Dreams can be grand; and online, those dreams can be built.

No matter where you are in the world, we all share similar attributes. The desire for popularity is strong, but nothing supersedes our love for money

Countless stories have followed a young star-to-be and their ambitious journey to stardom. Los Angeles has often been the focal point for future stars of the screen, but we shan’t exclude the likes of Beijing, Hong Kong, London, and Mumbai.

And it is just that; the chance for monetization has surfaced in the realm of Social Media. Many still fail to recognize their online profile’s financial potential, let alone their actual Social Media potential.

The Social Star Creator Camp, in Los Angeles, promises to provide an outlook on that potential. For a fee of $2,690, adolescents from the across the world attend this 10-day course offering technical, and theoretical workshops in the field of; profile photography, videography, as well as content creation. Whilst some attendees have shrugged off any chance for future fame, many have been direct in their intentions; money.

Monetizing a social media profile needs a follow-through, which can be found in a more Internet-Smart corner of our world. Businesses there are devoted to ensuring success.

Two Words; Influencer Agency.

Your 500,000 followers form only a small part of your value.

It’s what you make with it, and how sustainable this group of people can be, only once these are determined can you be considered to run your own store. And with revenue potentials of over $1 million for some of the most successful online stores, it’s no-wonder that agencies are rallying to partner with KOLs.

Located in Hangzhou, China’s Palo Alto; Ruhan, a company valued at nearly $1 billion, is at the forefront of some of these lucrative partnerships. This company, dubbed ‘the Influencer Factory’ boasts 800 people, dedicated to monetizing the potential of China’s biggest Social Media based Community Brands.

Companies like Ruhan have shaped the influencer industry, creating - quite literally - an institutional approach to building and shaping these influencers into KOLs. Currently, there exist two specially-created Influencer Academies in China; Daxing, and Yuhong, located in Beijing, and Hangzhou, respectively.

Essentially, Ruhan’s New Personalities Department sets off with 50 dedicated staff to locate high-caliber Influencers, and present them the opportunity for financial gains. Upon signing an agreement, the KOL will attend one of the Influencer Academies whereby they will undergo training as well as a 3-month assessment evaluating potential for follower sustainability, and quality of content. On completion of their tenure at the Academy, they are then invited to open their own stores with Ruhan.

The Future.

Through Ruhan, Zhang Dayi, one of China’s now most formidable social media personalities, has created a successful brand as the first of over 20 influencers. Her clothing company, created out of her nurtured Social Media successes rewards her with over $20 million in yearly revenue. Using Ruhan’s supply chain, and in-house design team, she alongside other social media stars have found rapid, but sustainably-strategized success in their Community Brands

Yang Xia, a famed make-up tutorial master, enjoys a following of over 2 million followers, and with the services of Ruhan, is launching her own line of products relating to her renowned tutorials. Her fame came within a space of only 6 months.

Another famed KOL, is Plus-Sized model Da Mianqing, who’s videos encouraging self-confidence, and rejecting body shaming have gained a cult-like following across China and Asia, bringing her into the fashion spotlight, first as a model, but shortly after, as the launcher of her own Community Brand.

The Reason.

Influencers in China understand why creating own Community Brands is the future, as opposed to lucrative jobs modelling for established brands. Despite even those with more promising modelling prospects, these financial gains will dry up. At the first sign of discontent of the influencer’s Social Media content, by the brand, the contract could be in jeopardy, or worse, restricting the creative freedom of the influencer.

The KOL takes the stage before the fashion brand.

The traditional model of modelling is diminishing. With jobs being restricted at a certain age, young women no-longer view this as a sustainable job, and are flocking to work with ‘incubators’ such as Ruhan.

Three key elements appear in the Pillars of Community Branding.

The first are of course, the Influencers; verified, and reputable social media personalities, whose proven track record online has determined them to be a reliable partner in creating a Community Brand.

The second, are the Incubators. These businesses specialize in linking the strengths of the Influencer, their Community, and the attributable content, and create a strong brand, through PR expertise, fashion and merchandising design and creation, as well as essential support.

The third is the Interconnected Supply Chain. By hosting a reliable and consistent network of distribution, the Influencer and Community Brand will maintain consistency in their product line. However throughout the evolution of the Brand, the supplier must be ready to evolve just as well.

This combination takes cue from the traditional ‘Korean Talent Agency Model’ whereby strong relationships with fashion distributors allows for the influencer’s success, however in this case, an inverted approach takes place, in that the KOL takes the stage before the fashion brand.

Apples vs. Dragons

The difference could not be any more clear.

The US-based camp caters to people who voluntarily invest their own money with the hope of becoming a star. This can offer a chance of success, but without a guarantee.

The drawback here is, despite the considerable sums spent on learning opportunities at this camp, students only view their future financial gain on the basis of ad revenue, and nothing more. There are reasons for this, and it takes cue from the West’s tendency to be more individualistic, leaving our behaviors, at the end of the day, as anybody’s best guess.

Conversely, China boasts firms that seek out these Influencers and invest in their potential. This is due to Asian cultures having a more developed understanding of community, and social dynamics. In a sense, people have become more predictable, something that is inherent in Asian cultures, which emphasize pluralism. In essence, people are more likely to move as a group. And in such cases, behaviors are easier to predict, quantify, and monetize.

An approach of Community Branding requires the Influencer to take a step back, and look outward. One must engage in some long-term thinking, and a ‘soul-search’ into how one's Social Media profile, beloved by scores of people, can become a dynamic brand centered around the Influencer and Followers’ common interests. This will take some time, as attitudes must change on the part of Influencers, but it’s gradually taking root in the West. As soon as Influencers begin their journey of self-exploration, they will then unlock the potential of Community Branding.

...advertisers will always leave you, eventually.

In essence, even the most successful profile would be faced with, at-best marginalreturns from ad revenues. It is a sign of short-term thinking from a forgotten era of ‘get rich quick’ schemes. This needs to take cue from their colleagues in the Far East.

China’s influencers, on the other hand, have a much more different approach. And it is through branding, and planting the seed of popularity, and letting it grow into something massive.

Cashing in on Ad Revenue, would be giving up, and would destroy your profile, one way or another. Because advertisers will always leave you, eventually.

Creating a Community Brand however, will make you grow. And the chances for success are much greater. Because if you interact with your followers well enough, they’ll remain with you forever. Western Influencers must think long term, because in sharing, is where the real money lies.

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