As your follower counts on Instagram and Twitter inch upwards, and you’re slowly climbing the ladder as a social media influencer, making money off your talent for making compelling content can often be a tricky business.
In the last couple of years, being a “social media influencer” has gone from being a quirky trend to something that has the potential to be a full-time job. Leading brands have discovered the value of influencer marketing and have begun to make maximum use of this discovery.
Being an influencer often includes roles such as content creation, community engagement, photography, design, public speaking, etc, and despite seeming confusing for those just starting there are several ways that allow these social media lovers can leverage their skills, expertise, and influence to make money.
An increasingly popular way to achieve monetization is e-products(or digital products). Producing anything ranging from e-books, downloadable travel guide or workout program, to a one-page meal plan or organizational template, can be rather cheap and easy to do.
A successful example of someone who built her empire on digital products and influence is personal trainer Kayla Itsines.
Co-creating fitness e-book Bikini Body Guides (BBG), built around 28-minute workouts and a fitness and nutrition plan spanning 12 weeks, Kayla has managed to inspire, educate and encourage millions of women to improve their health and fitness. With downloadable fitness guide and her latest app ‘Sweat With Kayla’, the trainer has managed to bring in sizeable monetization for her content.
Another way for influencers can make money from products- digital or otherwise- is to co-create content with brands either by selling advertising and editorial space to them or by being commissioned specifically to create content.
An instance of using editorial space for monetization would Eleanor Pendleton’s beauty website and magazine Gritty Pretty which worked with brands to create sponsored content, editorial, and ads which ultimately funded the magazine and gave her the chance to build her own team.
The co-creation of content and association of their name with a well-known brand is a common tactic used by those in the makeup/beauty field to earn income. YouTubers like Jaclyn Hill, James Charles, etc market discount codes- particularly Morphe- to their viewers to save money on a brand’s products. By driving the point of “saving money”, these influencers encourage their audiences to purchase products of the brand; with each purchase, they earn a part of the money from the brand as commission.
This strategy is known as affiliate marketing. This is a great way to ensure influencers receive income for their work, and it’s also great to help track the success of an influencer engagement. There is a downside to this approach of monetization; as it is not reliable or steady, but it is still a sure-fire way to earn incremental revenue.
Makeup influencers or “beauty gurus”- as well influencers in the niche of food/fitness, travel-also work with brands to create tangible products, collections or ranges. For example, Jacyln Hill’s popular eyeshadow palettes in collaboration with Becca and Morphe, Graveyard Girl’s palette/ hair products, etc.
This is a unique way to create revenue, where influencers make money by co-creating content and receiving a commission on all sales or a flat fee for the partnership (depending on the agreement made).
This kind of commission-based model works well for influencers because it allows them to potentially maximize their income if the product is successful, and they don’t have to outlay any costs upfront.
Another low cost and entertaining way for influencers to distribute content is through podcasting. Recently becoming a trend with several influencers – both popular ones and newcomers- jumping on the bandwagon, podcasts- which don’t require much investment in terms of setup and equipment- are an easy way for people to connect with their audience in platform that feels more personable, share content conveniently, thus earning an income from their influence and public profile. Aside from using their podcasts to increase traffic to their existing content, influencers can earn extra money by charging podcast subscribers a small fee to download and listen.
Similar to podcasting, webinars are a cost-effective revenue model for influencers and content creators. Made to educate and/or provide information in an engaging, tutorial-style format, influencers can either charge consumers to access their content or collaborate with a brand to produce the content.
Moving away from Internet-driven tactics, a fail-safe way to ensure that money comes in as an influencer is becoming a brand ambassador/doing brand deals for a range of different companies. Quoted to be the most effective method of influencer marketing because of their structural nature, taking up the mantle of brand ambassador means that companies hire you for long-term relationships and pay you on a retainer basis.
