March 10, 2022

Monetizing Your Social Media: What It Takes to Be A Creator

Time to monetize your influence!

Nora and Scott are getting down to the nitty gritty of social media monetization and the business behind influencers…specifically, how creators monetize their content, especially when they first begin to build an audience. Rebecca Jennings, a senior correspondent for Vox, discusses her article, “You go viral overnight. Now how do you get rich?” Nora and Scott also chat with Ryan Broderick, who covers social media monetization in his newsletter, Garbage Day. And we’ll hear from three influencers: Connor Wood (AKA Fibula), AJ Rafael, and Talia Lichtstein

Hosts: Nora Ali & Scott Rogowsky
Producer: Bella Hutchins
Production, Mixing & Sound Design: Daniel Markus
Music: Daniel Markus & Breakmaster Cylinder
Senior Producer: Katherine Milsop
Director of Audio: Alan Haburchak
VP, Head of Multimedia: Sarah Singer

Full transcript for this episode below.


Talia Lichtstein: It happened very overnight, and the next morning I woke up and I had 50,000 followers, instead of what I had before, 10,000 or something.

Scott Rogowsky: Imagine you wake up one morning to find that your following on social media has exploded overnight. What happens next? Are you going to become a full-time creator? How should you go about making money from your work? Do you even want to? 

Rebecca Jennings: As you implied, it's a lot easier to go viral than it is to get rich off of it.

Talia Lichtstein: I knew that it was something that I could monetize and a lot of people don't do that. They have this insane platform. There are people out there who have a video go viral and they get like two, three million followers, and they just sit on it. They have no idea that that is money, that's money that can allow you to quit your job.

Connor Wood: I thought I was killing it and then when my agents were like, "What was that last deal that you did with X brand?" And I was like, "Oh, it was this much, I was stoked. It was one of my first." And they were like, "Go ahead and sit down when we tell you for this one." I'm like, "Oh geez." I was not even close.

Nora Ali: And then, once you started to build a career and a livelihood on these platforms, how do you plan for your future? What happens if something goes wrong?

AJ Rafael: There was an incident on TikTok two weeks ago that had me wanting to just leave and delete and deactivate my account.

Ryan Broderick: So there was this girl who was part of The Hype House, the original Hype House. And she was like, "I'm famous enough. I'm going to go become an interior decorator now." And she just went and started a business with a million followers because she understood that having all of her eggs in the TikTok basket meant that she would lose everything if TikTok decided they didn't want to promote her anymore.

Nora Ali: At this point, we're 10 years into the creator industry and more and more people now identify as creators. So in today's show, which will be a little different from your typical episode of the pod, we're going to examine what it's like to build a following and an income as a creator.

Scott Rogowsky: You'll hear from influencers who share stories about their careers as creators. And you'll also hear from journalists who are experts in the space. Of course, we're going to mention TikTok as we love to do, but we're also going to explore vintage platforms like YouTube and MySpace, if you can even recall what that is. Collectively, you'll hear what it's like to launch and maintain a creator business in today's economy and what the future might hold for creators.

Nora Ali: For Morning Brew, this is Business Casual. The podcast reveals the unexpected business story behind everything. I'm Nora Ali.

Scott Rogowsky: And I'm Scott Rogowsky. Nora and I are here for your ears, bringing you conversations with creators, thinkers, and innovators who can tell us what it all means and why we should care. Now let's get down to business.

Nora Ali: So, Scott, as we embark on this journey to understand what it's like to be a creator in today's world, we're going to talk to a bunch of different people. But before we get into the nitty gritty, as you would say, monetization, brand deals, managers, and growing a business, we wanted to hear from the creators about what it was like to start out because the circumstances of how you start in this business can really impact how things unfold from there. So let's start with Connor Wood.

Connor Wood: I am 25 years old, I'm a content creator now, as of a year ago. But I do some advising on the side, some consulting for tech companies. I have a podcast that just came out, I guess that falls into the creator category, but I'm kind of all over the place.

Nora Ali: You might know Connor as Fibula. He has over 700,000 followers on TikTok, but before his career as an influencer, he worked on the marketing team at the scooter company, Bird.

Connor Wood: And then obviously, pandemic hit and shared scooters outside are not the ideal product model for a pandemic. So, it was necessary for them to lay a bunch of people off. I got the boot and then obviously, I had so much time on my hands that I started posting, they call it shitposting. It's just posting whatever's happening. And there was no strategy behind it, I was just posting, whatever. And I didn't have this blow up time when it was like, "Oh, I posted something that made me go viral." It was like every video was growing in views and engagement was growing. You figure out what works, what doesn't work. And then what worked for me was talking for 60 seconds.


