neighborhood, to remind everyone in my neighborhood that I’m the main character in this neighborhood,” they sing, in the video. “Look at me! No, look away! No, look at me! Ah!”


Michael’s Pick

Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn't, and Why It Matters by Steven E. Koonin ($23): I’m learning as much as I can about climate as the midterm campaign season kicks into high gear in a few months so I’m clear on which candidates are best suited to take on our environmental crisis.


Thanks for reading! I appreciate you for sharing part of your day with The Supercreator. See you tomorrow. —Michael