When we think of business magnates, we typically think of hyper-successful entrepreneurs who built their names on their booming businesses. They achieved far-reaching social influence as they built their fortunes in steel, oil, automobiles, railroads, newspapers, software, and more. Today, social media influencers are approaching success from another angle.
Influencers are making a name for themselves through fame on social media, then using their social capital to launch businesses and entrepreneurial ventures. The relationship between influence and financial success is changing, and more and more successful entrepreneurs are starting with digital fame.
Plenty of traditional entrepreneurs are still forging ahead via the usual methods, but social media influencers are proof that social capital is an invaluable business tool. YouTube stars and Instagram personalities are developing audiences online using their online fame to build businesses and introduce products or services to their followers.
Regardless of platform, successful influencers do two things: 1) reach a niche audience by focusing on a specific topic and voice, and 2) engage with their fans regularly to establish trust and a personal connection. Influencers on Instagram build followings by posting high-quality photos, videos, and Stories around a central theme, and by communicating with fans directly via direct messages, comments, and through their content. YouTube, by way of contrast, allows influencers to create content that’s longer and, in some cases, more personal. YouTube’s also known for the sense of community it fosters among viewers.
Once influencers have amassed a large, loyal following on a platform, they can leverage their popularity to develop and promote products related to their niche, content, and personal brand. Beauty YouTubers have gone on to create their own makeup lines and beauty products, and many lifestyle influencers have launched everything from clothing lines to health food subscription services. Influencers’ social media channels double as a medium for advertising, allowing influencers to announce and promote products and services to their audiences.
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Kayla Itsines is a notable Australian fitness influencer with 7.1 million followers and a prime example of an Instagram influencer turned entrepreneur. Itsines started her Instagram account in 2012 to share her fitness journey and to help others on their own. She studied to become a personal trainer and used the photo-sharing app to share before & after photos of her clients and clips of her own workout regime.
In less than a year, her page grew dramatically and she began to receive countless questions regarding training and diet. Itsines used her platform to start the Bikini Body Training Company, which offers two ebooks (a 12-week training program and a 12-week nutrition program) and an app called Sweat With Kayla.
Itsines established herself on Instagram as a trusted source of workout and nutrition advice. The before & after photos of her clients demonstrated her ability to produce results, and her workout regime Instagram videos made her training a commodity that her audience wanted. Itsines cultivated a large audience that looked to her for fitness and nutrition advice, then introduced a product that fit naturally with her followers’ interest in exercise and healthy habits. Related Post: The Top 20 Fitness Influencers On Instagram To Watch
Zoe Sugg, a British YouTuber who goes by Zoella, is a lifestyle influencer that creates popular beauty and fashion content. Her journey online started when she created a fashion blog, which later expanded to a YouTube channel that’s amassed 11M subscribers to date. Sugg successfully leveraged her audience online to start Zoella Beauty, a line of beauty products sold worldwide at Target, Ulta, and Feelunique. She’s also written three books — Girl Online, Girl Online: On Tour, and Girl Online: Going Solo. Sugg established herself as an expert in beauty and fashion, reviewing and recommending products to viewers and explained what she liked and disliked about them. Viewers flocked to her channel to hear her opinions on the latest beauty and fashion trends, and Sugg later used her social influence to launch a line of beauty products. When she launched her own beauty line, she didn’t need to prove her expertise in the field like a traditional entrepreneur might have to because her consumer base already trusted her beauty advice. Related Post: How Top YouTubers Became Today’s Biggest Celebrities
In February 2016 professional athletes Paul Rodriguez, Alana Blanchard, Eric Koston, and Laura Enever, among others, began posting photos of a mysterious “Villager” logo on Instagram without any other information. Three months later, they revealed that they were part of a large group of professional athletes that had invested in a new brand of organic coconut water, Villager Goods, that would be available in August 2016.
@villagergoods will be giving away ONE case of 12 of their Pineapple Coconut Water and ONE signed skateboard to 3 lucky winners! Entry is easy: 1)Follow @villagergoods 2)Tag 3 friends 3)Comment below We will pick the winners at random on June 15th. You can also enter on our Facebook for another chance to win (link in bio). Good luck. A post shared by Paul Rodriguez (@prod84) on
These athletes built their large followings through behind-the-scenes content, interactions with fans, success at professional sporting events, and appearances in traditional advertising for brands that sponsored them. The professional surfing and skateboarding communities are tight-knit due to competition schedule and sponsorship overlap. Athletes interact at contests throughout the year and are often sponsored by the same brands (Red Bull, Billabong, etc.), which allowed the unique group to form.
These professional athletes were perfectly positioned to start a company with a product like coconut water. As extremely fit creators, their recommendations carry weight with audiences who admire or want to be like them. Like Zoe Sugg and Kayla Itsines, they established themselves as experts in their field, then launched Villager Goods using their social influence, popularity, and expertise.