Chris Carmichael may not be a name you recognize, but he’s one of the top Snapchatters in the world — an impressive feat considering most of the top users on the platform are already established celebrities.
Based in Los Angeles, Carmichael, 28, has been able to build a following online through his clever storytelling, becoming one of the few Snapchatters who make up to $1,500 a day. He’s done sponsored deals for major brands, including Fox, Lionsgate and Universal. He told NextShark:
“A good creator on Snapchat could make anywhere from $2k to $20k per story. Some creators are getting month-long campaigns and earning up to $100k plus per campaign. It took me almost a year to start making some money, but by the time I did, I was offered $5k for my first brand deal ever. It was the first time I had made money in about four years.”
Before his success, Carmichael was a struggling entrepreneur had launched two tech startups. Unfortunately, both companies ended up failing. But his failures ended up becoming a silver lining because it helped him discover Snapchat.
“After those failures I became one of the earliest Snapchat storytellers. I started telling stories in Iceland in January 2014 right after the story feature came out. It turns out that in Iceland, Snapchat was already mainstream to the point where grandparents were using it. Word of mouth spread quickly in Iceland that I was telling stories there every day. A few months later, I collaborated with some internet celebrities and my account instantly became one of the biggest, having over 140k views per snap.”
Carmichael’s stories are typically short inspirational stories that often end with cliffhangers. He keeps a Tumblr documenting some of his stories.
“I usually do inspirational and motivational stories. I always end with a positive or inspirational message.”
Teenagers are abandoning Facebook for Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter at an estimated rate of up to a million a year. When asked what he thinks the allure behind Snapchat for teens is, he said:
“People love the fact that snaps disappear. Snapchat content is consumed very quickly. Snapchat creates a portal-like experience with all your friends. It’s almost like a window to other people’s worlds and it’s very intimate. This affects the users differently than just text messaging. Snapchat transcends moments between people, time, and space. It is the epitome of the idea of the ‘global village.’”
According to Carmichael, there are a variety of ways to make money on Snapchat.
“Brands pay influencers in a number of ways. They can hire the creator to do an ‘account takeover’ on the brand’s account or hire the creator to promote a message through the creator’s account to their fans. The key here is to find brands that truly resonate with you so you can tell your audience an honest message that you truly believe in. Influencers are great filters for crappy brands. Creators know their audience better than anyone and if they try to sell a brand they don’t believe in, then the audience will smell the B.S. and the creator will lose a ton of credibility.
“You’re required to share your view numbers with brands in order to do a brand deal. The more followers you have, the higher your rates. A great brand deal usually happens when the brand tells the creator a high-level message that they want to communicate to the audience and then let the creator own the creation side of their story. Some brands try to write scripts for creators because they don’t realize that the audience will be pushed away by the script. They want real and the creators know how to give them real.”
Despite its popularity, there are some major challenges when it comes to building a following on Snapchat.
“There is no way of people discovering you unless they find out about you through a shout-out, word of mouth, or through some sort of blog post or media coverage. There is no user discovery on Snapchat and it’s impossible to know how many followers you have. I was lucky enough to be one of the earliest and most followed people on Snapchat.”
That challenge became one of the inspirations for his new startup. Using all the money he made last year on Snapchat, Carmichael built Slinger, an app that is essentially a discovery engine for vertical videos and trending content from around the world, along with co-founders Sharon Lourduraj and Gave Rozenberg.
“Last year at SXSW, we came up with the concept for Slinger after realizing there was no mobile-first place to upload and watch vertical videos on your phone. We instantly mocked up an MVP and stealthily launched it three months later. I literally invested all of the money I made off of Snapchat last year and have reinvested it into Slinger. We have bootstrapped as long as possible and we haven’t raised a dime of funding yet.”
Since their official launch last month, Slinger has had over 4 million seconds of video watched. When asked what he thinks about the future of vertical video, he said:
“I think the future of vertical video is yet to be defined; it’s still so new that it’s still a Wild West out there. I think there are going to be thousands of different apps built over the next few years that will help us create different formats of vertical videos, but I also think there will be only a handful of places people will watch those videos. I also think we’re on the brink of seeing a new wave of influencers emerge.”