It is the most common question influencers hear… “How do influencers make money?” From the early days of people asking “what’s a blogger?” to influencers and content creators now being part of our everyday lives, the monetization options for influencers has grown exponentially. As an active participant in the influencer space since the beginning, we’ve advocated and prioritized paying influencers long before it was the industry standard.
Let’s get into it!
Influencers make money via multiple channels, sometimes combining efforts or sticking with one revenue stream that works for them. Let’s review what’s currently available, shall we?
The old stand-by’s for how influencers make money:
- Ads and sponsored: Influencers can sell ad space on their blog or partner with brands for sponsored content (hello, #ad) on their social platforms.
- Affiliate links & influencer codes: Influencers provide a specific link or brand code and when followers click/swipe up and/or use these to make a purchase, the influencer makes a small commission of that sale (which can add up over time – check out Grace Atwood’s Prime Day commissions she recently shared on her Instagram Stories).
- Creator Subscriptions: Creator subscriptions are becoming more popular as audiences want more exclusive content. Followers can subscribe to premium or exclusive content to support creators on an ongoing basis. For example, the popular Instagram account The Makerista launched Thrift Club last year, a subscription-only account giving subscribers a more in-depth look at her thrifting finds, tips on how to negotiate prices, community support, what to look for in stores, etc.
- It is not just creators getting in on the action, Twitter is rumored to be launching Twitter Super Followers that would allow some users to charge followers for access to extra content.
- Creator Gifts & Tips: Followers can buy a currency specific to the platform and use the tokens to tip creators. TikTok and Twitch both offer this currently; Twitter’s Tip Jar will allow users to send money directly to their favorite accounts and the much-anticipated launch of Twitter Blue will allow creators to publish and monetize newsletters, among many other new features.
- Creator Funds: Platforms will pay creators based on specific objectives or overall post performance (TikTok Creator Fund and YouTube Shorts Fund are two popular funds, atm).
The new(ish) crowd:
- Monetized Live Content: While still a work in progress, the popularity of live content continues to increase and with that comes new monetization tactics. With Clubmarket for Clubhouse, brands can pay to have a branded room, receive a shoutout from the presenter or be a sponsored co-host. Other platforms like Twitter are integrating ticketing so creators can charge for people to join live Ticketed Spaces. This is just the beginning, as we are sure to see additional platforms follow suit.
So what does this all mean for brands? As influencers and content creators explore more ways of generating revenue (we haven’t even touched on book deals, merch, podcasts, etc.) they have the ability to be more selective with partnerships, demand more creative control of sponsored content and choose authenticity over need. But that last point is important – the more selective the influencer is, the more authentic a partnership is, creating greater engagement from their audience. Engagement = brand awareness, which in turn leads to brand fans/customers.
This also means that different creators will end up prioritizing different platforms based on what payment structure makes the most sense for their content. For example, Instagram and Pinterest are moving into the ecommerce space. That means creators interested in having shoppable posts and affiliate links will do better here, whereas creators interested in hosting live, exclusive and/or subscription-based content will probably prioritize platforms like Twitter and Clubhouse.
This adds another layer of consideration for brands when identifying the best creators to partner with for influencer campaigns. How to choose the right influencers for your program is a larger conversation (or blog post, hint hint).
Phew! This is a lot to digest and by the time you read this, I’m sure another platform will launch a new monetization piece to help influencers make money…But that is what’s so exciting; this ever-changing social media landscape that is listening to creators and trying to answer their needs while also providing new opportunities for brands to benefit from influencer marketing and partner with creators in a more strategic way.