Those who know me for my childhood acting are often surprised to discover that I have an interest in fintech and a career that reflects it. Those who meet me in my current line of work are often surprised by my Disney Channel and Netflix filmography. However, those who truly know me best have never been surprised by either. Although acting and fintech are starkly different in innumerable ways, I’ve still found there to be a strong parallel between the two that has enabled my success in both. The common factor: the creator economy. Let me explain.
The height of my acting career coincided with the rise of social media and, more specifically, the presence of celebrities on social media. At the time, influencers and creators were not fully understood or appreciated. Businesses were only just beginning to look outside of conventional celebrity, and celebrities didn’t yet fully appreciate the opportunity that social media presented them beyond of-the-moment project promotion. Luckily, I learned early on the importance of building a loyal audience and the long-term benefits that it can have in the ever-more-digital world. When you look to today’s biggest contemporary brands and public figures, you’ll notice one thing in common: they, in one way or another, are digital creators.
Building a Brand
Any modern professional knows the importance of social media for growing their audience and building their brand. As recently as 10 years ago, social media fame was largely reserved for those in the traditional entertainment space—think actors, singers, or comedians. However, we’ve recently seen a rapid shift in the allocation of fame and attention on digital platforms, giving rise to what we know as a “creator”—simply, anyone who creates content online and distributes it to their audience, no matter how big or small.
Social media has revolutionized modern relationships because it has introduced the concept of personal connection at scale. The opportunity for connection that we now take for granted is unprecedented. When you go to a party or a networking event, you’ll at best walk away with five or six phone numbers and one or two meaningful connections. Online, with the ability to easily share your unique perspective, the opportunity to connect with people is so much greater. One tweet alone, drafted and sent in the span of 60 seconds, might garner you hundreds or thousands of responses and potential connections.
Whether you’re a small-business owner or you’re building a personal brand, seize this opportunity for unprecedented networking. Give your unique perspective, project your unique value, and gather a network of people who want to share in that and help build your brand’s success. An engaged conversation around the content you create online gives you social currency, which modern creators can now turn into real currency and incredibly successful businesses.
The Creator Economy
I’m a creator myself, and in my work, I speak to creators every single day and hear the challenges that come along with the work they do. One of the biggest challenges that creators have historically faced is a lack of mainstream credibility, which has translated to a lack of resources, lack of access, and lack of business opportunities. Luckily, we’re now seeing a renaissance in which creators are being empowered with tools they’ve never had. Creators are empowering themselves and treating themselves as true businesses with substantial capital and remarkable ROI.
Take, for example, MrBeast, a 23-year-old YouTuber with 89 million YouTube subscribers and one of the largest platforms on the Internet. At the end of 2020, the MrBeast brand expanded to include MrBeast Burger, a delivery-only fast-food restaurant chain that found enormous success despite not having a single retail location of its own. This is just one of many examples of businesses being successfully founded and run by digital creators, a testament to what’s possible when creators are provided access to the capital and resources they need to make their dreams happen.
If you want to survive in the rapidly evolving digital landscape, it’s not enough to just create content—you need to take that attention on your content and convert it into something profitable. After all, no single social media platform lasts forever. Once you’ve gained traction online, the next step is to diversify your income streams and build your brand outside of social media. This can mean anything from creating your own website and selling products or services, partnering with an existing company for a mutually beneficial and mutually profitable project, or creating an independent brand that sells products through third-party retailers. Whatever your aspirations are, they can become tangible with the leverage that social media gives you.
More and more companies are tapping into creators’ wealth of potential and providing resources to creators of every size. With my online following and in-depth knowledge of the social media landscape, I’ve secured lucrative brand deals, joined a company’s C-suite and launched a company of my own. The empowerment of creators as business owners—not just entertainment personalities—is a hopeful glimpse into a future of incredibly diverse founders with an unprecedented level of engaged consumers. You just have to strike while the iron’s hot.
Twelve years ago, I was cast in a movie that would catapult my career—one that helped me gain an audience and highlight my online content. Today, I’m using my capital as a creator to launch financial ventures that will hopefully set me up for whatever comes my way in another 10 years. Staying ahead of the curve in the rapidly-evolving digital landscape can be difficult, but it’s a valuable key to long-term financial success. Digital creators, just like actors, always need to be looking for the next opportunity to be part of something, stay on top of the trends and hopefully build something of their own for the long term.