Being an influencer can be a great and rewarding endeavor. Having a voice can be impactful, and the attention is intoxicating. Working with many influencers, we’ve found that nearly all of them truly love what they do. One problem many influencers have in common is that they have trouble monetizing their followers. Some get small sponsorship deals, or attempt the affiliate marketing route, but overall they’re hard pressed to find a reliable strategy to create a significant income stream with their influencer status.
This article will explain to influencers with a considerable following (10,000+ followers on a major social media platform) how to monetize their audience and evolve their influence into a business. We’ll go over the different ways an influencer can monetize their audience, how to target buyers with their content and grow their audience with followers that are motivated to buy their products.
Why influencers are in a great position to generate sales
Influencers are in the perfect position to create a business out of their influence. Utilizing influencers and sponsoring content creators is a long time marketing strategy for all types of companies, from micro businesses to fortune 500 corporations. For influencers to have this strategy built into their business, they have a huge advantage over competitors. The ability to communicate with their audience, keep them engaged, and deliver meaningful content related to the brand gives an influencer a massive edge when it comes to marketing their products and generating sales.
Common problems that lead to lack of sales and revenue
Many influencers we’ve talked to have a very difficult time monetizing their audience and influence. Depending on the number of followers the influencer has and on what platform, an influencer can generate some revenue through sponsorships and advertising. While this is a great way to start monetizing an audience, the amount of revenue that can be generated is low in proportion to the number of followers needed. An example influencer we’ve worked with makes $400-500 USD for a sponsorship that’s presented to about 30,000 viewers. While that’s better than nothing, it isn’t enough to develop a sustainable business model.
Without an optimal business strategy catered to the specific market that the influencer is in, it can be difficult to multiply that revenue by the orders of magnitude necessary to create a growing business. Even 2 sponsorships a week for a micro-influencer will barely generate enough income to equate to an average part-time job while paying for expenses. Not only that, but the more sponsorships an influencer utilizes, the lower quality their content will generally be and the more their followers will see them as a “sell out.” The key to growing a following is creating meaningful and valuable content, and sponsorship deals, especially poorly placed ones, will significantly reduce the value of their content and will reduce the growth of their engagement rate and follower levels.
Best monetization strategies
There are 3 common ways influencers monetize their audience, and we’re going to cover all 3 in this section.
Selling merchandise or programs
Sponsorships are by far the most common monetization strategy for influencers. It’s a great way to generate revenue with low overhead. Influencers can simply receive the marketing content and script/copy and insert it into their videos, reels, or stories. While this seems simple enough, there are ways to do it more optimally to get better, more profitable sponsorship deals and earn more money.
While we will cover affiliate marketing later in this section, we think it’s important to mention the importance of becoming an affiliate for sponsors whenever possible. This involves not only inserting an advertisement for the sponsor in the content, but actually referring your audience directly to the sponsor and sometimes a specific product. Often times this involves giving your audience a code to use at checkout to get a small discount on the product. Not only is this valuable to your followers, it will give concrete data to you and your sponsor on exactly how much revenue you generated for the sponsor with the advertisement.
Many influencers will take a percentage of the sales used with the code on top of the flat fee for the sponsorship. For example, an influencer might earn $400 for the sponsorship video in addition to 10% of the sales used with the discount code they provided. Another example is a tier system, where the influencer earns the $400 flat fee for the advertisement and if 100 people use the code, the influencer earns an additional $1000, while if 500 people use the code the influencer earns $7000. Generating revenue through commissions is a much better way to maximize value compared to simply charging a flat rate for sponsorship videos. Not only is it higher overall numbers, but the influencer can learn which types of sponsors their audience is most receptive to, and approach more of them to maximize the commissions received.
Another common and great way influencers generate revenue is with affiliate marketing. In addition to the referral codes we talked about in the sponsorships section, it also often comes in the form of unique URL’s for products that will generate the owner of the URL a small percentage of a sale that is made with the URL. Most major platforms like Amazon and Walmart have an affiliate program for their products, and many manufacturers of consumer products have an affiliate system as well.
Followers are exposed to the products and services the creator uses and purchase on a daily basis, and it can be fairly simple to generate revenue through affiliate links on the products the followers see in content. It requires the influencer to be clever in the way that they advertise these products, but we have seen massive results on basic affiliate products like the shirt the influencer is wearing, their keyboard, or even their fancy new air fryer.
Merchandise and Programs
Selling merchandise and programs is the least common but the most powerful monetization tool at an influencer’s disposal. This is the strategy the 10x Network team promotes and recommends for our clients because it has by far the highest immediate upside if implemented correctly. Influencers can and should develop products to sell to their audience in almost all cases, and can be extremely successful. Setting up a simple e-commerce store with some brand name products is an awesome way to begin the journey of productizing their revenue streams and grow their business.
The obvious option is merchandise like shirts and hats, but depending on the content the influencer posts, this can get more creative and significantly more effective. From essential oils to bicycle repair kits, developing products that relate to the audience can be extremely effective, and is basically just doing the reverse of what a normal successful business does, which is develop a product and then begin marketing it. An influencer is already doing the market, so all they need to do is develop the products.
6 marketing and sales tips for influencers
1. Understanding the audience
Understanding how audiences work at a deep level is a critical aspect of monetizing following as an influencer. We often amass followers for relatively unknown reasons, and it can be difficult to extract the trends and patterns that apply to the majority of our followers. Without diving into the complexities of market research, we’ll discuss the important aspects of audiences as it pertains to monetizing an audience immediately.
The most important aspects to understand about a given audience are the trends that apply to those audiences, not only to sell the best products but to ensure the content is receptive. Demographics like age, location, gender, sexual orientation, income level, urban vs. rural lifestyles, etc. only break the surface of vital data that help understand an audience and how to approach it. Using a tool like SEMRush is a great way to learn more about an audience and what types of demographics they are. From there, you can understand the best way to approach marketing products or businesses to them.
The first thing we do when assessing an audience is work to understand the crucial relationships and patterns that make up the market, including the people in it and the competitors, products, and brands who target the same market or people with similar attributes. **This is where we find out more information about an audience by doing a quite a few things. It all sums up to figuring out the people and brands the audience also follows, and seeing what types of content they interact with in those places. This is the best way to find good competitors to model strategies off of. If a significant part of an audience is receptive to a specific type of content or product, this is how we find out how people and businesses’ market those products.
The more an influencer knows about their audience as well as the other