Asking a Kindergarten class what they wanted to be when they grew up a decade ago would yield a room full of prospective astronauts, teachers, and popstars. Instead, nearly 30% of children questioned in a recent survey want to pursue careers as YouTubers!
YouTubing and influencing, in general, can appear effortless and simple, but there is much more to social media success than meets the eye. If you have ever wondered how to become an influencer, let us take a closer look at what an influencer actually does and what skills you need to become one. You will also learn how they make money and how much they can make.
What Is An Influencer And What Is Their Job?
An influencer is a person who uses their reputation to influence people who engage with their content. Social platforms like Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are where most influencers build audiences. However, celebrities like Rhianna or Cardi B, whose prowess extends beyond social media, have begun using their fanbase to advertise products and services. An influencer’s income depends on their followers seeing their content.
Subsequently, they can accept sponsorships and brand deals from other companies as well as advertise products and services offered by said companies or even their own. A clear example of this is Kylie Jenner, who is endorsed by brands like Puma, and Nike, to publicize their products to her 378 million followers. Simultaneously, she touts her brand Kylie Cosmetics.
Typically influencers are commonly considered trusted experts in their chosen niche. Purportedly, 80% of consumer purchases are swayed by influencer recommendations, yet regrettably, honesty and knowledge do not always transpire. Sometimes influences mislead people into buying supplies without thoroughly examining the product.
Some go as far as to lie. Most recently, TikTok sensation Mikayla Nogueira has been accused of using false eyelashes in a paid partnership with L’Oréal. Though influencers mainly consider the message they are putting out, the select few are less attentive.
Different Types Of Influencers
Influencers can be grouped based on the type of content they produce, like fitness, beauty, technology, cooking, and vlogging, or they can be categorized by the number of followers they have.
Though they may receive little recognition and collaborate with far lesser-known brands, people with between 1,000 and 10,000 followers may be referred to as nano-influencers. Micro-influencers have between 10,000 and 100,000 followers and are favored by businesses for partnerships as they usually have an intimate audience that trusts them and engages with their content.
Once numbers exceed 100k followers, influencers are considered macro-influencers, with individuals amassing over 1 million followers being deemed as mega influencers. Vlog-style content is one of the most popular genres of social media content, making vloggers the most likely creators to become macro or mega influencers.
While conventional celebrities have been hitting screens and magazines for decades before the influencer role rose to popularity, in 2023, we source a sizable portion of our entertainment from apps such as TikTok and Twitter. As a result, the line between celebrity and influencer has become blurred. Successful influencers have become celebrities in their own right, such as PewDiePie – a Swedish gaming YouTuber with 111 million followers.
Similarly, social media is such an alluring vocation that even established celebrities want to turn their hand to an influencer career, such as Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a The Rock – who founded his career as a professional wrestler and actor before pursuing social media success.
Humans are inherently nosy beings who crave connection and familiarity. Celebrities and influencers on social media give us a glimpse into their daily lives and aid us in seeing them as people just like us. This connection can, in turn, be used to market products to us, which is why so many celebrities have begun enhancing their paychecks with a little freelance influencing.
For example, Molly Mae made a name for herself on the UK hit TV show Love Island. Once she amassed a following from the show, she utilized her numbers to become a full-time influencer. She secured a £500,000 contract, roughly converting to $605,000, with Pretty Little Thing, whom she partnered with for three years before ascending to creative director – not to mention multi-millionaire status.
The term influencer is slowly becoming synonymous with celebrity. This is especially true in millennial and Gen Z circles, which interact more frequently with big names in social media than traditional celebrities.
Experts In A Certain Field
True Crime connoisseurs, travel vloggers, fitness influencers: you name it, social media’s got it. As a species, we are designed with unique interests and hobbies; consequently, the information we seek out is diversified. Influencers tap into these niches and cultivate a following from them. Generally, an influencer will pick a content category they have a working knowledge of and create content around that.
Take, for example, the beauty community – this presents differently on every app with varying levels of expertise. On YouTube, phenomenally talented artists produce video tutorials on how to achieve particular make-up looks, give in-depth reviews of new products, or compare expensive product dupes.
Some of these creators, like NikkieTutorials and Jeffree Star, are self-taught and deliver incredible results. Other YouTubers, such as GlamAndGore, have received a formal education in make-up application and FX make-up, which may suggest she is, on paper, more qualified.
