How to Make Passive Income in the Creator Economy
Alfonso Cobo, founder of Unfold, outlines trends and opportunities for digital creators.
In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what is your business?
I am Alfonso Cobo, founder of Unfold, a social storytelling app that lets you create photo templates and bio sites for selling anything.
What are the biggest trends you’re seeing in the creator economy?
The biggest trend we’re seeing is creators diversifying their income streams — users who sell products are starting to explore content, content creators are selling physical goods, and creators are dipping their toes into Web3. There’s an emphasis on becoming less reliant on any one platform, while also setting up passive income streams that bring in steady revenue so the creators have more space and stability to focus on their craft. Most influencers currently still rely on brand deals, and most are looking to diversify.
What are the top trends in social and digital selling?
Social commerce will soon exceed social advertising — it will quickly grow to be a huge chunk of global ecommerce. Universally, we’re seeing that brands and businesses who embrace social selling are seeing great returns and are also realizing that it’s an opportunity to build a stronger relationship directly with the consumer.
We’re creating and seeing smarter monetization tools, and the real key is that there are so many touchpoints and platforms, you want to remove friction points along the way. Bio Sites are a huge trend in social selling because they provide creators with a unified ecommerce link that they can share across their platforms and communities. And coming next, sellers are looking at Web3 as a way to drive new revenue channels, more transparent business models and higher engaged communities.
What are the biggest challenges that creators are facing?
Creators have to manage a presence on a bunch of different platforms because there is no central hub that aggregates all the tools and data that they need in one place. Each tool and platform in the market has its own niche and goes deep into a specific use case or vertical.
This also makes it challenging for creators to truly own and monetize their audiences in a way that is platform agnostic when they may have very different followings or content styles from Instagram to TikTok.
Smart creators understand that their audience is made up of different types of fans with different levels of passion and willingness to pay, but this requires high levels of focus, providing different levels of offerings like editions, 1/1s, and auction mechanisms to meet fans where they are and convert them from casual and active fans to superfans.
Unfold became a part of Squarespace in 2019. What insights do you have for entrepreneurs about integrating into a bigger ecosystem?
I asked myself three questions about becoming part of their ecosystem, and all of the answers were yes:
Do you provide something with a similar goal but in a different lane? We found that what Squarespace provides for online, Unfold provides on social. So yes.
Do your customers’ goals overlap? There is a lot of overlap within our customers’ goals, which is to start creating and monetizing their brands with the highest quality design alignment across all digital selling. So yes.
Will we approach integration thoughtfully and patiently? We gave ourselves a few months to watch our products grow independently, which illuminated ways to build new releases that were completely complementary. Around that time, Squarespace’s mission was evolving to provide creators with everything to sell anything, and because we gave ourselves a discovery period our natural role presented itself - providing ways to monetize social in the broader ecosystem.
What's next for you?
Monetization tools will continue to be a priority for us as we expand how our customers can set up and test new revenue streams. We’ll continue to release products that help creators to tell their stories in a consistently beautiful way across all social platforms - this consistency across platforms and channels will help build long-term customers. And creators want the ability to roll out multiple Bio Sites so that they can have flexibility to add more link-in-bios as they acquire new audiences. We want to empower creators to be successful in telling their story exactly the way they want to, and we’ll be focusing on new video content creation and monetization tools to help them do that.
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