- The best content creators on YouTube are making millions with their digital brands.
- Talent manager Adam Wescott, who represents some of YouTube’s prominent stars, told Business Insider that YouTube and Instagram were at the center of earnings for most of these influencers.
- Developing consumer products independently, as an extension of a brand, has become a trend recently, according to Wescott.
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Some of YouTube’s top content creators are making millions of dollars a year with their online brands, like Ryan ToysReview’s 7-year-old Ryan, who makes $ 22 million a year. These influencers have created different streams of income, from monetizing their channels with Google Ads to brand campaigns on Instagram.
Business Insider interviewed Adam Wescott, who runs some of YouTube’s top influencers, to get a feel for how these stars are making money in 2019 and how the business landscape is changing.
Products are on the rise
Although the core of the revenue of most major creators is still Google AdSense and brand integrations, self-made consumer products have become a major revenue opportunity. What once dominated the space, such as links and brand affiliate codes, have become more than additions, Wescott said.
Wescott, partner of Select Management Group, manages content creators such as Eva Gutowski (mylifeaseva), which has 10 million subscribed YouTube and Lauren Riihimaki (LaurDIY), which has 9 million subscribers. Each owns and runs its own company and sells direct-to-consumer products.
Riihimaki has LaurDIY DIY kits sold by Target and a bedding line with Jay Franco, which is sold on Amazon. 19-year-old twins McKnight Brooklyn and Bailey, with 6.2 million YouTube subscribers, are known by fans for their eyes, according to Wescott, and they sell their own mascara and accessories with their brand on their website, brooklynandbaileyshop.com, through the Shopify e-commerce platform. The products are also available on Amazon and in Forever21’s Riley Rose stores.
Select owns these product lines, such as McKnights’ Lash Next Door mascara, and the company develops products in-house under its Third Act Ventures LLC business development arm, Wescott said.
They then work with third-party companies to manufacture the products. For example, Lash Next Door is manufactured in Italy and distributed from McKnights’ office and warehouse. Development of the product took 18 months and they worked directly with the chemists on the formula, Wescott said.
How do the best influencers decide which products to sell?
These content creators have found success in producing their own products taking an existing product, which meets both the needs of the market and is well suited to their brand and make arebranding operation to adapt it to their platform, Wescott said.
“If you take something that their audience already recognizes them for and then add an original innovative product and formula that meets a need, people will buy the product anyway“Said Wescott.
While selling products online directly to the consumer may allow a talent to make higher earnings, there are risks. When disaster strikes, established brands have the experience to tackle problems and solve them, while independent and less experienced YouTube influencers could risk losing their credibility.
YouTube beauty influencer Jaclyn Hill recently faced a wave of online criticism after putting lipstick on the market through her makeup line, Jaclyn Cosmetics. Fans of the social media star said she received broken lipsticks and that some of her products caused swelling and bumps on her lips. Hill addressed the issue on his YouTube channel, describing the pitch as a “complete failure”.
Hill is not operated by Select.
“Because so much of our talent comes from fashion and beauty, there’s this expectation and loyalty from the public because they’re known for product reviews and tutorials,” Wescott said. “If you sell a product that doesn’t meet your own standards, you are losing your overall credibility.”
YouTube is still the basis
The most profitable platform for the best content creators it is YouTube, according to Wescott. The YouTube Partner Program allows creators with at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the past year to monetize their channels through advertisements, subscriptions and channel memberships.
Google has gradually allowed some creators of the Partner Program to add a shelf of products with to click under their videos. This feature displays a creator’s officially branded products from their online store. Select pays the same attention to sales on these ‘shelves’ as it does to sales on the site.
The merchandising shelf it is gradually spreading among the creators and doesn’t appear on all video pages, according to a post from Google support.
Instagram ranks second to YouTube among the most profitable social media platforms for influencers. The company is testing in-app checkout, making it easier for users to purchase directly from a post.
“The fact that the platforms are already thinking about commerce and sales is huge added value for us,” said Wescott. This allows creators to continue building their brands directly on sites.
Snapchat, TikTok, and Facebook aren’t that popular when it comes to overall earnings for major YouTube influencers – unless the platform fits the content they’re already producing, Wescott said.
Publishing a book, touring, and selling merchandise aren’t out of the question if done right, Wescott said.
Select customers are encouraged to think about how to extend their brand offering and increase their business overall. One of the ways Riihimaki grew LaurDIY on social media was creating an Instagram page for her dog Moose (@moosetheminibully), which now has 800,000 followers. Through the success of the page, he created an linea of items for pets, sold by Petco, which is promoted on the Instagram account.