On TikTok, these dupe comparisons, tutorials, and product reviews are still popular but are bitesize. The ease with which TikTok videos can be filmed and edited on the phone and served to a target audience using the “for you page” algorithm has opened the stage for more ordinary people to create content.
As macro and mega influencers are increasingly paid substantial sums of money to promote products, smaller content creators and less skilled persons are becoming more reliable sources for reviews and demonstrations as people better identify with them over highly-skilled, affluent influencers.
Instagram is ideal for budding make-up artists, who can post a still of their final look to showcase their proficiency. Reviewing the Instagram posts of some of the influencers who could now be considered masters of their craft, such as James Charles, it is obvious they have not always been as competent as they are now. Instagram shows us that influencers are not always experts in their chosen niche – they can learn and improve while producing content.
An influencer may have a penchant for a specific subject, like make-up or fitness, but the journey that the content creator and the viewer go on together is enthralling content and rewarding for both parties. Watching someone develop their skill or sculpt their physique over time can be part of the entertainment.
Influencers who do not closely identify with a specific topic, think public figures and lifestyle vloggers, are even less likely to be experts in anything. You can hardly earn certifications in living life. Usually, these creators have charming personalities and artistic flair that attract a viewership as opposed to wisdom or expertise.
On the whole, while influencers can be particularly informed, it is crucial to remember they are just people, like you or I, who have accrued a following and may misunderstand matters or hold biases or opinions about the topics they discuss.
Micro-influencers have between 10-100k followers giving them a broader audience than the average user but less than the likes of Kylie Jenner. Nevertheless, brands have come to love working with them due to their strong niche market and high engagement. For example, only avid home cooks may have stumbled across Barry Lewis’s channel, a British home cook with 937 thousand followers. In contrast, chefs like Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver are household names.
Barry Lewis, however, is more likely to like and share posts from his fans recreating his recipes, and it is this interaction that drives support for micro-influencers from their followers. As a result, micro-influencer engagement sits at around 6%.
Still, as creators gain recognition and become mega-influencers, such an interface becomes unsustainable with their millions of followers, and their engagement falls to as little as 1.21%. Furthermore, audiences tend to disassociate as their achievements become less attainable to their fanbase – when they can afford to buy extravagant houses, fast cars, and take exotic trips, etc.
There is a correlation between higher pay and higher follower count, as partnerships between corporations and mega influencers result in their advertisement being driven to a broader audience. Nonetheless, micro-influencers can negotiate higher rates as their loyal follower base is more likely to purchase their recommendations due to the more personal connections they maintain.
Businesses are starting to shy away from deals with mega-influencers as though they have millions of followers. These vast numbers make it challenging to connect with them the same way micro-influencers can.
People Who Produce Content, Known As Content Creators
As with any industry gaining traction, certain tasks must be outsourced. Building a social media presence can require the work and skills of several individuals. A sound business model is to reinvest profits to aid in its expansion. In the case of social media channels, this can look like new equipment, editors, or ghostwriters to research and compile dialogue.
Creators often begin posting authentic content they devised themselves, but as their responsibilities multiply and potentially their subject matter diversifies, they may employ the help of behind-the-scenes scriptwriters. Subcontracting work to other content writers guarantees that a steady stream of high-quality content is distributed on a regular basis.
9 Steps To Becoming A Social Media Influencer:
1. Select Your Niche
Firstly, choose a concept you can imagine building a business around. Falsifying excitement is difficult to do long-term, and you could come across as disingenuous. This isn’t to say that your content can’t evolve and change in time or that you can’t include the odd rogue subject, but to build a consistent audience, and you should focus on one niche.
An effective way to do this is to identify a gap in the market – a niche within a niche. For example, Rob Lipsett, a fitness influencer, found that a majority of fitness content was initially produced by American YouTubers, and most grocery hauls were purchased at stores like Trader Joe’s or Walmart.
Thus, certain products like Kodiak cakes were not readily available overseas. So, as a Dubliner, he grew his audience by posting similar videos only he would shop at Aldi and UK-based stores, unlocking a hidden pool of subscribers.
2. Choose Your Social Media Platforms
Once you have settled on your area of expertise, you must decide which social media platform you will use. Platforms that serve visual content tend to be the highest-performing apps for social posts, as humans are visual creatures.
