A Digital Workplace — How technology is transforming the way we earn
Updated: Nov 4, 2021
In every technological revolution, global interconnectivity increases, new production processes develop, and the job market transforms. During each revolution, there has been the fear that we will come up with new ways to automate jobs and human capital will lose value. Especially in the past few decades, there have been dozens of campaigns against automation as workers worry they are being replaced. Just as technology has made jobs obsolete, however, it has also opened up new avenues of productivity, creativity, and entertainment.
The current influx of innovations has long been dubbed the Fourth Industrial Revolution – described as the blurring of boundaries between the biological, physical, and digital worlds. This revolution has brought forth a complete transformation in the ways we earn a living, but an especially key industry has emerged in the past couple of years: social media services. There are up to 40,000 influencers on Instagram, and 15,000 on TikTok with over a million followers. The influencer marketing business has more than doubled since 2019, with a 2021 forecasted value of US$13.8 billion. Additionally, success on social media extends far past just the Influencer scene – educational TikTok channels @alphaeducation and @mathswithmisschang, for example, have over 300,000 followers each. Even businesses have joined the scene: Chipotle has gained millions of viewers through their meme-ified TikTok and Instagram Reels content.
The advent of Instagram Reels and the popularity of TikTok indicate a major shift in the use of social media for business. The entertainment and arts industries have always appeared to be niche and difficult to enter, with only the most successful artists able to make a living without a daytime job. Even on platforms such as vine, only the topmost creators were able to make over a thousand dollars a year. Today, on Instagram Reels and TikTok, it is possible to earn a significant amount of money by making quality, or even just entertaining, content. TikTokers @khaby.lame and @fitdadceo are examples of creators who’ve grown to over a million followers with short reels and minimal personal expense.
What is new this time, however, is how influencer marketing is no longer a side hustle. No longer is creating short clips something that needs to be done alongside a daytime job. The variety of platforms available to creators allows for significant opportunities to earn livable wages, where Instagram influencers with between 5K to 10K followers can make an average of US$88 per post, on average about $600 per week. Creating accounts on multiple platforms can multiply this number many times over. Creators can also use merchandise, sponsors, and tipping to supplement their revenue.
While the vast majority of large entertainment channels are creators, however, these digital platforms are not restricted to individuals – companies are increasingly using social media as a tool to promote their brand. This is true across a variety of industries – Chipotle, The Washington Post, and even the NBA are three major associations that use TikTok to promote their content and connect with their customers. Companies have even begun to adapt their content to the TikTok audience: using memes, trending reel formats, and jokes to bring in views.
All in all, we are witnessing a shift in the workplace. Until recently, job seekers were encouraged to avoid posting unprofessional content on their profiles, executives were asked to publish as little as possible, and browsing social media in the workplace was – quite naturally – the best way to get fired. Today that’s no longer the case. Social media and Search Engine Optimisation skills are highly sought after, and often required, in most marketing roles. Being experienced with the intricacies of Instagram filters and entertaining stories isn’t a sign of time wasted, but rather a skill that can add value to one's profile.
Yet while there are undoubtedly benefits to using social media for revenue, it may not be all roses and sunshine. Social media has, until recently, been very clearly separated from work as something that is done “on your own time” – a personal platform that you take part in for your own entertainment. The rise of social media marketing might signal a blurring of boundaries between these two parts of peoples’ lives, with social media being a required part of one’s job. It’s already common for firms to ask employees to create standardised LinkedIn descriptions or announce the commencement of their work, and as digital marketing gets more common, firms’ and sponsors’ control over online profiles may continue to increase. The digital “safe space” that allows people to express themselves may grow to be less safe, less private, and more controlled for monetary gain.
It remains to be seen how digital marketing will continue to develop after Covid-19, and how important it will be in the context of this industrial revolution is speculative. While the extent of its impact remains uncertain, however, in light of the past year of lockdowns we can all attest that social media, digital marketing, and new uses of technology are all vital aspects of the modern workplace.
Written by Abhi Desai.
The views and opinions presented in this article belong to Abhi Desai — not TEDxWarwick.
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