It’s a question I get asked at least once a week.
Normally the person asking is skeptical. They understand that a big following is partially a vanity thing. It looks cool.
Or maybe they know that people can buy thousands of followers on social media.
I get it. Making an impact on thousands of people is amazing, but it takes a lot of time and energy to build that foundation and nurture those relationships.
In this post, I’m going to go in depth and share exactly how having a big following CAN drive revenue… if you use it properly.
Please keep in mind I grew my following of 130k on Instagram without paying a dime on ads, engagement or followers themselves.
You can read more about how I did that here!
1. With influence comes influencer marketing opportunities
This is probably the most common way people with large social media followings make money.
It’s CRAZY to me that influencers (people with over 100k followers on social) are now basically commercial producers.
I saw my friend, Tara LaFerrara, do an entire campaign with Secret deodorant a few weeks ago. Her sponsored Instagram stories weren’t a far cry from ads that appear before Hulu shows.
Influencer marketing comes in many forms, but the best way to explain it is that a brand hires an influencer to create content around a product so they can reach a new set of eyes via a trusted source. AKA paid advertising.
An example: My friend Georgie did this sponsored post with HelloFresh. Note the product placement and call out in the caption. People get paid for this stuff ALL THE TIME.
Audiences trust the influencers they follow for the most part. So if my friend Tara talks about how she’s used Secret deodorant her whole life, it’s highly possible her followers would consider picking it up next time they stop at Walgreens.
This type of work can be extremely lucrative. For example, Kim Kardashian makes up to $500,000 per sponsored Instagram posts. Of course, most of us will probably not reach that level (hey you never know!) that’s how valuable a social media audience can be.
Influencer marketing is still a fairly new channel for brands to promote their products and services, so it’s pretty unregulated. When companies ask me what they can expect to spend, I tell them that there’s no real standard.
I recently worked with Blue Apron and they were able to give me a budget based on my Instagram story views. Another brand I worked with gave me a budget based on my blog views. So if you’re a brand looking to work with influencers, my best advice is to have a budget in mind and find an influencer who can work with you.
And if you’re an influencer or aspiring influencer, here’s my best advice to make your platform more attractive to brands:
- Know your market. Brands want to know who they can reach through your platform. The more you learn about your audience (location, age, gender, etc) the more valuable your channels are to brands!
- Have a media kit ready to go. This tip comes from personal experience. I didn’t make a professional media kit until March of 2018… pretty late to the game! If you have no idea where to start, do a quick search for templates. You can also check min out here as an example.
- Scope out brands you like and start creating content that aligns with theirs and be sure to tag them or use their branded hashtags. This will get their attention in a positive way and it’s an easy way to organically break the ice. Like everything else in life, relationships with brands are key… and it can start with you! You don’t have to wait for brands to approach you.
- Know your rates. If a brand approaches you, it’s best to have rates in mind already so you don’t hesitate and accidentally send over a quote that’s lower than what you’d really want. I’ve been in this situation too many times just because I wanted the work… but I immediately regretted it because I knew my platform was worth more!
2. Affiliate marketing
One of my clients makes her entire income from affiliate marketing, and she’s a mom of two.
Affiliate marketing is a little like influencer marketing, but instead of campaigns and one-off posts, you’d make a commission off of products you sell on your channel.
Making a small percentage from selling products that aren’t yours is an incentive to constantly promote them. Some brands call their affiliates “ambassadors” for this reason.
So what product could you sell as an affiliate? Honestly, any product could work.
In the food world, there are a lot of supplements (ugh), protein powders and stuff like that which have affiliate programs.
But it doesn’t have to be hard goods. Many online courses and SAAS products have affiliate programs as well!
I’ve never used my platform to make affiliate sales outside of passively using Amazon affiliate links. But it can be a great way to make a consistent income from Instagram and other social media platforms.
3. Sell your own stuff
This is what I focus on 98% of the time. I sell my own products. When I say products, I mean digital products like my meal plan subscription program, not hard goods.
But as an influencer or brand you can sell pretty much anything on Instagram.
Of course, not all businesses belong on Instagram, which I talk about here. But if you’re catering to Millennials and moms and you’re in the fashion, food, travel or lifestyle space, Instagram is probably the best social media platform to get on right now.
This goes for all three of these examples, but the more followers you have, the more people you have to sell to. As long as they’re real followers, of course.
Followers you buy will never buy from you.
When I opened up my new subscription program to my 130k followers, I got 300 sign-ups in the first week. My goal was to get 125. A month after launching, I have 450+ active subscribers and counting.
I couldn’t have hit that number without a highly engaged, nurtured and large audience.
More followers = more money… if you know how to sell. And that’s something I’m still working on (and it’s something every influencer should work on).
Money aside, having an audience is a huge asset.
My large audience has brought me all kinds of opportunities.
I periodically get emails from book publishers who want to talk about a cookbook (I’m not ready yet, but it’s coming). Last year The Rachael Ray Show reached out ot me.
People are more willing to vouch for me to their friends (word of mouth is the least utilized growth strategy on Instagram) because my large following is a sign of credibility.
I’ve been able to leverage my following into free hotel rooms, lots of kitchen products and free food like hummus, popcorn, cookies etc. It’s easier for me to get quoted in articles, get booked on podcasts and all that fun stuff too.
Okay, so maybe the above doesn’t translate into dollars… but it’s fun. Can’t business be profitable AND fun?!