How Social Media Influencers Make Money

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Written by by Gregor Cooney, General Manager at CROWD

By now, many of us have caught on to the fact that being a social media influencer can be considered a full-time job, sometimes quite a lucrative one at that. 

Many savvy brands seem to appreciate the work of these bloggers and influencers and have learned that making use of their skills is an effective advertising technique. 

Though it is obvious that a lot of work goes into being an influencer, from website design and curation, to content creation, styling, editing, etc., it sometimes isn't so obvious how to actually turn this into a career and to make a profit. 

Beyond the obvious notion of letting brands advertise on your website or social media pages, here are a few strategies for any aspiring influencer to generate income from their passion project. 

 

1. Podcasting and Producing Webinars

Both Podcasts and Webinars are quite cost-effective and can be produced on a relatively low budget for anyone with access to basic audio equipment. These can act as fresh ways for Influencers to communicate and distribute new content, connect with their audience, further advance their personal brand and public profile, and provide engaging, educational information to listeners. Both are pre-recorded and can be "shared across video, blog and social media platforms", though webinars may also be live-streamed. 

The most popular way of monetizing Podcasts and Webinars is by charging a small fee to access the product or collaborating with a brand to produce content. 

 

2. Becoming a Brand Ambassador

Speaking of collaborating with brands, perhaps one of the most notable and long-term ways for influencers to generate income is by becoming involved in a brand ambassador program, either alone or with other influencers. Depending on the specificities, deliverables, exclusivity provisions, and budget of the campaign, these roles could last anywhere from a week, to a year, to an indefinite period of time.

These partnerships are usually formed when the influencer is a good fit for the brand and the target market and when their aesthetic and values align with those the brand is trying to convey. 

Typically brands will use celebrities or influencers who already have a significant following, but depending on the goals of the brand's campaign, it is also possible for them to use more niche or local micro-influencers

 

3. Posting Sponsored Content

Obviously, securing a Brand Ambassador campaign is easier said then done, especially for bloggers who are just starting out. In the meantime though, influencers can resort to what is probably the most common and accessible way for them to generate revenue, which is posting sponsored content on their blogs or social media pages. 

With this type of arrangement, a brand will hire an influencer to feature the brand organically in the content they share with followers for varying amounts of posts. Influencers and brands may choose to do this in a number of ways, "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." When creating posts on blogs, influencers can also go into more detail and choose to promote the brand in creative ways, such as with product reviews. They can also enhance this content by providing direct click-through links taking consumers to the brand's products and services.

Posting sponsored content is a fun and easy way for bloggers to get started with their careers. However, a few words of caution: it is important to check with the brand and with specific country regulations about disclosure regulations and guidelines when promoting their products. Influencers should also make a point of staying true to their online identities by only posting content that naturally aligns with their values and aesthetics and by making sure that not all content is sponsored, so that they can preserve authenticity and credibility among their followers. 

 

4. Creating Physical Products

Yet another strategy for influencers to collaborate with a brand, but in a way that is quite creative and unique, is to collaboratively create a product or collection. How this works is that bloggers will co-create merchandise with the brand and then receive commission on all sales or a flat-fee for the entire collaboration depending on the agreement (the latter would then ressemble an ambassador campaign). If the influencer receives commission and the product or line is successful, this allows them to significantly increase their profit, especially because the brand is responsible for most of the upfront costs of production. 

This is a great option because bloggers from a variety of ranges can take part, from creating fashion capsule collections, to special edition beauty products, or even food, fitness and travel accessories. 

A good example of a successful partnership of this sort is makeup artist and beauty vlogger Jaclyn Hill's collaboration with the Becca cosmetics line. 

 

5. Creating Digital Products

For those who aren't quite ready or don't have the means to create an actual physical product, there is also the option of creating a digital one. E-products are a wonderful alternative as they are often quite low-cost and easy to produce, and can be easily distributed online. This increasingly popular format among influencers can take the shape of an e-book, diet or workout program, travel guide or anything else available in downloadable format really- the sky is the limit! 

This is a great way for bloggers and influencers to monetize their specific skill set, knowledge and expertise, easily distribute it among their followers and make a profit. A great example of this is fitness guru, Kayla Itsines' workout empire, built almost entirely on easily downloadable workout and diet programs (the notorious Bikini Body Guide!) and other digital products. 

Much like physical products, influencers may also decide to collaborate with brands by co-creating content and either selling advertising space to them on their own blogs and social media platforms or creating specific content for the brand. "Gritty Pretty, a beauty website and digital magazine founded and edited by Australian beauty editor Eleanor Pendelton" is an example of this type of collaboration. The website was created so that Pendelton could share her beauty expertise with her followers, while featuring sponsored content and advertisements to support her website and team. 

 

6. Selling Services and Expertise

Usually running a successful blog or website and amassing a significant number of followers means that the influencer in question has a fair amount of talent and expertise in the fields or photography, copywriting, styling, consulting and/or creative direction on top of their obvious knowledge of the field they blog about. A good way of getting a little extra income is to make use of these skills through small jobs at other businesses. Often, brands will work directly with influencers by hiring them as freelancers. 

 

7. Affiliate Marketing

Another good idea for some side revenue is affiliate marketing. This works in a similar fashion to commission-based agreements and to advertising spaces. Influencers can make some extra cash in this way when a sale can be attributed directly to their viewers clicking on content that leads to the brand. "Affiliate marketing is typically on a pay-per-sale, pay-per-click or pay-per-lead model". It is a reward of sorts for indirectly making a sale through the content they promoted and is a good way for brands to measure how much influence a blogger has and what strategies are working to promote their products. 

These 6 techniques will help any blogger to gain insight on the ways in which it is possible to turn their project into an actual full-time career and to start generating more income from what they are already producing. Brands are more than willing to hire young, talented creatives to help them advertise their brands, so feel free to try out a few or all of the strategies above and good luck!