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At their core, influencers are content creators. That’s why people follow them — they produce engagement opportunities that appeal to sizable portions of the population. Everything influencers do creates value for their audience. And now, premium content is on the horizon.

Traditionally, users consume influencer content for free. Think PewDiePie, DanTDM and Kylie Jenner. They create content for social media sites like YouTube, Twitch, Instagram and more. Anyone can engage with them for free. These creators make their money through sponsorships and platform payments.

But increasingly, influencers are embracing a different payment model, one that extracts value from their audience directly. As opposed to indirect payments from free content, these enterprising media mavens are creating premium content that their audiences are willing to pay for.

The strategy is gaining ground as the number of platforms that cater to this new business model balloons. In a way, they’re taking a nod from the world of streaming entertainment. Services like Netflix, Prime Video and Hulu offer their customers exclusive television that warrants a monthly subscription. As an influencer, you can also create exclusive content that’s only available to paying viewers. Exclusivity breeds interest, interest creates demand, and demand drives income.

What Makes Content “Premium”?

“Premium” is another word for “exceptional,” but there’s more to it than that. You might argue that everything you create is premium content because it’s all high quality. You might even earn a good living from YouTube or other social media platforms. But is your content exclusive? Is it limited? Is it unique from other organic content? Most importantly, does your audience pay for it directly? All of these contribute to making truly premium content.

Consider the difference between a piece of content on YouTube and an original Hulu TV show. The YouTube video might demonstrate high production values, but it’s freely accessible to everyone. It’s not exclusive to a particular audience, and its distribution isn’t limited. It might be high-quality, but its value is identical to every other YouTube video.

By comparison, the Hulu show is only available to customers that pay for a subscription. With a limited release, it’s exclusive content that motivates consumers to sign up for the service. An excellent example of this is “The Mandolorian” on Disney+. Disney credits the series with helping it sign up almost 30 million subscribers within the network’s first three months. That’s the power of exclusive premium content.

How Are Influencers Using Premium Content?

No matter the types of content you produce, there’s a way to monetize it. We’ll discuss a few strategies and how they drive engagement.

Build Exclusivity With Patreon

Patreon is a platform that empowers creators of all stripes, including artists, musicians, video producers, writers, podcasters and more. It allows your fans to take an active role in the development of the content they love.

Patreon subscribers, or patrons, get access to patron-only content, creator chats, collaborations, exclusive merchandise and other rewards. You’re no longer beholden to advertising algorithms for your income. You can interface directly with your audience and provide them with content they can’t get anywhere else.

Build Communities With Discord

Discord began its life as a communications medium for gamers looking to chat while they played. And while the bulk of its communities are still game-based, it’s now opened to many different types of content. Creators can build vibrant communities around their offerings and then charge users for access.

Interestingly, many influencers have integrated Patreon and Discord to amplify their respective benefits. Because of Discord’s format, it’s time-consuming to add and change users based on their reward tier. By linking the two, you can set reward levels on Patreon and then have Patreon automatically set the user’s privileges on Discord. It’s a match made in heaven.

Build a Following With Premium Newsletters

Paid newsletters are popular with thought leaders across a range of industries. They provide a method for disseminating valuable information in exchange for a paid subscription. If your content is instructional or informational, you can build a healthy income by marketing it directly to consumers.

In some cases, influencers self-publish and then disseminate via email. In others, they’ll use micro-publishing services like Substack and Revue. These help with publishing as well as monetization and payment.

Build Virtual Assets With NFTs

NFTs or non-fungible tokens are the latest technology built using a blockchain, the code behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Blockchains allow digital assets to prove their provenance with 100 percent accuracy.

What does that mean for content creators? Imagine that a visual artist creates a digital image as an NFT. Using the blockchain, the original will always be distinguishable from copies. In that way, the digital image becomes analogous to a physical painting. You can make prints (copies) of a painting, but the original will always be worth more because, well … it’s the original.

With NFTs, content creators can sell digital assets as if they were physical. The NFT guarantees that the owner can prove the image’s authenticity.

Build an Exclusive Twitter Feed With Super Followers

Twitter’s great for building a following, but it’s harder to monetize than other social media platforms. That’s about to change. Twitter is rolling out a new service called Super Followers. It enables influencers to charge users for access to exclusive tweets. Super Followers pay a monthly fee directly to the content creator. The service allows for direct monetization of your content on Twitter.

Premium Content Is the Future of Content and Content Marketing

There will always be a place for traditional online content services like YouTube, but more and more, influencers will turn to premium content as a way to sell directly to consumers.

This is good news for influencer marketing. These exclusive channels provide a rich opportunity for sponsorships targeted at an audience that not only respects the influencer but has also chosen to be involved with their wallets.

It’s a win-win for influencers and marketers alike, providing another revenue stream to influencers and valuable access to marketers. We expect this to grow dramatically in the future.