Social Media Stars: How Much Do They Really Make?

By business.com editorial staff,
business.com writer
| Updated
May 25, 2020
Image Credit: ViewApart / Getty Images

Advertising agencies are increasing their spending on sponsored content from viral social media mavens, but how much do these stars make?

  • There are various ways to make money online, such as copywriting, editing and managing social media platforms.
  • How much social media stars earn depends on the platform (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
  • To make money online, you must sell products or create content your clients will appreciate.

Regular people are making a killing on social media sites like YouTube, Instagram, Vine and Snapchat. How did today's social media stars get to where they are? Experts say that a combination of luck, consistency and personality help social media stars grow their platform. And it's worth it – according to ABC News, corporate America spent over $4 billion on user-generated advertising in 2014.

With more platforms and more popular voices than ever connecting brands to niche consumers via "sponsored social" content and native advertising, the social media platform has become a source of income for the younger generations.

"Brands are increasingly doling out dollars to content creators due to their unique ability to produce relevant, authentic stories that resonate with consumers' evolving media consumption habits," said Claudia Page, vice president and head of creator partnerships at Crowdtap, a marketing platform that connects brands with passionate consumers. "Most everyday brands find it difficult to naturally enter lifestyle conversations because they lack credibility in those spaces."

Why are brands so interested in working with them?

Brands can reach engaged audiences that align with certain interest groups by entering into partnerships with trusted subject matter experts, also known as social media influencers. It's a new way of advertising that's less obvious than a television commercial but much more focused and, in a way, personal.

Benjamin Oduro, a talent booker at International Talent Agency LLC, said brands are interested in working with social media stars because they have a big fan base that markets to the specific demographic the company is trying to reach. 

what teens do on the internet

Image via PBS

Online socializing has overtaken offline socializing. Elise Gabriel, director of digital marketing at Wurrly, a music studio mobile app based in San Francisco, points to a Pew study on Gen Z reporting that a majority of the 13-17 cohort has stated their preference for online networking over in-person connections.

"Modern social media celebrities are a natural response to an online generation needing leaders to create common bonds," Gabriel said. "From a brand perspective, they are a marketer's dream, because they speak clearly and directly to the buying generations of the future on social platforms that are both measurable and don't show any signs of slowing down."

So what do social media stars really make?

The bottom line is surprisingly robust for many stars. What they really make varies by who they are, their demographics and their follower counts.

"I've seen contracts around $150,000 for two tweets a week for a year, but I've also seen clients receive around $1,500 per tweet," said Oduro. "Also, social media stars are now obtaining more television jobs, appearance bookings, etc."

According to Business Insider, a 16-year-old Vine star can make $2,600 just by sharing one of her sponsor's video with her followers on Twitter. Adweek reports that 1 million views on YouTube could bring in $800 to $8,000 for the star uploading the video.

As for the wildly popular photo-sharing site Instagram, you'll find that the grass is pretty green over there as well. According to a piece on Yahoo Finance, Instagrammers with big followings and high levels of follower engagement (lots of likes and comments) make $1,000 just for sharing one sponsored image.

With all of this money flying around, platforms such as Niche and Izea now exist to connect fledgling social media stars with the corporate brands that might be interested in paying them. The Mobile Media Lab, based in New York City, is another consultancy specifically designed to connect popular social media users with the brands that love them.

How can you become a star?

Authenticity and consistency are helpful when it comes to building up a social media following. It's also a good idea to establish a voice on a platform in its infancy, as many Vine and Instagram superstars did.

"When you post things people are interested in, gradually your fan base can grow," Oduro said. "It's also important to place minimal relevant hashtags and produce consistent content that is relevant to your social media site, leaving the viewer/fan wanting more."

A personable vibe goes a long way, as does a passion for your chosen subject matter. In other words, be yourself and you'll connect.

Ways social media stars make money

According to Mediakix and GCFGlobal, this is how influencers convert their social media popularity into revenue.

Sponsored promotions

As a result of their influential connections, social media stars are often paid to market companies' products. These product placements and sponsorships range from small payouts and free merchandise to enormous paychecks.

Through product reviews, placements and event coverage, social media stars partner with brands to promote brand awareness in exchange of payments or products. Instagram is one of the major platforms offering sponsored content in the form of photos and videos.

Managing social media accounts

Companies now have social media accounts to make their presence felt online. Social media stars can manage these social media accounts and market a company's products. Their success is measured by the number of visitors to the page and their responses to customer queries.

YouTube channel

According to Hootsuite, social media stars are paid through YouTube ads you view by visiting their channels, or they can create sponsored content for brands, such as videos related to the sponsor company's products or services.

You can also sell your own merchandise on YouTube. Selling your products online gives you a wider market than selling at a physical location.

Affiliate links

Affiliate links are a passive source of income. Your followers and audience can buy featured products, visit specific pages, or sign up on featured sites. Brands and marketers use these links to track where traffic is coming from and who is driving the traffic.

Social media stars earn a portion of revenue generated via affiliate links. They achieve this by posting affiliate links on products that appeal to their followers on social media.

business.com editorial staff
business.com editorial staff
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