Aug 23, 2023

Content Doesn't Pay, Or Does It? 6 Platforms That Pay Content Creators

Charlotte Pearse

Every day, it seems that more and more people decide to try their hand at content creation. 

As the career path of social media influencer becomes more normalized, more detailed information comes out about the money that they’re making, and sometimes it seems that— apart from a handful of special cases who went viral —content doesn’t pay all that much.

But is that the truth? How much do we really know about what platforms are paying their content creators? Are they being paid too much or not enough? Keep reading to find out more.

The Background and the Backlash

Meta, the company that owns Instagram and Facebook along with other social media sites, has been facing criticism from reels creators, specifically on the latter platform. In fact, some creators on Meta are even contemplating legal action.

After introducing and advertising a new ad revenue sharing program for videos on Meta platforms that used songs, representatives of the company claimed that a “display error” was to blame for creators making far less than what they were promised— payouts going down to hundreds of dollars when some large creators were expecting thousands.

Many creators were excited about the data Meta provided as it seemed like the new ad policies would make them more money than usual, when in reality the reverse was true and several people made less than they usually would.

The biggest complaints from content creators on Instagram and Facebook detail how inconsistent payouts from Meta are, as well as inconsistency and glitchiness from the platforms themselves.

This is incredibly detrimental to creators who rely on Meta to provide for themselves, and so many influencers who post on Facebook and Instagram are thinking over their options.

After being encouraged to post videos with songs in the background to make more ad revenue, some content creators are even facing copyright claims!

An image of the word copyright spelled out on a dark background.
Copyright is every content creator’s biggest nightmare, because it means that they can’t generate revenue on a video if somebody else has access to it.

There’s a distinct lack of communication between Meta employees and content creators, and several influencers have spoken out about potentially moving to different platforms that pay better and more consistently.

TikTok was named as one such platform, but is the grass greener on the other side? After all, TikTok has been facing a fair bit of criticism from its creators for low payouts lately as well.

You would think that on a platform that entirely revolves around its creators such as TikTok would pay them properly, but despite pledging to pay their creators $1 billion in three years, each view on a TikTok video only equates to a few cents.

Since TikTok’s payouts depend upon how much money they allocate towards creators, people who use the platform are beginning to insist upon a more standardized way of payment. Again, it all comes down to consistency.

TikTok claims that views aren’t the only factor determining payouts, which makes sense to a degree— engagement also plays a role, but the point is that content creators are getting fed up with more than one platform.

If some of the most popular social media sites out there can’t even be counted on to consistently pay their creators, can we say that content doesn’t pay?

1. YouTube

An image of someone scrolling through YouTube videos on their tablet while they sit on a couch.

Content creators can at least expect a little more consistency when it comes to monetization on YouTube. Monetized videos generate $18 per 1,000 ad views, which translates to up to $5 for a view of the video.

You can make money via both shorts and long-form videos on YouTube, and you will start to generate income after hitting one of two milestones: having 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 public watch hours in the past year or having 1,000 subscribers and 10 million views on your last three months of YouTube shorts. 

Engagement such as commenting on and liking videos you enjoy will boost them in the YouTube algorithm, therefore making them more likely to reach a wider audience and generate more income that way.

Shorts were introduced by YouTube as a competitor to Meta’s reels and popular short-form TikTok videos, and so far the platform seems to be doing fairly well, though YouTube is still most well known for its long-from content. 

While subscribing to a YouTube account is totally free, viewers can sign up to be a channel member of creators they like, which does require payment. You can also choose to make donations if a YouTuber you like streams on the platform.

2. Twitch

An image of the logo for the Twitch platform, a purple chat bubble with eyes.

If we’re going to talk about streaming live video content, we have to talk about Twitch. Content creators on this platform stream about whatever they want, although gaming is far and away the most popular thing to do.

Twitch users can generate revenue in a variety of ways from Twitch. Views and sending messages in the streamer’s “chat” can help, of course, as well as following their account. The biggest bucks come in three ways, though— subscriptions, donations, and ad revenue.

Unlike YouTube’s subscribing function, to subscribe to a Twitch streamer you like you do have to pay, and it means you can watch their streams without ads interrupting you, as well as a handful of other privileges.

