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Social Media Stars: How Much Do They Really Make?

Updated Nov 06, 2023

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Have you ever considered quitting your day job and making money creating content on social media sites like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat? Thousands of Americans are doing just that ― and some can fund lavish lifestyles with their influencer marketing income. 

How did today’s social media stars get where they are? Experts say a combination of luck, consistency and personality helps social media stars grow their platforms. As platforms proliferate, more popular voices than ever are connecting brands to niche consumers via endorsement deals, product placement content and advertising. Influencers with unique voices and messages parlay their followers’ trust into a steady revenue stream. 

We’ll examine how much money social media stars are raking in, how they convey brand messages and why brands benefit from working with high-level influencers. 

Did You Know?Did you know

More brands want to get influencers to market their products. According to Influencer Marketing Hub’s State of Influencer Marketing Report, the influencer marketing industry is worth $21.1 billion.

How much do social media stars make?

As brands turn to more social media marketing avenues, they’re finding that influential content creators return an excellent return on investment (ROI).

“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,” explained Claudia Page, director of product and strategy for Metaverse Development. “Most everyday brands find it difficult to naturally enter lifestyle conversations because they lack credibility in those spaces.”

Brands are also willing to pay for that credibility. Social media stars can rake it in, but how much they earn is tied to who they are and their demographics, engagement rates, platform and 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 talent booker Benjamin Oduro. “Also, social media stars are now obtaining more television jobs, appearance bookings, etc.”

Average earnings across all platforms

According to Influencer Marketing Hub’s report, here are the average per-post payments social media stars receive across various platforms: 

  • Nano-influencers. Nano-influencers have 10,000 or fewer followers and earn about $195 per post.
  • Midtier influencers. Midtier influencers have 10,000 to 1 million followers and earn about $1,221 per post.
  • Macro-influencers. Macro-influencers have over 1 million followers and earn about $1,804 per post.

Influencer marketing platform HypeAuditor looked into Instagram influencers’ monthly and annual earnings and found the following averages: 

  • Overall monthly and annual earnings: HypeAuditor found that, on average, influencers earn $2,970 monthly or $35,640 annually.
  • Nano-influencer monthly and annual earnings: Nano-influencers earn about $1,420 per month or $17,040 annually.
  • Mega-influencer monthly and annual earnings: Mega-influencers earn about $15,356 monthly or $184,272 annually.

What affects social media stars’ earnings? 

Of course, the numbers cited above are averages. Various factors can affect social media stars’ earnings, including the following: 

  • Follower counts matter in social media stars’ earnings: Influencers’ audience size is a crucial factor in what they earn. On Instagram, the general pay rate rule of thumb is $100 for every 10,000 followers. Influencers with extremely large followings, in the tens or hundreds of millions, earn significantly more. For example, according to Influencer Marketer Hub, Kendall Jenner has around 292 million Instagram followers and charges between $568,595 and $947,659 per post. For comparison, Zeenat Aman, a former Bollywood actress and current Instagram influencer, has 253,009 followers and charges between $765 and $1,275 per post.
  • The social media star’s involvement affects pricing: The more involved the influencer is in promoting the product, the higher the rate. So, a sponsored post where the influencer writes a blurb encouraging followers to try the product may be charged a lower rate, while a video demonstration of the product would command a higher rate.
  • Influencers’ audience engagement rate affects what they earn: Influencers with highly engaged audiences also can charge more. However, follower count can trump engagement rate. For example, while Jenner’s engagement rate is only 1.14 percent, her huge following justifies the cost for major brands.
FYIDid you know

Relationships are an essential element of influencer marketing, whether your brand builds a direct relationship with an influencer or focuses on building a relationship with your target audience via a social media star.

How do social media influencers make money?

Influencers help businesses grow, so brands are willing to pay for their support. Here are the specific avenues social media stars use to make money online.  

