Leading brands know that social media influencers are amazing to work with, which is why influencer marketing has exploded in the last couple of years. But how do influencers actually make money?
For many, “influencing” is their full-time job and is often made up of a few roles including content creation, community engagement, photography, design, public speaking and more. As it’s a fulltime gig, influencers obviously need to monetize their platforms and earn an income.
Here we explore 9 ways that social media influencers can leverage their skills, expertise and influence to make money from multiple revenue streams by supporting brands in their digital marketing.
1. Digital Products
One increasingly popular way for influencers to make money is e-products, as they are relatively cheap and easy to produce, and can scale rapidly online with seamless distribution. E-products can be anything from an ebook, downloadable travel guide or workout program, to a one-page meal plan or organizational template.
Digital products give influencers the opportunity to create something tangible that they can distribute and sell to their network to earn an income from their knowledge, influence and expertise. Fitness queen Kayla Itsines is a great example of an influencer empire built on digital products and influence, with her downloadable workout program Bikini Body Guide and her newly launched app Sweat With Kayla.
Another way influencers can make money from digital products 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 example of this strategy in action is Gritty Pretty, a beauty website and digital magazine founded and edited by Australian beauty editor Eleanor Pendleton. Eleanor created Gritty Pretty to share and monetize her beauty tips, knowledge, recommendations and experience with her audience, and works with brands to create sponsored content, editorial and ads to ultimately fund the magazine and support her team.
Podcasting is another great way for influencers to distribute their content, connect with their audience on another platform, share content conveniently and ultimately earn an income from their influence and public profile.
Podcasting can be relatively low cost to produce, once you have the right setup and equipment, and like radio, can drive revenue a number of ways - the most popular is charging podcast subscribers a small fee to download and listen.
Like podcasting, webinars can be a cost-effective revenue model for influencers and content creators. A webinar is essentially a seminar conducted over the internet and is usually for an educational purpose to provide information in an engaging, tutorial-style format. Webinars can either be live, or they can be pre-recorded and shared across video, blog and social media platforms.
To earn money from webinars, influencers can charge consumers to access the content, collaborate with a brand to produce the content or use the format for lead generation.
4. Brand ambassadors
One of the main long-term partnerships an influencer can be involved in is a brand ambassador program, either in collaboration with other influencers or solo. Brand ambassador roles could be for a week, a month, a year, or indefinitely, depending on the campaign budget, requirements, deliverables and exclusivity provisions. Typically, brand ambassadors are employed by the brand when they are naturally a good fit and align well with the brand and the target market.
Brand ambassadors can be big-time influencers and celebrities, or they can be more local, micro-influencers, depending on the goals of the campaign and the brand.
5. Social media sponsored posts
While brand ambassadors are typically long-term partnerships, sponsored social media posts are more of a groundswell approach to building brand awareness and exposure. This is by far, the most common way for influencers to make money, especially when they are starting out.
A sponsored social media post is when a brand engages an influencer to create content featuring the brand (it could be one post, two posts, or a series of posts) 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.
Be aware though, that when you are exchanging money and other forms of payment with a brand, there are disclosure regulations and guidelines in most countries and territories. Checkout out our summary of the Australian influencer marketing disclosure guidelines.
6. Sponsored Blog Posts
On the same note, influencers can monetize personal blogs and websites to collaborate and create branded content. Blogs are great because they are in-depth and allow influencers to share more detailed information with their community than is possible over social media, such as detailed product reviews. Not only does blogging help influencers make money from their creative, content writing, photography and distribution platforms, it also benefits brands with click-through links that take consumers directly to products and services, getting them closer to a conversion than a social media post.
It’s important to note that not all blog content should be sponsored or designed to sell a product - a good influencer will have a mix of organic content and branded collaborations and will be transparent about sponsored content.
Beware…. when influencers work for brands that they are not aligned with purely because there is money on the table, their credibility, authenticity and relationship with their audience can be severely impacted. Sponsored blog posts must be a genuinely good fit even when there is monetary incentive!
7. Physical Products
A unique way to create revenue in collaboration with a brand is to co-create a physical product, collection or range. We see this type of influencer monetization across every niche, from fashion capsule collections and co-branded beauty products to food, fitness, travel and health products. A great example of this is makeup artist and beauty YouTuber Jaclyn Hill’s collaboration with cosmetics brand Becca.
Influencers make money by co-creating content and receiving a commission on all sales, or a flat fee for the partnership (like an ambassador program), depending on the agreement. A 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!
8. Affiliate Marketing
Like commission-based arrangements, affiliate marketing is where a referral partner receives a percentage of a sale, if the sale can be attributed to their post or content. 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. Affiliate marketing is typically on a pay-per-sale, pay-per-click or pay-per-lead model.
For brands, it’s a good way to objectively measure how much influence an influencer actually has, and for influencers it’s great to earn an income from the brands and products you generally love, support and naturally endorse. Affiliate marketing generally won’t be an influencer’s only source to income, as it is not reliable or steady, however, it is a good way to earn incremental revenue.
9. Photography, Copywriting and Creative Direction
In addition to monetizing their influence and social networks, influencers can monetize their personal skills, whether it be photography, copywriting, creative direction, strategic consulting, styling or content creation. Influencers are typically business-savvy creatives who have used their skills to create a personal brand that ultimately drives revenue. So, brands often work with influencers by hiring them as freelancers.
If you’re a social media influencer and want to start monetizing your influence, here are 9 ways you can start building a revenue from your work. Like any other creative, you should be compensated for your work, especially when it benefits someone else, so employ a range of these strategies to build multiple revenue streams as a social media influencer.