Connor Wood: Nobody loves New York as much as someone who just moved to New York loves New York. They love it so much that it's borderline delusional. They'll be walking past just a giant hole in the middle of the sidewalk and they're like, "That hole is a whole-ass mood." They'll be like, "Okay, I made us a reservation for dinner. It's at 2:30 am and we're going to walk."


Connor Wood: And then I ended up getting signed at an agency UTA out here in LA. And I can't even imagine starting from scratch right now, but I know that I watch a lot of videos where people are giving advice to other... like if you want to be an influencer, this is what you should do. And it's literally just like, you have to do something that's never been done before. And even if that's just being just you, which is so tacky and cliche to say, but everybody can dance. Anyone can do the dances really well. But if you have a personality, and you're funny or you're intriguing or endearing or whatever, that's going to pay off way more than just hitting a trend over and over. I also do trends, they don't grow me at all. Even with huge numbers and huge following, I'll do a trend and there's no growth on my end.

Scott Rogowsky: Connor rose to fame very quickly doing original sketches. But another approach for budding TikTok comedians is becoming a professional hater.

Talia Lichtstein: It all started when I just was generally bothered by stuff that I saw every day. I'm Talia Lichtstein. I guess I go by content creator or internet personality, anything but TikToker, I don't like TikToker. I was raised in a Jewish family. All we did was complain, it's my second nature. It was just my personality to talk about that kind of stuff and people found it funny. So, I started reporting it, just very bare bones, there was no effects, there was no dancing, there was no music. I wanted it to just be me FaceTiming essentially with the audience. And people liked that style. And I think it was at that time, sort of new and unique to TikTok because when people think TikTok, they think the dancers and the music and people creating these intricate things. So, it was just me talking to the camera and it still is. And I chronicle my life now, I do a little bit more vlog style stuff. I talk about dates I'm going on. But the common theme is, here's what I hate about life in general.

Nora Ali: And you've said in previous interviews that you originally started using TikTok as a way to maybe practice for your ultimate career goal, to work in comedic political satire. Did you post with the intent of this maybe becoming a career or was that a happy accident?

Talia Lichtstein: It was half a happy accident, half just, I guess, this is the future and I should get on board, but I didn't really think that it would work. I was still applying to nine-to-five jobs. I was looking at places like BuzzFeed and Refinery29. I wanted to be like The Try Guys, remember those guys?

Nora Ali: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Oh, yeah.

Talia Lichtstein: Like a personality on BuzzFeed and make videos for people, and that's what I was doing throughout college, too. So I figured if I want people to hire me for my personality, I should show them my real personality and talk about things that are applicable to more people. So that's when I got on TikTok and started doing that while I was applying to jobs. So I didn't think that I would get discovered from it and then my job would become being the entertainer. I thought that it would help me get a job as a PA. I thought that I would still start at the bottom of the ladder.

Scott Rogowsky: So then at what point did you start having enough success on TikTok to decide, "Okay, I have to do this full time."?

Talia Lichtstein: I remember it happened very overnight, and the next morning I woke up and I had 50,000 followers instead of what I had before, 10,000 or something. And I was like, "Okay." It was seven in the morning and I had to keep making videos." I had to get up and do five a day because I wanted people to see it. It's so important that people, when they're following you, they have to come to your page and see that there's even more than the video that they just saw pop up. They need to see, "Oh, she's posting stuff like this all the time." And then, it makes it worth the follow. I knew I needed to lean into the momentum. I remember sitting my parents down a week after it all started and saying, "Look, you're going to let me live in your house for the rest of the summer rent-free. I'm going to live off of my grad money, and I'm going to do this until the fall." And that's when I started to take it really seriously in the summer. Every day, waking up at seven in the morning, five videos a day.

Scott Rogowsky: So both Talia and Connor got their starts on TikTok, growing their follower bases there, but there are plenty of creators who came to TikTok later on after building their followings on other platforms.

AJ Rafael: I am AJ Rafael, and I am a singer/songwriter.

Scott Rogowsky: AJ Rafael is 32. He has over 600,000 followers on TikTok and over a million subscribers on YouTube. He began posting his music on MySpace back in 2003. And after competing in American Idol, he launched a YouTube channel in 2006 and became a YouTube partner in 2008.

