In this guide, we’ll dig into the basics of making money as a social media influencer, pitfalls to avoid, and tips for making the most of your venture—while also making a profit.
It’s no question that social media dominates our day-to-day lives, from our exchanges with friends to our interactions with businesses and brands. With billions of users and brands on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok, the opportunity to build a following and reach influencer status is bigger than ever.
But how exactly do people become full-time content creators and influencers? In a sea of competition, not everyone can make this dream a reality. So, how can you set yourself apart and find success (and money)?
As with any undertaking, you should set clear, quantifiable, achievable goals for yourself before you start your journey toward becoming an influencer. In this context, that means defining how you plan to approach monetization on social media—which platforms you want to focus on, follow count and reach goals, metrics to monitor and aim for, brands you want to partner with, and profit expectations.
For example, let’s say you want to start with Twitter, where you already have a small following of 1,000 people and an engagement rate of 0.02% (which is considered good).
First, you’d want to make a content plan and schedule for the next six months, setting a goal to at least double your follower count and increase your engagement rate to 0.09% (which is the next step up for influencers).
You could also identify three small, up-and-coming brands you want to focus on partnering with. Since you’re prioritizing growing your reach and engagement right now, you’re not setting a specific profit goal at this stage, but you’ll add that later down the road.
As you can see, setting goals and giving yourself a roadmap can help you stay on track and focus your efforts—this will lead to much better results.
As part of your plan, don’t forget to track and measure your progress and performance! This is how you’ll keep yourself motivated and on target. Most social media platforms offer in-house analytics tools to help you do this, and plenty of third-party apps can also help you check on your follower growth, reach, engagement, earnings, and more.
You can’t expect to make any progress if you have zero ideas on how to get started. Success always requires research, and monetizing your social media accounts is no different.
To save yourself from wasting a lot of time and money, you need to stay up to date on all the various ways to monetize your content on social media. We’ll cover some of them later in this post, but it’s still your job to stay current and knowledgeable as things evolve.
One of the best ways to learn is by following others who have what you want—people who have successfully broken into the influencer realm, built a substantial following, and are making significant money that way.
To get you started, here’s a quick overview of each major social media platform’s offerings and benefits for content creators and influencers.
Now that you have a better idea of how to get started and what each platform offers you as a creator, let’s explore some of the most popular and profitable ways you can leverage your social media influence.
You’re probably already familiar with affiliate marketing since it’s pretty ubiquitous these days, but just in case: Affiliate marketing is when you link to a brand/product in your content and earn a commission when users click your link (and/or make a purchase). It’s a simple, easy, and effective way to leverage your influence.
Suppose your audience sees you as a helpful, knowledgeable expert in your niche. In that case, they're more likely to trust your recommendations and buy the products you recommend, so setting yourself up as an authority or thought leader in your field can benefit you here.
Sponsored content is a type of advertising in which you get paid by a brand to post about their new service or product on a certain platform (or several platforms). One simple piece of content—from a photo to a short video—can help brands reach a wider audience and earn more sales, so social media influencers with huge followings are very valuable (plus, 92% of consumers trust influencers more than traditional celebrities).
Essentially, a step up from sponsored content is partnering with brands regularly to create branded content. This can look like regular, occasional sponsored posts, collaborating on marketing campaigns, or even fully taking over the brand’s handle and posting on their behalf.
This method greatly benefits both brands and influencers because it can significantly increase earnings and reach for everyone involved. Because of its effectiveness, it’s much easier to go this route once you’re already a fairly established and trusted creator. This makes it a good long-term goal to have on your list.
Everyone loves quality merch, and people enjoy repping their favorite creator and supporting their content by buying a sweatshirt or mug—really, the sky's the limit here regarding what you can offer.
With so many options for dropshipping and print-on-demand services, offering merchandise doesn’t have to be a lot of work. Check out our article about ecommerce for more on this!
If you’ve already got a large or loyal following, you might consider hosting an event for your fans. You can sell tickets or offer other ways to support you through the process. The way you structure this will depend on the content you produce. A talk or panel could be great if you run an educational platform. If you’re an artist, writer, or musician, an art show, reading, or gig could be a better fit.
“Support us on Patreon” has become a well-known saying, with more and more creators looking to give their followers ways to support their efforts directly—and more and more fans willing to shell out money regularly to reward the influencers they love most.
This is an easy way to garner support without worrying about brand partnerships and advertising if you don’t want to. You can also create fun perks and rewards at different support tier levels to incentivize commitment from your followers.
Maybe this is a no-brainer, but you can also advertise in a more traditional sense to monetize your social media accounts! You don’t just have to advertise for brands through sponsorships and affiliate deals—you can also advertise your own channels and content.
Try setting up a Google Ads account or using ads through your social media platform. Just make sure you set a reasonable budget and goals and keep track of how you’re doing.
Starting a podcast allows you to connect with your followers and create those parasocial bonds. You can get a podcast up and running with minimal equipment—just a computer, a mic, and some audio mixing software, and you’re good to go. Just make sure to market your podcast on your social accounts and ensure it aligns with your content goals.
Not interested in selling physical products but still want to offer something of value beyond a post to your followers? Try selling a digital product like an ebook, template, or online course. Again, people want to hear from you if you’re a thought leader or influencer in your field. Share your knowledge or expertise in the form of a digital asset your fans can purchase. Try producing a how-to course, pre-made templates for content, digital prints of your art, webinar recordings of livestreams, or whatever floats your boat!
Many platforms now offer ways to directly support their top creators and influencers through creator funds, referrals, and more. We’ve highlighted a few ways to get started with this already, but make sure you research the options available on your specific platform.
There you have it! In a nutshell, that’s all it takes to make money as a social media influencer in 2022 and beyond. Start by creating a well-defined plan with achievable goals, remember to track your metrics, stay up to date on monetization strategies, and take advantage of the specific opportunities offered by each social media platform. This won’t happen overnight, but with a little strategy and hard work, anyone can build a following and become a social media influencer!
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