Being a Social Media Influencer: It’s a Real Job

Cindy Ngo
April 18, 2018

It’s the age of digital media, and these days, more than three quarters of kids are saying they would consider a career in online videos. The study from travel company First Choice reports 34 percent of kids wanting to be a YouTuber and 18 percent wanting to be a blogger or vlogger.

Let’s start by clearing one thing up: Yes, you can make money off of being a YouTuber. Although it’s harder than you think.

When you’re talking about being a successful YouTuber, though, there’s a lot of criss-crossing with other popular social media platforms. You’re not just an influencer on YouTube—you’re also stretching your influence on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter. (Total social media domination!)

Right now, though, I want to zoom in on the wonderful world of Instagram and how the platform has created the booming career avenue known as: Instagrammers.

How Do I Make Money on Instagram?

Simply put, sponsored ads and merch. And lots of it.

Now, you can’t just make an Instagram account, ask a big name company to pay you for promoting their products, and expect to get a huge paycheck. You also can’t make shirts and hats adorned with your name and face and expect thousands of people to suddenly buy it. (Though I wish that was how it worked.)

You. Need. An. Audience.

We won’t give you the play-by-play of how to build an audience (we’d be here forever), but you need a fanbase who regularly comes back to watch you, believes in what you say and trusts your opinions about brands, movies, products and more. You need an audience that resonates with the brand you’ve built and continually engages with you by following, liking and commenting.

Thanks to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) recent endorsement guideline updates, it’s a lot easier to distinguish if a post is sponsored these days. Instagram’s “paid sponsorship” feature is a result of this crackdown.

Let’s take a moment to look at some sponsored posts and merchandise from popular Instagrammers.

Wow, this ad for Universal Entertainment’s new movie must have paid a big penny. Like, a lot of pennies.

Soooooo Jake Paul’s got a new collection of merch is what I’m hearing.

Excuse me, running to H&M right now.

Yes, even this fluffy Pomeranian is getting in on the IG moola with his own merch.

Crunching Numbers

Okay, let’s get into the nitty-gritty details and start looking at the actual digits. Because what everyone really wants to know is how much Instagram influencers are paid.

As you might imagine, the number of zeros on the paycheck varies based on each Instagrammer’s number of followers. Captiv8, a social analytics platform, did the calculations for how much top social media influencers are making.

According to Forbes, an Instagram user with more than 7 million followers can make an average of $150,000 per post. Even smaller Instagrammers with 100,000 followers can rake in as much as $5,000 for a paid post.

Chelsea Naftelberg, the associate director of content and partnerships for social media agency Attention, told Digiday that they pay an Instagram influencer $1,000 per 100,000 followers. Their team “negotiates the deal from there, adjusting the price up or down based on other factors like engagement rate, campaign length and the client budget.”

Can I Tell My Mom I’m an Instagrammer?

Do you have a growing, loyal audience that regularly interacts with you on social media? Do you have fans and companies copying your popular posts or reaching out with offers to pay you to promote their products or collaborate on a project with you?

If your answer is yes, then congratulations, you lucky person! You’ve just made me and tons of other people jealous of your creativity, brand building and money-making abilities. If your answer is no…well, let’s hold off on quitting your current job and just work on building your status as a blooming Instagrammer for now.