TikTok has been on the up and up since 2020, when the app first became hugely popular. It exhibits short videos, with the maximum video length being 3 minutes. Producing TikTok content is accessible due to the minimal content length coupled with a user-friendly, in-app editing function eliminating the need for elaborate equipment and software. A
distinctive characteristic of TikTok is its algorithm that intends to deliver its users an endless stream of content based solely on other videos they have interacted with.
Instagram has, for years, been a still-picture-orientated platform where people can post images to their profiles. This format is ideal for beauty gurus to post photos of their final looks or parenting influencers to post snapshots of their day-to-day life. However, demonstrating your personality with only a picture and a character-limited caption can be tricky, particularly as content creators trying to extend their reach may use some of these characters for hashtags in their captions.
Hashtags are keywords selected by the influencer, prefixed with a “#” relating to the picture. Social media platforms allow users to search ‘hashtags’ on their app to help users discover posts relating to that hashtag. For example, travel bloggers may post a snowy, highland landscape from their latest trip and opt for hashtags like “#travel #wanderlust #travelvlog” as people seeking travel content may be inclined to search these hashtags.
“Stories” are short videos that will disappear within 24 hours. They are an efficient way to express more of their personality on Instagram. With the aim of aligning with other platforms, Instagram has recently introduced its reels feature. Reels are not dissimilar to TikTok in that they display short-format videos. Therefore, creators often post short videos to both Instagram and TikTok.
On YouTube, a creator’s personality is central. As the platform has few restrictions surrounding video length, it gives way to authentic voices that facilitate real connections between creators and their viewers. YouTubers are paid in ad sense revenue which accumulates every time an ad is watched on one of their videos. The more views they get, the more revenue they receive. Even so, the platform enforces strict guidelines surrounding the monetizing of particular subject matter, making profiting from talking about adverse subjects tough.
Twitter is the least financially rewarding of all social media platforms as they do not pay users for tweets. Therefore, you must have gathered a substantial following to receive sponsorships on this platform.
For the most part, though each platform has its opportunities and obstacles, the most successful influencers utilize all social channels as promotional tools, gaining notoriety on YouTube, using TikTok to post abridged content, then announcing new videos on Twitter and Instagram while giving their audience a sneak peek into their daily life is a dependable formula for growing your following.
3. Understanding Your Audience
By understanding your target audience, you can cater your content to them. Typically, you will be enticing like-minded individuals who share your interests.
For instance, the true crime community is predominately young females – its creators and viewership. Resultantly, there is often an undertone of personal safety in true crime content as not only are women the most intrigued by true crime but sadly the ostensible victims too. For example, Eleanor Neale covers predominately solved true crime cases. Knowing there has been a conviction and resolution brings closure to cases and gives her and her audience peace in this knowledge.
Whereas Georgia Marie, another UK-based true crime YouTuber, focuses on missing persons, Jane Does, and unsolved murders as she believes she is giving these people a voice. She also covers social justice issues and events that changed history. These are all niches within niches that provide these channels with individualism.
4. Create And Post Relevant Content
Once you have decided upon your niche and the platform(s) you will use, it’s time to start making valuable content. Fancy equipment and programs are not prerequisites to influencer status. Tana Mongeau, a story time YouTuber turned vlogger, is famed for creating her channel on her bedroom floor with her iPhone camera.
Tiktok’s acclaim is owed, in part, to the freedom it gives to creatives to make low-budget skits from their phone that are edited on the app. Khabane Lame, known for silently mocking aggrandized life-hack videos, has the highest following on TikTok.
5. Be Regular And Consistent
Like any venture, it is imperative to familiarize yourself with the process first, so once you are accustomed to creating content, you should focus on establishing a posting schedule. Initially, you will post your potential audience dates and times to persuade them to return.
You find many YouTuber’s outros request their audience like, share, and subscribe, then list the days they release new videos. Instagram and TikTok fame require perennial posting, ideally daily, whereas YouTube is more forgiving – you can recruit a dedicated audience by posting 1-3 times per week.
