Why Community is King: Q&A With Amrapali Gan

The creator economy continues to grow. Goldman Sachs predicts that it could reach half a trillion dollars by 2027. However, consumer habits are shifting and brands working with creators to reach their desired audiences may need to pivot. 

It’s no longer enough for brands to forge partnerships with creators based solely on follower count. In a media landscape plagued with endless promotions and product placements (and a world plagued by a “loneliness epidemic”), consumers are gravitating toward authenticity in their online relationships, both to the creators they choose to follow and interact with and the brands those creators represent. 

In other words, community is king. 



By choosing to build business around specific communities, brands may be able to tap into longer-term relationships with consumers, with the chance to showcase their personality by blending digital and real-world engagement. 

Amrapali Gan, founder of ad agency Hoxton Projects and the former CEO and CMO of adult creator platform OnlyFans, sat with MediaPost to discuss why the creator economy is out and community is in, how brands can adapt by forging relationships with micro-influencers, how creators may be influenced by a TikTok ban in the United States, and more. 

MediaPost: How have your experiences at OnlyFans informed your outlook on the creator economy?

Amrapali Gan: I learned how to put myself in their position and understand that they are entrepreneurs. Creators are small businesses.

Their strategy depends on their community and where their audience is. They have to be hyper-organized. They are collaborating with other creators, with brands, and trying to foster authentic communication among community members. It’s about forging true long-term relationships. 

MP: As a brand, what does it mean to prioritize the “community economy” over the “creator economy”?

Gan: While both stem from a creator ecosystem, there are differences in engagement.

Community focuses on meaningful, deep levels of engagement and creator engagement is only coming from one source where you’re getting content from an individual creator versus the value coming from interaction experiences in a community. 

MP: How do they compare in terms of the relationship they have with consumers?

AG: Community is about long-term, authentic connections while a creator-driven strategy is becoming more transactional between influencers and their audience because they are relying on paid components like brand deals and partnerships. 

Creators are also more focused on monetization and that’s through subscriptions, sponsorships and brand deals. But community is more about a shared ethos and shared values while still having monetization opportunities. 

MP: Like what?

AG: I see a huge future in IRL components, whether it’s through events, meetups -- bringing communities together. There is a loneliness epidemic, which means there is a real need for people to come together across niche communities, versus a one-sided relationship between a creator and their fans. 

MP: Do you know any brands utilizing this community strategy?

AG: There's this app called Communia that's designed for anyone who identifies as a woman -- primarily targeting Gen Z millennials -- to have a safe place to bond over shared experiences. They're starting to translate their audience into IRL events and small meetups. 

I'm also noticing organizations like Gold House, which I'm a member of; they do a lot to create experiences around the Asian Pacific Islander community by including actors, directors, different business and thought leaders in IRL events. I feel there's a real need for that. All types of organizations and businesses can create experiences that are going to drive engagement interest from a specific audience.

MP: When did you start to see the shift into community-focused brand strategies?

AG: Over the past year or so. Having been so focused on OnlyFans, my new business is pushing me to sharpen my tools in the creator-consumer landscape. I’ve noticed that, overall, people are looking for authentic connections, which social media has ironically instigated. But there’s something slowly shifting in response to that. 

MP: How can a brand incorporate a community-driven campaign?

AG: Well, I think perfection is out and humor and imperfection are in, meaning that brands should be more real and authentic to drive deeper engagement with their audience. It’s all about creating their own community. Like Reformation, for example, have incredible content and give a wide variety of creators exposure on their platforms while operating under their own ethos. 

Brands also have an opportunity to connect with micro-influencers and their communities if they align with the ethos of the brand. Small groups typically have more engagement. These community conversations work to create brand trust and credibility. 

MP: What are consumers fed up with?

AG: Consumers are fatigued with changing your brand logo to a rainbow in June. They want to know what a brand is doing year-round to support a community. How are specific communities part of your content, your campaigns, and your business? 

MP: TikTok has a strong hold on the creator economy. How would a U.S. ban affect creator communities?

AG: I’ve been thinking about how brands and creators would adapt to a missing platform. If you remember Vine, when that folded communities of creators actually came together and started taking similar content and putting it on other platforms. 

Newer platforms will also find new opportunities that could be tailored to niche audiences. There is no shortage of TikTok alternatives. It’s really about what platform is going to be the most authentic for the creators. 

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