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How to become an influencer on social media

Anyone can be a social media influencer. Just like anyone can be a doctor. You just have to be willing to put in the work. Hey, I never said it was going to be easy, I just said anyone could do it. And I truly mean that. But in the end, it’s up to you to put in the work it requires to be a success at it.

We get a ton of questions about being a social media influencer, so I wrote down some of the most common to answer them for you.

  • What is a social media influencer?
  • What does a social media influencer do?
  • What do you need to be a social media influencer?
  • How much money do you need to become a social media influencer?
  • How many followers to be an influencer?
  • How much do social media influencers make?
  • How to get more followers on social media.
  • How to make money as a social media influencer.
 
   

 

How to become an influencer on social media

What is a Social Media Influencer?

A social media influencer is someone who makes money with their social media accounts. This could be TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, or to a lesser extent, even Twitter. 

Social media influencers are looked to for their knowledge and expertise on a specific topic.

A social media influencer usually specializes in a specific topic, such as makeup, fashion, travel, or food. That specific topic becomes their niche.

 
   
Here are some examples of influencers:
  • Tati Westbrook is a makeup influencer on YouTube (@GlamLifeGuru) She has almost 9 million subscribers and is rumored to make about a million a year.
  • PewDiePie is a game influencer on YouTube (@PewDiePie) He has over 100 million subscribers and is rumored to make about $2 to 5 million a year.
  • Jax is a TikTok star who specializes in music videos. (@JaxWritesSongs) She shot to fake with her Victoria’s Secret song. She makes about $30,000 for a single sponsored video and is rumored to be worth about $1.5 million.
  • Glam & Gore is a special effects makeup artist and YouTube influencer in that niche. (@Glam&Gore) She took a break about a year ago, but during the height of her career, she was rumored to make about $20,000 a month just from YouTube video views alone.
  • Zoe Sugg is a beauty influencer who has 9.3 million followers on Instagram. (@zoesugg) She is rumored to be worth around $4 million and is thought to make around $1 million a year.
  • Ashtyn Bodensteiner is a van life influencer with nearly 60,000 followers on Instagram. (@ashtynbodensteiner) She is just getting her start but makes a rumored few thousand dollars a month. Some sources say upwards of $7,000 a month.

You will notice that each of the people I liked as examples of social media influencers are not celebrities.

Yes, of course, Kylie Jenner is a social media influencer, but she is also a celebrity. Anyone famous will be able to use their “influence” to make money on social media. That’s obvious. But that isn’t what I want to talk about today.

Today’s chat is about average people like me and you making money as social media influencers.

What does a Social Media Influencer Do?

Contrary to the popular belief of some, an influencer is not somebody who spends all their time on social media, taking selfies and trying to sound important. Influencers have to influence the behavior of their followers genuinely.  A social media influencer’s “job” is to make content. The type of content they make will vary depending on the platform they focus on. A YouTuber, for example, won’t make the same kind of content that someone on Instagram does. They are two very different platforms and as such, require two very different approaches.

A YouTuber will make videos that are 5 to 10 minutes long (typically). In contrast, an Instagrammer will take photos.

Now I know some of you are going to say, what about IG reels? I hear you, and that’s a different subject altogether. I am talking just general here. We’ll get more into specifics later on.

The point is, that a social media influencer’s job is to make content. The content they post will attract an audience (followers). The more followers they have, the more money they will make.

What is content?

I have a YouTube channel (@GirlPowerGirlStrong), and on my YouTube channel, I post videos about women-related issues. Sometimes fun stuff, sometimes more serious stuff. The videos I create are what I refer to as “content.” I created a video about women’s rights called not so fun female facts.

What do you need to be a social media influencer?

To be a social media influencer, you don’t really need much. But there are a few basic tools that will help. The first thing that comes to mind isn’t a fancy camera because anyone with an iPhone can take great photos or videos. But what you do need is great lighting. For this, I suggest a ring light. You don’t need to get fancy. The $30 one works just fine.

Ringlight

Now you really have the basics down. You have a ring light and your iPhone.

Of course, you’ll also need to create a social media account on the platform you want to specialize in. Do you want to be an Instagram influencer? Then you need an Instagram account.