A valuable tool to manage your posting schedule, mainly when using multiple platforms, would be a content calendar. You can do this yourself manually or use free scheduling tools like Buffer or Publer that manage up to 10 scheduled pieces of content across 3 different social media networks weekly, stress-free. Stay committed to any timetables you do announce. Social media success can take years to develop, so do not lose your resolve. This is why choosing a concept you are passionate about is essential.
6. Stay Up To Date On Trends
Social media algorithms are intended to push content to their viewers based on popular trends and how they interact historically with similar content. Staying up to date on current trends and posting reactive content can help you go viral, as the algorithm will push your content to a broader audience.
Online trends can mirror real-world fads. For instance, in 2022, “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush topped the charts for the first time in decades after the Netflix show Stranger Things used it in its latest series. The song became a phenomenon on TikTok, allowing many creators who used the song in their videos to garner a new clique.
7. Engage Your Audience
Responding to audience feedback is mandatory to retain a devoted following. Your followers will message you, comment on your social posts, and like your content allowing you to make money from social media and be offered partnerships, so the least you can do is connect with them. This rapport makes working with micro-influencers a popular option for brands as it earns trust.
Correspondingly, offering your audience more of what they desire gives them cause to return to your content. For example, lifestyle influencer, Laura Lee, used to focus primarily on beauty content but pivoted toward sharing more vlogs and home décor after fans warmly received her first few videos of this nature. Trolls leave mindlessly negative comments, usually from throwaway social media accounts with no profile picture, to discourage creators.
Discerning constructive criticism from these hate comments is not hard. Another ingenious way to up engagement – ask them questions! Open dialogue and conversation are the finest way to get acquainted, so why not ask your followers to answer your questions? Of course, you can ask them about content preferences, but you could also ask them common questions like their favorite breakfast.
8. Have An Opinion
Establish your opinion. Differing perspectives and interpretation are what drives debate and change. What works for one person is not always the best fit for another, so do not be afraid to disagree with other people. Respectfully, determine what your own beliefs are, and do not water yourself down for other people. Use your opinion to inspire change and revolutionize how people think of a concept. This distinctiveness brings people back to your page, much like all the qualities individuals bring to a friendship group.
9. Grow Your Network
Lastly, grow your network! Raising a vast following is essential in becoming an influencer, so get promoting your channels. We have already highlighted that a fantastic method to accrue followers is using your social accounts as social media marketing. Use your Instagram to promote your YouTube, use TikTok to promote your Instagram, and so forth. Enlist the help of friends and family in helping to share your profiles.
Some niches, like culinary influencers, may benefit from a website. Here, you can post supplementary blog posts and information like recipes. Adding your social media icons to your website or even as your email sign-off (if appropriate) spreads awareness of your social presence.
Another way to extend your reach is by organizing online or in-person events. Millie Gooch’s social networks promote sobriety, and her website SoberGirlSociety advertises her sober meetups and Saturday morning Zoom calls. Taking your enterprise offline can reveal a hidden treasure chest of followers.
What Are The Skills That Influencers Must Have?
Certain requirements like a suitable profile picture, search-friendly handle/username, and no-nonsense bio are transferable requirements across all social platforms alongside a cohesive email address for business inquiries. Having all these matters in order gives you a professional air, yet there are some platform-specific competencies you may benefit from.
Some essential skills that influencers must have include outstanding communication, writing, design, photo/video editing skills (depending on the social media platform you are active on as an influencer), customer service, and time management skills.
How To Become An Instagram Influencer
We have already identified Instagram as a visual content platform. Success on this platform requires clear photos with good lighting, so basics in photography wouldn’t go amiss. You can improve your cinematography skills in short online courses with Skillshare. To capture well-lit photos, take them outdoors or by windows.
Resilient creativity is another necessity, as the Instagram algorithm can push your content to a wider audience when you post epic content on your grid between 3-5 times a week and up to 5 stories a day. Pay attention to the fact that the best engagement comes to accounts that also use the reels feature, so you will need to be diligent and imaginative to fulfill all these criteria.
How To Become A TikTok Influencer
TikTok’s continuous stream of personalized, snappy footage sets it apart from other socials. Once again, understanding picture composition and video lighting may help your content stand out in this saturated space. Comparable to Instagram, a wealth of creativity is needed to generate the 3 videos a day (this is the recommended number of posts to build your popularity).
