You’ve reached millions of followers on YouTube - now what? What other opportunities are out there for those who have conquered social media?

At some point in every successful YouTuber’s career they begin to explore outside options for growing their brand’s footprint. Working with YouTube imposes some creative constraints, especially for those who want to keep their content monetized and highly ranked by YouTube’s algorithms. It’s frustrating to have a video demonetized because the title could be mistaken for a sensitive topic, or to have it not turn up in subscriber feeds at all.

More to the point, many creators are unsettled by having their entire income dependent on one source. Diversification is a core component of any successful business strategy, but when your business revolves around social media it can be hard to find options that let you take your audience with you.

That’s the inspiration behind the current push towards custom mobile apps. Creators are leveraging their most loyal supporters to build a platform where they have total control. It’s a powerful step towards taking control. Having the stability of a custom app puts creators and social media platforms on level ground instead of forcing creators to take a subordinate role in managing their own content.

Can creators really find success with their own app? Ask Felipe Neto, the Brazilian YouTube star whose new app was released September 28th. Within 24 hours of going live it hit number one in the App Store. Felipe Neto Oficial had more downloads than Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp that weekend. He broke the world record for the most number of views in a live stream during his YouTube-to-app debut party. His success is a shining promise to other creators that they, too, can take their financial and creative control back from YouTube.

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On YouTube, the Platform Gets Rich off Creators

Felipe has a love/hate relationship with YouTube. He has publicly shared his issues with the platform many times, posting videos calling out the problems with YouTube’s monetization offerings and ranking algorithms. At one point he even said:

YouTube manipulates visualization numbers from videos, affecting the payment.”

In other words, they find ways to reduce the amount of adshare they owe creators.

YouTube denied those claims, saying they treat all users as fairly as possible. Still, other creators have agreed that the way YouTube operates cuts into their channel’s profitability while still earning YouTube money.

Felipe’s biggest concern is YouTube’s ranking algorithm.

YouTube Brazil prioritizes the channels that are going to be promoted based on their personal preferences and relationship,” he said.

Basically, the organic reach of preferred channels is being promoted at the expense of the less well-connected.

He isn’t the only creator to have had problems with YouTube. Comedy channel h3h3Productions regularly gets complaints from subscribers who aren’t getting new videos in their newsfeed. Occasionally a chunk of their subscribers will mysteriously disappear. Irish game commenter JackSepticEye estimated that some content creators have lost 30 to 40 percent of their usual views without any explanation from YouTube.

YouTube continues to argue that they treat all YouTubers equally. Their subscriptions product manager, Zindzi McCormick, posted an online video addressing some of the complaints. She pointed out that with over 400 hours of content sent in every minute screening them is a seriously complicated task. According to McCormick, the YouTube algorithm is only used to connect the user to the videos that they are most likely to watch. She says there is no truth to creators’ claims of disappearing content and subscribers not getting videos, adding, "We’ve actually looked at over 100 individual cases and so far we haven’t been able to find any underlying glitch.”

Apps Shift the Balance of Power to Creators

The lack of resolution from YouTube isn’t sitting well with creators. It would be one thing if this was a bug the company was working on, but being told these problems don’t exist has caused a lot of content creators to look for other option. Those that previously dismissed a custom app as “unnecessary” are now seeing it as the right tool to take back control over their content.

Felipe says that with his app he has found the perfect balance to work on his professional projects, adding, “It’s my independence from YouTube.” He has total creative control, complete ownership of his content and the benefits it produces. No one has to worry about missing his videos because of a ranking algorithm; everything is accessible from his app. He can even provide exclusive non-video features like gifs, custom emoji, and an in-app store.

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Rather than trying to work with the limited metrics offered by YouTube, Felipe can now decide what data matter and collect it for himself. This gives him the best possible overview of his followers, which he aims to use to provide more targeted content for his followers to enjoy.  

Better yet, Felipe’s revenue opportunities have multiplied. He can set up a paywall for the most exclusive content or offer paid livestreams of special events. His sponsorships are also much more valuable since he has his own platform to offer, and all advertising revenue goes to him. There’s no sharing involved. When his platform makes money, all of it flows into his bank account.

Felipe’s future as a platform owner is bright. It took him years to get his followers on YouTube, but it took less than an hour to get 150K live viewers on his app. His livestream debut broke a record set by Periscope. He already has 600K registered users a week after going live.

Because he brought his most valuable followers with him to the app his engagement levels are high and holding. A healthy 4% of his YouTube subscribers are now active, registered users of the Felipe Neto Oficial app. To put that in perspective, the top 25 brands on Twitter have an average engagement rate of about .07%. Experts say a .5% rate is decent. Felipe’s app has 8 times that engagement rate. Fans love Felipe’s app, and they’re staying around to see what he does next.

Creator-owned Apps are the Future

Felipe Neto’s success is just one sign of the changes to come. Creators are no longer happy being second in command of their own ships. Now that apps have proven their potential, more celebrities will use them to wrestle creative and financial control of their content from YouTube.

What’s next for Felipe Neto? How can other creators copy his success? There’s more to come! Watch for a by-the-numbers breakdown of Felipe’s triumph in Part 2 of our Creator Independence Series.

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