Now you need to think about what kind of influencer you want to be. Do you want to specialize in fashion, food, makeup, or travel? You have to pick something. Let’s say you just love makeup. That’s great, but makeup is a very big field, and it’s oftentimes hard to compete with all those other beauty bloggers. So what if you specialize in just one kind of video, like only lipstick or only makeup you can buy at the dollar store?

The idea here is to pick a very specific thing and only focus on creating content. I know most people say THINK BIG, DREAM BIG. And okay for some things that do work, but when it comes to becoming a successful social media influencer, you need to scale down and think small. You want to be a big fish in a small sea. It’s hard to be the small fish in a big sea. You may never get noticed that way.

So instead, you want to put your focus on one very small niche and then try and be the big fish in that smaller sea. That doesn’t mean later, you can’t expand into other things, but for now, you have to learn to walk before you can run.

How much money do you need to become a social media influencer?

As I said before, you don’t need a lot of money to become a social media influencer. You can get your start with your cell phone and a ring light, which you can pick up at Amazon for like $30.

There isn’t as much a “cost” to becoming an influencer. It just takes time. You first have to create the content, edit it, research the best caption and hashtags, and then repeat the process 500 times. Eventually, you’ll get better at it, and it won’t take as much time as it did when you first started, but that’s really the case with anything you do. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.

How many followers to be an influencer

The more followers you have, the more money you’ll make, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get started right away. You can technically get started as an influencer today with just a few thousand followers. There are five types of social media influencers.

Nano influencers:

Nano influencers specialize in a specific niche, with a small and engaged community that feels like they know the influencer on a personal level.

  • YouTube: fewer than 5,000 subscribers
  • Instagram: 2,500 – 10,000 followers
  • TikTok: 5,000 – 50,000 followers

Micro-influencers:

Like nano influencers, micro-influencers offer their audiences knowledge of a specific niche. At this level, they are just starting to really build a good following and build up their brand.

  • YouTube: 5,000 – 25,000 subscribers
  • Instagram: 10,000 – 100,000 followers
  • TikTok: 50,000 – 150,000 followers

Mid-tier influencers:

Once an influencer enters the mid-tier stage, they begin to transition their platforms from a hobby to a profession. At this level, the influencers will start to get more offers for paid sponsored posts.

  • YouTube: 25,000 – 250,000 subscribers
  • Instagram: 100,000 – 500,000 followers
  • TikTok: 150,000 – 750,000 followers

Macro influencers:

Established personalities who have amassed a large following. When you hit this level, you are making great money, and you have to bring on a personal assistant or management company to handle your brand deals.

  • YouTube: 250,000 – 1 million subscribers
  • Instagram: 500,000 – 2.5 million followers
  • TikTok: 750,000 – 2.5 million followers

Celebrity influencers:

Celebrity influencers are ones who have reached a “celebrity status” due to their presence on social media. This doesn’t mean they are a celebrity like Kylie Jenner but that they have so many followers, they are a brand in their own right. Examples of this are Logan Paul and Pewdiepie.

  • YouTube: 1 million+ subscriber
  • Instagram: 2.5 million+ followers
  • TikTok: 2.5 million+ followers

How much do social media influencers make

There is no generic answer to how much a social media influencer makes because it varies greatly. Unlike a traditional job like, say, a hairdresser who has an average salary of $20.70 an hour in Texas. A social media influencer’s salary could be anywhere from $1 a month to $1 million.

But let’s look into some things we know for sure. Tati, who we talked about previously, makes videos about makeup.

How much do Social Media Influencers make?

She has 9.5 million followers and averages 680,000 views a week.  This means she gets, on average more views a week than popular shows Riverdale, Charmed, and Legacies. She gets about the same number of viewers each week as The Flash and Bob’s Burgers. And keep in mind her numbers are down by half. This time two years ago, she was getting nearly 2 million views a week.

But that aside, from these numbers, we know that she brings in at least $15k to $25k a month from YouTube ad views alone. That’s not even factoring in the brand deals she gets. In short, a company will pay her to promote their product. That is the most lucrative way social media influencers bring in money. Tati is rumored to bring in a total of around a million a year between brand deals and YouTube ad views.

But not everyone is going to be at the top of their game, so what about smaller influencers? How much are they making?

A previously talked about who pays more, TikTok or YouTube? But let’s go over that information again.

