The overwhelming popularity of social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube has created an entirely new category of celebrity: the social media influencer. Everyday, more personalities are monetizing their social media followings and turning their online presences into full-time jobs. But just how do social media influencers make money?
What is an Influencer?
In general, an influencer is anyone who earns money by influencing the buying habits of others. A social media influencer communicates with people who follow them on online platforms including Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Tiktok, influencing their purchasing decisions in exchange for payment from brands they promote. An Instagram influencer, for example, might post content to the social media platform supporting a fashion brand, gaining a commission for any followers who purchase from the brand based on the influencer’s recommendation. For top beautify influencers as well as fashion influencers, the amount can add up to millions of dollars.
12 Ways Social Media Influencers Make Money
Many are aware of influencers but still wonder, “How do social media influencers earn money?” Influencers make money in a variety of ways, including by creating sponsored posts, hosting webinars and even taking part in influencer marketing and traditional advertising efforts. Many social media influencers earn more money by leveraging their online presences then they could make at a 9-5 job.
1. Sponsored Social Media Posts
Influencers have the potential to earn money from every social media post, especially if they are creating high-quality content. Sponsored content, therefore, is one of the top ways influencers make money. In social media sponsored posts, brands pay influencers to feature products and services on their social media pages. This sponsored content might appear in an Instagram story, a Facebook post, or a YouTube video.
2. Webinars on Social Media Platforms
Some social media influencers have developed reputations as experts on a certain topic. This is especially the case for LinkedIn influencers. Their followers often are willing and eager to pay for these influencers’ guidance. By conducting webinars, or online seminars, social media influencers can attract their followers, who will pay to access the information in an engaging tutorial. Not only can influencers earn money from hosting a live webinar, but their followers can continue to pay to access the content from a social media platform, blog or other website at a later time.
3. Becoming a Brand Ambassador
Many influencers make money by serving as brand ambassadors. Instead of simply promoting a brand through a single sponsored post, the influencer will regularly discuss the products and services offered by the company in order to generate overall brand awareness. For example, a brand might pay a social media influencer to regularly post about the brand for a 6-12 month period. Top fitness influencers generally have several brands they endorse.
4. Selling Digital Products
Posting webinars to social media isn’t the only way a social media influencer can market digital products to earn money. E-books and online tutorials can be sold over time from a blog, other website or social media platform. Followers interested in learning more about the influencer’s expertise will purchase these digital products, and the sales can accumulate over time.
5. Creating Product Lines
Many influencers have accumulated large enough followings to market their own products. Creating products lines is an increasingly popular way for social media influencer to make money. For example, a fashion blogger might develop their own clothing line, either designing their own garments or in conjunction with a designer to co-create product lines. Other social media influencers market a variety of personally-branded products from locations like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.
6. Website Advertising
Just as bloggers for decades have made money from advertisements on their websites, social media influencers with high traffic to their platforms can make a lucrative income from advertising fees. In some cases, bloggers and influencers make money based on visitor clicks, while at other times they are paid any time the advertisement appears on a follower’s screen.
7. Reselling Free Products
Most influencers make money through free products. It’s not at all uncommon for a brand to send a social media influencer free samples in the hopes of gaining a shoutout or a recommendation. Not only can these free products, often clothing, makeup and personal items, be considered income of a sort, but the influencer then can resell the free products on websites like Poshmark, earning a profit in the process.
8. Events and Appearances
Social media influencers are modern celebrities, and therefore have the potential to draw a crowd anywhere they go. An influencer can make money by hosting a live or online event and charging followers to participate. Likewise, another brand might pay a social media influencer to appear at its own event, knowing that the celebrity presence will attract a crowd.
9. Affiliate Marketing
Another popular way influencers make money is through affiliate marketing. In this process, a social media influencer shares a link to a product page and receives a commission from any sale resulting from that link. For example, a beauty influencer might share a link to a designer palette in an Instagram post where they demonstrate the eyeshadow application. The brand then pays the influencer a percentage of each sale made to a person who clicked on the link.
10. Donations, Tips and Subscriptions
Influencers also can make money when their followers simply give it to them. Many social media influencers accept donations and tips on their websites or through platforms like Patreon, where members can support influencers with monthly contributions, sometimes in exchange for exclusive content. Other influencers will simply offer a feature on their websites where followers can buy them a cup of coffee by making a small one-time donation.
11. Creating Content for Blogs, Vlogs and Podcasts
For most social media influencers, followers don’t just show up for everyday stories and posts. It’s not enough for them to post what they ate for dinner or what they thought of the last movie they saw. They have to create content. Social media influencing can be a full-time job for content creators, who often spend hours every day developing posts for their blogs, vlogs and podcasts. Without the content, they have no following to market products and make money.
12. Traditional advertising
Just because an influencer gets their start on social media, that doesn’t mean they are limited in scope to that original audience. Because many social media influencers rise to celebrity status with more than 1 million followers (and recognition far beyond that), they are now partnering with major brands to advertise products to even larger audiences. Infuencers with the largest followings might even appear in television commercials or on display advertising like billboards.
How much money do influencers make?
How much money do influencers make? Influencer income ranges widely based on a variety of factors. In most cases, social media accounts with the largest followings earn big money compared with those with fewer followers. Not only are there more people to follow their recommendations, but more viewers makes all of their posted content more valuable. An influencer who only recently started their pursuit might earn only a few hundred dollars a month, while top influencers commonly earn millions of dollars each year.
According to Vox, people with between 10,000 and 50,000 followers, known as micro influencers, can earn between $40,000 and $100,000 each year. Top Instagram influencers with millions of followers, on the other hand, can earn tens of thousands of dollars for each individual post, potentially resulting in millions each year. Kylie Jenner, for example, reportedly makes more than $1 million for a single social media post. Meanwhile, top Tiktok influencer Loren Gray makes more than $53 million in a year.