Karyn Spencer has straddled tech and Hollywood for years: she started as Ashton Kutcher’s personal assistant and eventually worked her way up to vice president of production for his media company. Then she moved into tech, becoming Vine’s head of creators in 2015, when online celebrities still largely operated on the fringe. After stints with major advertisers such as AT&T and Target, Spencer joined influencer marketing agency Whalar, where she is CMO.
These varied roles have given Spencer a front-row seat on the rise of influencers. She’s seen the pandemic speed up the industry’s development by five to 10 years. “We’re now in what I think is the beginning of the explosion of the creator economy,” Spencer, 44, said in an interview from Venice Beach, Calif., where she lives. “We’re at the golden age.”
Social networks can find success with these online celebrities by helping them get seen—and make money. In her view, the tech platforms need to personalize and improve their content recommendations to better mirror what TikTok has done with its For You Page, which curates videos based on individual users’ interests.
“When you look at the algorithm difference between TikTok and all of the other platforms, that is the key,” she said.
Spencer’s former employer Vine, the beloved six-second video platform owned by Twitter that shut down in 2017, holds a warning for what happens when creators can’t earn an income off their followings.