• Riley Draper

How Much Money Do Social Media Influencers Make?

A curiosity that has at one point or another entered everyone’s mind is how influencers can seemingly make money out of posting pictures on Instagram, making videos on Youtube, writing blogger pieces, and so on. How is it these internet personalities can live sometimes lavish lifestyles by just seeming to exist on social media? The answer is they are a new age of advertisement: Influencer marketing.

Though they are still around, advertisements in TV commercials, billboards, newspapers, magazines, and even targeted digital ads are quickly becoming outdated. Businesses and brands partnering with social media influencers to promote their products are becoming the new standard. Turns out, marketing with influencers is way more profitable than every other type of advertisement in use, and companies are figuring that out. Marketers for most of the major brands right now plan to increase their budget for social media influencer marketing.

Now seems like the perfect time to try and make it as an influencer, so a new important question arises: how much money should you expect to make as a social media influencer? Well, unfortunately, no one is exactly sure. The world of influencer marketing is still mostly uncharted territory, so there are no good precedents to rely on. 

Things only get more complicated when you realize that most influencers have a diverse means of getting money from their online presence and that seemingly every influencer-brand partnership is negotiated case-by-case. Though it might not look like it, being a successful influencer is a full-time job. For a more in-depth discussion on this, read through our article about 

Luckily, it’s not like no one has any idea what is going on. There are a few key factors that have been identified to determine how worthwhile an influencer’s partnership would be for a company that can give both parties a rough idea of what kind of numbers to pass around. Plus, since there is no shortage of influencers, there is no shortage of examples to look at to give yourself a baseline of the sort of income you can generate as an influencer.

Stefanie GAn Instagram model.

The Metrics To Consider

If there is one thing you can trust companies to never do, it is handing out money without wanting to see the data. So, if you plan to try and land sponsorships with any brands soon, you need to make sure you have a firm grasp on two numbers: your follower count and your engagement rate. Understanding your demographic is also useful, but not strictly related, so more on that later.

Follower Count

This is just about as self-explanatory as it gets. It’s the number of followers and whatever platforms you have. Most influencers diversify their platforms across Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, etc. Though they all have one that is their primary way of interacting with fans. You need to know what your flagship platform is, and how many people follow you on there.

An impressive amount of followers depends on the platform in question. Having a million subscribers on your Youtube channel is impressive, but having a million followers on your Instagram account is more impressive, at least when it comes to getting a brand’s attention. Knowing how many followers you have is a way for companies to have a rough idea of how many people they can expect to see their product if they take you on for a marketing campaign.

Influencers with only a modest following need not worry about this too much. Micro-influencers — people with roughly 10k-100k regular followers — tend to be more profitable sponsorships for businesses, so you might have better luck getting offers if you fall in that range. This is in part because they can usually get away with a smaller pricing or even sometimes just free product in exchange for promotion, which is a bit disheartening but not the biggest motivator.

A more relevant benefit is that micro-influencers have a strong following but are typically more “down to earth.” They are almost always following a specific niche with a clear target audience that doesn’t stray far from that niche. Micro-influencers themselves are almost always consumers or advocates of a specific kind of product, so a brand similar to these kinds of products will naturally want to promote them.

Viewers find that it is more genuine for a smaller niche content creator to promote something similar to their interest than a huge celebrity backing any kind of product. Plus, micro-influencers usually have to maintain a high engagement rate to be successful.

Here’s where you might be thinking, “I keep seeing ‘engagement rate.’ What does that even mean?”

What is Engagement Rate?

Your engagement rate is a bit less self-explanatory than your follower count, but it is still quite straightforward. It’s a measure of how much of your followers interact with your posts on average. This can be liking/reacting to a post, making comments under a post, sharing it, following links embedded in the post, using a specific hashtag from the post, and so on. As long as someone interacts with a post in just about any way instead of just scrolling past it, it can count toward an influencer’s engagement rate.

Engagement is calculated roughly by taking the total amount times any of your posts have been interacted with, divided by the total number of views all of your posts have gotten across a platform. So, it mostly comes down to your Reach over your Impression. Don’t feel discouraged if this number comes out looking small, having an engagement rate over 10% is considered by most people to be exceptionally good.

Luckily, most modern social media platforms have built-in analytics for you to track your engagement, so you don’t have to fuss with third-party processing software. If you have multiple social media platforms that you are managing, it might be a good idea to pick up an engagement analytics tool, if only so you have all the data in one convenient place instead of having to juggle through all of your accounts.

So Why is Engagement Important?  

In a sense, it shows that an influencer’s followers respect them and their opinion. From more of a business standpoint, if an influencer’s followers are more likely to interact with their posts, they are more likely to click links, use affiliate marketing discount codes, and inadvertently increase the product’s reach. A micro-influencer with a loyal fanbase can get a hashtag trending much easier than a huge influencer with a much more passive following.

For a comparison, think of Super Bowl halftime commercials. Arguably, no commercials are viewed by more people in a single year. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent by major companies for them to each get maybe 30 seconds of airtime. But how many times has a Super Bowl commercial convinced you to start buying a company’s product? Huge viewership, terrible engagement, and a ton of money gone to waste.

That’s why so many brands — especially smaller ones with less untold millions to throw around — are coming onto marketing with influencers. The number of people they reach overall is probably lower, but so too is the cost. Getting someone to pose with your product on their Instagram story is much cheaper than filming and airing commercials. The reach being smaller isn’t a concern either, so long as the total engagement is higher. It’s all about return on investment, and the influencer marketing company NeoReach found that ROI for influencers is higher on average than other forms of advertising, and micro-influencers outperformed macro-influencers on ROI by almost 30%.

