Online tipping has quietly exploded over the last two years as social networks try to appeal to creators, who are looking for new ways to make money directly from fans. Our latest chart shows how much these features can vary, particularly in the percentage, or take rate, a technology company gets.
While a handful such as Clubhouse and Twitter aren’t taking a cut, a few get 20% or more of the transactions, suggesting such fees could be a significant source of revenue for some companies. OnlyFans revenue surged 553% to $391 million last year from its 20% cut of fan tips and subscriptions, although it’s not clear how much tipping contributed to the total.
YouTube takes a 30% cut when fans buy Super Stickers, or animated images that pop up in livestreams. It recently said more than 10 million people bought one of its fan-focused products last year, including channel memberships and pinning comments in live chats.
But tipping can be inconsistent and unreliable, as some Clubhouse creators told me when its payment feature launched in April. “People are not repeat tipping,” said Jonathan Hyla, a filmmaker with 80,000 Clubhouse followers.
That’s why some social networks are adding animated features that echo those in video games. Twitch, for example, lets users buy packages of virtual goods called Bits, starting at $1.40 for 100 and rising to $308 for 25,000 Bits, that they can sprinkle in during a livestream to cheer their favorite streamers.
Facebook has a similar system, where it gives creators one cent per every Star they receive. TikTok also lets fans send virtual gifts, such as a disco ball or confetti, during livestreams. This approach, which aims to make the experience of tipping fun, could lend itself to more frequent activity and revenue than a one-time payment to someone’s Twitter Tip Jar.
Will any of these efforts be enough to get creators to stick around? Online performers have shown they want the option. Many were already adding their Venmo and Cash App payments details to their social media bios before the platforms added tipping.
Yet there’s a good chance tipping could remain a fringe activity. For a start, fans in some cases, such as when buying Facebook Stars, have to pay extra to shoulder the 30% fee paid to the Apple and Google app stores unless they buy them on desktop browsers. Patreon, notably, is focused on monthly subscriptions rather than tips, though some creators have found workarounds by setting a price of $1 a month for their Patreon pages.
The more lucrative route is probably to focus on subscriptions like these, says Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter, “with users moving to a premium tier to follow the [creators] they like, and the site guaranteeing a minimum.”
Here’s what else is going on…