These 3 Platforms Will Seriously Blow Up Your Content
Drink from a massive, spewing firehose of user engagement
Drink from a massive, spewing firehose of user engagement
Some platforms make you work hard for views and followers. YouTube is a perfect example. It took me 5+ years and 700+ YouTube videos to reach the 1,000 subscribers required to monetize my own channel. And even then, when I post a new video, I’m lucky if it gets 100 views in the first month it’s online. Many of my videos take six to eight months to really rack up traffic.
Other platforms aren’t like that. They’re so hot — and are swimming with so many users — that they have no idea what to do with all their traffic. Even if you’re totally new to the platform, they’ll direct a massive firehouse of user engagement towards your content from day one. Sometimes, you can even monetize that engagement right from the start.
Here are three platforms that will seriously blow up your content — and tips for monetizing the stream of users they’ll send your way. I’ve tested all of them personally.
TikTok has absolutely insane traffic and engagement numbers. The popular video-sharing app has 130 million monthly active users in the United States. The app skews young, with 60% of users belonging to Gen Z (16–24 years old currently). But the average age of a TikTok user is currently increasing (hopefully that doesn’t mean it’s trending towards “uncool” status…)
Regardless of age, TikTok users have something in common — they spend a huge amount of time using the app. Recent studies show that the average user spends 52 minutes per day on TikTok, and users aged less than 15 spend 80 minutes per day using it. For many users, TikTok is web content. If your content isn’t on the app, you’re missing out on engaging these users.
Here’s the great news about TikTok. Unlike platforms that prioritize followers, TikTok’s algorithm is quite egalitarian. It looks primarily at how engaging a video will be to its users, not who created the video.
TikTok videos are short, too, so in their 52 minutes per day a user can consume a lot of them, and that allows the platform’s algorithm to learn a lot about what each user likes. “Thanks to its algorithm,” Alessandro Bogliari, CEO of marketing agency The Influencer Marketing Factory told me, “TikTok can give everyone the opportunity to get millions of views, even without a big following.”
That’s great news if you’re new to the platform. I created a TikTok account recently and received about 8,500 views in my first week on the platform, posting just nine videos. I did a small paid promotion for one video, but otherwise, that was all organic traffic.
Even with aggressive paid promotion, I could never hope to achieve that kind of reach on a platform like YouTube in my first week, unless I posted an exclusive interview with Beyoncé. As a TikTok creator’s audience increases, so does the reach of their videos. Bogliari told me that a creator with 500,000 followers could easily get 10 million views per video posted.
If you’re not on TikTok, try the platform out. Creating a TikTok video is simple and takes just a few minutes. Bogliari advises brands and marketers to create videos that are relatable instead of polished and professional. Unscripted content featuring your brand in a funny, creative way will work great on TikTok. Techie notebook company Rocketbook has some amazing examples of this kind of content.
How to monetize
If you reach 10,000 followers and have 100,000+ video views in the last 30 days, you can earn per-view revenue through TikTok’s Creator Fund. Payments vary by user, but are low — about $0.02 to $0.04 per 1,000 views. Influencer marketing is a much better way to monetize TikTok. As a creator scales to hundreds of thousands of followers (and lots of engagement from followers, which is just as important), Bogliari told me, they can expect to earn $1,000 to $100,000 per TikTok video.
With its focus on rapid-fire local news, the popular app News Break has already conquered the Apple app store, rising to the #1 downloaded news app in the United States on several occasions, and almost always remaining in the top five. And it’s planning to grow even more from there, with an aggressive advertising campaign that includes high-end media buys on the Today Show and billboards in upscale markets like downtown San Francisco.
News Break applies a model which has proven successful in Asia, using algorithms to send its six million daily active users a constant stream of curated news stories, all the while racking up 1.5 billion page views per month. News Break is primarily an aggregator, pulling content from partners including Patch, CBS Local, Time Magazine, and Fortune, as well as myriad local news sources. But in an effort to get even more original and hyper-local with its content, the company also operates an increasingly influential network of independent creators.