AJ Rafael: I was five years old when I first remember playing piano. My dad is actually my first teacher, and he was a choir conductor as well. He wrote songs for the choirs to sing, and he, unfortunately, passed away when I was 10 years old. So I had to also step it up and be the man of the family. So everything that was happening early, like 14 years old being on MySpace and then 15, 16, 17, YouTube playing shows by myself, driving out, all that stuff felt natural, I guess, in a way because I had to do it. I have to quickly shout out my mom because she got me a 24-track recorder. You put a CD in it to burn the tracks on it. And I had uploaded the MP3s that I had made on my computer and yes, it was before MySpace video and before MySpace music. So I just had a random play button that became the pause button. You remember those, it was a real player.

Nora Ali: Yes.

Scott Rogowsky: Play and pause, yeah.

AJ Rafael: Yeah, the play and pause. And I said, "Hey, everyone, this is my new song." And I started going out and selling CDs to my friends and things like that, then got them into my backyard for me to play shows to them. And I remember the first time I had people in my backyard, and they were singing the song that I wrote, that I put on my MySpace. And it was called, "How's San Diego Polly," about this girl that I met on this website called Findapix. 

Nora Ali: Scott, I got to ask you, were you on MySpace?

Scott Rogowsky: Yeah. In fact, I remember the moment in 2006, the summer of 2006, when Baron Vaughn, comedian, friend that I was just making at the moment told me, "You have to be on MySpace. What are you doing? If you want to be a comedian in 2006, you have to be on MySpace." So that was a big part of my journey. I was just starting out in my career as a comedian and MySpace was crucial.

Nora Ali: As it turns out, MySpace was also critical for AJ because that is where he first went viral. There are some really interesting parallels between MySpace and TikTok when it comes to monetization.

Ryan Broderick: My name is Ryan Broderick. I write a newsletter about web culture called Garbage Day. And I host a podcast about web culture called The Content Mines.

Nora Ali: Let's get nostalgic for a second. I haven't seen a ton of research on MySpace, but that's something that you wrote about in your newsletter. You wrote this article titled, "The missing link between MySpace and TikTok." Ryan, how did people grow their user base back in the day on MySpace? Was there a concept of monetization on that platform too?

Ryan Broderick: I think what's really fascinating about the similarities between something like MySpace and TikTok is that both were platforms that you really couldn't monetize. I don't know if people know how the TikTok creator fund works, but essentially it's a giant pot of money that the platform sets aside every month. And if you have a viral video that isn't as viral as a video that like Bella Poarch posts, you will make less money than her because she gets the majority of the pot. But in the same way, MySpace were creating the is very famous teenagers out of nowhere. Suddenly, we just had famous teenagers on the internet, which had never really happened before. And there was this idea of like, "Okay, I'm going to express myself. I'm going to use the whole internet to share my life and just see what happens." And it creates this new form of celebrity. And with TikTok, that's happening on this incredible scale and this incredible speed.

Nora Ali: As Ryan mentioned, whether it's MySpace or TikTok, these platforms have given us internet celebrities, even though they don't have strong monetization built-in for these newly minted creators. And that's what we're going to cover in the next part of this episode. How are creators monetizing right now? What are the steps and how do you do it while staying sane?

Ryan Broderick: You could talk about something like Patreon, you could talk about something like OnlyFans, you could talk about something like TikTok, Twitch, there's a million ways to do it. And there doesn't seem to be a lot of consensus on what are the best ways to do it. So, I've tried over the last year-and-a-half to find as many examples of people trying to make a life for themselves online and just figure out how, and do they like it, and how do you do it without going crazy? I call it, "How do you do it without getting Logan Paul brain?" You know. Stay normal.

Nora Ali: That's after the break.

Scott Rogowsky: Rebecca Jennings, you're a senior correspondent for Vox where you cover the creator economy, so I'm wondering, if you can set the tone for us when it comes to how creators monetize. You wrote a piece called, "You go viral overnight, now what?" So now what? How do you get rich after making your mark on the world? And what are the most common ways that creators can earn revenue?

Rebecca Jennings: As you sort of implied, it's a lot easier to go viral than it is to get rich off of it. We're 10 years into the creator industry and since then, people have found a lot of different ways to monetize. The main one for most people and what we think of as influencers, they partner with brands to promote products on their Instagram. That's what you see, like the Bachelor contestants do on Instagram and promoting whatever shady product.

Nora Ali: FabFitFun usually.


