Influencers are secretly using ghostwriters to respond to OnlyFans messages and industry insiders think fans would be furious if they found out

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  • The paywalled-content platform OnlyFans has been propelled by its popularity with sex workers, but has also recently surged among influencers famous on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.
  • Many of these influencers have leaned into the messaging component of OnlyFans, pitching their followers on the ability to connect directly with them. 
  • But the amount of messaging needed to run a successful OnlyFans has led some to use ghostwriters to respond to messages on their behalf, industry insiders said.
  • “If anyone found out that was happening the audience would be pissed,” one influencer manager said.
  • Direct fan interaction can be lucrative for creators, but industry insiders stressed that when getting into this market, influencers should remember a fundamental component of their business model is consumer trust.

In recent months, OnlyFans and its eye-popping paydays have taken the influencer world by storm.

OnlyFans, which recently said it was paying out $200 million a month to creators, has been primarily propelled by its popularity with sex workers, who have used the platform to offer paywalled explicit content and interaction with fans.

But OnlyFans — which charges fans to access photos, videos, and messaging capabilities — has also been aggressively courting influencers famous for their work on social-media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

Two influencer managers told Business Insider that OnlyFans had recently approached them about getting their clients on the platform. One said the company emphasized its work with creators not in the adult-content space and gave a list that included a slew of Instagram-famous influencers.

While some of the influencers who have gone onto OnlyFans have offered the sex-work content traditionally associated with the platform, many have taken a different approach. These influencers have leaned into the messaging component of OnlyFans, pitching fans on the ability to directly connect with their favorite creators. But the volume of interaction that creating a successful OnlyFans account requires is sometimes unsustainable, industry insiders said. 

This has led to a big open secret in the creator community: some influencers use ghostwriters to respond to OnlyFans messages on their behalf.

Four creator industry insiders told Business Insider that they had direct knowledge of influencers who had others respond to OnlyFans messages for them. A handful of other insiders said they had heard about it. While this practice is efficient, it’s also a secret that no one wants to discuss openly because of the fear that fans would feel betrayed — and stop paying — if they knew they were messaging a ghostwriter and not their favorite creator.

“Creators are more enticed to come over to the platform because of the full-service options,” one manager told Business Insider, claiming there was at least one third-party company handling OnlyFans functions like responding to messages on behalf of influencers.

But it has to be a secret, insiders said.

“The relationship with the audience is so temperamental,” another manager said. “If anyone found out that was happening the audience would be pissed.”

When Business Insider asked one prominent Instagram influencer with an OnlyFans about it, she said that she had others write messages for her but that if fans knew, it would ruin her career. She said her OnlyFans was making her more money than she had ever seen in her life. She then hastily ended the call.

This reaction gets at a fundamental dilemma with the current wave of influencers starting OnlyFans accounts.

Many are already sharing intimate photos and the behind-the-scenes details of their lives on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and so on. So if they choose not to offer sex-work content on OnlyFans, leaning into messaging seems logical. It feels like a fundamentally “new” product to offer fans, versus a remixed version of what they already get on other social-media platforms. 

But some don’t have the time to devote to messaging, so they outsource.

This dilemma is not unique to influencers making the jump to OnlyFans. Some of the sex-work creators who fueled OnlyFans’ rise have also faced the conundrum of how to balance the income that messaging with fans can bring with the amount of time and energy it takes.

Erica North, an adult content creator, recently told Business Insider’s Mark Stenberg: “Sometimes, I feel like a professional texter.”

“Once my subscriber count crossed over a certain point, I just couldn’t keep up,” another OnlyFans sex-work creator, Aella, told Stenberg. “Now I respond to messages, but unless they’re a high tipper, it’s just minimal chatting.”

Still, as far as Business Insider has heard, the use of OnlyFans ghostwriters has come into vogue primarily in the influencer community rather than among sex workers who use the platform.

OnlyFans did not respond to requests for comment on this practice.

How it works on OnlyFans

Many influencers who have joined OnlyFans offer a free feed of pictures (with some pay-to-unlock moderately risque photos), but charge for the ability to comment on them or directly message the creator. There are both per-message options and flat fees for unlimited messaging.

When a free-tier user tries to message an OnlyFans creator, they are often told to “please add a tip to this message to send it” (generally with a minimum tip of $5), or that they can tip (usually between $100 and $200) to be added to the influencer’s VIP area to get “unlimited” chatting.

OnlyFans’ founder and CEO Tim Stokely got to the core of this feature in a recent interview with Bloomberg: “What OnlyFans customers crave, said Stokely, is a level of interaction and intimacy with the creator that they don’t typically get on Instagram or Twitter,” the outlet wrote.

The concept of making money from connecting with fans is nothing new for the creator community, which has always offered both entertainment and intimacy. Many YouTubers, for example, spend hours every day replying to comments.

But OnlyFans represents a new level of interaction, and while becoming a “professional texter” (as North put it) can be lucrative, it is not necessarily sustainable. Cue the rise of message ghostwriters.

Direct fan revenue is surging for creators

OnlyFans isn’t the only platform that influencers have used, particularly during the pandemic, to make money off direct connections with fans.

In March, after many advertisers sliced influencer marketing budgets, some creators stabilized their earnings by using direct-revenue services, like the membership platform Patreon and the personalized video-shout-out app Cameo. 

Cameo has perhaps tackled this market most effectively. The personalized shout-out provides a clear value for the customer while letting the creator set the right price to justify the time commitment. For instance Graham Stephan, a YouTuber who has about 2.5 million subscribers, charges $189 dollars for a personalized video.

Similarly, the new startup PearPop lets TikTok stars earn money by “collabing” with their fans. PearPop users can pay their favorite influencers to feature in videos with them. 

For reaching fans off social media, some celebrities and influencers are using Community, which lets them send text messages directly to their fans. But like with OnlyFans, there is the question of how much messaging a celeb can take on. In fact, Community has in its terms of use that some messages could be sent on behalf of a client by their team.

Direct fan interaction can make creators a lot of money, but industry insiders stressed that when getting into this market, influencers should remember a fundamental component of their business model is consumer trust. Misleading fans about what they are paying for can destroy the sense of authenticity that is a key for many creators to earning revenue from ads, products, or services.

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