Today, Instagram is one of a few platforms that dominate people’s interactions with celebrities. But some of these influencers are looking for something more: They want to own their photos and their audiences. They want freedom from the algorithms that decide who sees their content. And they want to stop relying on sponsored content and ad posts. Meanwhile, users have similar concerns. Some, fed up with the constant privacy violations and lack of transparency on the part of platforms, are looking away from the news feed and toward the refuge of messaging, small groups, and even separate apps like Renner’s and Rose’s. They all offer an antidote to Big Social Media.
The company Escapex, which makes these apps, offers exactly that. Each app is a decentralized social media platform that acts like Instagram but is fully controlled by the influencer, offering them an unique insurance policy: When Instagram’s popularity inevitably shifts, they’ll still have their own safe haven for their biggest fans to congregate–and pay them. And for fans, they get more than an intimate glimpse at their chosen celeb; they also get a community of people who feel the same way.
Connecting celebs with their fans–for a small monthly fee
Escapex, which was founded in 2015 and has raised $18 million in venture funding to date, now hosts the apps of more than 350 celebrities and social media influencers in 18 countries who have a total of 3.5 billion followers, many of whom are looking for a new way to turn their popularity online into cash that doesn’t involve hawking other people’s goods. According to Escapex, the combined 350+ apps have over 20 million users, who on average open an Escapex app four times a day. In the United States, 12% of users who install an Escapex app subscribe, paying an average of $6 per month to access their favorite influencer’s content.
For influencers, there’s a clear draw: It’s an easy way to monetize an audience that doesn’t require you to sacrifice whatever version of “authenticity” you’re selling by landing sponsorship deals with brands.
Let’s say you’re an influencer or celebrity with 2 million followers on Instagram. The vast majority of those people might be somewhat interested in you, given the fact that they follow you, but there’s a small percentage–it might be as small as .1% of your following–that is really obsessed with you. If you can advertise your own subscription-based app, and convince these superfans to come download it and pay $4.99 a month to get more personal, exclusive content from you as well as the chance to interact with you more directly, you could be making about $85,000 a year, just from an app. (It’s free for influencers to sign up for Escapex’s platform, and then the company takes a 30% cut of whatever they make.)
The company offers celebrities the ability to make money directly from their fans, cutting advertisers out of the equation. “When you’re serving advertisers or brands, you have to be very careful and moderate authenticity to fit the brand image,” says Sephi Shapira, the founder and CEO of Escapex. “When generating [content] for your fans, you don’t serve any other master. You’re funded by them directly.”