Unidentified Speaker: 2022 FabFitFun box is here and-


Rebecca Jennings: That's never going away. Beyond that, there's affiliate links where you can link to an Amazon page or whatever. And every time someone buys from that link, you'll get a cut of that sale. Elsewhere, there's merch. You can just make your own merch, produce a bunch of cheap sweatshirts or t-shirts and get money that way. Another one is creator funds, places like TikTok and now Instagram and Facebook and YouTube literally pay people just to make content, so that people will stay there and keep using that platform. And more and more commonly, influencers starting their own businesses, whatever field they want to get into and getting into investments. And there's the whole Web3 rabbit hole that creators now can get into. So there's a lot of different little ways to get "rich" off of virality.

Nora Ali: You also wrote about this pay gap between the highest echelon of influencers and others. And you also wrote about the fact that lots of brands are trying to promote diversity, so they'll send free products to creators of color, but maybe they won't pay them as much as their counterparts. So, how does this shake out and how does this emblematic of wider gaps in the economy overall too?

Rebecca Jennings: I think the creator economy is so similar to the regular economy, which is that there's a lot of wealth up at the top and the rest of it is just completely like sprinkled throughout. I talked to one creator, who's a plus size Black creator and she has a lot of other influencer friends and she's like, "My skinny friends get so much more money for the same work that I do. And even if I have more followers than them." And it's just really, really hard to confront brands about that because it's all done behind "closed doors". So there's really not a list of things that you can check off and be like, "Okay, that's normal. That's not, that's too high. That's too low." It's really hard to compare.

Nora Ali: AJ was one of the early players in the creator economy, becoming a YouTube partner in 2008 before people really knew what that meant. Though he's now monetizing his content on TikTok and Instagram too, he started making money on YouTube.

AJ Rafael: So I was at Berklee College of Music at the time, and it was the middle of my first semester. And I got an email from YouTube saying, "We would like you to be a partner." This was back in the day where you had to apply for monetization. Literally, you had to turn in an essay of why you deserve. And a couple of my friends who were also big singer-songwriters on YouTube had big platforms. They got rejected and I'm like, "It's okay, try again in three months." It was that early. And I remember being accepted on my first try. And at that time, I was maybe getting a thousand dollars a month and I was like, "Mom, I could pay for school now." I remember going home feeling like, "Man, I'm really making music for a living." And this is also before streaming platforms, so not making money off music royalties, but making money off music in a different way through doing YouTube videos.

Nora Ali: Was it based on views at the time? What were the metrics that informed how much you got paid through the program?

AJ Rafael: Yes, it was based on views and as long as your content was original content, which I was happy that my original music at the time, especially to young Asian Americans were very popular in the high school and college scene, so I took a lot of pride in that because I was able to monetize a lot of my videos.

Scott Rogowsky: For Connor Wood, AKA Fibula, he first began monetizing via brand deals on TikTok. We asked him about how he navigated this early on.

Nora Ali: I like your story in that you grew consistently, like you said, and it wasn't one random viral hit. And then you monetized and took advantage of that. You were being consistent, and you got followers that were loyal and engaged with your content because of you. But then, you do have this large following, you build it, how do you then decide that you're going to start monetizing it? How did those conversations start? How did that start to happen?

Connor Wood: I was familiar with that side because I'd been on the other side. And you start getting these offers that are such low balls. You could look up the formula, what you should be getting paid as an influencer. So I was like, "Okay, for X amount of views, per thousand views, you should be making X amount of cents. And then, if you take your past six videos, you have an average, obviously several hundred thousand views or whatever, you multiply that by the amount that you should be being paid." And so, I think those first conversations, I was handling on my own. And then, I got this agency, and I don't know what they do at the agencies, but there's a reason why they're so successful in this space. So they started handling negotiations for me. And it's been really awesome.

Scott Rogowsky: Talia, who had no prior experience with the creator economy, says she felt a bit more lost when she decided to begin monetizing her content.

Talia Lichtstein: I needed a lot of help. I knew that it was something that I could monetize and a lot of people don't do that. They have this insane platform. There are people out there who have a video go viral and they get two, three million followers, and they just sit on it. They have no idea that that is money, that's money that can allow you to quit your job. I didn't even really know that. I knew that I could make money, but I was like, "Okay, I'm going to get a job from this." But there are people who have my amount of followers or less, and they do just brand deals on TikTok full time. I didn't know that until I started talking to people. Other influencers helped me a lot. And then, I started speaking to industry professionals. It really took those professionals to tell me like, "No, this is actually what you're worth. And here are the best decisions for you in terms of other gigs that you should be doing." But I needed help, that was the biggest thing. I say, I want to stick to one a month, but I don't like to do ads that much. I want my TikTok to be me and entertainment.

