Are Creators becoming the source of truth?

By Saaya Nath & Jack Chen

There's a massive generational shift we're seeing in trust from institutions to individuals – and how creators can capitalize on this movement to become a 'source of truth' for their followers

In our last post, we predicted that the creators who continue to find ways to develop measurable, deep value for their followers vs. pure entertainment will ultimately come out stronger during the industry's first economic downturn.

This introduces a new segment of creators that gain following and monetization through knowledge and information commerce: the expert creator. There has never been a better time for creators to double down on this as we see the transition in trust from large institutions to relatable experts. Let's talk about how we got here and a few of the fastest-growing areas.

How We Got Here

Mainstream institutions were once the primary source of truth and knowledge.

If someone wanted to learn a sustainable and in-demand skill, the reliable and often, only, way was to go through higher education. Today, there are instructors across every niche industry that provide specialized knowledge through a variety of mediums.

If someone wanted to hear the latest news, they'd tune into their local channel. Today, there are independent journalists on Twitter, Substack, and a variety of news shows on YouTube.

If someone wanted to keep up with the latest trends in culture, they'd read magazines and watch TV programming. Today, there are creators whose voices can shape the direction of pop culture overnight.

Trust from organizations is at a record low and now flowing sideways into colleagues/friends, concentrated communities, and strangers on the internet. Edelman's Gen Z survey found that institutional reporters, government officials, and C-level leaders are trusted the least compared to family, friends, and even professionals. People seek information that contains multiple perspectives, comes from a relatable source, and doesn't feel like it has ulterior motives. (Source).

We're seeing consumer behavior lean into experts across areas that are important to them. Today, the X-factor for trusted influence is real people who 'walk the talk' authentically and relatably. And what's facilitating this entire movement are the numerous creator and content platforms that now exist, allowing expert creators to achieve the same economies of scale once only available to mainstream institutions.

The amazing part? These days you can find successful expert creators in just about any niche. There are so many we could go through - but for today, let's review the ones that we think have the largest potential for continued growth: Product Recommendations, Financial Advice, and Education.

1. Product Recommendations

Product recommendations and, in turn, purchasing decisions have always been heavily driven by brand self-promotion via traditional marketing and advertising campaigns. But, in the past few years, we've seen Influencer Marketing rise as the targeting star.

Consumers are becoming increasingly skeptical of brands, for an array of concerns spanning from personal data misuse to ESG responsibility.

Almost 80% of respondents in a Ford Consumer Trend survey across the U.S., U.K., and Spain report this growing mistrust, and nearly two-thirds say that once a brand loses its trust, there's no gaining it back (Source). Additionally, 92% of consumers say they trust influencers more than brand ads or celebrity endorsements – and more than half have made purchases in response to creator recommendations (Source).

A perfect epitome of this trend is one of our favorite creators, Remi Bader, a model representing females who have a curvier body type and are looking for relatable, expert opinions from someone they trust. Bader amassed a TikTok following of over 2 million by sharing "Realistic Hauls" – try-ons of various clothing items from popular brands such as Revolve, Zara, H&M, etc.

These hauls speak to the difficulties many women face when trying to choose clothing sizes, given the huge variability and lack of inclusivity that exists in much of the fashion industry. Scrolling through her comments, it's resoundingly clear how much her followers value and most importantly, trust, her content when deciding which brands and clothing items to purchase from.

There's a number of creators like Bader helping consumers get authentic product recommendations, evidenced by the proliferation of startups targeting this very market. Consumers are itching for relatable creators that fit within their representation needs. It matters, and there's never been more demand for it.

2. Financial Advice

Last year, a survey showed that investment and wealth managers are the least trusted financial service providers among consumers, with a whopping 36% distrusting them. This explains why today, 60-70% of Americans don't have a financial representative of any sort.

Ironically, however, the market of consumers seeking out financial knowledge has only continued to grow, heavily accelerated by COVID, with over 60% of Americans wanting money advice (Source).

So why aren't traditional advisors able to fill this demand? If not them, who then, is?

Once only a role for academically credentialed, corporately employed advisors, creators – specifically known as "finfluencers" – have taken this field by storm. And while there's likely a number of reasons that made this opportunity ripe for the taking, there's one in particular that we believe drove the most change: Relatability.

Let's look at who has experienced the most economic growth in the past year – and will continue to as a result of the $70 trillion generational wealth transfer in the years to come: it will be Millenials and younger generations.

As is likely no surprise to anyone reading this, these generations have vastly different values and priorities than those before them, including when it comes to money management.

First, 71% of Millennials and Gen Z'ers say they appreciate financial information coming from someone they can identify with (Source). However, 70% of wealth managers today are men, and almost 80% are White (Source) – and when it comes to asset value, only 1.3% of U.S. financial assets are managed by women and people of color (Source).

After physical representation, the second piece of relatability is in the advice itself. Many traditional advisors have not shifted their tones to adjust to the changed values of younger consumers. Recommendations ranging from "reduce how much you eat out" to "don’t jump from job to job” to “buying is always better than renting” fundamentally contradict some of the very beliefs these consumers value above all else – social connection, flexibility, and freedom.

With all this, it’s no wonder that Finfluencers such as Mrs. Dow Jones have garnered a massive following. Mrs. Dow Jones, aka Haley Sacks, demystifies finance by comparing it to things younger consumers know – such as how Mutual Funds and ETFs are “exactly like” Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle and how Bitcoin can be compared to Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck’s rekindling!