If you prefer to just follow someone on Twitch for free then you’ll have to watch ads, which streamers can decide when to play during their streams. You’ll also watch automatic ads when you join a stream late and when you go back to watch old streams.

Lastly, donations also are a big source of income for Twitch streamers. Oftentimes content creators on Twitch will have it set up so that you can send a message with your donation, which means your favorite streamer has a higher chance of seeing whatever you wanted to say.

3. TikTok

An image of someone opening the TikTok app up on their phone while they sit in their living room, someone else sitting beside them.

Even if TikTok has come under fire as of late for not paying content creators as much as they could, they still definitely deserve to be on this list as the short-form video platform has helped many people rocket to fame and fortune.

The TikTok Creator Fund has apparently not been keeping everyone happy lately, but most of the income of big content creators on TikTok comes from viewer engagement and brand deals.

You can choose to purchase a Live Subscription with a monthly fee to your favorite TikTokker in order to stand out on their live streams, and you can also choose to donate to creators you like when they’re live.

The vast majority of big TikTok creators make their money from brand deals, however, which are very encouraged by the platform. 

Sponsorships exist on any social media site under the sun, but TikTok’s Pulse revenue-sharing program lets creators partner with a brand, and then they split whatever money the video made fifty-fifty. The caveat of this, however, is that you need a following of 100,000 minimum to participate.

4. Instagram

An image of someone logging into Instagram on their smartphone.

Though owned by Meta, Instagram content creators can also make a lot of money from viewer engagement, so you definitely shouldn’t take it out of the running yet!

Like all social media sites detailed above, Instagram also has a live feature, and viewers can purchase a subscriber badge while watching a stream from one of their favorite influencers to show support and make your comments in the chat stand out. 

This is a very important way that content creators on Instagram can generate revenue solely with their own content. In order to allow people to purchase subscriber badges, you must have at least 10,000 followers on a professional account, be 18 years of age, and meet all of Instagram’s guidelines.

Sponsorships are a huge part of making money on Instagram, too, though. If you enable ads on your videos, you will make 55% of that revenue for a monthly payout. 

Additionally, many brands are always looking to market themselves on social media, so a lot of popular influencers with huge followings will be paid to do some marketing on their account.

5. Snapchat

An image of someone looking at their Snapchat feed outside, with several unopened snaps waiting to be clicked on.

You may not have been expecting this addition to the list, but despite how long Snapchat has been around, it might be a bit of a dark horse.

Any user on Snapchat whose snaps adhere to all of the proper guidelines can choose to submit a snap to Spotlight, a feature where content from all around the world is shared. If your snap is viewed enough times, you may be eligible for a payout!

In this way, Snapchat is actually one of the social media platforms with the least restrictions on who is eligible to make money from content, which is refreshing.

A lot of popular content creators have Snapchat accounts, too. Snapchat may not be as popular as it once was, but influencers still use the story function to communicate with their fans, and they can just as easily post about sponsorships there. 

Especially as other platforms are more often publicly criticized, Snapchat might be something to keep an eye out for!

6. Twitter/X

A close-up image of the Twitter app as it appears on a smartphone's screen.

Last but not least on this list is Twitter, if we can even still call it that. Since Elon Musk’s purchase of the platform there’s been a lot to say about Twitter in the news, but despite the confusion influencers can still very much make money from content on this app. I suppose all the publicity hasn’t hurt in that regard, at least.

You can both tip and subscribe to people on Twitter, and the decision depends on if you want to pay them on a one-time basis or support your favorite content creators in a more structured, regular way. Subscribers may have access to account perks that other followers can’t see.

Unfortunately, content creators can’t allow their fans to subscribe to their Twitter account unless they themselves are willing to purchase a Twitter Blue subscription, so you’ll have to put a little investment in so that you can reap the benefits later. They’ll also have to decide whether they want to accept tips.

A lot of money from Twitter comes unexpectedly, though. When a tweet goes viral, oftentimes scrolling down will reveal that the person who posted it has since been advertising something, presumably after a company saw the viral tweet and knew engagement would be high.

If you're wondering whether content pays, the answer can be summed up as “yes,” but of course there’s a lot more nuance to it than that. There are a variety of platforms that pay content creators, and a lot of different factors that go into how much a payout will turn out to be.

Content creators often jump between using different social media sites depending on what’s trendy at the time or working best for them personally.