Engagement is more important for you to keep track of than raw follower count. It doesn’t matter if you are the biggest Instagram account in the world, if you have a terrible engagement rate, businesses won’t want to work with you for a social media influencer campaign. This is great news for people with a modest social media account trying to find sponsorships. Plus, it highlights just how important and helpful it is to the people you follow to like, share, and comment on their content. No, YouTubers aren’t just saying it to annoy you.

Getting Down to the Money

All the business talk is interesting, but you are here to see numbers, income numbers to be precise. Unfortunately, here comes another “it depends.” Don’t worry, this one is more about your platform of choice than it is anything else, so it is way less vague than the last few times those two words have reared their ugly heads.

In general, the two most financially sound social media influencers platforms are Youtube and Instagram, for different reasons of course. Most influencers dip their toes into other platforms but make no mistake that they are as lucrative as the main two. OnlyFans and Twitch have started emerging as a way for influencers to reliably make money, but there is some debate over whether you can consider those social media platforms, so that’s a discussion for another time.

Youtube Influencers

The history of Youtube is a bit weird. It started out being conceptualized as a dating website, then became more of a general video streaming service, and now it is steadily resembling a regular social media outlet more with each passing day. There is an argument that it is much harder to make it as a Youtuber than an Instagram influencer, just due to the nature of the websites, how much longer Youtube has been popular, how much more raw content and bigger metrics, etc.

The good news is, the income of a Youtube channel is much easier to parse than for an Instagram model because the website has a few standardized metrics. At least, it’s easier for a baseline, there are still plenty of variables that can raise the ceiling of their earnings.

Stephanie Gurzanski.

Viewership Numbers

Since Youtube is particularly dependant on website traffic, it pays out a small amount to their verified accounts based on video viewership. The rate is pretty pitiable, about 70 cents for 1000 views. Luckily, Youtube also has a built-in targetted ad program that can net channels more income if they have it enabled. 

Ad revenue is a bit more tricky. It works out to be around 3-5 dollars for every 1,000 views. (Note: that is full ad views, and doesn’t count skipped ads or overall views). More in-demand Youtubers make more from these, and channels with certain target audiences can get a boost to this revenue as well. So, hypothetically, if you only published one video a month that had a single ad and you could guarantee every time the video was viewed, so was the ad, you stand to make around $5,000 a month from ad and view revenue. That is the ideal scenario, though; most Youtubers expect nowhere near that kind of gross income, and rarely are ideal conditions for this method met.

That’s why most Youtubers supplement this income with various affiliate marketing strategies. A baseline partnership for a Youtube channel with a decent engagement rate is about $20 per post per 1000 subscribers. This can go up with things like affiliate product links, selling their merch, and other things typical of sponsorships. Plus, an account with a more substantial engagement rate can make a whole lot more, but it’s a decent idea of a bottom line. 

Youtube Complications

For whatever reason, Youtube subscribers tend to be more passionate about the influencers they follow than on other platforms. That can be a boon for an influencer, as it means you normally have a higher engagement to pull better sponsorships. But it also means that you have to be careful what you promote. 

Fans are quick to call out Youtubers for suddenly being affiliated with brands that they’ve never cared about before, accusing them of being a “sellout.” People like being advertised to, but they hate being aware they are being advertised to. Being affiliated with the right brand can be huge for a Youtuber, but it can backfire badly if they get stuck with a brand that “doesn’t make sense for them.” 

Plus, there is always the dreaded worry of losing your verified status or a video being demonetized. This isn’t backbreaking to an influencer with a strong brand sponsorship, but it can choke out their earning potential, and non-affiliate Youtubers could have their entire income compromised.

Instagram Influencers

How much money an Instagram influencer makes is a tricky subject. Since Insta does not have a formalized ad or viewership monetization system, some form of brand sponsorships is how all Instagram influencers are making money.

For whatever reason, Instagram influencers are the ones that set the pricing on their partnering services. The fluidity of the platform might be part of the issue. Making a few Instagram posts or a story is much more fleeting than a YouTube video, and there are different levels to the degree these products can be promoted.

Most influencers charge different rates for their services, but there seems to be an unspoken rule of one cent per follower that serves as an absolute minimum. But it is more or less a commissions-type system where the one doing the work sets the price of their services based on what they believe it to be worth. Influencers can upcharge or down charge from the cent-per-follower depending on any number of circumstances.

So, without access to the tax records of every Instagram influencers, it’s just impossible to determine an average income for one. But, if you know your follower count, engagement rate, and a reasonable idea of how much you think your work is worth, then you can look at some example Instagram influencer marketing rates that can give you an idea of how models similar to you have done.

  1. A lifestyle blogger with 118K followers with a 2.5% engagement rate charges $300 for a single-story mention, $2500 for 5 posts a month across 3 months, and $1500 for a sponsored giveaway.

  2. A lifestyle blogger with 170K followers with a 4.5% engagement rate charges $1000 for a single Instagram post and $500 for a sponsored giveaway.

  3. A travel blogger with 100k followers with a 9.2% engagement rate charges $200 for a single-story, $1000 for a single post, and $2k-5k for a 60s product video.

  4. A fashion blogger with 80K followers with a 7.1% engagement rate charges $300 for a single post or 2 for $500.

  5. A health and nutrition blogger with 30K followers with a 7.1% engagement rate charges $325 for a single post and $350 for a giveaway.

Rates for bigger or smaller accounts aren’t easy to pin down, but you’ve more than likely noticed a bit of a pattern. Smaller accounts can charge about as much as larger accounts as long as they have a higher engagement rate. This doesn’t factor in free products and merchandise that are normally offered in sponsorship deals. For the most part, influencers no longer accept just free merch as compensation, and will still charge some dollar amount. Of course, feel free to make your own decision whether or not such an offer would be worth it. You are the influencer, after all.

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