From the very first user-uploaded video posted on YouTube in 2005, to the rise of online stars like YouTuber Jenna Marbles and TikToker Khaby Lame, the world of online content creators has exploded into an entire industry which today could be worth more than $100 billion. Content creators are typically considered to be anyone creating and uploading digital content for followers, whether influencers promoting brands on social media, gamers live-streaming on Twitch, or writers posting original content on Medium.

Today, the goal of most content creators is to generate revenue through ads, sponsorships, subscriptions, and other means. Content creators have become increasingly important for brands and businesses, as well as for the growth and longevity of the various platforms themselves. 

How many Americans follow content creators online? What kinds of content are they following? How many view it as a viable career option? CivicScience took a quick look at this rapidly developing industry.

More than 3-in-4 Gen Z adults regularly follow content creators.

In a recent poll, 40% of U.S. adults say they regularly follow content creators online. A majority of followers (57%) typically follow 1-5 creators, while 22% follow 5-10 and 21% follow 10 or more creators.

Followers number far greater among younger generations – 87% of Gen Z adults (18-24) and 71% of young Millennials (25-34) regularly follow content creators. One-quarter of Gen Z adults follow 10 or more.

A look at nine popular platforms reveals that YouTube, where content creators originated, is still the most watched by followers. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of adults who follow creators do so on YouTube, and half follow creators on Facebook at 51%. TikTok and Instagram are less popular, but still draw nearly one-third of those who follow content creators. Fewer follow creators on more niche platforms, such as Twitch (10%) and OnlyFans (5%).

A third of followers seek educational videos from content creators.

Looking specifically at video content creators, people who follow video-based creators are the most interested in educational and ‘how to’ types of videos, as well as food and cooking. Entertainment creators (including vloggers and gaming) are the next most followed video creators. Beauty/fashion and personal finance content creators are among the least watched by followers.

1-in-5 Gen Zers say they are interested in becoming a content creator.

Most platforms require that creators maintain a certain amount of followers to earn ad revenue, and turning a profit can take years. While it’s possible today to earn a living as a content creator, how many are actually doing so? When asked, 6% of respondents age 13+ say that they identify as an online content creator – just 2% are full-time creators, while 4% are part-time or less.

While not everyone is going to become as wealthy as top-earning YouTube personality, MrBeast, the role of content creator as a job is incredibly popular among Gen Z respondents (aged 13-24). Forty percent say they are either already creating digital content or are interested in becoming a content creator.

Social media influencer-led purchases have grown.

Attempting to measure the commercial impact of following content creators, specifically influencers who may be sponsored by brands, the latest polling data finds that just 13% of people have purchased a product or service in the last six months due to a social media influencer. However, when rebased among people who follow influencers, 22% of followers have made a recent purchase based on a promotion or recommendation from an influencer on social media. That’s up from 18% in September of 2022.

Will this change as a result of the latest #deinfluencing trend, where content creators and influencers are guiding followers on what not to buy, instead of pushing certain products? CivicScience regularly tracks the fast-growing industry of content creators and social media. Work with us and get ahead of the curve.