There’s no shortage of others out there. As of this month, the hashtag #financialadvice on TikTok has over 125.4 million views, #investing has over 8 billion, and those referencing specific asset classes like #cryptocurrency and #realestateinvesting have 7.1 billion and 2.0 billion respectively. And, these views are driving meaningful behavior change: last August, Betterment reported that the number of accounts opened in last April doubled from the same time in the previous year after a finfluencer recommended them in a video (Source).

Responsibly, we need to mention that this is not financial advice. When it comes to finance, always do your research and make sure the individuals you’re listening to are vetted and credible. But, with the growth of finfluencers continuing, we expect them to play a big role in proper financial literacy and empowering consumers to make better decisions.

3. Education

One catalyst that accelerated this trend faster than expected was the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. During this time, traditional learning models faced challenges adapting to remote learning and WFH environments.

With extra time during the pandemic and a need for more convenient ways to acquire knowledge, we saw consumption soar across exclusive content, cohort classes, and MOOCs (massive open online courses). This meant two things:

  • Expert creators focused on selling knowledge were provided hungry fans stuck at home with extra time to upskill/reskill.
  • For institutions in higher education, there was an immediate need to partner with platforms with the infrastructure to enroll students en masse, empower professors, and translate the classroom into a digital experience.

By the end of 2020, 950 universities launched over 16,800 new MOOCs, with 2,800 new courses added. Online MOOC platforms gained over 60 million new learners combined (Source).

As higher education adapted, as did its instructors - we began to see a new trend of academic professionals becoming content creators. Dr. Kat, an epidemiologist professor at the University of Chicago, saw the influx of misinformation/inaccurate content on TikTok around how and why diseases spread - and began her own account. Now at 270k followers, she’s had the opportunity to help better inform millions of people about diseases ranging from COVID to Monkeypox.

For expert creators from the non-academic world, we saw a massive development in upstarts that empowered anyone to plan, create, and sell their own online courses.

This was an opportunity for people to look for more personalized, curated knowledge and real-world skills outside of what they would normally find in traditional education. From entrepreneurship, arts, fitness, and even parenting, consumers were looking for the most direct source of knowledge and could find that through the creators they trusted most.

Mayuko, a Software Engineer who worked for some of the biggest startups in Silicon Valley, became a full-time creator in 2020 with over 500k followers where she gives a sneak peek into her work life and answers common questions for people looking to transition into the career.

As followers continued to ask for advice and time from her, she decided to launch her own academy (we hold no affiliation) to help career professionals reskill/upskill as a programmer. It’s supported by ‘at your own pace’ modules, a weekly office hour with a ‘there are no dumb questions’ policy, and a tight-knit community where you can work through career workshops. She saw the hardships of navigating the tech industry and is now providing thousands of people a chance to have the proper technical and soft skills to land a job that would otherwise have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars at a traditional university.

The lockdown let people learn directly from experts and find alternative ways to fill the gap where traditional education couldn’t. It has created new consumer behavior that normalizes the idea of both paying and charging for premium content, niche communities, and online courses. We think this is just the beginning of expert knowledge commerce.

What Does This All Mean?

As we attempted in our first post, the point of the above is not simply to share some successful anecdotes but to inspire actionable behaviors for aspiring, emerging, and growing creators. Let’s break apart what we think has made certain creators successful in establishing themselves as a ‘source of truth,’ and how that can extend to your own approach. It’s all in the 3 C’s.


It’s hard to address the topic of trust without talking about developing credibility. Credibility is the backbone of influence, a stamp of approval that you know what you’re talking about. Institutions have historically established their credibility via, well, credentials. Typically academic ones such as the Series 65 for investment advisors or a doctorate degree for college professors. However, where some institutions have faltered, and creators have gravitated towards from the start, is transparency. For example, Vivian Tu, a Wall Street Trader turned finfluencer with over 1.4M followers on TikTok, shares with her followers her personal financial decisions - such as a condo she recently purchased with her fiance, how much they each paid, and even the interest rate they secured on their mortgage! It’s hard to prove you’re an expert in something without showing that you’re willing to practice what you preach - so leverage transparency as a means to credential yourself.


We talked about the power of a curated, owned community model quite a bit in our last post, so we’ll try not to be too repetitive, but it’s an important part of this conversation. Chances are, you can’t be an expert at everything (and even if you were, most people probably wouldn’t believe you!). But being an expert at one, or a few things - that’s much more believable, especially if you can lead by example as we suggest above. So, pick the one or two things you know really well and stick to it, as did all of the creators we called out. Finding a niche can in fact be your biggest opportunity.


There’s no growth hack for trust. Building it takes time, and time means being consistent about the content you put out there. In May 2022, Saaya did a podcast with Sahil Bloom, an investor turned full-time creator, where he reflected on his journey from 500 to 500,000 followers on Twitter. His secret? Relentless consistency. Sahil has written at least one thread per week since May 2020 to get to where he is today. Contrary to how it sounds, this repetitive grind is actually what will create sustainable value for you. Chasing virality may make you an overnight sensation or next month’s most popular meme, but it probably won’t make people look to you as a subject matter expert.

So be authentic, be consistent, preach what you know, and forget what you don’t.

With that, we leave you to fill in everyone’s favorite Spider-man quote: with great power comes great ___________.

This article was reposted with permission from Saaya Nath and Jack Chen, the creators, and writers of Creator Economy-ing. This newsletter provides deep commentary about the Creator Economy, specifically the Creators.

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The opinions expressed by Saaya Nath and Jack Chen are their own and not reflective of Jump Capital or SWIDIA.

*Header image features Creator Influencers: Remi Jo Bader, Vivian Tu, Haley Sacks, Dr. Katrine Wallace

By Saaya Nath & Jack Chen

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