As an influencer, your role now becomes that of an expert/enthusiast of the brand which entails broadcasting your partnership with the brand on all social media channels. A brilliant example is of Roberto Malizia, who utilizes his Instagram to document his life as the ambassador of luxury brand Harrods.
While being brand ambassador works as a long-term partnership to make money, a short-term approach is sponsored social media posts. A sponsored social media post is when a brand engages an influencer to create content featuring the brand and share it with their followers. There are many forms of sponsored social media posts, from sharing the brand owned content, developing unique imagery, promoting a new product, launching a new brand or generating exposure among a new target market. This is the most common way for influencers – particularly those just starting out- to make money, build brand awareness and gain exposure.
Along the same vein, influencers can also monetize personal blogs/websites by collaborating with brands. Not only do blogs allow you to earn money when you promote the branded content, but it also benefits you, where people who search for the brand can be linked through to you. However, it’s important to note that not all blog content should be sponsored or designed to sell a product – an influencer will/should have a mix of organic content and branded collaborations and be transparent about sponsored content; thus building trust among your fanbase.
In addition to using their social media following to earn money, influencers – who have made a name for themselves- can monetize their personal skills. Whether working on the radio show, writing a book, making a film they can extend their “social media” brand to other passion projects, earning income from the supportive followers.
An example of this would be the YouTuber/BBC Radio presenter duo Dan Howell and Phil Lester who released two books and a board game; all extensions of the brand they built together. Some influencers also end up getting hired as freelance content creators for various brands, furthering their revenue stream.
Another way to earn money is through public appearances such as tour, meet and greets, or hosting events. An apt example would be Mecca Maxima’s event/festival Mecca Land. Mecca invited Australian fashion and beauty influencers including Shani Grimmond, Isabella Fiori and Sammy Robinson to host meet & greets and attend the event. YouTube- and other social media- fan fests are also a great example of such events that garner a lot of attention, helping to grow your personal brand as an influencer.
But making money as a social media influencer is not without hurdles. As with anything intended to be profit-making, creating a business on social media platforms require a business plan. Since it is an emerging industry that is yet to establish rigid conventions, plans are fairly loose. But it is still important that it is thorough. While you don’t need to spend too many resources in setting up your online brand, you need to learn to build audiences quickly.
The best way to build a fanbase is to establish your content as high-quality productions that are worth watching and coming back for. The first step to this is to invest in a decent camera so you can produce better images and videos. Next, use captions that are witty and eye-catching in order to appeal to your target audience. An example of such appealing content is the Instagram page The Vegan Vibe. It is a relatively new page, and the use of colorful, clear images can definitely put them ahead of the game. in the vegan food niche.
Another good way to get yourself noticed is by engaging your audiences, no matter how small in number they may be. If you’re starting out as an influencer, the most effective way to build a loyal following is by simply engaging with them. Instead of simply creating content about yourself, and posting it, engage your followers in a two-sided conversation; even if it’s just wishing them a good day or asking questions about them.
And one thing to keep in mind is that, if you’re seriously considering entering the blogging/vlogging/Instapreneuer industry and making a commercial success out of it then you should ensure you have a fairly comprehensive understanding of the merits and downfalls of different social media platforms and how they can be used to reach your audience.
Something else that can be an obstacle in your journey to making it big as an influencer is the lack of knowledge and contacts required. The best contacts when getting started are bodies such as the Advertising Standards Authority, International Bloggers Association (IBA), The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), and influencer networks like Scrunch, Influence.co, HelloSociety, Activate, TRIBE, all of which are dedicated to helping influencers connect with each other and brands, pushing them further on their journey to success.
Another, Great program which is a must-try is Amazon Influencer Program.
All of the above are proven ways to make money of your social media obsession, but it can become easy to get lost in chasing monetary gain. While the idea of earning quick cash can be tantalizing, the best and most effective way to make it big as an influencer is to always be honest and genuine with your followers, deliver tailored content that your followers respond to, and engage proactively by reaching out to brands and fellow influencers for collaborations, and don’t be deterred by slow progress!