The government on Monday banned 59 Chinese apps, including the most popular TikTok, citing national security concerns. The move has, however, hit hundreds of content creators on the ByteDance-owned app, some of whom used to earn a few lakh rupees promoting branded content.
An estimated 10,000 influencers — across genres — make money from brand-led promotions on YouTube and Instagram, while the number of TikTok-ers in the same category is only around a hundred, according to influencer marketing experts.
“TikTok-ers command 10X the followers and reach of their counterparts on YouTube and Instagram in some cases, but there are at best 100 such creators who make money purely out of sponsored content videos,” says Lakshmi Balasubramanian, cofounder of Greenroom, an influencer marketing firm.
Other TikTok creators earned indirectly through their popularity on the platform by receiving gifts from fans or paid invitations to attend events.
Indian TikTok creators entered the branded content space only last year. Additionally, on Google-owned YouTube and Facebook-owned Instagram, several influencer categories have emerged in past 4-5 years.
Most TikTok videos for entertainment
Technology, food, fashion, beauty, travel and lifestyle form staple content categories for creators on these platforms, while in the case of TikTok, a majority of brand promotion videos are in entertainment, led by music labels and film studios eager to promote their songs and movies.
While YouTubers and Instagrammers grew their following organically over time, TikTok, according to some industry estimates, spent several million dollars each month last year, to bring Indian creators on board.
Typically, the earnings of a Category-A TikTok creator in the entertainment category with at least 10 million followers is around Rs 3-4 lakh per branded project.
On Instagram, however, a content creator in the same space can rake in Rs 4-5 lakh.
“On YouTube, their earnings per project could go upwards of Rs 25 lakh,” says Balasubramanian.
For creators to be considered a Category-A influencer on YouTube, they need to garner at least 5-7 million views per video in a month, influencer marketing experts say.
On Instagram, having 6-7 million followers makes one a Category-A influencer. For a TikTok-er though, in order to get the same label, it takes at least 10 million followers.
So, although Category-A TikTok-ers may command more views and followers, they are likely to earn just a fifth of what peers get on YouTube and marginally less than counterparts on Instagram.
For example, Delhi-based food blogger Sarah Hussain charges five times more for the same branded post on Instagram than on TikTok.
Hussain has over 300,000 Instagram followers, three times as many as TikTok followers, although she says it took “just three months to reach the 100,000 follower mark on TikTok, whereas I hit the 100,000 subscriber mark on Instagram in two years”.
Hussain, whose YouTube channel Zingy Zest has over 80,000 subscribers, gets 50,000-100,000 views on average for her videos.
“YouTube pays in two ways — either a fixed capital for a video or $1 per 1,000 views, apart from the brand which signs with us,” she adds.
On average, a leading influencer is likely to be paid two to three times more for the same content on YouTube compared with Instagram and TikTok, purely because the investment that goes into creating a YouTube video is a lot higher than for the other two platforms.
“Music companies working with leading Indian TikTok-ers paid them Rs 2-3 lakh per 15-second video. There was no production cost to making these videos, so the amount was justified purely on the basis of the creator’s reach,” says Malvika Billa, an India-focused social media marketer and a fashion blogger based in Paris.
Across platforms, many influencers also enter into barter deals with brands.
This usually involves creating content in exchange for using a brand’s product or service.
Marketers agree that TikTok has no competition when it comes to views or impressions, even with YouTube and Instagram numbers combined.
“Further, creators can also promote their TikTok videos on other platforms such as Instagram and Twitter,” says Pranav Nair, AVP (media) at Monk Media Network, a Mumbai-based content marketing agency.
Focus may turn to YouTube
In the absence of access to the app, however, creators are likely to focus on YouTube for long-form content creation and Instagram for short-form videos, he says.
Billa says she has already started seeing creators in Paris using Instagram Reel, a TikTok-like feature on the photo and video-sharing app, to create videos. The feature has not yet been introduced in India but she is sure it will catch on with TikTok-ers missing the now-banned app in the country.
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