VidCon 2023 Recap: Everything You Missed at the Crown Jewel of Creator Events

Birds eye view of Jellysmack VidCon lounge featuring neon lights, colorful signage and a crowd of people

Under the rows of towering palm trees in Anaheim, California, the digital world and reality converged last week for VidCon 2023. As the sun-filled city played host to the world’s largest online video conference, thousands of content creators, industry insiders, and devoted fans gathered to enjoy three non-stop days of panels, parties, and so much more. 

Thousands descended on the Anaheim Convention Center for VidCon 2023, presented by YouTube.

Not only did YouTube return as the convention’s marquee sponsor, reclaiming its spot after TikTok’s one-year takeover, Jellysmack was also back in full force. If you caught us last year, you were probably wondering how we could possibly top 2022’s epic event, what with headline-making panels and our top creator hangout at the Hyatt Regency Orange County—but we managed to Go Bigger once again, returning to the VidCon stage with two esteemed Industry Track discussions and a lounge that transported thousands of attendees under the sea (more on that later).

VidCon 2023 was all about what’s new and next for creators and the world of digital media. Here are the major trends that dominated the convention and define this pivotal time in the creator economy.

We’re Entering a New Era of Celebrity

Fame is no longer just suited for A-list Hollywood actors. Creators are becoming celebrities in their own right. Jellysmack’s Chief Marketing and Creator Experience Officer, Amber Tarshis, joined top TikToker Kallmekris and Rolling Stone’s CT Jones for a discussion at VidCon 2023 about how creators are overtaking this traditional role—and how brands need to pivot before it’s too late.

The panel began with a video, where Amber took to the streets of Los Angeles to quiz people on their celebrity knowledge. While many didn’t even remotely recognize award-winning actors like Denzel Washington, George Clooney, and Julia Roberts, creators like MrBeast, Khaby Lame, and Addison Rae were top of mind. 

“The concept of people who have influence is a universal truth that hasn’t changed. It’s really a function of where “celebrity” is being driven from today. It’s where we’re deriving fandom and connection, and where people are able to motivate behavior that is changing.”

Amber Tarshis, Jellysmack Chief Marketing and Creator Experience Officer

Major brands, media companies, and even movie studios need to realize there is a new world order: digital creators hold more power than ever. Legacy talent is losing steam when it comes to staking influence over consumers, especially as the internet-led gen Z rises to become the major decision maker. 

It all boils down to creators’ unique ability to form a deep personal connection with consumers. The untouchability and aspirational nature of traditional celebrities is no longer what motivates people in the digital age. Access and approachability are really what build trust for today’s consumers, which creator Kallmekris has made a point to establish with her millions of followers across platforms.

Rolling Stone’s CT Jones, TikTok creator Kallmekris, and Jellysmack Chief Marketing and Creator Experience Officer Amber Tarshis took to the VidCon stage.

“I’m just able to talk to and reach my audience directly. I’m much more available to them [than traditional celebrities]. I can talk to people in my comments, I can talk to them on a live stream. I think people are starting to see that having that connection is important.”

Kallmekris, top TikToker and Jellysmack creator partner

While creators like Kris are quickly rising to celebrity-level fame, others are already there, mastering the art of turning digital moments into a phenomena that transcends social platforms. Case in point: MrBeast and Emma Chamberlain. Their recent gracing of Rolling Stone‘s cover was more than just another career milestone. It served as a major indicator that digital content creators are now legitimate and influential forces within mainstream culture.

Even celebrities themselves are noticing this shift and breaking into the digital space to form that one-on-one connection with audiences. Keke Palmer, actress and founder of YouTube content network, KeyTV, took to the Industry Track Mainstage to discuss her evolution and how it has impacted her career.

Keke Palmer shares how her transition from traditional to digital skyrocketed her entertainment career.

“Coming from traditional media, there’s a system in place and a specific way of doing things—you have agents, managers. Social media allows you to reach the consumer directly, which puts you in a power position. I’ve garnered a lot of freedom in my career through forming these relationships.”

Keke Palmer, actress and founder of KeyTV

Keke has amassed over 7.5M followers on TikTok and nearly a million subscribers on YouTube all while juggling an extremely successful acting career. After being in the entertainment industry for nearly two decades, the transition to digital is what led Keke to win her first Emmy in 2021 for her Facebook Watch series, Turnt Up with the Taylors.

