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 types of creators their followers follow and the products they buy, the easier it is to craft a proficient strategy. It will also give many indicators on the types of products or services that may be a good idea to begin selling. For example, if you’re an influencer in the fitness space, you may find that the space for supplements is saturated and not easy to break into or monetize. However based on the demographics and behaviors of your audience, you may find that they are likely to buy outdoor equipment like jump ropes or running shoes, or maybe even sweat proof makeup. Understanding the types of products your audience is likely to buy is the first and most important step to monetizing your audience.
2. Keyword Strategy
Once an influencer understands his/her audience and knows the type of products they want to sell, the next step is developing a keyword strategy. Keywords are important for many reasons when it comes to marketing. The words an influencer uses in captions, titles, hashtags, and in their actual content teach the algorithms on social media platforms and search engines who to recommend the content to. If the proper keywords are used, the people who are likely to interact with and buy the products you offer will see the content related to the products, while the followers who are less likely to engage with it won’t. This is important so that your engagement rate stays high even when it comes to content that is specifically focused on selling products.
More importantly, developing a proper keyword strategy allows for something we like to call the keyword loop. The keyword loop is our unofficial-official name we use for the process of a brand delivering content to an audience that has keywords we think they will turn around and use in google searches. If the content that results from those google searches shows up as results from the same brand, people will begin to trust the brand and be more motivated to buy. This is best explained with an example.
Let’s say an influencer is selling sustainable yoga mats, and the influencer decides “yoga mats with sustainable materials” is a good keyword phrase they want to push. If the influencer ensures that their brand comes up when people google search “yoga mats with sustainable materials,” then they start pushing out social media content about “yoga mats with sustainable materials,” it is likely that people will see the social media posts about it, then turn around and google “best yoga mats with sustainable materials” where their own brand will pop up. This is a great example of using social media in conjunction with SEO, and what we at 10x Network call the keyword loop.
3. Content Strategy
Most influencers are great at making good content. As many of the influencers reading this article already know, the content that gets the best engagement is content that is either entertaining or informative. When it comes to selling products, this is still true, but the most important additional attributes the content needs to portray is honesty and experience. It isn’t enough to simply have these things, it’s important that these sentiments are portrayed to the audience. Just because an influencer is honest about their opinion doesn’t mean that their followers will feel a strong sense of honesty coming from the post.
When people make a buying decision, they want to know exactly what they’re getting (honesty) and that the person explaining the value proposition is coming from a position of experience. An influencer selling a yoga mat needs to portray that they were thinking the same thing that their viewers are when they decided to get a yoga mat, and needs to be honest about what exactly the product is. Not only does the audience need to understand what they’re getting with the product, they need to feel confident that they understand what they’re getting.
The thing about social media and influencers is that the community aspect is at the center. If an influencer is dishonest about the products they’re selling, it will be immediately evident in the comments. On the flip side, if the product is as great as the influencer portrayed, that will be prevalent in the comments as well. If people buy the products, it is easy to motivate them to give social media testimonials that portray the value as well. Using this as an advantage is vital to successfully monetizing an audience. Your content should be entertaining/educational as well has honest and come from a position of experience with the problem your product aims to solve.
The last note we’ll make about content is that the audience should be repeatedly exposed to the product, service, or brand the influencer is selling. Not only should it be visible in the ads themselves, but also in the other types of content. This not only builds up the earlier comment about it coming from experience (if people see the product being used and placed in a lot of content, it will show the influencer has experience using it) but it also builds trust and familiarity among the influencer’s followers.
4. Sales Funnels
Sales funnels are a totally undervalued way to sell products through social media, and we’d really like to see influencers use them more often. The classic ad leading to landing page strategy still works, although it’s less standardized compared to 10 years ago. A sales funnel is simply a very specific pathway from initial contact with a person all the way to the purchase point. Imagining every sale as a sales funnel, whether it’s your own product or simply telling people to use your discount code, is the best way to figure out how to direct an audience effectively to purchase. It will also teach what types of people are most effective to target, which helps grow the brand in a way that grows the effectiveness of its sales strategies as well.
