Creator programs are popping up all over, but they typically are run by social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube. Instagram, for instance, is paying creators $1 billion through 2022 to encourage its most popular users to keep posting compelling videos. In June, Instagram hosted its first “creator week,” to walk participants through the intricacies of growing an audience, merchandizing, and media training.
Influencer marketing is becoming a more important component in most brands’ budgets, but the sector poses some challenges. Brands can get burned when they don’t thoroughly vet the reputations of creators. And there have been concerns about how well marketers can track the performance of social media campaigns that use creators versus paid ads. Last year, the Association of National Advertisers said that 65% of its members hired influencers in the prior 12 months.
The Disney Creators Lab will work with burgeoning TikTok and Instagram stars with followings in the tens of thousands. Melizza Black, for instance, has 57,000 followers on TikTok, where she already has a Disney-themed account. Black posts from Disney World, shows off Disney merch, and shares selfies using Disney augmented reality princess filters. Conner Lundius is another Disney enthusiast with 17,000 TikTok followers, who often posts with Mickey Mouse ears from Disneyland.
Disney is hosting eight online courses to take the 20 creators through lessons in promoting the House of the Mouse on social media. The courses run weekly for three months covering topics like branding, merchandising, creativity and monetization. Disney said that one of the classes will include direct training from a popular TikTok star, but did not say which TikTok creator would teach the course.
Disney is not paying the creators to participate in the program, but it’s possible that the courses teach the Disney fans how to make money from their online activities. The creators also will receive a trip to Walt Disney World in January.
Part of the impetus for the program is for Disney to build relationships with lesser-known creators and guide their ascent through social media before they are stars. Disney has had its feet in social media for years, though, marketing its parks and movie studios. Disney owns Marvel and Lucasfilm, which makes “Star Wars.” Disney also owns subscription streaming apps like Disney+, Hulu and ESPN.