Nora Ali: I looked at one of your recent posts with a phone case company and the comments are comments I've never seen before on ads sponsored posts. Things like, "The way I genuinely didn't realize this was an ad for a while because I was so invested." And, "See, this is the type of ads I like seeing. It's actually on brand with your humor." So, what is the key to making that kind of content?

Talia Lichtstein: The first is that you have to either be ready to negotiate for your creative freedom in the ad, or in my case, I have a manager who will negotiate for my creative freedom. And I make him, like I say, I won't do anything no matter how much money, if I have to sit there and say, "This is a sponsored video." It's not real, nobody will watch it, it makes people unfollow me. They don't have that kind of loyalty where they just are like, "It's TikTok." These kids are kids. They want to see entertainment, and they get annoyed that I'm making money off of them. So, I want it to be me. It has to fit seamlessly. And you also have to have a brand who understands that the video will do better if it's me.

Nora Ali: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Talia Lichtstein: It has to be seamless. Like Casetify, it took a little bit more pushing. We had to convince them, "No, it actually sounds better if she doesn't put music because she's never used music in the background of a video, they won't watch it because they'll know it's an ad. It sounds better if she can talk about mature subjects like sex or whatever in the ad because her audience will think it's funny, and they'll watch the whole thing." So, you need both sides to get it. And sometimes, you have to say no to people who don't get it.

Connor Wood: I say no to a lot, like a lot that don't make sense. There's random ones where it's like, "Germax. I love Germax, I have Germax every day." It's like, "No, you're lying to us." And a lot of campaigns can come out where it's just uncomfortable. And this is such a reach for you guys. And sometimes, I want to reach out to brands and be like, "Guys, do yourself a favor. Don't send that $300 PR box that they're not going to post about. Don't give them this crazy prompt to do this insane thing that people are going to skip right past. You're wasting money." I would always say to brands like, "Work with the creator, and they want the video to do well just as much as you do." Just part of the job. So I have had times where I've posted three sponsored posts in a row and I'm like, "It's my job. I hate it just as much as you hate seeing three sponsored posts in a row, but that's the reality."

Nora Ali: We're going to take another quick break. And when we come back, we'll talk about the people who help creators get these brand deals in the first place: managers.

Scott Rogowsky: Rebecca, when a creator goes viral, how do conversations around representation and management start?

Rebecca Jennings: When you go viral, you're just completely slammed with all these requests from people wanting to make a buck off of you, and it's really overwhelming. I mean, I think when you speak to pretty experienced influencer managers, they say like, "Do not go with the first brands that come to you being like, "Hey, will you promote this galaxy light?" Because it's basically acknowledging the fact that you know you're not going to get this much attention ever again. And so, you might as well make a couple hundred bucks where you can. There's a lot of predatory managers, brands that are willing to capitalize on that and then toss them aside.

Scott Rogowsky: Is it smart to take on management representation once you go viral? Is that a better way to handle it?

Rebecca Jennings: I mean, I would say definitely not. I think jumping into the manager thing is a real tough move for a lot of creators. And I think we saw a lot of that when TikTok first launched, in the first two years. But what they do is they end up in these contracts that are not great for them. They have exclusivity in them, and they also take 20 or more percent of whatever you're making. And they might not even get you that many jobs to begin with. A lot of them are essentially just reading your emails and corresponding with brand managers and have no real impact on how much money you're actually making. I think that's a big mistake that a lot of young people make.

Talia Lichtstein: I did get screwed over. Is that a thing I can say? Can I say screwed? I got screwed hard. So, at the very beginning of this, I started to decide, "Okay, I'm going to start asking for help. I'm scared. I'm scared my account's going to get taken away. I need somebody in my corner." And these people came to me. They were the number one digital influencer marketing agency. I guess all of them call themselves that. But I did a little bit of research. My mom did a lot of research, she's kind of my momager up until this point. We had agreed these people are legit. There are a lot of people that I've spoken to who work with them and it seems fine. I'm going to sign this contract, which I had a lawyer look over, but it was whatever. I'm just going to let them help me get money. And they were taking 20% of whatever I signed. I was just happy to be making money, I didn't care. I was just out of college. I'm like, "I'm not working a nine to five. That's a success in itself. I'm just going to take what I can get." But there were some loopholes in this contract. And also, I learned later 20% is not industry standard for influencers at all. So I fell into that trap, got stuck in a contract, was able to get out of it, but I'm still paying one of these companies 20% of one of my projects for as long as it goes on. So you learn the hard way, and now I have somebody who I trust so much with my life. So, you need to find those people. There are a lot of these influencer agencies popping up. They're seeing that there's this whole new community of young people who don't know how to read a contract, don't know how to ask for help or don't know anybody who can give them help. And they are getting this influx of money-making potential.

