Inside the heated debate over TikTok rival Triller's user count

Hi, this is Amanda Perelli. Welcome back to Insider Influencers, our weekly rundown on the influencer and creator economy. Sign up for the newsletter here.

TikTok rival Triller has reported ever-increasing user numbers in the last year, but some former employees are wary of its figures.

My colleague Dan Whateley spoke with six former Triller employees who pointed in particular to an October 2019 press release by the company, which they said gave a monthly active user count that was far above what they were seeing on some internal metrics at the time. 

In the October 2019 release, Triller said it had grown 500% organically year over year to 13 million monthly active users. But a screenshot provided by a former employee from one of Triller's app-analytics tools, Localytics, showed just 2 million monthly active iOS users and about 484,000 monthly active users on Android devices. It was taken a few weeks after the announcement. 

Four of the six former Triller employees Dan spoke with confirmed that they had access to the Localytics dashboard and remembered Triller's monthly active-user count ranging between 1 million and 2.5 million at the time. The other two said they remembered the monthly active-user count being about 1 million to 2.5 million at the time but did not name Localytics in particular.

In a statement, Triller CEO Mike Lu said the former employees were "disseminating inaccurate information" to Business Insider and that "relying upon probably false information is concerning." He also said the company no longer uses Localytics.

More recently, Triller threatened to sue the app-analytics company Apptopia in August after it provided estimates of Triller's app downloads that were much lower than the company's publicly reported numbers, TechCrunch first reported.

Triller has since hired Apptopia and the two companies plan to copublish a report based on Apptopia's "final analysis," an Apptopia spokesperson said, adding that there was no defined timeline for when the report would be released.

In September, Triller announced a monthly active user count of over 100 million. 

Read the full story here. 

After success on TikTok, music marketers test Instagram Reels

Music artists and record labels have begun testing out marketing campaigns on Reels, Instagram's TikTok competitor.

Music marketers told Dan that Reels lacks some of the song discovery features that have led to tracks going viral on TikTok, and TikTok remains the first choice when it comes to deciding where to allocate budgets.

"If we have $10,000 to spend on influencer marketing for a song, they'll spend $7,000 on TikTok, $3,000 on Reels," said Johnny Cloherty, the CEO and cofounder of the music-marketing agency Songfluencer.

But marketers also said that early tests on Reels, while unpredictable, have shown promise and could help record labels reach a different audience than TikTok's.

Read the full post here. 

How an Instagram influencer with under 10,000 followers booked $10,000 in brand deals last month

Fashion influencer Khadijah Lacey-Taylor has 9,800 followers on Instagram and she booked three deals in September worth five figures in total.

She has only been working part time as an influencer for one year, and my colleague Sydney Bradley spoke with her about how she landed those paying brand deals as a "nano influencer," what her pitching strategy looks like, and why she's leaning into short-form video content.

Of the three brand deals that Lacey-Taylor signed in September, each includes a 15- to 30-second Instagram video. One asked for two videos, while another requested one video and a few photos. (Business Insider verified these sponsorships through screenshots of emails between Lacey-Taylor and the brands.)

This trio of deals for Lacey-Taylor is indicative of two trends happening in the influencer industry right now: brands increasingly looking to hire "nano influencers" (those with fewer than 10,000 followers) and the rise of short-form video on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

Read more on Lacey-Taylor here.

The head of Instagram outlined the 6 main ways that creators make money through the app

This week, Instagram hosted a virtual conference to celebrate the app's 10th anniversary and discuss new features, trends, and usage tips.

Sydney wrote that Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, broke down the six main ways that creators make money through Instagram, including brand partnerships, affiliate marketing, and ad revenue.

"Do you plan on sharing ad revenue or any other revenue with creators?" one person on the Zoom call asked.

"We're trying to figure out how to do that," Mosseri responded. Instagram started testing an ad revenue program on IGTV earlier this year, and introduced "Badges," which allow followers to tip creators when they are livestreaming.

"There are a bunch of ways that we can help creators make money," Mosseri continued. 

He also touched on how Instagram wants to improve monetization moving forward.

Check out the six ways influencers make money on Instagram, here. 

