How to Make Money as a Social Media Influencer
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Getting paid just for posting on social media is a dream job for many people.
But for others, it is their full-time job. They get paid to test drive a car, stay in a hotel, or get free clothes.
To be a paid social media influencer, you’ll need a social media following. Some people, like celebrities, gain instant, massive followings online and start making money right away.
For most of us, it’s not that simple. It takes time, effort, and lots of work before we can get paid for our social media posts. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. You can get paid as a social media influencer, even if you’re starting from scratch.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is a marketing strategy used by companies and brands. They ask regular people who have large social media followings or are experts in their fields to promote their products.
Using influencers is a way for companies to get real people to promote them on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube instead of using traditional marketing like print or television ads.
Influencer marketing is cost-effective for the companies, and it’s a way for the influencers to make money for posting on social media.
Related: How to Become a Social Media Manager
How Does an Influencer Make Money?
These influencers are generally paid in one of three ways: free products, brand sponsorships, or affiliate marketing.
Most influencers will start earning money in the form of free products. This can include hair care products, a king-sized mattress, or baby gear. The company will send these items for the influencer to discuss on their social media channel.
Free products are a good way to learn how your audience responds and which items they’re most interested in. If you’re just getting started, it’s tempting to accept all free products. But if you’re an influencer for bullet journals, your audience might not appreciate an ad for luggage.
Company Partnerships and Brand Sponsorships
Another term for this category is brand ambassador, which means that a company or brand will pay you to act as a spokesperson for them.
You share with your audience the positive aspects of a company, such as how their products can help you sleep better or be more productive, to increase their brand awareness and sales. You might also be required to post on social media about the company a fixed number of times per week or participate in social media campaigns.
Social media influencers typically earn a flat fee for partnering with companies, but they can also earn money through affiliate marketing. Be aware that if you choose this route, you must disclose this relationship via FTC guidelines.
When an influencer makes money through affiliate marketing, they share a special link or code for a product with their audience and receive a portion of any sales made through that code or link.
If you’re a well-known book blogger and you frequently recommend books, you can join Amazon’s affiliate program and each time a reader buys a book you link to on your website, you earn a small commission.
It’s a more passive way to earn money as an influencer but has the potential to be incredibly lucrative.
How Much Money Does an Influencer Make?
There’s no average rate or median salary for social media influencers. How much you can earn depends on factors like:
- Your number of followers
- The amount of engagement your posts receive
- The length of the advertising campaign
- How much you ask for
The larger and more engaged your following is, the more you can make. Even those with small social media followings can still earn money as an influencer.
If you only have 1,000 followers, you can pitch companies to work with you. For affiliate marketing, you might need just one well-performing post or tweet for a company to approach you. What truly matters to companies is that you have an engaged following who listen to your recommendations.
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My post all about this gorgeous sweater jacket is live on @minervadotcom blog today! 🥰 This embossed fleece made the perfect cozy layering piece for this fall/winter. Feels like wearing a blanket, but has that chic @anthropologie vibe. Especially since I modeled it exactly after a specific #anthro jacket. Swipe 👉 to see more pics and the inspo and then be sure to head to the #minervadotcom blog to check out the post all about it and how the sewing of this @simplicity_creative_group pattern went! Link in bio! 💕 // #minervamakers #ad #sponsored #s8811 #anthroinspired
How much you make also depends on the type of payment you receive. Free products don’t generally translate to cash (unless you sell the product when you’re done using it), but brand sponsorships and affiliate marketing can generate a significant income. If you can, try to have a few revenue streams (e.g., affiliate marketing and free products) to earn the most money.
Regardless of how many income streams you have, it’s important to partner with and advertise companies and products you believe in and that provide value to your audience. You don’t want to compromise your morals or your followers’ trust for a paycheck.
Working as a social media influencer is still a business, so you’ll want to hone skills like negotiating pay, managing business expenses, and pitching clients. You might also consider connecting or networking with other social media influencers for tips, job leads, or support.
Choosing Your Social Media Platforms
Choosing the right social media platform is key to making money as a paid influencer. If you’re on several already, examine your stats like the number of followers and impressions. Wherever you get the most traction and engagement, pick that one to start. You can always add others as your influence grows.
The type of products you’re advertising or the company you’re partnering with might influence the platform you choose. Their products might perform better on one over another.
You should also consider the type of campaign they might want or how you communicate best. Whether you do well making YouTube videos or posting on Facebook, you’ll want to play to your strengths when working as a paid influencer.
Instagram is one of the top social media sites for influencer marketing. From IGTV to stories to posting pictures, there are plenty of ways to share with your audience.
If you want to become a paid influencer on Instagram, work on growing your account to a minimum of 10,000 followers so you can utilize their “swipe up” feature. Once your followers have the ability to “swipe up,” you can drive traffic to your own website or to specific affiliate products you’re promoting.
Even if you have a small Facebook following, you can still partner with and promote brands on your Facebook page. If you’re comfortable using Facebook Live, that’s even better for you as an upcoming paid influencer.
