Top social media influencers share how they make money with brands and spill how they make a living through brand partnerships on social channels including YouTube and Instagram.
The life of a social media influencer can have countless benefits, from invitations to exclusive events to lavish travel opportunities to six-figure sponsorship deals. However, the reality of a career as a content creator is not as glamorous as it may seem. The road to building a large and engaged audience is not easy, requiring patience, determination, and a significant time investment.
Many aspiring influencers struggle with getting started, creating consistent content, and growing and monetizing channels. However, they’re not alone. Even the world’s largest influencers have encountered these same challenges, and many have shared their advice with us. Here, we’ve compiled the best tips on how to become an influencer from dozens of top creators. Read on to learn how to be a social media influencer.
As with many things, the first step can be the hardest part of building an influencer channel. Below, food blogger Gaby Dalkin and Instagram artist Hayden Williams share inspiration and advice for launching a channel:
Gaby Dalkin of (What’s Cooking Gabby): “Find your voice and go for it. No one can tell a story the way you can, whether it’s through food or writing, so figure out what you want to share and then dive in!”
Hayden Williams of @hayden_williams: “My advice to aspiring designers and artists is to stay focused on your craft, be consistent in everything you do and make your own mark in the world. Create things that set you apart from everyone else.”
From obtaining proper equipment to optimizing lighting to deciding where to post, there are many critical decisions that go into creating high-quality content on social. See four talented Instagram influencers’ top content creation tips:
Karina Irby of @karina_irby: “Diversity: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. One social channel will work for one person or business, but may fail for another. You might have a huge following on Instagram, but the people that spend money with you are on located Facebook.”
Casey Simpson of @caseysimpson: “For Instagram photos, a high-quality camera would be best, but if all you have is your phone – don’t worry. You can still take quality photos there. Lighting can make or break a photo so I recommend always trying to optimize your lighting.”
The payoff from a large organic following can be massive, but growing an authentic audience requires strategy along with heavy time investment. See five tips for channel growth from Instagram and Facebook superstars:
Laura Clery of @laura.clery: “I told my agents to stop sending me out and I spent a whole year creating. I didn’t get paid anything, I lived off of savings, and I basically said, ‘I’m going to post a video a day for a year’ and that’s how I grew so fast.”
Once a large following is built, it can be tempting to accept every incoming brand deal. Here’s how major influencers select brand partners and integrate branded messaging into their content:
Ben Ebbrell, Mike Huttlestone, Jamie Spafford and Barry Taylor of SORTEDfood: “We look for brands that give us opportunities and are up for working with us to create meaningful content instead of solely racking up video views.”
Finding the motivation to consistently create quality content can be daunting. Learn what inspires Violent Benson, a top meme creator, Sawyer Hartman, a travel and adventure vlogger, and Cyrene Q, an artistic Snapchat star:
Violet Benson of @daddyissues: “[I draw inspiration] mostly from personal experiences. But friends, favorite TV shows, and current pop culture are definitely key factors. I always try to stay up to date.”
Cyrene Q of CyreneQ: “I do brainstorming first and then I do a written storyboard, and sometimes if the story gets a little complex I do a visual storyboard. Then, when the visual storyboard is done, that’s when I actually start filming.”
Brands look closely at influencer engagement rates, so maintaining an active audience is an important consideration for any influencer looking to secure brand partnerships. Below, four major influencers share quick strategies for improving follower engagement:
Jackelyn Shultz of (Life With Jackie): “I answer every comment that is left on my YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram account. I try to collaborate with other entertainment and social media influencers as much as possible.”
In order to make it as a full-time influencer, monetization is key. See three Instagram influencers’ advice for making money on the platform:
My Nguyen of @myhealthydish_: “I think it’s important to have multiple streams of income when you are an influencer, and there are so many ways to monetize if you have a large enough audience. The key is developing quality content and engaging with your followers because my analytics on my blog and social are what I use to pitch to brands.”
Liane Valenzuela of @lianev: “One of the major obstacles I’ve encountered in my career in social media is finding the right management that understands my brand and my vision. I’ve learned how important it is to build a team that can guide me through the business side of things.”