It might sound too good to be true, but you (yes, you) can actually make money off social media. And no, you don’t need to have hundreds of thousands of followers in order to do it. According to marketing specialist Neil Patel, you can make money on platforms such as Instagram with as little as 1,000 followers. Of course, you’ll make more money the more followers you have, but the real key to success nowadays is engagement. In fact, some brands actually prefer working with creators who have smaller followings because their audience tends to engage more with their content.
Social media companies are always competing with each other to get more eyes on their platforms, and these days, everyone’s trying to copy TikTok’s uber-successful algorithm. Ever wonder why you’re suddenly only seeing video content on Instagram? That’s why. Meta (Instagram’s parent company) recently announced that they plan to invest $1 billion dollars into the creator economy by the end of 2022. So how can you get your share of that money? Let’s count the ways…
Before you get started making money on social media, you need to set up a business account. Luckily, it’s easy to do. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to rock and roll. One of the most common ways to make money on Instagram (and any social media platform) is to get sponsored and post branded content. You might think brands are only interested in users with hundreds of thousands of followers, but that’s not true! Sure, you’ll get paid more if you have more followers, but even users with 1k-10k followers can make upwards of $100 per post, and that’s the average. Some people can make more! It really just depends on the quality of your content and how engaged your audience is.
On Instagram, you can get brands to come to you.
You can even get brands to come to you by utilizing Instagram’s branded content features, where you list the preferred brands you’d like to work with. That way, it’s easier for brands to search and find you. Think about what kinds of things you like to post. If you love to cook, then choose food or cookware-related companies. Really into makeup tutorials? List some cosmetics companies. If a brand really likes you, they might even make you a brand ambassador!
Sponsored content isn’t the only way you can make money on Instagram. If you have things to sell, you could set up your own shop. You can also get paid to go live, where your followers can purchase badges to support you. Badges are still a relatively new feature, but you can also make money via subscriptions, where “superfans” can pay you directly. Subscriptions are kind of like Instagram’s response to Patreon. While badges are a one-time payment, subscriptions are a monthly recurring payment. In return, subscribers will have access to exclusive content from you. Instagram might also give you a bonus for getting new subscribers.
Speaking of bonuses, you can also earn one for posting more Reels! Remember how I said earlier that all these platforms are trying to be just like TikTok? Well, Instagram is literally paying people to create TikTok-like videos, which they call Reels. How much you can get paid depends on how well your Reel performs, but some creators are earning $35,000 per Reel! Not too shabby, huh?
Since Facebook’s parent company, Meta, also owns Instagram, there are similar ways you can get paid on the platforms. For example, you can also get paid by getting subscribers. And Facebook pays some creators a bonus of up to $10,000 for getting new people to subscribe. Facebook will also pay you to create Reels and they don’t even have to be that successful for you to make money. You can earn up to $4,000 per month by participating in Facebook’s Reels Challenge. If you create multiple Reels that get upwards of 500 views, you can make money on Facebook.
You don’t need to have a large number of followers to make money on social media.
Brands will also pay for Facebook posts, and since you’re making all those Reels anyway, you can place an ad overlay on a Reel that’s performing well and get paid that way too! Just like with Instagram, you’ll make money the more followers and engagement you have.
Meta isn’t the only company shelling out big bucks to try and compete with TikTok. While Meta has Reels, Snapchat has “Spotlights.” Spotlights are essentially just short videos, and last year, Snapchat announced that it would spend $1 million per day paying people to post them. They’re serious about it too. Some Snapchat users have already become millionaires just from this one initiative.
These aren’t just mega-influencers who are making millions either. Most of them are completely normal people! Or at least, they were before they went viral. Take 22-year-old Alberto (known on Snapchat is @evanthecardguy). He was out to dinner one night with his girlfriend, took a quick video, and posted it to Snapchat. Two weeks later, he got a notification that the video had made him $94,000.
Alberto told CNBC that when his first check came, he thought it was a typo. When he realized how much money he could make on the platform, he quit his day job and began working full time as a content creator, posting 20-40 videos daily. In that same article, CNBC also highlighted 21-year-old Joey Rogoff, who posts comedic challenges to Spotlight. As of last year (the time the article was written), he only had 28,000 subscribers but had made about $1.7 million. The bottom line is: you don’t need to be famous or have a huge following to make money, you just need to post.
Do you love pinning fun outfits, or gardening inspiration, or off-beat interior designs, or something else? Well then, you can make money on Pinterest! Just like with Meta, you can make money through affiliate marketing, doing brand promotions, and posting original content. Pinterest has a new creator hub that's still in beta, but it pays creators based on challenges like posting once a week or getting 100 saves on one video. While this isn't yet available to everyone, if you have access it can be extremely lucrative. There’s also one more way to make money on Pinterest that you might not know about: become a Pinterest virtual assistant!
A Pinterest virtual assistant helps creators optimize their own accounts.
As a Pinterest virtual assistant (VA for short), you’ll help creators optimize their own accounts by assisting with things like blog management, emails, bookkeeping, graphic design, and more. The best part about being a Pinterest VA is you can do it from anywhere! Each client is worth around $500 per month so if you love Pinterest but don’t really want to create your own content, then working as a VA could be the perfect side hustle for you. If you’re interested, Pinterest offers a course that teaches you how you can start making money as a Virtual Assistant.
Just as with other platforms, you can get paid by brands to post sponsored content on TikTok. And just like other platforms, TikTok also has a Creators Fund. They’re planning to shell out $3 billion dollars to creators over the next few years, but there is a big catch. Since TikTok’s algorithm is arguably the best one on the platform block, they’re not being quite as generous as their competitors when it comes to doling out those Creators Fund dollars (at least right now).
Unlike Snapchat, you probably won’t make a million dollars from TikTok’s fund. First of all, you need a rather large following in order to join the fund. According to TikTok, “Creators will need at least 100K authentic video views in the last 30 days to be eligible to join the Creator Fund.” Even if you do happen to get that many views, you probably still won’t make that much. Creators can only expect to earn 2-4 cents for every 1,000 views. That means that if your video reaches a million views, you’ll still only make $20-40. TikTok is apparently planning to start paying more with ads to compete against these other platforms, but for the time being I'd opt for Snapchat (or any of the other apps mentioned above) to earn extra pocket change.
Now that you know how to make money in theory, the question is what are you going to post? Some good advice is to find a niche. If your posts are erratic and jump from one topic to the next with no solid genre or theme connecting them, it will be harder to grow your following because people don’t really understand what to look to you for. Think about the things you like to do or what interests you, and focus on that. Be genuine, pick a path you can stick to, post consistently, and remember that growth isn’t always linear. You might post twice a week for a year before you begin to see real progress, but don’t let that stop you from getting started.
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