The line between celebrity and creator is blurring, and if VidCon 2023 taught us anything, it’s that the line will be nonexistent sooner than you might think. 

There is a Great Debate Around AI

It’s no secret that AI technology is making waves within many industries, and the creator economy is no exception. While Jellysmack has been using our own proprietary AI for years to help creators optimize their content, self-service tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney are hitting the mainstream, offering creators ways to increase productivity and reduce burnout. 

Countless panels at VidCon 2023 addressed this of-the-moment topic, and creators packed nearly every room, hoping to gain insights into how they can utilize these tools to up their content game. While the most common uses of AI are to help write video scripts and create thumbnails, innovative new apps are launching to help with tasks beyond the creative process like landing brand deals, moderating comments, and even invoicing. AI is not only helping creators take care of things that they don’t want to spend time on, it’s enhancing skill sets and unlocking more creativity than ever before.

“If you’re good at something, [AI] can turn you into an expert. If you’re an expert, it can turn you into a superhero.”

Jim Louderback, Editor and Publisher of Inside the Creator Economy

Beyond independent tools, social platforms themselves are tapping into the AI advancement to help creators. Meta recently introduced their new AI speech generator, Voicebox, which will allow creators to edit audio tracks, turn written words into audio messages, and even enable them to speak any foreign language—all in their own voice. In addition, after years of demand, ‘Test & Compare’ thumbnail testing will be rolling out on YouTube for creators next year.

Jellysmack also has something new up our own sleeves, which will completely transform the creator workflow. Our self-service creator tool, which is set to launch in the coming months, will solve one of the most common creator challenges: generating new content ideas. This tool will go far beyond the abilities of ChatGPT. By analyzing a creator’s actual YouTube content, performance analytics, and competitive data, the app will generate ideas for new videos that will peak interest, drive engagement, and overperform. It can also provide detailed video outlines and research topics so you don’t have to. It’s like your very own production assistant and, since we’re in Beta, you won’t even have to pay to use it.

Though, while many creators are ecstatic about using AI to help streamline their processes, others are skeptical. Kallmekris shared her feelings on the topic during an audience Q&A.

“I haven’t dabbled in any AI at all. But it’s just a scary thing to think about, that people can just make an AI version of me and use it.”

Kallmekris, top TikToker and Jellysmack creator partner

Creator gurus Colin and Samir also broached the subject during an Industry Track panel with Tubefilter co-founder and host of the Creator Upload podcast, Josh Cohen. Their advice? Tread lightly. The growth of these self-service AI tools has led to many new channels that churn out solely AI-generated content, from editing to imagery and even voiceovers—but don’t think viewers won’t notice. Audiences still want that authentic connection. So amidst the AI uprising, content that is uniquely human will continue to reign supreme.

Diversification is Key for Creator Success

While being a career creator may come with freedom and flexibility that isn’t found in a traditional job setting, it also comes with a major challenge: you have to be everywhere at once. Having millions of followers on a single platform will only get you so far. Creators are forced to branch out and expand their brands in every direction in order to stay relevant and adapt with the ever-changing industry. Zach Kornfeld of The Try Guys joined Jellysmack President Sean Atkins and Fast Company’s KC Ifeanyi to discuss what this means for creator businesses and the economy as a whole.

The Try Guys’ Zach Kornfeld talks with Jellysmack President Sean Atkins about the future of the creator economy.

“You can’t just do one thing. You can’t just focus on making the best videos possible. You have to have diversified income streams, you need to think about longevity.”

Zach Kornfeld of The Try Guys, Jellysmack Creator Partner

And diversifying starts with platforms. After making the jump from Buzzfeed to launch their independent social channels, The Try Guys realized that they couldn’t master every platform alone, which is why they enlisted the help of Jellysmack. Jellysmack has helped them grow a  new audience on Facebook, which is something Zach admitted that they tried to do themselves unsuccessfully. 

But simply diversifying across social platforms isn’t enough. Creators are also having to transcend formats, going from short form to long form and vice versa, to ensure they’re taking full advantage of the monetization opportunities. 

