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Trend Alert introduces you to the latest trends that are impacting the daily lives of 16-24s.
Catching the attention of a favourite celebrity has always been a fan’s dream, and social media has made this opportunity more accessible than ever. Most of today’s biggest influencers built their following by taking advantage of this dynamic, gaining the loyalty of their fans by forming personal bonds with them on a scale that traditional celebrities could never achieve before the social media age. For an influencer on the rise, engaging with followers is an essential part of the job.
This means that social media stars are more aware than any other kind of celebrity of the value of their attention, and as they look for new ways to monetise their popularity, the idea of charging for online interactions is gradually becoming normalised. This began with the rise of Cameo, a platform that allows customers to pay celebrities and influencers to send them a video message. These are often purchased as birthday gifts, but since the video is delivered via Cameo, not posted on social media by the celebrity themself, fans only get the attention of their idol – not the appearance of being friends with them. Another new service has emerged to cater to fans looking for the latter.
PearPop allows creators to charge fans for interactions on TikTok, and already some of the Chinese video app’s biggest names have signed up, including Loren Gray (52 million TikTok followers) and Justmaiko (47 million), as well as familiar famous faces like Snoop Dogg and Tony Hawk. Justmaiko, for example, charges $10,000 to duet with a fan, $50 to comment on their video, and $10,000 to provide a “sound” – an audio clip that can be used to soundtrack a TikTok video. This might seem expensive, but for an aspiring influencer a collaboration with a TikTok superstar is a status symbol, signalling to potential followers that they are “one to watch.”
Following a recent report in the New York Times, which gave PearPop as an example of the new era of the creator economy, discussion has turned to the ethics of platforms like PearPop. Vox described it as a “dystopia” and compared the concept to an episode of the TV series Black Mirror. There has always been a market for the attention of famous people, for example wealthy individuals paying celebrities for personal appearances at private events, or superfans shelling out for a meet-and-greet after a gig. However, when this takes the form of a directory, where you can see how much each star is worth side-by-side, the indignity of selling your attention is exposed.
While it may seem embarrassing to traditional celebrities to put a price on their attention, for digital native creators such as those who have cracked the TikTok algorithm, it’s simply another revenue source. These young creators see social media as a job, because they know how much hard work goes into it, and so do their fans. Therefore, neither party sees charging for interactions as exploitative or undignified – there’s a mutual understanding that creators should be paid for their work, and they are entitled to charge whatever the customer is willing to pay. This matter-of-fact approach, which comes from growing up online, will give Gen Z creators an edge over older generations in the pursuit of turning their influence into a viable career.
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