by Usman Shaikh

Hollywood is an ever-shifting paradigm. From the Studio System during the Golden Age, to independent filmmakers challenging the old guard in the 1970’s, to the corporatization of studios and networks in the 1980’s, to $20M paydays for movie stars of the 1990’s, to the success of the “mini-majors” in the Aughts, to superhero tentpole films of this decade, Hollywood is constantly evolving (for better or worse).  In the last few years, the industry has seen yet another shift, caused largely by the ubiquitousness of social media platforms: monetization of Social Media Influence.

A Social Media Influencer is defined, in the most general terms, as someone who has the power to influence others in their social media circle.  This naturally makes them highly sought after by brands, marketers, and Hollywood.  While there are many factors that determine if someone is a Social Media Influencer, the three attributes shared by top Social Media Influencers are high level of relevance, reach, and resonance (the “Three R’s”).  The Three R’s are unique to social media because they can be quantified.  It does not take much guesswork to determine whether or not a Social Media Influencer is relevant, has a large audience reach, or resonates with his or her followers; it’s as simple as going on YouTube to see how many views a particular piece of content has or how many people follow an Instagram profile.

These attributes are primarily why both established and upcoming brands are reshaping their marketing needs and goals to focus on aligning themselves with Social Media Influencers.  Similarly, Hollywood casting decisions are increasingly being made based on the Three R’s.  And Social Media Influencers themselves are getting in the business of creating original content and self-distributing across multiple social media and digital platforms, realizing a revenue stream that came into existing only a few years ago.  Like U.S. Law Group, most major Hollywood talent agencies and management firms now have departments devoted to the monetization of Social Media Influencers.

In the context of marketing, brands have quickly realized that collaborating with the right Social Media Influencer can help them reach a highly targeted and immensely large consumer base.  They have discovered that one of the best ways to target specific audience groups, drive brand awareness, and elicit engagement across multiple digital channels is by creating partnerships with Social Media Influencers.  Brands recognize that these partnerships are becoming increasingly essential to their bottom line because of the decline in television viewership in recent years which, in turn, has led to less advertising opportunities across linear platforms.  Because of the transparent aspects of the Three R’s, brands can now align themselves with Social Media Influencers with quantifiable audiences made up of specific demographics on a wide range of social media and digital platforms.

Similarly, Hollywood insiders have also taken note and are racing to work with Social Media Influencers.  For example, many times when casting directors are looking to fill a particular role in a motion picture or television series, they will take into account an actor’s social media influence, especially for genre-specific content or that which is targeting a youthful audience.  Actors are not only getting roles because of their talent or experience anymore, but also because of the large followings they’ve cultivated by maintaining an effective social media presence.  The Three R’s have become “social capital,” an emerging currency that studios, networks, and producers are increasingly giving greater weight to when making casting decisions.  Actors that have amassed sizable social media followings are highly sought after because they have the unique ability to directly and effectively engage their fans, and the studio, network, or producer will ultimately reap the benefits of such actors’ following when placing them in particular projects.

By creating content that is highly relevant, has massive reach, and resonates with their followers, Social Media Influencers are in the unique position to monetize and leverage their presence in a way never seen or possible before.  It important for Social Media Influencers to be aware of all such available opportunities and to be represented by industry professionals, like the attorneys at U.S. Law Group, that have experience in New Media and traditional Hollywood deal-making.

U.S. Law Group is quickly becoming one of the leading Hollywood law firms for advising Social Media Influencers on the deal-making process in this new frontier.  The firm’s Managing Attorney, Usman Shaikh, has taken the lead on expanding the firm’s Entertainment & New Media practice group to include representation not only of Social Medial Influencers, but also New Media content creators and emerging digital distribution platforms. To learn more about U.S. Law Group’s Entertainment & New Media practice group, please visit our site.  Content in this article should not be considered legal advice.