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My first dream career as a 7-year-old was to become a pirate who found treasure and rescued beautiful maidens. But I soon learned that piracy had been outlawed as it was stealing.
Next on my list was to become a doctor… but that was soon shelved as I discovered I hated the sight of blood and needles.
It really didn’t cross my mind about becoming an influencer.
A recent survey discovered that 1 in 4 Gen-Zers want to become an influencer. And using a bit of simple math, with nearly 70 million of that generation alive and distracted in the USA in 2023 (Gen Z is anyone born between 1997 and 2013) there are 17.5 million people applying for an influencer gig.
Is “Influencer” a real career and business opportunity?
In the last 10 years, there has been a trending aspiration that the younger generation is coveting. It’s becoming an influencer. A social media influencer.
Apparently, it is quite lucrative. Kim Kardashian can earn $1.7M with just one social media post and Cristiano Ronaldo nearly $2.4million. That’s better than cleaning the dishes at the local restaurant.
According to Vox, a micro-influencer, defined as someone with 10,000 to 50,000 followers, can earn anywhere between $40,000 and $100,000 per year. And research from trendHERO reveals that there are 5.1 million “Micro Influencers” globally.
We can summarize the whole Instagram Influencer global market as having over 64 million Influencers with accounts.
- Celebrities 343k
- Macro influencers 0.5M
- Micro influencers 5.1M
- Nano influencers 58.2M
So is becoming an influencer a real opportunity as a career or business?
The answer seems to be yes.
What is an influencer?
Before we go much further we need to know what exactly an influencer is.
Old school influencer
An old-school influencer was “anyone that has credibility and power to influence the behavior of others”. Pre-social media influencers were movie stars, singers, authors, or anyone that had access to mass media.
New age influencer
Today an influencer is someone who has a large social media following and engagement. Some have expertise and knowledge that provides credibility. Others are just attention seekers chasing fame.
Today an influencer can wield an impact just because they are “famous for being famous”. Credibility can be garnered for just one thing. Your social media account has a million followers and posts that have tens of thousands of comments or likes.
Fame can now just be a number on a social media account that provides numeric social proof.
What’s the size of the social media influencer marketing industry?
The size of this industry has risen to $21.1 Billion in 2023 from only $1.7 Billion in 2016. 10 years ago, social media influencer marketing was just a small commercial blip in the marketing industry and a “15 minutes of fame” thought bubble for the distracted scrolling teenager.
But the savvy has turned a social media obsession and a thirst for attention into multi-million dollar businesses.
What motivates influencers to start?
Notoriety, attention, and accolades is a drug that can be addictive. Add money to the pot and you have two compelling reasons to sign up for the influencer rodeo.
Beyond the attention seekers that seized an opportunity are influencers that have serious skill sets and world class prowess. Some are accidental influencers as they had a passion and curiosity about fashion, gaming, sport and much more and turned their skill and/or knowledge into content whether that was a YouTube channel, Blog, Instagram Reels, TikTok video or Images.
How much can you earn as an Influencer?
Just to put a bit of aspiration and motivation into the fantasy and possible reality of becoming an influencer here are the top Instagram earners according to InfuencerMarketingHub.com
How do you become an influencer?
There are a variety of ways to become an influencer. You can land a gig on a TV show and then leverage your mass attention into a social media audience. What’s smart about this approach is that you are converting the TV channel audience to your followers. It is like stealing from the rich. But that opportunity is rare.
You might be a beautiful heiress and use the fame and attention to be seen on the front page of a newspaper. Paris Hilton was one of the first to be famous for being famous.
The Kardashians are an exquisite and notorious example of this.
First, the Kardashians featured on the reality TV show ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’.
According to Wikipedia, the real starship booster was a pornographic film of Kim Kardashian that was leaked. The Kardashians never looked back. Today the family is believed to be worth a billion dollars.
5 Types of Influencers
Trying to put influencers into a box is like trying to put a number on types of ice cream. Or asking how many breeds of dogs there are.
Here are 5 types of influencers:
- Platform-centric Influencers – TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube are the top platforms to create and publish in 2023 if you want to be an influencer.
- Macro influencers – Mass media insurgents that tapped into the social media game.
- Micro-influencers – These are more specific to a micro niche that could be fashion, beauty, or dogs and the list goes on.
- Extrinsic influencers – Driven by the need for fame and fortune.
- Intrinsic influencers – Motivated by a passion and curiosity for their art and purpose. Attention is not required but can show up.
How 3 ordinary people earn over $1 Million a year as Influencers
There isn’t just one path to becoming an influencer. The three I have listed below have done it without the aid of mass media and could be put in the “anybody can do it” bucket.
Their notoriety comes from passion, ability, and perseverance with a little bit of luck and good timing thrown in.
Influencer 1: PewDiePie
Platform: On YouTube he has 111 million subscribers.
How he did it:
Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (better known as PewDiePie) is a Swedish YouTuber known for his comedic videos.
He built a massive following by consistently uploading entertaining videos and engaging with his audience. His income primarily comes from ad revenue, sponsored content, and merchandise sales. PewDiePie’s success is attributed to his authenticity and strong connection with his fans.
What does he earn?
Reports claim that PewDiePie made nearly $42M just from selling branded merchandise, which comes out to roughly $8M per month. Then you can add sponsorship by YouTube and NordVPN.
Influencer 2: Chiara Ferragni
Platform: Instagram and Blogging (Fashion influencer)
How she did it:
Chiara Ferragni is a fashion influencer and entrepreneur. She started as a fashion blogger in 2009 (when blogging was cool and on-trend) and gained a massive following by sharing her personal style and fashion recommendations.
Her blog, The Blonde Salad, turned into a successful brand. Chiara also collaborated with various fashion brands and launched her own fashion line. Her income comes from brand partnerships, endorsements, and her business ventures.
How much does she earn?
Some estimates put her annual earnings at about $3M a year.
Over the course of 12 years, she has grown the blog into a bilingual, international sensation, with multi-million-dollar annual turnover and over 17 million followers.
Influencer 3: Addison Rae
Platform: On TikTok she has 88.7M followers
How she did it:
Addison Rae is one of the most prominent TikTok influencers, known for her dance and lip-sync videos. She gained a massive following on TikTok by consistently creating engaging content and collaborating with other popular creators.
Addison leveraged her TikTok fame to expand into other areas, such as music and acting. Her income primarily comes from brand partnerships and sponsored content, where she promotes products for various companies.
Additionally, she has ventured into entrepreneurship with her cosmetics line, ITEM Beauty.
How much does she earn?
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Addison Rae’s net worth in 2023 is a reported $20 million. In 2020 she was the highest-paid TikTok personality in the world with $5 million in pre-tax earnings. That beat out Charli D’Amelio, the most-followed person on TikTok, by $1 million. In 2021 Addision earned $9 million.
A decade ago becoming an influencer was not a “thing” but today it seems to be everything for those born during the 90s.
Social media democratized attention and publishing. Today there is nothing to stop you from becoming an influencer; except a passion and persistence to create and publish online.
Then add a little bit of luck and timing.
So in retrospect (and taking a leaf out of the Kim Kardashian example), all you need to do is:
- Get on a reality show
- Leak a pornographic video of yourself with a famous singer
- Share it on social media
And you are good to go.
The Ultimate Guide to Influencer Marketing for Business