News Break’s algorithms often determine how creators’ content gets promoted, and some creators struggle to produce the right kinds of stories. When a creator’s story hits the right content areas (usually by covering an engaging local news topic like politics or safety in a mid-sized market, ideally using original reporting), it can be shown to thousands or even millions of users. Joe Duncan shared that one 502-word story he published on the platform received 30,961 Page Views (roughly equivalent to Medium’s “Reads”), meaning it was likely shown to several hundred thousand users.
How to monetize
I’m a News Break contributor, and my contract precludes me from sharing specifics of how I’m compensated. But the News Break creator program says publicly that creators receive “competitive rates” for their content, including a “revenue share, referral bonuses, and a guaranteed base rate for qualifying content.”
Becoming a News Break contributor isn’t easy. Many people report failing on their first few applications. For those who are approved and who create content that is right for the platform’s audience, though, the potential reach can be huge. (Email me if you’re interested in becoming a contributor and I can connect you.)
Unsplash is a free photo-sharing platform that has become a ubiquitous presence in the world of graphic design, journalism, and blogging. Tools like Zoho Sites, Squarespace, and Medium all integrate with Unsplash to access their library of several million free-to-use stock photos. Unlike many free photo sites, Unsplash’s photos are often quite good and nuanced, covering a wide range of topics from corporate boardrooms to equality protests.
As you might expect for a service that gives something valuable away for free, Unsplash has absolutely absurd traffic numbers. According to the company, users have downloaded more than 3.3 billion photos from the site, and Unsplash’s photos have been viewed more than 638 billion times. Given the site only has 2.9 million photos, that means the average Unsplash photo has been viewed around 220,000 times and downloaded around 1,137 times.
For brands and individual creators, that means that Unsplash can bring a ton of traffic to your photos. On average, a portfolio of 100 photos could easily receive 22 million views and 113,700 downloads on the platform. Those are average numbers, of course — it’s likely that a few “rockstar” photos are getting downloaded way more than the average, and a typical photo is getting less traffic than that.
Still, when you’re dealing with a pie that consists of almost one trillion views, there’s a lot of engagement to go around. One photographer reports uploading 58 photos to Unsplash and receiving 23.5 million views, as well as 126,000 downloads. In short, Unsplash can definitely make your photos blow up in a big way.
How to monetize
If everything on Unsplash is free, what’s in it for you if you choose to contribute content on the platform? For individual photographers, the unfortunate answer in many cases is “not much”. Unsplash allows photographers to mark whether they’re accepting gigs, in an attempt to send paid work their way.
Photographer Jeremey Bishop, a top Unsplash contributor, told me that he’s gotten several thousand dollars in gig work through the platform. But many photographers — including the one who got millions of views with 58 photos — report receiving relatively little in return.
For brands, though, the equation is far different. Unsplash’s epic reach means that its photos get used all over the place, from blog posts to advertising campaigns to major news outlets. Both the platform and individual brands have wised up to this.
In a modern twist on product placement, Unsplash has begun charging brands to promote their free photos (often featuring a branded product) on the platform. When the photos spread all over the internet via Unsplash’s massive reach, the brand’s products are seen by thousands or millions of people. It’s a model which Unsplash calls “open source advertising.”
If you represent a brand, you can pay Unsplash to distribute your branded photos far and wide. But you can also do it yourself. Take great photos of your products in use. Ideally, include a product logo or other brand element in the shot. Upload the photos to Unsplash.
As users download and make use of the photos, your brand will enjoy a ton of organic reach, and potentially even rack up earned media for free if your photos are used to illustrate a news story. One caveat — you can’t always control where your photos will end up, so it’s possible your brand could be portrayed in a negative way. Brands need to be willing to stomach this risk if they want to use the platform effectively.
Unsplash was recently acquired by Getty Images, so there may be other opportunities to monetize content there, too. (I’m a Getty contributor, but I have no inside knowledge of the deal.)
There can be benefits to platforms that make you work hard to gain reach. They present barriers to entry that help established creators succeed, and they can force you to up your content game in order to attract a following.
If you’re looking for platforms that can quickly direct a huge amount of traffic your way (assuming your content is a fit for their users, of course), check out these three platforms and get ready to drink from their massive, spewing firehose of user engagement.