1. Influencers make money with sponsored promotions.

Sponsored promotions are when a brand pays a social media star to create content on its behalf to share with their followers. Sponsored promotions include product placements, brand stories, event coverage, product reviews and more. Some influencers receive small payouts and free merchandise for sponsored content. High-level social media stars can receive enormous paychecks as compensation. 

Sponsored promotions are a way for brands to partner with social media stars to boost brand awareness online. Instagram is a popular platform for sponsored content featuring photos and videos on an influencer’s account to help build brand authority

2. Influencers make money by managing social media accounts.

Savvy social media influencers are in demand to act as a brand’s social media manager. Celebrities, new brands and trending businesses capitalize on social media stars’ traction and trained eyes to manage their social accounts and market their products. There’s often crossover between the influencer’s social accounts and the brand’s social platforms. The influencer’s success is measured by visitor counts and customer query responses.

3. Influencers make money via YouTube channel ads.

Social media stars with a vibrant YouTube community often make money via paid ads. Followers watch these ads when they visit the influencer’s YouTube channel. Additionally, social media stars can make money through sponsored content brand videos they display on their YouTube channel. 

4. Influencers make money through affiliate links.

Affiliate marketing links are a passive source of income for social media stars. Followers 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 the revenue generated by affiliate links. It’s best to choose affiliate links for products that appeal to the influencer’s audience and match their aesthetic.

FYIDid you know

Getting your business on TikTok is advisable. According to Influencer Marketing Hub’s report, TikTok is now the top influencer marketing channel, used by 56 percent of brands.

5. Influencers make money through merchandising.

Social media influencers can also sell their own merchandise online. Selling products to their followers is highly targeted and parlays their fame and expertise into revenue. Their merchandise can be something they’re famous for. For example, artists can sell prints of their artwork and interior designers can sell ebooks with design tips. Social media stars can also create products branded with their name, like T-shirts.

6. Influencers make money from subscriptions, tipping and donations.

Influencers sometimes have a paid content level that offers more exclusive content than they share for free on their social media accounts. Followers can pay monthly to subscribe to this content. Followers also sometimes give one-time tips or donations when the mood strikes them. These gestures are often rewarded with shoutouts or signed merchandise.

7. Influencers make money by becoming brand ambassadors.

Brand ambassadors are influencers who have signed an exclusive contract with a brand. They essentially become a spokesperson for the brand. Brand ambassador contracts generally cover a specified period where the influencer promotes the brand on various platforms and via various online and offline methods. Influencers are usually paid a lump sum upfront.

Did You Know?Did you know

Brand ambassadors promote a brand’s products or services to increase online awareness, strengthen a company’s reputation and boost revenue from consumers.

Why should brands work with social media influencers?

Influencer marketing can help brands in various ways:

  • Social media influencers increase reach and brand awareness: By piggybacking on an influencer’s existing audience, a brand can quickly increase its exposure to potential new customers.
  • Social media influencers help a brand reach a highly targeted audience: By choosing an influencer whose followers match their customer persona, a brand can efficiently market its products to its target audience.
  • Social media influencers help a brand achieve high engagement rates: An influencer’s followers tend to trust the influencer. If the social media star promotes a product, followers will likely trust that product, resulting in higher engagement and sales.
  • Social media influencers help a brand improve its SEO: Influencers with many followers have SEO clout. When an influencer posts or shares a link, search engines give it weight; this can help your brand climb in organic rankings. 
  • Social media influencers help boost website traffic: Influencer shares, posts and endorsements can generate significant website traffic as followers check out what their influencer recommends.
  • Social media influencers help brands get positive ROI: According to Statista, 60 percent of marketers say influencer marketing has a higher ROI than traditional advertising. 

Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Jennifer Dublino
Contributing Writer at business.com
Jennifer Dublino is a prolific researcher, writer, and editor, specializing in topical, engaging, and informative content. She has written numerous e-books, slideshows, websites, landing pages, sales pages, email campaigns, blog posts, press releases and thought leadership articles. Topics include consumer financial services, home buying and finance, general business topics, health and wellness, neuroscience and neuromarketing, and B2B industrial products.
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