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Just over a decade ago, a kid named Mark dropped out of Harvard and developed a site for other college kids to interact on called Facebook. In 2017, that site now has over 1 billion users and has made a few people very wealthy. As is often the case, money and copycats follow in quick succession of a major hit. Right around the time Facebook was becoming mainstream, Twitter and Instagram were born. Celebrity interaction, real time updates, and photo filters propelled these social media platforms into stardom right alongside Facebook. Nowhere on Earth were so many people congregated so closely to each other at the same time – digital or otherwise.
Rise of the New Age
The early adopters – the people who saw value in online communities – were naturally the people who have been exposed to the internet since their childhood. They dipped their toes in the water with sites like Myspace but this was a whole new stratosphere. It became increasingly easy to take and share pictures with the phone in your pocket, it allowed you to know what your friends were up to even if you lived far away, and most importantly it made sharing your lunch with the world cool.
One of the most coveted demographics in the world for advertisers are 18-34 year olds (specifically males). Social media had this demographic well covered. In fact it was almost exclusively made for that particular audience – however it was not necessarily made with this specific advertising purpose in mind. However, once companies realized they too could jump onto these platforms to say and share what they wanted, a new era was born. With each new registration, the individual’s information was collected and could be later used to target ads specifically for that person. Gone are the days of mass advertising (to anyone who will pay attention) and in are the days of targeted marketing. Selling has become more advanced, more subtle (think about all the athletes, models, and influencers), and quite simply more capable than ever.
That word – Influencers – has really only come about within the past 5 or 6 years. If someone asked you in 2000 for an example of an influencer you’d probably be confused. Or think of someone like MLK or Ghandi. They were certainly influential, but not influencers in today’s sense of the word. Today, an influencer is anyone with an online presence and following of tens of thousands (or more) people. An influencer today would be someone like Lebron James, or in the world of personal finance, Mr Money Mustache. They are so valuable because they have what advertisers crave and work so hard for; a dedicated audience, mutual trust, and an adoration for the content being produced. So what do advertisers do with all things amazing and pure? They blasted it to hell with ads.
That description might be a bit abrasive but it’s fairly accurate. Some are more subtle than others while some are blatantly obvious but either way they have found their way onto Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Of course, not everyone on these platforms is an influencer. Typically it’s the users in the top 5% or so of audience size which typically ranges in the hundreds of thousands to the millions. But if you work hard and put out enough content people enjoy it can be you controlling a hugely popular account, not just athletes and celebrities. Upon reaching a certain size following it’s possible for companies to reach out to you or vice versa but money may start to creep into the picture. In fact, there are dedicated sites that allow users with a certain number of followers to sign up. They are sent ads to tweet out or share and are compensated accordingly. How much? Well isn’t that the million dollar question. The honest answer? It depends.
It depends on what platform we’re talking (Instagram seems to be worth a little more to advertisers than twitter for example), when the post goes up, how many followers you have, the type of content you put out (is it sports related? beauty related?), and ultimately the depth of the pockets of the companies trying to get their message out there.
On average, sponsored tweets will pay approximately 0.0033 cents per follower (that’s ONE-THIRD of a penny) and Instagram could be anywhere from 0.0025-0.005 cents per follower. This may sound insignificant, and for the majority of people with an audience of less than 10,000 it is, but that changes pretty quickly with some of the larger accounts. For example, a twitter account with 100,000 followers could generate $333 for a single tweet. For a single Instagram post with 3 Million followers, you’re looking at getting paid somewhere around $9000-$10,000. One sponsored post on that Instagram account per month and you could be pulling in over $120,000 per year. But to bring you back to Earth for a second, 3 Million followers is typically reserved for movie stars and the best athletes in the world, not an average Joe.
Make Your Own
On the other hand, we all have opinions and stuff we’re passionate about, and we all have the capability of creating a website or Instagram account meaning we all possess the capability of growing and cultivating an audience of our own. It just might be in the tens of thousands (if you’re good and really commit) instead of the millions. Now imagine for a second that instead of advertising someone else’s product you advertised one of your own? Maybe it’s a book you wrote, or a documentary you produced. You then give your followers an exclusive deal and charge $10 a pop. Out of 100,000 with a success rate of 1% you’re looking at 1,000 people who buy in. You’ve just made $10,000 instead of the $333 you would have made from a sponsored tweet for some random company.
So how do you get to 100,000 followers or more? The answer once again, isn’t all that simple. Maybe you get something to go viral. Maybe you get people to spread the word for you. Or more likely, you work really hard over a long time and produce great content people want to check out and share with others. But regardless of how you get there, social media is here to stay and can be a huge opportunity for people who know how to really take advantage of all it has to offer.