When we think of influencers, we generally think of people with huge followings on their blog or social media platforms. There is more to influence than just audience numbers though, which is good news for the majority of us! Different influence types means there are different ways to monetize your influence as well.
In this series we’ll take a look at which monetisation strategies better suit your influence type. Hopefully you’ll find something that works in your particular situation, or a mix of strategies you can use do you don’t have all your eggs in one basket.
In each context (or type of Influencer) we’re going to look at influence based on two factors to help inform the best ways to monetize:
a) where is your traffic is coming from?
b) what does the engagement look like?
Influence Type: Platform-Specific Superstar
Do you have thousands or even hundreds of thousands of Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, TikTok or YouTube followers? Maybe you’re a celebrity of some kind? More likely you’re not quite there yet, but on the way, so here’s an insight into monetising the influence you have on one specific platform.
Celebrity endorsement is of course used and sought out by brands trying to make it onto the radar of their audiences. The combination of the reach and perceived endorsement is hard to look over, but with wildly differing rates among influencers, increasingly difficult to value! Social Media Stars are the new celebrity and are certainly enjoying their time in the influencer marketing spotlight (and its associated marketing spends). The shine is starting wear off however as marketers are starting to realise what the difference between reach and engagement, and even the type of engagement, means to their bottom line.
Monetize Your Influence Type Working with Brands
If you’ve got a large following you can certainly monetize by working with brands for product placements and endorsements – how much you can expect to successfully charge however will depend on whether you’re just driving impressions or actions.
Where is your traffic coming from?
In this case, where are your followers coming from? Are they following you because you are you (ie a celebrity in their eyes), because of your content, or (not recommended) because you bought them or are using bots to gain followers?
Some brands (or more likely the agencies that work for them) will not care who or where your followers come from – they just want eyeballs. It’s a short-sighted approach and amounts to paying over the odds for awareness. Impressions can usually be bought more cost-effectively through Facebook ads.
This is why marketers are starting to place lesser value on follower stats and even engagements. I’ve recently learned of one platform valuing followers as low as $0.001 per follower (yes, that is one tenth of one cent or a CPM of $1), or you can check out this article to see how marketers are arriving at a slightly more generous CPM of $5 or a Cost Per Engagement (for each like, comment, share) of just $0.25.
These are media buying metrics and the trend looks like the price of reach through influencers is heading south. So your best tactic is to trade on your influence rather than your reach. More importance should be placed on why your followers are following you, because this generally tends to inform the type of engagement and results you can get for a brand.
What does the engagement look like?
Social media superstars can have what looks like impressive reach and engagement, but on closer inspection that engagement can be quite shallow and doesn’t translate to influencing on behalf of a brand. It comes down to this – are your followers engaging with you or with your content? If you feature a brand in your Instagram post, let’s say a handbag, are your followers comments “You look amazing”, “Love your style”, “Insert emoji bot comment here” or are they “Does that bag come in other colours?”, “Where can I buy it?”, “Is it free trade?”, “Do you have a discount code?”
If it’s the latter, you can prove that you can drive conversions and should charge brands for your influence accordingly.
True influence drives action, not just awareness. There are certain verticals where social media influencers will be more likely able to drive these actions, for example: fashion, beauty, affordable gadgets, restaurants and experiences. These are purchases that are just a step above being convenience goods, where your followers are using you as a simple filter to help them make relatively low risk decisions.
Conversely there are some verticals that can almost be too aspirational and even a high level of engagement has less chance of converting. For example, health and wellness, fitness (fitspo), luxury goods. We can like them all day, but it doesn’t mean we’re going to sign up to the gym, actually change our eating or cooking habits, or buy that gorgeous $30,000 watch. These verticals convert better for people who are more relatable, which brings us to an alternative monetisation strategy.
Monetize Your Influence Type by Selling Your Own Products
If you do have a large following on one specific platform, you can use all the aforementioned influence to sell your own products, rather than someone else’s! This is especially so when your audience is more connected to you than just your content. Anyone can curate pretty content that people will click on, but only you can create an authentic connection with an audience and earn their trust.
Where is your traffic coming from?
Selling your own products works best when people subscribe to you because they see you as an authority or thought leader and they keep coming back for more. They seek you out rather than waiting for you to come up in a news feed, for example they subscribe to your YouTube channel and/or sign up to your email list. They want what you have, whether that be an uncluttered house, a passive income lifestyle, a skill they want to master. They’re coming to you to solve their problems, so create a solution and sell it to them.
What does the engagement look like?
When the level of engagement is deeper, the connection to your audience is stronger. Conversations trump likes, real life behind the scenes (ie Snapchat and FB Live) means more than perfectly curated content (Instagram feeds), content people can relate to and feel like you understand what they’re experiencing rather than superficial endorsements. Yes, you could still work with brands and influence this audience, but what they really want is you. When the connection and the intent of the audience (ie their search to find a solution to their problems) is this strong, create a product! Whether that be an eBook, a course, or even consulting services – listen to them and give them what they want.
You don’t have to be a social media superstar to sell your own products – this monetisation strategy and working with brands are not exclusive to influencers with large audiences. Stay tuned for the next instalment in the series where we’ll take a look at how you can monetize your influence when your traffic is passive and less connected to you.
Are you a social media influencer who relies on working with brands? Are you noticing brands being less willing to pay or pay as much? Would you consider selling your own products?