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GenZ Builds Communities Before Building Businesses

My afternoon routine often incorporates an occasional TikTok scroll session (I know I’m not the only one *side eye emoji*). As a GenZer, I'm constantly curious to know what motivates creators to do what they do. In fact, 45% of GenZ aspired to own a business by using content creation as their medium.

As time passes, I see creators leveraging their online communities on Tiktok, Instagram, Pinterest, and Youtube to launch businesses beyond the normal income streams available to influencers. The fact is: creators are taking over industries. If you’re an active Tiktok user, like me and 1.53 billion other users, the “creator to mogul" storyline has never been more accessible and achievable than it is today. For the sake of this piece, I’ll call these creators, “super creators”.

Ashley Elliot posted her first video in October 2020 and now has a growing 12.7M followers on TikTok. Largely, from her infamous hair styling routine using an extraordinary amount of hair gel to prepare for her day as an active military member. Known as ash.e.e on Tiktok, when no gel company wanted to sponsor her, she decided to create her own brand.

Her product, Combat Gel launched in 2022 and since then has sold out time and time again. Selling at $16.50 a unit, she often “duets” videos of other content creators raving over her product fulfilling her title as the “Gel Queen”. For this reasons, she has reached “super-creator status”.

Creatives are leveraging their communities

Marketers are projected to spend over $6.16 billion for influencer marketing in 2023, but there’s more than just brand deals that meet the eye. Influencers are creating multiple income streams by streamlining their content businesses. Creatives are leveraging their communities as direct sales opportunities. Emma Chamberlain launched Chamberlain Coffee in 2019. If you’re a Chamberlain follower, you know her love for coffee from her Youtube channel with over 11 million subscribers at the time of her brand's launch. Her love for coffee grew into a thriving brand with over $8 million in funding from investors such as Nik Sharma and Blazar Capital. How much revenue has she made so far? Over a whopping $5.7 million (we stan coffee queen!).

Anna Sitar, known for her video series, “Another Day, Another Stabies” can be found on famous redcarpet events such as the Golden Globes and the People’s Choice Awards after walking in her very first fashion show in July 2022 for Eminant Bikinis.

She has since launched and modeled for her own fashion brand, ANXNA.

How to predict a creator has the online firepower to build a profitable brand

Today’s most well-known creators started as everyday people. I’ve chosen one of my favorite creators to be an example of an influencer with all the qualities that a super. That would be the infamous Keith Lee, or @keith_lee125 on TikTok.

If you watch his videos, if you see his iconic flavor blasted “eye roll”, you know the bite he just took blew his mind. Keith Lee is more than a food reviewer. With over 10.8 million followers he has changed many small restaurant owners' lives by posting videos rating their food between 1 and 10 based on customer service and food quality. For restaurants with positive ratings, they can often expect a never-ending line of anxious customers within 24 hours.

Here are three key characteristics of a high-potential “super-creator”:

❤️ A large following with extreme devotion to the creator

Ahav Foods owner, posted a video titled “My life is forever changed”, after an exhaustive day of fulfilling over 2,000 orders representing the after shock of Keith Lee’s food review video. How much revenue did this amount to? Almost $50,000. He ends the video with a final sentence of gratitude, “my dream is now a reality.”

After a single food review video, Keith Lee’s fans stormed the steps of local Las Vegas restaurant, Dynamite. This led to over 150+ customers and $3,500 dollars in sales thanks to the kind words of Mr. Lee. Keith’s fan base stands by his reactions all rooted on authenticity and genuine care for the success of local restaurants. This speaks volumes to the impact that online creators have on consumer buying power. The incentive is undeniable as companies lean into Tiktok creators for their marketing efforts.

🤩 An undeniable brand identity personifying what makes the creator unique

Keith Lee never hesitates to take a moment to film his genuine appreciation for the way his life has evolved. He is a father of two daughters, a husband, and remembers the times where money was always at the back of his mind. He speaks in the following video about his “rainy day check” and what it meant to him.

He speaks to his past self proudly as he reflects on how far he has come. Humility lingers in his words and his fanbase acknowledges him as a piece of themselves. They identify with his narrative and actively want to be a part of his journey. This isn’t a community grown through temporary trends and fads resulting from a single viral video. It’s a concrete collective. It comes down to tapping into the most vulnerable sides of ourselves created by the complexity of life. Adversity can truly be overcome.

These comments represent the direct-to-consumer (D2C) advantage that “super-creators” like Keith Lee have access to when it comes to making the next step in their brand offering:

🛠 Demand for tools and products to scale their personal creative identity and values

As the creator economy grows, there is a demand for products and solutions that can scale a single individual's creative process. Every day people are becoming the new A-list level stars sitting hand and hand with T.V celebrities. How will creators build teams? How will they achieve a consistent posting schedule while handling their outside businesses?

GenZ (and Millenial) creators are taking their unique identities and creating businesses that the public loves. Why? Because we as an audience feel connected to them as a person, friend, and thought partner. Being your authentic self is celebrated today and therefore opens up a pathway for entrepreneurial success. I see a rising trend of vulnerability and transparency being the secret sauce to some of the strongest brands to come in the near future.

If you’re interested in reading more of my thoughts about this, connect with me, and share this article with a friend 📲


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