While Kallmekris carved out a niche on TikTok with her comedic shorts, she has strategically expanded onto YouTube with a new slew of long-form content. Fellow Jellysmack creator partner and TikToker Sidneyraz is also making the jump to long form. With the help of our Creator Academy program, Jellysmack is helping him identify exactly what long-form content will perform while still aligning with his brand and audience interests.

TikTokers Sidneyraz and Adam Rose give a glimpse into their creator careers on stage at VidCon.

Creators are also making the transition from social media to other digital platforms like FAST (free ad-supported streaming television) channels. Sarah Craig of Foundation Distribution, who helped Jellysmack creator partners launch their own shows on two new FAST channels on The Roku Channel, stressed the importance of creators expanding into new and innovative verticals like this one on the Industry Track Mainstage. As she put it, you’ve heard of Netflix and chill. Get ready for FAST and relax.

Then, there’s products. In order to truly leverage those deep, personal connections to the fullest extent, creators are going offline to develop branded products. From chocolate bars to cookbooks, coffee to energy drinks, the way to diversify beyond digital and truly maximize your earning potential is to turn those followers into consumers. But you need more than just followers to be successful. 

“You cannot confuse reach with passion. A passionate audience will engage and transact, which is different from just being a content creator who has 20 million followers on a short-form platform.”

Sean Atkins, Jellysmack President

Creators are being pulled in every direction, and to achieve all of this is impossible to do alone. That’s why Jellysmack’s mission is to be a creator’s one-stop-shop, offering brand-building solutions, self-service tools, funding opportunities, and even custom branded merch to help creators conquer them all.

It’s Time to Get Jelly
The energy in Jellysmack’s Featured Creator Lounge at the Hyatt Regency was unmatched.

While the Anaheim Convention Center was full of insightful conversations and thought-provoking panels, the featured creator hotel at the Hyatt Regency was where the real fun was had at VidCon 2023. Between TikTok’s creator galaxy, YouTube’s groovy indoor/outdoor gathering, and Instagram’s wild retro hideaway, the brand lounges took visitors to new depths. And in our case, those depths were under the sea. 

Featured creators, platform execs, and industry insiders were instantly immersed in the world of Jellysmack; surrounded by neon coral, vibrant colors, and plush jellyfish galore. Drinks were flowing, beats were dropping, and connections were forming between the industry elite as hundreds gathered to partake in our nightly happy hours. Life-size games took over the space, and had creators competing to see who could Go Bigger. A giant light bright, custom JellyPong game, and Smack-4 (our version of Connect 4) were the perfect way to relax and let loose after a long convention day—with a cocktail in hand, of course.

Cocktails flowed as creators and visitors mixed, mingled, and played life-size games.

The biggest hit? Our plinko-inspired Smack-O board, where visitors lined up for their chance to score. If their puck landed in one of the lucky spaces, winners got to take home a piece of sought-after JellyMerch. From custom tees to branded water bottles and hats, pool floats to plushies big and small, no one left without a prized Jellysmack souvenir to remember the epic weekend by.

Visitors also got to enjoy other fun activations like live lip-print readings, edible helium balloons, tarot card readings, oxygen bars, airbrush tattoos, live candy sculpting, and more. Innovation is at the core of our DNA, so leave it to Jellysmack to think outside the box for the creator event of the year.

While we met so many new and talented creators at VidCon 2023, we were also excited to catch up with our very own Jellysmack creator partners IRL. Streamy Award nominees Kara and Nate, true crime storyteller Kendall Rae, and TikTok queen Kallmekris, who was joined by her creator BFF Celina SpookyBoo, stopped by to say hi. Fashion and lifestyle queen Claudipia and our favorite lawyer AttorneyTom also came to enjoy the Jelly vibes.

We also got to chat with FoodTok king Kyle Istook and hear a little bit about about his first-ever VidCon experience:

“The more I meet other creators and talk to other creators, the more I learn about my own content and how to take my content to the next level.”

Kyle Istook, TikToker and Jellysmack creator partner

And that’s what we love to hear. VidCon 2023 was definitely one for the books. This year’s convention was all about connection, collaboration, and creativity, and we can’t believe we have to wait an entire year for the next one. 

If you stopped by the Jellysmack Creator Lounge, shoot us a DM on Instagram to say hi. 👋 We’d love to hear from you! You can also catch a full tour of our lounge and more fun VidCon content @jellysmack.