Social media creator economics

Today, we’re exploring the economics of social media creators, with a special post co-written by ​Keaton Inglis​.

Keaton usually keeps a low profile, but his social media creations are anything but that.

This guy has started, grown, and sold some of X and Instagram’s largest, most influential finance social media accounts.

Most recently, Keaton is the founder ​GM Ventures​, a startup studio representing a dozen digital businesses. He also ghostwrites and advertises for brands through his agency, ​Ghostly​.

Keaton is a great friend of ours, and a social media expert.

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Keaton Inglis is a machine. Since I first met him, I’ve been following his every move.

His latest creation is possibly the coolest thing he’s ever done.

It’s called ​Insider Alerts​, a service that alerts you when insiders trade stocks or have unusual activity. (Think company officers, directors, significant shareholders, and members of Congress.)

The idea that members of Congress are allowed to trade stocks at all is, arguably, kind of bullshit. Props to Keaton for doing the heavy lifting to shine light on their activity.

The info is from SEC Form 4 filings; lengthy, legal disclosures of insider trades. For a while, Keaton was digging through the SEC’s website to find this stuff. Then he decided to build a tool to do it better and faster.

If you were signed up last week, you would have been notified of the Planet Fitness Director who sold ALL of his shares for $66m, just ​moments before the stock fell​.

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Elon created X revenue-sharing

Exactly 417 days ago, one of the most controversial and public acquisitions of all-time was finalized.

Elon Musk took the reins of what is now formerly known as Twitter for the mere price of $44 billion.

You may vividly remember the public outcry, followed by employee layoffs, and then finally the very publicized overthrow of the previous regime’s branding; which eliminated any and all remembrance of that bird.

But since the takeover, X has continued to impressively operate, adding a handful of impactful features with less than 80% of the original headcount.

For social media creators like me, the most important of those new features is revenue sharing.

Elon didn’t pioneer creator revenue sharing — that started with YouTube ​back in 2007​.

But he was certainly the ​first to bring it to Twitter​.

Are X creator payouts worth it?

A massive account (briefly) strikes gold

Just two years ago Charlie was bussing tables at a restaurant for a measly $10 an hour. But in his downtime he found his true skill — social media.

Within a few months, he began growing and monetizing accounts. But his prized possession is ​@Internet_H0F​: an account that has amassed more than 2.4 million followers on X.

You’ve probably seen some of Charlie’s posts.

This hasn’t been without pushback. See, Charlie’s Internet Hall of Fame account simply curates and posts other users’ content (via submissions.) His content is often already viral and semi-viral posts, which Charlie just repackages.

None of it is original content. Most of the time he doesn’t even add commentary. He just accelerates what’s already out there, and reaps the benefits.

Anyways, one day, his phone started blowing up from hundreds of group chat notifications. The first X payouts had just been released, and it was Charlie’s turn to see what he had received.

What he saw blew his mind. He received a stunning $107,247 — the single largest X payout of all time.

Screenshot from Charlie’s record-setting creator payout. X’s new ​dashboard​ gives everyone a bit more transparency:

But here’s the thing: After the record initial payment (which backdated six months of prior ad revenue), the creator revenue pool started running dry.

For Charlie, $14,000/month quickly fell into $6,000/mo, which then fell further to just $2,600/mo.

Keep in mind this is a 2.4 million follower account, with 1.8 billion monthly impressions. It’s as if 22% of humanity sees his content each month.

And he’s not alone, of course. Sub-100,000 follower accounts have seen their payouts shrink too.

Elon and X employees say the decrease in payments over time has been ​due to advertisers pulling the plug​, and ads not being served as frequently.

Although this could be true for a percentage of the decrease, a larger reason is that small accounts, those that signed up hoping to receive ad revenue (and most likely never had a realistic shot), missed the minimum requirements, and simply gave up.

The requirements to be eligible for X revenue sharing are clear:

  • Be a premium member
  • Have at least 500 followers
  • Reach 5 million impressions over the past 3 months

The payouts however, are anything but clear.

Since its release, there has been no real insight into the true payout metrics. Creators would just receive a bi-weekly notification of getting money deposited into their account without context.

One confirmed metric is that only impressions from premium followers count towards ad revenue sharing.

Are any creators making good money from X?

The accounts killing it on X are those with the highest concentration of premium followers.

As you may guess, these are all niche, pro-Elon categories:

  • Tesla and SpaceX news accounts
  • Those in the Dogecoin scene (ugh why)
  • Political accounts

Remember, the higher the ratio of premium followers, the higher your payouts.

It’s like this entire system is designed not so much to help creators, but to boost Twitter Blue.

X creator survey results

Elon repeatedly ​says​ that the new rev share model will make it possible for creators to “make a living on X.”

But is this actually happening?

Not quite.

To quantify this, we conducted the single largest investigation into X payouts, interviewing over 200 US-based creators, with a minimum of 100,000 followers asking these very questions.

What we found was eye-opening:

  • 50% stated the money is “less than what they expected”
  • 80% said they consistently make more from integrating brand partnerships — (through tools like ​Creator Sales​) than they do from X payouts
  • 100% responded that they’re “just glad to be getting paid.”
  • The annualized payment for accounts between 100,000 and 500,000 followers was just $7,028

That’s a far cry from X’s statement of making a living.

TikTok creator economics

The Creator Fund sucked…

X isn’t the only platform that has struggled with a creator program.

In September, TikTok did a total 180-degree turn with it’s $2 billion dollar Creator Fund, and the results are incredible.

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Picture of Keaton Inglis

Keaton Inglis

Keaton has started, grown, and sold some of X and Instagram's largest, most influential finance social media accounts. He is the founder ​GM Ventures​, a startup studio representing a dozen digital businesses. He also ghostwrites and advertises for brands through his agency, ​Ghostly​. His latest creation is ​Insider Alerts​, a service that alerts you when insiders trade stocks or have unusual activity.

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Social media creator economics

We explore the economics of social media creators in this special post by ​Keaton Inglis​. Includes results from the world’s largest survey of X creators.

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