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How social media influencers make money — and how you too can get the ball rolling

How social media influencers make money — and how you too can get the ball rolling

8 Min(s) Read

By Nishtha Pandey  Oct 3, 2022 5:07:24 PM IST (Updated)

On the basis of follower counts, marketing agencies worldwide have divided social media influencers into nano (1000-10,000 followers), micro (10,000-100,000), macro (100,000-1 million) and mega (over one million). Read on to find out the money dynamics of each group and also get some handy tips on how to start your journey.

Instagram, Facebook, YouTube are abuzz with social media influencers. These influencers have an ever-widening reach, with events, brand deals, TV shows and magazine covers their playing fields. Where canny social influencers go, big bucks follow.

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As per the Influencer Marketing Report, the Indian influencer industry is predicted to be valued at Rs 2,200 crore by 2025 and grow at a 25 percent CAGR, underscoring the fact that the influencer business is getting serious.


But the layperson may still wonder if social influencer can be a lucrative career option because after all, it’s just a hobby. Well, clearly, it’s not so. For those who master the art of influencing, incomes can go well beyond hard-earned corporate jobs. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a 20 percent decline across advertising in India, social media influencers enjoyed a 46 percent increase in their advertising-based revenue, as per a survey published by iCubesWire in March this year.

Money, money, money

“I did it out of pure passion without knowing where it would lead me and if this could even become any reliable source of income at some point. I tried creating content in the cheapest way possible and with any resource I had on hand, like shooting on my phone and using basic editing skills I learned via YouTube without hiring anybody,” said Anisha Dixit who started her journey as an influencer in 2013 and now has over three million subscribers on YouTube.

Dixit added that initially, the finances start flowing when platforms like YouTube or Facebook pays you based on the number of views that your content generates — but that’s not exactly a reliable income source. Here is where the major source for influencers to earn money — brand collaborations — come into the picture.

“Brand collaborations can include barter deals, which include product placements, shoutouts, ambassador programmes, ads, meet & greets, and sponsorships,” explained Aashutosh Katre, Director at content marketing company Yellow Seed.

Like any other job, being a social media influencer also requires passion, strategy and dedication to make the most out of it. Aanchal Agrawal, who started her journey in 2020, now has over 300,000 followers on Instagram. She believes, as an influencer brand, integrations form an integral part of the finances.

“You can make content that you think a brand can easily pick up which is also well-liked by your audience. When I started creating content, I started a series called ‘Dating app etiquettes,’ which I thought would work well if a dating app would want to collaborate with me and that is exactly what happened,” advised Agrawal.

After this, once an influencer gets a loyal fan base, according to Arushi Gupta, Business Head at Influencer.in, another popular way for influencers to earn money is by hosting paid courses, fan membership, licensing of the content they produce, becoming a consultant and offering career courses or setting up one’s own brand.

How much do influencers earn?

On the basis of follower counts, marketing agencies worldwide have divided influencers into nano (1000-10,000 followers), micro (10,000-100,000), macro (100,000-1 million) and mega (over one million).

Micro-influencers in the 5,000-20,000 group accounted for 54.3 percent of Instagram users across India in 2020, according to a report by hypeauditor.com. On Instagram, influencers with over one million followers, also called mega influencers, had only 0.41 percent share.

As per marketing experts an influencer based on the category they cater to, the niche and the deliverables can earn from Rs 15,000-5 lakh from one brand deal.

Gupta provided us with a breakdown of the money dynamics:

  • Nano: Rs 3,000-4,000 average per post, depending on the deliverables
  • Micro: Rs 40,000-60,000, depending on the category of influencers. A niche like finance might charge more because the community of creators is comparatively smaller as compared to somebody from a fashion/lifestyle community.
  • Macro: Rs 1.5-3.5 lakh, depending on the deliverables, the genre of influencers. Again, a niche like finance might charge more because the community of creators is comparatively smaller as compared to somebody from an entertainment community.
  • Mega: Rs 4 lakh and more.
  • “What I can say for sure is that being an influencer today is as lucrative as having a top job in most corporate sectors. It pays well if the audience relates with what you're putting out there and if you manage to build a community authentically over a period of time,” added Aanam Chashmawala, a social media influencer and the Founder of Wearified, a beauty cosmetic brand.

    What do brands look for while investing in an influencer?

    As brand integrations are very important to the finances of an influencer, it’s imperative to know what brands want and how influencers target them.

    According to Arihant Jain, CEO of a meme marketing agency, Wubbalubbadubdub, every brand has a specific strategy, personalised and driven by the need to build a robust portfolio that can cater to any kind of target audience.

    However, brands do look out for three core things — whether the influencer is ‘real’ or not, does the influencer suit the niche of the brand and whether would they be ready to tour offline places and do re-shoots.

    Balasubramaniam, AGM - Digital, brand-comm, said for brands there are usually two priority buckets, the first includes the number of followers, demographic, context and engagement rate and the second factors in quality, editorial content and personality.

    Social media influencers and technology go hand in hand, so the tech that the influencers use is also important.

    “While shortlisting influencers for campaigns, brands are also keen on having a good video quality, and aesthetic output that brings out the brand well. The video should engage the audience and reach the appropriate target audience.

    They also look out for how innovative the creator is while engaging the brand with his own content. Timely delivery of content is also a key factor for a brand to essentially work with the creators,” added Gupta.

    Are you an aspiring influencer?

    Statistics and research firm Statista reports that YouTube had the highest number of professional content creators globally at one million in January 2020, meaning that over one million of them made a living completely from publishing. content on the platform. With 30 million amateur creators monetising content on the Facebook-owned platform that year, Instagram was the most popular platform among creators in 2020.

    How does one actually start the journey?

    Although brand integrations are important, Dixit advises budding influencers to produce content and tell stories because they like it and not keep the money in mind. “If you are just starting out as a content creator, don't invest too much in your equipment or hire a team. We currently have amazing phones with great cameras on the market, use that as a start and once you see more consistent money coming in, you can slowly start investing more and more,” she said.

    Meanwhile, Agrawal’s advice to budding influencers was to not go “crazy” and always keep on investing.

    “The world is changing rapidly, the advertising paradigm is shifting every day and you do not know if the money inflow is going to be the same. Invest money in things that will bring money too; at least until you are in a stable place.

    They keep going up and down and you do not want to be in a position where you are stressed about money because when that starts, it will reflect in your content which can harm your growth, so be wise with your money.” added Agrawal.

    “It's very easy to get lost in the noise, just calm yourself down,” is the advice of influencer and mentor Anudeep Reddy Mannem, who owns a food and lifestyle YouTube channel.

    As of January 2022, Google-owned YouTube had more than 265 million monthly active users in India and 1,200 of its creators have crossed the one-million subscriber milestone. Five years ago, only two creators crossed the milestone.

    Marketing experts advise budding influencers to:

    • Keep note of barter collaborations as they help influencers to form connections and grow.
    • Form a niche.
    • Be creative, authentic and clear with their content.
    • Be responsive and keep engaging with the audience.
    • Upskill yourself and your tools as and when you start making money while keeping abreast of trends, so you never lose your grip.
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