The most reliable way to set up a sales funnel (once the audience is understood, of course) is to set up a well designed landing page showcasing the product, service, or program being sold. It should have all the information needed for someone to make a buying decision, and it should make it as easy as possible for a potential customer to make a decision and make a purchase. The landing page should be related to the audience as well as the content that brought them there. Any additional information, testimonials, content, etc. that the customer may need to make the decision to purchase should be easily accessible, and at every point it should be obvious but not invasive on how exactly to buy the product.
The beauty of sales funnels is the ability to take the behaviors of the audience being targeted and model the landing page based on their behaviors. If the audience has high engagement on videos, a video should be front and center on the landing page. If the customer needs links to more info, it should be obvious where to get that info, or even putting that info directly on the page. If the audience is generally motivated by discounts or sales, the way to get a discount or more info on that should be obvious so that they can feel comfortable knowing they are getting the best price for the product.
5. Engagement Levels
Every influencer knows how important engagement rate is on their content. A problem influencers often have is upholding their engagement rate on sponsored content or ads. Posts that purely entertain/educate are much easier to get high engagement on than posts selling a product or advertising a sponsor. While this problem is virtually impossible to completely solve, it can be addressed and improved upon.
The most important thing to consider when it comes to engagement on salesy posts is ensuring the audience consuming the content are people who would actually buy or use the product/service/brand being advertised to them. Ensuring that people who have no interest in purchasing these products don’t see the posts will greatly improve your engagement rate.
For example, a good engagement rate is about 8%. Let’s say an influencer has 100k followers, which at an 8% engagement rate would mean 8k likes on a given post. The influencer is worried that their engagement rate will drop if they start talking about their own product or a product they are launching, since most of their content is for purely entertainment purposes. How can the influencer preserve their engagement rate while promoting their product? The key is to target people of a broader audience, who have both characteristics of their main audience, as well as characteristics of a buyer. This will involve targeting more people outside of their followers with content, because not everyone in their following will portray characteristics of a buyer, and not everyone who portrays characteristics of a buyer will be following the influencer.
This involves many things we’ve discussed, because there are 2 ways to achieve this, one of them being organic reach. Reaching people organically requires a keyword strategy that revolves around the content strategy, and it is double important because it requires targeting not just followers but anyone who’s likely to buy and likely to engage with the content, regardless of whether or not they follow.
While this strategy is extremely important to maintaining a solid engagement rate when promoting products, it is really just to mitigate the overall drop in engagement rate. However, it is still difficult if not impossible to maintain the exact same engagement rate on regular content posts as more sales driven posts. Even if an influencer executes an engagement rate driven approach to monetization, engagement rate will still most likely drop a bit on advertisement type content, so don’t get discouraged if engagement rate isn’t quite as high. The key idea is to make adjustments as much as possible that will reduce the amount that engagement drops.
As we said, there’s 2 ways to optimize engagement rate while monetizing; the first is improving organic reach, while the second is advertising.
Advertising is a daunting task for most influencers. At first it seems easy enough, but after really delving into ad managers, demographics, etc. and seeing subpar results, a lot of influencers will stay away from spending too much on advertising. While we always recommend influencers to start early understanding advertising and the ad managers of the platforms they post to, there is certainly some basic advice that will go a long way when it comes to using them to monetize an audience.
The most important thing is understanding the attributes of people who will be most likely to make a purchase, regardless of whether or not they follow/subscribe. In order to push content to these types of people, you’ll want more than just the proper demographics and basic attributes that are easily targetable by your social media platform. What you’ll need to do is properly show the platform exactly how people behave on your website or wherever people are going to make purchases. This involves properly setting up tools such as facebook/twitter pixel. This will enable the platforms to track people from social media posts through your website, so that it can target people more effectively. Contrary to popular belief, setting up a pixel properly is more complicated than simply putting it on a website or app. It must be configured to track specific events, and the entire sales funnel should reflect motivating traffic to interact with the event triggers so that the social media platforms can get the maximum amount of information possible about who to target.
We recommend practicing advertising as much as possible, but overall aiming to leave it to the experts who can spend significant time, resources, and brain capital on ensuring an advertising campaign is successful.
Make a business out of being an influencer
We love working with influencers because of their passion and creativity. Influencers are unique in their ability to connect with people and provide entertaining or educational content that people truly value. This ability puts influencers in a prime position to start a business monetizing their influence. With some practice and creativity, any influencer can begin generating significant revenue through their influence, while growing their business rapidly due to their massive marketing value.