Many companies ask influencers to utilize the Facebook Live feature on their business pages to share a product or service. Some social media influencers even have a contract where they’re required to go on a company’s Facebook page live at regular intervals to talk about a product or educate that company’s customers.
YouTube offers several ways for influencers to make money. If you have a large following, you can monetize your channel with ads, sell your own products, and even require a subscription for premium content. You can also partner with brands to do video campaigns, product placement, and endorsements.
If you spend time and energy growing a YouTube channel, you can pitch or partner with companies and make money as a YouTube influencer.
If you’re not comfortable on Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram, you can still work as an influencer on networks like:
- SnapChat: Similar to Instagram, you’ll need a large and engaged following to make money on this platform.
- TikTok: Formerly Music.ly, TikTok is quickly growing as a viable way for influencers to make money from their short videos.
- Twitter: Although not as popular as other platforms, you can use sponsored tweets and affiliate links to make money as an influencer on Twitter.
Whatever platform you choose, make sure you’re following all their posting rules, especially any related to disclosing business relationships or sponsored content. You don’t want to lose your influencer status (or income) by failing to comply.
7 Steps to Become a Social Media Influencer
While becoming a top social media influencer isn’t easy, launching your social media influencer business is pretty simple.
1. Choose Your Niche
Choosing a niche is the most important step you’ll take as a social media influencer. Your niche will define you and the companies you’ll work with. Many social media influencers pick a niche like cooking, home design, motherhood, fashion, and crafting.
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Pick a niche that you’re passionate and knowledgeable about and one that you think will interest you for a long time. You don’t want to grow your influencer status only to get bored with the niche in six months.
2. Set Up Your Social Media Accounts
As you set up your social media accounts, be consistent. Whenever possible, use the same name, profile, or brand image and description on each platform.
Use a similar voice, tone, and personality in your posting to build trust and connection with your audience. Be authentic, honest, and engaging.
3. Create a Posting Schedule
As you grow your following, your audience will expect regular content from you. To do this, consider creating a posting schedule or editorial calendar. You can plan out ideas, topics, keep track of campaign dates, and anything else that helps you stay on top of your obligations.
Consider using planning software to have your images post automatically online and set aside time each week to create and edit videos or images. You can even hire a virtual assistant to keep you organized as your business grows.
4. Know Your Target Audience
As your accounts grow, use any analytics or information available to you to understand your target audience. Ask questions like:
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- What’s their education level?
- What do they like?
- Which posts get the most interaction or engagement?
- What time of day are they most engaging with your account?
The more information you have about your audience, the more you can curate and tailor your content to them. This also helps you create pitches and target the right companies and brands for your followers.
5. Apply for Affiliate Partnerships and Contact Sponsors
As your social media influence grows, and you get to know your audience better, you can apply for affiliate partnerships. Make sure you read the terms, conditions, and requirements carefully before applying and note the ones you don’t qualify for. If you don’t meet the criteria now, you might be eligible later as your following and influence grow.
Also, make a list of companies you’d like to work with or have sponsor you. If you’re just starting out, consider working with smaller or newer companies first.
You can even contact local brick-and-mortar companies, too. As you do the work and gather testimonials and a good reputation, you can start to work with larger, higher-profile companies.
6. Promote Your Social Media Accounts
One of the best ways to grow your accounts, after posting consistent, helpful, and engaging content, is to promote your accounts by cross-posting. For instance, you can let your Twitter followers know about your Facebook page and your Facebook followers know about your Instagram account.
You can also work with other up-and-coming influencers to promote each other’s accounts. The idea behind this is to let people know where they can find and follow you and attract new fans.
You can also consider an ad campaign to help people find you. Those can be expensive and might not drive the traffic that you want, but if you can get even a hundred new followers, it might be worth it.
Whatever you do, don’t pay for followers. That is a shady practice that will make your existing followers not trust you and make influencers and brands not want to work with you. It’s better to grow your followers slowly and organically than to pay for followers.
7. Interact with Your Followers
Engagement is essential when it comes to growing a following and pitching brands. Interact with your followers by answering their questions, responding to comments and direct messages, and even commenting on some of their content. This shows an active interest in your followers which will make them loyal to you and even more interested in buying products or services that you recommend.
If you don’t want to stay connected to your social media profiles 24/7, pick a block of time each day that’s dedicated to interacting with your followers. You’ll still get the benefit of engagement and building trust without having to do it all day long.
Can You Become a Social Media Influencer?
It may seem elusive at first, but it’s possible to earn money as a social media influencer without being famous or having a large following.
While you may have to pitch brands and companies in the beginning, as your audience and reputation grow, companies may come to you. And as you begin to work with larger companies, you’ll start to make more money.
You want to be fair when you negotiate with these companies, so charge them a reasonable price. Remember that this is a business deal for them, too. They want to work with an influencer who’ll get the most eyes on their products or services and who will represent their beliefs and values. But they also want to stay within their budget.
If working as a paid influencer interests you, pick a specific niche, stick to a posting schedule, provide useful and helpful content, and engage with your audience. Doing this means you’ll gain their trust, and they’ll use that trust to buy products and services that you recommend.