Newsflash: We have officially entered the age of the influencer and how to make money online. Social media is now the main platform where brands concentrate their marketing strategy due to its potential for reach, engagement and a whole new revenue stream. But figuring out how exactly to make money online from your company’s pages, channels and platforms can be opaque and challenging — especially if you’re a small business with limited bandwidth and resources.
Fear not. Many people in similar shoes have walked the path before you and figured out a slew of tips for earning some extra cash flow, all while strengthening your brand. Incfile spoke to experts in social media marketing to find out the best ways to monetize social media and how to become a social media influencer for those with both small and large audiences.
Have an Engaged Target Audience
One of the main keys to success when monetizing your social media is to make sure that you have an engaged and highly targeted audience. The number of followers you have now means very little when brands are searching for potential partnerships.
Brian Mellin, the founder and CEO of Forge Brands, says that most companies will be looking for a combination of follower count, engagement and target audience when searching for influencers. “A creator with 50K followers and a 15 percent engagement rate is going to be significantly more valuable than a creator with 100K followers but only a 2 percent engagement rate,” Mellin explains.
This means that to monetize your social media and attract brands, having a more engaged and targeted audience should be your main aim. This is also why micro-influencers — content creators with a follower count ranging between 1,000 to 100,000 — can still make money on social media.
“The more specific your content is to one topic, the greater chance you have to make money. Smaller creators often have high engagement and a localized and loyal following, which can be very valuable to many businesses,” says Mellin. It’s time to look outside of the follower count box.
Create High-Quality Content
While an engaged and targeted audience will always assist you in attracting brand partnerships and sponsored content, there has been a shift in recent years that has greater potential for all creators on social media.
Kyle Dulay, co-founder of Collabstr, a marketplace where brands can hire influencers, says that brands are becoming increasingly dependent on creator-generated content to power their business.
“Engagement rates and following sizes are much less relevant nowadays. There’s a lot of scenarios where a brand will want to work with you on a piece of content that will not be posted to your audience,” Dulay explains. This means that you can create content for other brands, such as testimonials, product videos and content for ads, and they will post it to their own social platforms. This can eliminate the pressure of follower count and engagement on your own platform. In the end, posting authentic and insightful content should come first.
“What matters most is competence and the ability to showcase that you can create high-quality content that will perform well for the brand,” Dulay says. This means that you can still get paid for making social media content, even if it’s to be posted by the brand rather than on your own channels. Take some time to invest in market research and decide which social media channel is the most effective and efficient for your goals. Instagram is often a top choice, thanks to its business tools and easy use.
Explore Commissions, Sponsorships and Partnerships
The traditional way that influencers and creators have been able to monetize their own social media has been through a combination of commissions, sponsorships and partnerships. Mellin outlines that the top ways to make money are ongoing paid partnerships known as brand ambassadorships, commission through affiliate links and sponsored spots in various formats and across platforms.
Whether brands have reached out to you directly or you have pitched a potential partnership to a company, these are some of the most popular ways that paid partnerships can be formed between influencers and brands.
However, as explained above, having an engaged target audience and producing high-quality content are the main aspects that brands and potential partnerships will look for in influencers and content creators. Developing these aspects on your social media platforms will help demonstrate that you will be of value to potential brands and their marketing strategy. Then, commissions, sponsorships and partnerships are what will be generally offered between brands and influencers.
However, there are also ways that you can monetize your social media platforms without collaborating with brands but simply utilizing your own personal brand. Jay El-Anis is Chief Marketing Officer at Uhive. He explains that subscription models are actually becoming one of the most successful ways creators can monetize their own content for themselves. Subscription models usually mean that in return for payments, subscribers get access to exclusive content.
There are plenty of platforms that are utilizing this style of monetization, including Only Fans, Medium and Patreon. El-Anis explains that these platforms are being driven by what he calls “creator-economies.” “They reward creators for the content they’re sharing, the audiences they’re growing and the contribution they’re making towards the success of the platform,” says El-Anis.
However, subscription models, along with more traditional monetization methods like sponsorships and partnerships, are only going to be as successful for the creator if you have an engaged audience and continue to produce high-quality content.
By following all of this sound advice, most business owners will find their investment in social media far outweighs the risks and costs. Do a little research, construct a custom strategy, stay engaged and soon you may have a new consistent cash flow for your business. Who knows, you may even decide to launch an entirely new online business. Be sure to research the best way to incorporate your new venture. Once you're earning money and you're ready to take your social media business to the next level, Incfile can help you form your business.
Jenna Scatena is a writer and content strategist with a love for stories that have never been told before. More than a decade of working with prominent magazines and brands informs her approach to impactful storytelling. Her stories have reached more than 30 million readers, won multiple awards and been anthologized in books. Jenna's work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, Marie Claire, The San Francisco, BBC and The Atlantic. She's the founder of the editorial consultancy, Lede Studio.