Being concise is a trait that fairs well on TikTok as there is a 3-minute limit on all content posted on the app alongside a comedic and compelling personality to entice followers with such a short amount of time to grab their attention.
How To Become A Twitter Influencer
At the center of Twitter’s success is connection. Having a sincere passion for speaking to people in concise yet meaningful statements is how you grow on Twitter. Again, characters are limited to 280 per tweet, though this is said to be increasing to 400. Even with the enhancement, you need to be able to convey your message succinctly.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Do Influencers Get Paid?
Yes, influencers get paid very well, not just from the platforms they work with. They can build multiple streams of income. Some of the various income streams for influencers include sponsored posts, affiliate marketing, online advertising programs (depending on the social media network), selling merchandise, and brand partnerships. Some also accept direct donations such as tipping, subscriptions, etc.
Patricia Bright, a beauty vlogger and a financial advisor has talked transparently on her channel about the multiple ways she can monetize her content. On her channel, the Break, she promotes influencing as a lucrative side hustle explaining how companies sponsor influencers to make sponsored videos and Instagram posts advocating their products. She describes affiliate marketing, where she is given a promotional link or code to a product that she can share with her followers and subsequently takes a small percentage of the sales. Her popularity gives her substantial listeners to whom she sells commodities, not foregoing her own products, such as her fully coded excel budgeting spreadsheet that has sold hundreds of copies. Finally, she receives the ad revenue from YouTube that her videos generate.
She is not alone in practicing multiple endeavors. Grace Beverley began her career as a fitness personality on Instagram and, eventually, YouTube. Her online presence enabled her to initiate a vegan supplement company, Shreddy, selling powders, bars, and all fitness supplements. The ambitious entrepreneur went on to form a second company called TALA which concerns itself with sustainable, affordable, active, and loungewear basics. During the conception of these companies, Grace took a step back from YouTube but received ad revenue from her old videos. Ad revenue is a powerful tool; the more videos a creator generates, the more those videos are viewed and the more profits they receive.
Another way influencers benefit financially includes gifting. While some companies pay influencers, others build amicable relationships with influencers by giving them their products for free in the hope that they will be featured or talked favorably about on the creator’s social media channels. While this is not a cash payment, it is an exchange of goods and services in anticipation of publicity.
How Much Does An Influencer Make?
The opportunities accessible to an influencer depend upon the number of followers they have, which impacts their earning potential. Nano-influencers typically do not earn capital, per se, but any partnerships they secure tend to be in for form of gifted merchandise.
Influencers with followings greater than 10k monopolize paid brand deals. Rates for promotional posts fluctuate based on the length of the partnership, the size of the task, and the size of the influencer’s audience, amongst other variables.
Influencers Marketing Hub approximates nano-influencers can charge anywhere from $5 to $25 per TikTok video, with mega influencers charging up to $25,000. Allegedly, Kim Kardashian has made $1.6 million from one sponsored post. Essentially, full-time influencers are freelancers, which means their income is volatile; there is no guaranteed bottom line figure for them, and equally, there is no upper limit on their potential earnings.
Typically, how much an influencer can make depends on the size of their following, how engaged the following is, and how well they market their services.
Can You Become An Influencer With No Followers?
Truthfully, not really. Without a following of some form, you have no one to influence. It is recommended you have a minimum of 1,000 followers before you can be considered an influencer.
Do Influencers Pay For Followers?
With influencing being such a sought-after profession, it comes as no surprise that people have begun to pay for followers. Inactive accounts and paid bots are inexpensive and available to purchase to boost your numbers. However, as these accounts cannot engage with your content, buying followers makes it seem as if your content is not captivating and not worth serving to new viewers.
Periodically, Instagram clears out inactive accounts, so financing a following can be a futile waste of money. Not only are average social media users getting savvy to influencers using fake accounts to feign a following, which can be off-putting to genuine viewers, but it actually violates the terms of service. Meta has previously had businesses that distribute false likes shut down, which suggests that accounts caught purchasing followers may face a similar fate.
So, do you think you have what it takes to be an influencer? Is it more complicated than you once thought? Budding influencers have asked numerous YouTubers to share their pearls of wisdom, and the unanimous guidance given by successful influencers is to “just start.” So, do not put off your goals for fear of failing or waiting for better equipment. Instead, pick a passion project and start your content creation journey today!