An International Centre of Excellence in Public Policy and Research

Realizing Economic Value of Social Media through Content Monetization


Content monetization is a way of leveraging online content in social media so that the content creator earns money as users, consumers or subscribers use the content. Given the rise in social media applications, content creation has increased on various social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. The digital era has led to increased pathways for individuals to accrue media attention, which eventually translates to endorsement and promotional deals with capital gains. The increased usage of social media platforms by many people has led to social media content monetization, whereby individuals are able to gain revenue from their social media audiences.

Content produced may be in the form of articles, blogs, songs, films, choreography, infographics, tournament contest, tutorial and do-it-yourself videos or podcasts discussing various topics such as sports, relationships, music, and travelling. Content creators in social media platforms can either be paid by the subscribers, or a third party that markets products through the content. Subscriber-only access and online courses are the most common and effective ways for a content creator to get paid directly by the users. Affiliate marketing, product placement, and pay-per-click (PPC) ads are the most common ways to get paid by third parties. Affiliate marketing entails a content creator earning a commission for marketing a company’s product on platforms such as  YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. On YouTube, content creators can make between US$ 0.01- $$ 0.03 per view after attaining a minimum of 4,000 watch hours and at least 1,000 subscribers. That means, on average, a content creator can make US$ 1,800 per 100,000 views with the right and appealing content.

Policy Issue

Content monetization plays a critical role in job creation and increasing household income in the fight against poverty. Social media is a strategic platform for youth empowerment as it applies technology where the youth have a comparative advantage. Despite this, Kenya lacks a comprehensive policy on regulating, promoting  and  enhancing the capacity for social media content monetization, which hinders content creators from maximum utilization of the opportunities available in the social media platforms.

On regulation, the protection of intellectual property rights is one of the critical issues. The “block first and discuss later” policy used by most social media platforms has penalized many content producers who have seen a sizeable percentage of their income disappear for unjustified reasons through demonetization. Promotional activities for social media content monetization in the country are also limited. Subscribers following social media content creators value transparency. However, that is put into question when influencers offer biased opinions, reviews, and information about a brand’s products, which may lead to harm. This limits the influencer’s promotional role in social media adverts.

It is also not possible for content creators to choose advertisers and their audiences, hence at times creators must put up with adverts that do not augur well with their beliefs, or subscribers who may have extreme views about a particular topic. Certain topics considered sulfurous by social media platforms are automatically blocked, which limits the capacity of influencers to monetize their content.

Current Status

Mobile devices are the major media disruptors in the communication and media landscape, with an increase in ownership from 71% to 95% while ownership of smartphones increased from 19% to 51% (Kenya All Media Establishment Survey 2022). Social media is to a large extent behind the booming market for available smartphones in the country. In Kenya, as of July 2022, there were 11.8 million active social media users according to Kepios (Figure 1). Kenya has a median age of 20.7 years. The top five most popular social media platforms used by Kenyans as of 2022 are Facebook (60.5%), followed by Twitter (16.72%), YouTube (9.12%), Instagram (6.66%), and Pinterest (5.36%), respectively (Figure 2)

Figure 1: Social media users in Kenya (2014-2022)Source: KEPIOS

Source: KEPIOS

Figure 2: Percentage share of social media platforms in Kenya

Source: StatCounter

The private sector players such as BRCK through its Moja Wi-Fi Platform provides affordable Internet and content to people in low-income areas. The platform works with local content creators to develop exclusive content for Moja while earning an income from the platform by leveraging on the existing user base to create a sustainable web monetization model that benefits local content creators. Moja users earn Moja points by performing digital engagements on the Moja platform and can then use these points to pay for the premium content they want to see.  The content creator receives payment in a cryptocurrency known as XRP to their crypto wallets. The content creator is free to either hold the XRP as a store of value, which may appreciate, or cash out through M-Pesa.

Gap Analysis

Digital explosion in Kenya has rendered the existing policies, laws, and regulations inapplicable in dealing with cases of abuse and misuse on social media platforms. As a result, the telecommunication authorities are playing catch-up in combating social media content creators, users and brands that flout media laws and ethics in the social space. Additionally, the high license fees charged by authorities for content creators using drones have discouraged social media content creation in the country.

Low income per capita and high youth unemployment means that most social media users in Kenya cannot pay for premium and paywalled content, which is a barrier to content monetization. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Amazon use algorithms to connect adverts to social media users. However, there has been a growing debate on algorithms having an element of bias in their target audience, and adverts that affect monetization of the social media content.

A significant portion of the Kenyan population is unbanked, and therefore are unable to pay  for social media content using banking platforms. This limits content creators who are unable to fully leverage content monetization on popular social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and Pinterest.            

Conclusion and Recommendations

Consumers’ acceptance of paid social media content is steadily increasing. This is not strange when you consider how fast social media use is growing. Brands and influencers alike are getting much better in creating more captivating content.  Social media has also become a huge entertainment and education platform, more so for youths. This has enabled social media influencers to monetize their content and make money via adverts. Brands have also realized increased sales of their products and profits. However, there are several bottlenecks that limit content monetization, such as inadequate awareness on copyright infringement, inadequate appropriate marketing skills and use of foul language. Therefore, there is need for a comprehensive social media content monetization policy to protect social media platforms, brands, work, and income of content creators on social media platforms.

The government in collaboration with the private sector may consider creating awareness on social media content monetization. This will encourage many Kenyan youths to join these platforms and create content that will enable then earn a living, thereby reducing the dependency ratio in the country. In doing so, the youths will be taught marketing skills via social media and how best to interact with the audience.

Authors: Josphat Machagua, Young Professional

Brigit Akinyi, Young Professional

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