One of the world's most popular YouTubers announced he's dating an Australian influencer. What happened next shows how relationships can be big business for content creators.

@ethandolan / @kristinaalice1
  • Since YouTuber Ethan Dolan (of the Dolan Twins) announced he was dating Kristina Alice, the Australian influencer’s Instagram following has skyrocketed.
  • Online creators use relationships to reach new audiences, create new and different content, and even to provide professional assistance with their work.
  • But not every creator can or will use their relationship as part of their work, as concerns about privacy or how perception of their relationship will affect their work.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Kristina Alice was a little known Australian influencer — until one of the world’s biggest YouTubers announced that they were dating.

The Dolan Twins are a pair of U.S.-based comedy creators who have nearly 11 million subscribers on YouTube.

In a video ‘Addressing assumptions about us‘, one of the twins, Ethan, confirmed fans’ suspicions that he has a girlfriend.

And that answer was enough to jumpstart Alice’s online following.

According to data from social media analysis tool CrowdTangle, Alice’s Instagram following count jumped to more 120,000 followers from such a small amount that the tool hadn’t even measured it.

For online creators, relationships can be both personal and business. Influencers, YouTubers, streamers and other kinds of creators use their real lives as a source for content, and their friends, families and partners are often a major part of their stories.

A creator’s decision to ‘publicly couple’ — meaning to make their relationship a publicised part of their online persona — can have many of professional benefits, according Curtin University’s senior research fellow Dr Crystal Abidin.

“Public coupling allows influencers to expand their digital estates,” she said. “Apart from being able to advertise the relationship on their own social media, the couple has another account that can sometimes offer a different kind of content.”

Sometimes, an influencer’s partner’s content might provide behind-the-scenes for a traditionally ‘professional’ looking creator which can bring in a new audience or deepen an existing audience’s attachment to a creator.

In the case of Dolan and Alice, the Australian influencer’s account provides a different perspective on the mega-famous YouTuber.

View this post on Instagram

One year with you ???? E, you taught me the definition of love. You make me feel safe, worthy, happy, inspired, courageous, fulfilled and the list goes on. Anyone who shares a room with you will agree on how bright you shine. You bring light into everyone’s life with your generosity, wisdom and selflessness. Anyone who has met you knows how passionately driven you are – in every single aspect. Your energy is infectious. You continuously turn negative situations into valuable, lifelong lessons. Your emotional intelligence is mind blowing. I’m so grateful for all the times you’ve stopped me in the midst of chaos, and aligned my conscience back with reality. I am so beyond grateful for the last 365 days with you, and SO blessed to be able to spend this special day with you. I love you more than you will ever know, and fall harder for you every single day. Thank you for being the most incredible boyfriend & best friend to me.???? Photo by @jordenkeith

A post shared by Kristina Alice (@kristinaalice1) on

Alice’s first Instagram post with Dolan is a professional-looking glamour shot of the Dolan twin, who is known for his intentionally candid and amateur-looking videos.

And the post blew up. The photograph has more than 190,000 likes, the most of any of her posts by far. Her following jumped by more than 50,000 that week.

According to Dr Abidin, a creator’s relationship offers additional commercial and professional advantages.

Creators have additional ways to sell themselves to advertisers for sponsorships and branded content: by themselves, with just their partner or with the couple. Many agencies will sell influencer couples, which opens the pair up to new brand opportunities as well.

“From a brand perspective, it allows them to offer up a new narrative or plot line,” Dr Abidin said.

And there’s even the practical aspect of being an influencer. The stereotypical ‘influencer boyfriend’ — the partner who takes the photographs while the creator poses — plays an important role in producing the content that creators use.

Even breaking off a relationship can be beneficial if done right. In August this year, Australian online fitness entrepreneur Kayla Itsines and her partner Tobi Pearce posted they were breaking off their engagement.

Prior to the announcement, Pearce’s Instagram was haemorrhaging followers. But on the day of the post, thousands of people followed his account.

But Dr Abidin warns that there exists a lot of risk associated with de-coupling, including the breakdown of a business relationship, the loss of advertising opportunities and the reaction from fans and followers.

“Most influencers will announce a breakup weeks or months after the event, so they can package it properly,” she said.

And while there are many ways in which a relationship can be used by creators as part of their work, Dr Abidin cautions that it’s not possible for everyone.

Some creators may not want their relationship in the public eye. Others may find that their relationship could damage their appeal, like for creators who build their audience around being single.

And in some cases, creators have chosen to hide their same-sex relationships and even engage in faux-relationships publicly in countries where same-sex attraction remains illegal or taboo, Dr Abidin said.

While these relationships may be real, online creators treat them as they do other parts of their lives: as something to be manufactured, captured and broadcast.

And that means treating everything professional. In Dolan’s first Instagram post about the relationship, the caption is an emotional stream-of-consciousness tribute to Alice.

But, at the end, he makes sure to credit and tag the photographer’s Instagram account.

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