On YouTube and TikTok, social media influencers are paid from what is called the creator fund.  The creator fund is where the social media platform pays qualified users to make for views of their videos. YouTube pays about $3 – $5 per 1000 video views. TikTok, on the other hand, pays as little as $0.02 to $.04 per 1,000 views.

So let’s do the math. A small-time influencer on YouTube isn’t going to have a lot of views. So if a video gets 3,493 views, you’ll make anywhere between $0.87 to $14. This is the estimated CPM range which is $0.25 to $4 per 1,000 views. Confusing, I know, but basically, YouTube doesn’t consider every view equal.  Some video views are worth $0.25 per 1,000, while others are worth as much as $4.

So that’s why a video with 3,493 views can be worth as little as $.87 to you are as much as $14. But keep in mind that’s just one video. You aren’t just going to upload one video. As you post new videos, you’ll keep making more and more money. The more videos you post, the more views you’ll start to get and the more money you’ll make. It all adds up.

MoneyToMiles (Erin) is a Gen Z personal finance guru. She posted a video on TikTok that told us exactly how much she makes. With that information, we can see how many followers she has, 162,500.  She tells us that she makes almost nothing from the creator fund. In fact, she said over the entire lifetime of her account, she has only ever made $490.38 (6 months total). She had 162,500 followers at the time she posted that video with about a million and a half likes. And all of that only added up to $490.38 total over six months from TikTok.

With the same number of followers and video views on YouTube should probably have made around $5,000. However, one could argue that it’s harder to grow on YouTube than it is on TikTok.

Where Erin made all of her money was from sponsored posts. She made $4,500 in June from 3 campaigns. That means three people paid her a total of $4,500 to make videos for them to promote their product (or service). TikTok’s seemed to have more requests for sponsored posts than YouTube does. The reason is simply that TikTok makes it much easier for people to do this through their creator marketplace.

So while YouTube may pay more per view, I really think that TikTok wins when it comes to getting people to pay you for sponsored posts. Even people without massive followers.

How to get more followers on social media?

To make money as a social media influencer, you need followers. I’ve previously talked about what it takes to be an Instagram influencer, but let’s talk about it in more general terms and cover all platforms, not just IG.

You have to post on a regular schedule. Depending on the platform, you will need to post daily or weekly, or several times a day. Here is a chart.

  • YouTube: Once or twice a week (same day every week)
  • TikTok: 2 to 5 times a day
  • Pinterest: 5 to 15 times a day
  • Twitter: 5 times a day
  • Instagram: Once a day (timeline) 1 to 3 times a day (stories)

YouTube is the most unusual in that you don’t have to post every single day to be a big success. In fact, it’s more common for YouTubers to upload once or twice a week. As long as you are consistent. Pick a day, any day, and post videos on that day every week. For example, Monday. Now post 1 video every Monday.

TikTok rewards activity. So if you post 2 to 5 times a day, the algorithm will reward you, and you’ll get more views overall. This is a hard schedule to keep up with, but since TikTok is all about short-form videos, it can be easier to post content than YouTube, which rewards long-form videos. There are some people who have found success with posting up to 10 times a day. I don’t know how they have the energy to create that much content but hey, more power to them.

Pinterest is known to reward people who post 10 to 15 times a day and punish those who don’t post that much. I personally couldn’t keep up with that amount of content, so I moved on from Pinterest, but I know people who are killing it with traffic from Pinterest and swear by it.

Twitter is a hard platform to grow on. You won’t ever have the success you have on platforms like IG. Not only do you need to post up to 5 times a day, but you also must engage with others to see any sort of growth. Just tweeting by itself won’t get you, followers. You really have to make the effort to comment on trending topics and replying to other people’s tweets to see any sort of growth.

Instagram is a whole beast in itself. With the right strategy and enough time and energy, you can grow your account pretty significantly. You will need to make at least one timeline post every day and at least one, preferably 2 or 3 stories a day. You really want to put extra time and effort into creating a captivating caption and use 5 to 10 appropriate hashtags. Yes, I know you can use more but let’s not go crazy. 5 to 10 hashtags are enough. Set goals for posting schedule and followers from start, once you have reached the initial 5,000 followers on Instagram, You start growing exponentially later on.