More creator industry coverage from Business Insider:

YouTube 

  • How much money a YouTuber with 20,000 subscribers makes from her videos about thrift-store shopping (by Sydney Bradley)

Instagram 

  • An Instagram exec says influencers should be leaning into the app's video and shopping features (by Sydney Bradley)

  • How Netflix star Harry Jowsey of "Too Hot to Handle" has stayed relevant and built an influencer career out of his sudden fame (by Amanda Perelli)

TikTok

  • We are seeking nominations for the influencer "collab" houses that have had the greatest impact on the creator industry this year. Submit your ideas here.

  • TikTok employees describe life inside the company as its future hangs in the balance (by Dan Whateley and Paige Leskin)

YouTube Creator Spotlight: Erik Conover

Real-estate YouTube creator Erik Conover (1.4 million subscribers) recently announced that he had become a licensed real-estate agent signed exclusively with Nest Seekers, the firm behind Netflix's "Million Dollar Beach House."

Conover filmed his first real-estate video for his YouTube channel in 2017, touring the 300-square-foot studio apartment he was renting in Chelsea, New York City. The video gained 1.5 million views.

"It just so happened that around this time in February of 2018, Ryan Serhant and his digital team reached out to me, he was looking to start a YouTube channel and wanted to collaborate," Conover said.

Serhant is a real-estate broker and appears on the show "Million Dollar Listing New York." Together, they filmed a video touring a $20 million townhouse in Chelsea, which went viral and gained 5.6 million views. 

"That first video birthed the luxury tour genre on YouTube and more interestingly a new way to market and sell luxury real estate," Conover said. "In early 2020, I began looking at some of the top brokerages to team up with to get my license in New York and the CEO of Nest Seekers International saw the vision of merging new media with the traditional real-estate model."

He will be as a licensed real-estate agent in New York, and will eventually get a license in California, Florida, and New Jersey. His fiancé Hanna, who has helped him grow his social-media brand, is also joining Nest Seekers as head of digital marketing.

"My series 'Luxury Listings' has 64 million views, and over 26 episodes averaging 2.47 million views per episode, which has translated indirectly to hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate sold through my property tours," Conover said. "I built my brand on YouTube working with some of the top Fortune 500 companies in the world like BMW, LG, and BestBuy, creating branded content."

Conover plans to continue to film videos and listing for YouTube. Check out his channel here.

This week from Insider's digital culture team:

Jeffree Star accusers say the makeup mogul has a history of sexual assault, physical violence, and hush-money offers

Jeffree Star is one of the most popular influencers on YouTube, and he runs a multimillion-dollar cosmetics brand with over 40 million social-media followers. But before his makeup empire, Star was a politically incorrect Myspace celebrity.

In an Insider investigation by Kat Tenbarge, several people said he physically and sexually abused others during the time of his Myspace fame. Accusers told Kat that Star used weapons such as a stun gun (a tasing device) on the people around him for fun and for revenge after facing rejection.

Star's attorney denied the allegations of physical and sexual violence in this article, calling them "false and defamatory."

Messages obtained by Insider showed two of Insider's on-the-record sources discussing a $10,000 payout offer from Star to recant their allegations.

Read the full investigation here. 

More from Insider:

  • People are making "Among Us" memes and fan art about the popular mafia-style online game (Palmer Haasch)

  • Etsy will remove all QAnon-related merchandise from the platform (Rachel Greenspan) 

  • Claudia Conway, the 15-year-old daughter of the former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, posted TikTok videos about her family's COVID-19 tests (Margot Harris)

Here's what else we're reading: 

  • Trump and Biden have steered clear of TikTok despite its potential reach (Connor Perrett, from Business Insider)

  • Amazon Live attracts beauty brands with its shoppable livestream format (Liz Flora, from Glossy)

  • Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian leads a $4 million seed round for YouTube star David Dobrik's new app (Logan Moore, from The Wall Street Journal)

  • Triller is using fancy cars, fine dining, creator mansions, and cash to buy talent (Taylor Lorenz, from The New York Times)

Thanks for reading! Send me your tips, comments, or questions: aperelli@businessinsider.com

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