Nora Ali: Ryan, I want to get your take on maybe the jobs that have been created around the creator economy and around influencers. For example, companies that help you monetize as an influencer or managers and people who are trying to swoop in and help influencers navigate the industry. Just what are your thoughts on some of these other entities that are helping influencers monetize?

Ryan Broderick: I mean, I think if they're helping, that's great, right? Awesome. A lot of the people who are becoming really famous on these platforms are 19, 20, 21. I know when I was 21, I had literally no business knowing how to do anything, so I'm glad that there are some support networks out there. But at the same time, I think you have to be really careful. A lot of what you're describing are usually called MCNs or multichannel networks. You see a lot of these companies that buy a dozen Instagram pages that just post memes and a lot of them can be kind of scummy. Like there's a creator I really love, he used to do a video series called, "All Gas, No Breaks." He signed with a multichannel network. The multichannel network was like, "We own that show." He quit. And then he started a new show thankfully, that is just as good as the old one, but he had to leave that entire brand behind because that MCN claimed that they owned it. And so, with anything like this, I'm just always really worried that creators are going to get screwed over by weird middlemen. But at the same time, it is nice that the industry is caught up a little bit, so there is a support network there that isn't scummy.

Nora Ali: So, Scott, up until this point, we've heard about how our creators got their starts, began building their businesses, and navigating how to grow them with help from, or sometimes in spite of, brands and managers. But we also wanted to know where the creators saw their careers going, so we talked to them about it.

Scott Rogowsky: Connor, how do you think about your future when it comes to your business and the spaces you want to be operating in?

Connor Wood: I just started a podcast, so I'm really liking the podcast space because I can talk forever. We just did a two-hour episode. But podcast, we're talking about doing it live in a couple cities where we have a pretty high listenership. I'd love to do more standup for sure. I have agents that are really pushing me to sit down and take my Adderall and actually write something on paper for once. But I don't know, a five-year plan, so much happens. I talk about this all the time, this happened in a year, that we're even sitting here because TikTok made it a thing, and I don't know what's going to happen in the next six months to a year. It's wild. You can get an email today that you're booked on a Netflix show and then, you're on the Gucci campaign. And that seems to be the pipeline now, so I don't know. Fingers crossed, I'd love to focus on standup and the podcast. And I'll always be on TikTok as long as it's there. It's such a fun outlet.

Nora Ali: Like Connor, Talia has branched out beyond just TikTok to create a steadier career for herself, one that she hopes will someday lead to TV.

Talia Lichtstein: What's valuable to me is the consistent money because I can't always rely on that. And I'm a Jewish worrier. It doesn't matter how much money I'm making, I'm always going to be concerned that, what if next month I don't make money? So, I want there to be something consistent. I want there to be a contract where I'm getting paid a certain, two weeks apart for these many months. And that's what the Snapchat show is and that's what the podcast is and then this new project that I'm adding. The value in that is that it's consistent. The unfortunate thing is people say that all the time. Why would you want to get off TikTok if this is the future? But now that I'm an adult and I have an apartment, I know what my lifestyle needs to be in order for me to be happy when I'm paying my own bills. This is what I need, and it's not that type of lifestyle. I went to a taping Colbert, and they were getting the audience all hyped up and they said, "Everybody smile, you're going to be on TV and two to three million people are going to see you." And everyone was like, "Oh my God." And I was like, "Please, this is nothing." Two to three million, really? And I still walked out of there like, "Oh, to be on that stage, that's what I want." And why? Not that many people are watching compared to TikTok, but that's just the old soul in me. I don't know. I want to be on TV. It feels legit. TikTok, it's so hypocritical because I'm a TikToker, but I don't respect TikTok like I respect television.

Nora Ali: It's almost like you're trying to prove yourself to older generations, too, like our parents and beyond because they don't even get it.

Talia Lichtstein: That is the theme of my life. I told my manager when I first met with him, I don't want to be internet famous. I don't want to be famous. I want to be really respected by people who are good in this field.