Then you’ll want to take those TikTok-like short-form videos and post them as reels. Do not post them directly from TikTok. Post them natively from the IG app to get better traction.

How to make money as a social media influencer

There are four basic ways to make money as a social media influencer.

  • Creator Fund
  • Sponsored Posts
  • User Generated Content (UGC)
  • Affiliate Links

The Creator Fund

We previously talked about that creator fund, which is where platforms like YouTube and TikTok pay you based on how many views your view gets. The more views your video gets, the more you’ll make.

Sponsored Posts

Sponsored posts are where a company pays you to make a video or post promoting their product or service. For example, I paid a handful of TikTokers to talk about The Ex-Boyfriend List. I didn’t have much money, so I only targeted micro-influencers – those influencers with less than 100,000 followers.

Meredith Duxbury (@meredithduxbury), however, has a crazy amount of TikTok followers. At the time of this posting, she has 15.7 million followers with 525.6 million likes. She makes some great makeup videos. And as a result of the quality of her videos, she has high engagement. So to get her to promote your product or service in a video on her channel, you have to pay her like $50,000.

Once you create your TikTok account, you can join the Creator Marketplace, and companies can hire you directly from the platform.

If you are on YouTube or IG, then you’ll simply say something like “Business Enquiries & PR: YOUREMAIL.” Then people can contact you directly to negotiate a deal or find out what your rates are.

I personally say you should prepare a rate sheet or rate card to just quickly send out anytime someone sends you a request for more information about your sponsored ad rates. A social media influencer rate card should look something like this….

 

Your rate card has your name, your IG handle, what you specialize in (that’s the #hastags), how many followers you have, your average engagement, and a quick blurb about your audience. Then, of course, what your starting rates are for a sponsored post or video.

User Generated Content (UGC)

User Generated Content (UGC) is a great way to make money from social media. This is where you make videos but for other people to post on their social media pages, not yours.  MoneyToMiles revealed that in August of 2022, she created fifty-eight UGC videos for other brands which earned her  $7,650. This means she made about $132 per video.

I went over to Fiverr to see what some of them were charging, and I found that BookReviewStew charges $200 for a 100-word video of him standing in his living room talking about your product or service. That’s about a 60-second video. Elizabethdampie will do a 60-second video for $80.

You can make money creating videos for other companies on the TikTok creator platform, on Fiverr, and on sites like Upwork.

Affiliate Links

Affiliate marketing is the most common way that social influencers make money. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have, almost anyone can qualify to make money this way. In short, you are paid to promote a brand, and you make money based on how many customers you send them.

The more customers you refer to them, the more money you make.

Affiliate links are sort of like sponsored posts where you promote something specific, and if someone goes and buys it using your affiliate link, you get a commission. How much you earn depends on the affiliate program you sign up for. Airabela.com, for example, pays 10%, whereas Amazon Wal-mart pays 2-3%.

Here is how it works. You go to the website (in this example, say airabela.com), scroll down to the very bottom, and find their affiliate link. Now you sign up for an account. It will usually say something like “become an affiliate.”

Now say you find this t-shirt or, in this case, a cropped hoodie from their store that you like. Let’s pretend it’s this particular one because how cute is that?

Girl Power Cropped Hoodie

You make a video promoting it and use your affiliate link. Now, everyone someone who watches your video buys one, and you get a commission of 10%.

Some affiliate programs will give you a specific link you have to use, so it doesn’t work on sites like TikTok or IG because you can’t click “links,” but you can get creative and create a landing page like YourName.com and then use YOUR link for that specific program on your landing page. If you don’t know how to do that on your own, you can always create a Linktree page. It’s like linktr.ee/yourname.

That really is the easiest way to handle affiliate links with social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, where you can only promote one URL. Then you can say “LINK IN BIO.”

Not only can you make money selling Girl Power t-shirts from Airabela.com, but you can also even make money from sites like Sephora. If you want to learn more specifics about how the Sephora affiliate program works, click here. I made this whole long post about it.

So now you know how to become a social media influencer, how much money you can make, and how to make it. You learned about the creator fund and affiliate links.

I know it was a lot to take in all at once but don’t stress. You can click here to download all of this information as a PDF and save it to refer back to it later.

 

 
   

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How to become an influencer on social media

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