Scott Rogowsky: Social media veteran AJ Rafael is also working on a podcast with his fiancée, Alyssa, called Sweet or Savory. And as a musician, he's finding success on Twitch.

AJ Rafael: Ever since the beginning when I was making "YouTube money," I had some friends and I remember having a talk with them because they're like, "YouTube could just take away our monetization tomorrow, so we can't necessarily rely on that." Luckily, me as a musician, Spotify and Apple Music and things like that still actually is a big chunk of my monthly revenue, which I'm so grateful for. And then there's shows. I really feel like Twitch, especially in the musician space, has a lot of room to grow, and Twitch has been featuring them in an organic/curative way, where there are a lot of music channels that show up on the front page, which is huge. Anytime I've been on the front page of Twitch, and I stream every Monday by the way, Music Mondays with AJ Rafael, anytime I've been on the front page, it's been 5,000 to 6,000 concurrent viewership for the hours that I'm on there, which is really great. I think Twitch is really wanting to blow up more and more musicians, and there's so many on there. And yeah, of course, TikTok. I've always encouraged my friends, and I call them my OG YouTuber friends, where they also were battling the same battles with me back in 2006, '07, '08. And I've always wanted to encourage them to also be on TikTok and also be on all of these platforms. And there was an incident on TikTok two weeks ago that had me wanting to just like leave and delete and deactivate my account. It was trolls and trolls honing in on one comment that ended up becoming a bunch of comments and then even like a reaction video, and I was sad because I'm like, "Well, that's another source of revenue as well. And another source of just creative output that I would be missing."

Nora Ali: You might be noticing that all three of the creators we spoke to emphasized moving beyond their core platforms to other media, like podcasts. And as the creator economy continues to grow more established, that trend might be cemented as typical for how the arc of virality in the creator economy ends, according to Ryan Broderick.

Ryan Broderick: What I think is really fascinating is that a lot of TikTokers, and this is why I think gen Z is so fun and clever, they get their popularity on TikTok and then they immediately go somewhere else. There was this girl who was part of The Hype House, the original Hype House. And she was like, "I'm famous enough. I'm going to go become an interior decorator now." And she just went and started a business with a million followers because she understood that having all of her eggs in the TikTok basket meant that she would lose everything if TikTok decided they didn't want to promote her anymore. So she just left, which I thought, "Okay, that's a really healthy way of thinking about virality." Whereas I think millennial creators were much more interested in being online forever, and we know how that ends, right?

Scott Rogowsky: It's time for Quizness Casual, the Business Casual quiz. For Quizness Casual return to Ryan Broderick, who will be answering these questions along with Nora. You can work together here. For today's quiz, all about the influencer biz. Are you ready Ryan?

Ryan Broderick: I'm ready.

Scott Rogowsky: Let's get into it. Qumero numero uno: Which TikToker has the most viewed video on all of TikTok? Zach King, James Charles, Addison Ray or Bella Poarch?

Ryan Broderick: I think it's Addison Ray.

Nora Ali: Is it Addison? I thought it was Zach King, the optical illusion, magician-ish guy. Oh, we don't agree.

Ryan Broderick: It's always a magician.

Nora Ali: It's always a magician.

Ryan Broderick: Magicians are always the most popular on every platform. So I believe it, but I'm going to go with Addison Ray, but I might be wrong.

Nora Ali: Okay. We have to default to the guest's answer, so we're going to go with Addison Ray, even though I don't believe it. We're locking it in, Addison Ray.

Scott Rogowsky: Ryan. It's very nice of Nora to defer to you, but in this case you should have joined her side because, Zach King.

Ryan Broderick: It's always a magician, it's always a magician. 

Scott Rogowsky: Yes.

Ryan Broderick: They're the most viral people on the internet, they run the internet. It's magicians. Yeah. Okay.

Scott Rogowsky: It's true. Have you seen this Harry Potter illusion video? I looked it up. It's kind of cool.

Nora Ali: It's just a mirror that he's using. Ah, he's so good.

Scott Rogowsky: Well, we'll give you a half a point there.

Ryan Broderick: Thank you. Thank you for that.

Scott Rogowsky: Q2, which country has the most Instagram users? United States, Brazil, India or Indonesia?

Ryan Broderick: So when I did the research on this, Brazil was second or third, but that was last year. I'm going to say the United States still.

Scott Rogowsky: Want to push back on that or you got any other ideas?

Nora Ali: You know, my guess was India just because population-wise, but I feel like we're going to go with US. I'm going to go with Ryan.

Scott Rogowsky: What do you think, population? Ryan?

Ryan Broderick: Did I get a wrong again?

Scott Rogowsky: Any reconsideration?

Ryan Broderick: I mean-

Scott Rogowsky: It is India. Nora has it right again.

Ryan Broderick: It's India. Wow. I got to stop doing this. I'm going to let you answer the next one.

Nora Ali: I'll just get it wrong though.

Scott Rogowsky: 230 million users in India to US, it's 160 million.

Ryan Broderick: Wow, that's amazing.

Scott Rogowsky: There's more people there. There's just more people there-

Ryan Broderick: That makes sense. Yeah.

Scott Rogowsky: ...more Instagram users. We'll give you a full point now. Two-halves.

Ryan Broderick: Okay. I got one point. I'm still in the game. I'm still in.

Scott Rogowsky: You got one point. All right. So go for two, you get two for three if you answer this third question correctly.

Ryan Broderick: Okay.

Scott Rogowsky: What is the most liked post in the history of Instagram, caveat, of a human being? Of a human, because we know the egg has the most, the world record egg, 55.8 million likes.

Ryan Broderick: Right.

Scott Rogowsky: But we're asking about humans. Is it Cristiano Ronaldo and his wife's twin pregnancy announcement? Is it XXXTentacion's final post before his death? Ariana Grande's photos from her wedding to Dalton Gomez, or Kylie Jenner's photo of her newborn son, Wolf, and Stormy holding hands?

Ryan Broderick: I'm prepared to be wrong, but I'm going with Kylie Jenner.

Nora Ali: I will go with Ryan because I actually have no idea.

Ryan Broderick: Wait, I'm second guessing myself now.

Nora Ali: No, Ryan. No. Isn't it always Kylie?

Ryan Broderick: I'm in my own head. I'm totally in my head about this.

Scott Rogowsky: Let's just take a moment here to reflect on the last question, right? Which had a global tinge to it.

Nora Ali: Yeah, it's probably Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ryan Broderick: Yeah, yeah. I'm going to change it to Cristiano Ronaldo. Yeah, yeah. I'm going to change it to him. 

Nora Ali: Okay, all right.

Scott Rogowsky: Let's lose our Americentrist view here-

Ryan Broderick: You're right, you're right.

Scott Rogowsky: ...because soccer happens to be the most popular sport in the world. And Ronaldo is the most popular celebrity in the world.

Ryan Broderick: Yeah.

Scott Rogowsky: Yes. Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Ryan Broderick: Okay.

Scott Rogowsky: This post is 32.7 million likes.

Ryan Broderick: It's a great post.

Scott Rogowsky: The post with the most. Well, Ryan, we'll give you two. Two out of a three ain't bad.

Ryan Broderick: Hey. All right, great.

Scott Rogowsky: Congratulations.

Ryan Broderick: Thank you so much.

Scott Rogowsky: You passed the test, you know your stuff, and we appreciate you talking with us.

Ryan Broderick: Well, thank you for having me. This was great.

Scott Rogowsky: We love hearing from our listeners, so please hit us up, Biz Cas-ers. We're working on an upcoming episode about the business behind award shows, specifically, the Oscars. We want to know, do you watch them? Are you planning to watch? Do you care anymore? Because there's so many movies nominated and have you even seen all the movies nominated? I can't even name one of the nominees. Send us an email at or DM us on Twitter @bizcasualpod, that's B-I-Z casualpod, with your thoughts.

Nora Ali: You can also leave us a voice memo on our website,, or give us a ring and leave us an old-fashioned voicemail. Our number is 862-295-1135. And as Business Casual grows, we are so excited to get to know our listeners old and new. Drop us a line and don't forget to leave your name and where you're calling or writing from, so we can hear from you in a future episode.

Scott Rogowsky: Business Casual is influenced by Katherine Milsop and Bella Hutchins. Additional production sound design and mixing by Daniel Marcus. Alan Haburchak is director of audio at Morning Brew. Sarah Singer is our VP of multimedia. Music in this episode from Daniel Marcus and The Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. If you like what you heard, please follow Business Casual on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you go to get influenced by podcasts. And we love it if you'd give us a great rating and a review.

Nora Ali: Thanks for listening to Business Casual. I'm Nora Ali.

Scott Rogowsky: And I'm Scott Rogowsky.

Nora Ali: Keep it business.

Scott Rogowsky: And keep it casual.