Thursday 16 August 2018

Could you make a living - or fortune - from social media?

Blogs and reviews could earn you anything from a few hundred euro to a few million, depending on how good you are at it, writes Louise McBride

Kim Kardashian is one of the world’s most high profile ‘influencers’. Photo: Alexander Tamargo
Kim Kardashian is one of the world’s most high profile ‘influencers’. Photo: Alexander Tamargo
Louise McBride

Louise McBride

Some people are making hundreds of thousands, or indeed millions, a year from social media. They range from a six-year-old American boy who has become a multi-millionaire by reviewing new toys in YouTube videos produced by his family, to celebrities who can earn hundreds of thousands by promoting products on channels such as Instagram and YouTube.

Social media has opened up huge money-making opportunities for ordinary people and celebs alike, as well as businesses. This is largely because of the size of the audience which can be reached - more than two billion people are actively using Facebook for example while about 800 million people use Instagram.

Ordinary people, such as stay-at-home mums and young students, have built up strong social media presences from scratch - and the more successful of them have got paid by companies to promote or review certain products. They have largely done this by becoming bloggers (people who keep an online diary or write reviews) or social media 'influencers' (typically a user of social media who has established credibility in a specific industry and has access to a large audience of followers - and therefore the ability to sway potential buyers of something by promoting or recommending it on social media).

Blogger pay & skills

So how much could you get paid as a blogger or influencer - and what skills do you need?

The amount you get paid for promoting something on social media typically depends on the number of followers you have - and how likely those followers are to do something in response to your post. Some of Ireland's top bloggers are understood to charge brands thousands of euro per social media post or blog review - though less-established bloggers are typically paid a few hundred euro. A review of a product by a top blogger can often send sales of that product shooting up - which is why companies are willing to pay them to promote or review something.

The ability to communicate - and to put yourself out there on social media - is key to building a strong social media presence. "There are a few social media superstars who are brilliant at communicating - and who have cracked how to use social media at the right time," said Greg Canty, managing partner of Fuzion, a public relations agency which also offers social media training and consultancy.

To become a respected influencer or blogger in social media, honesty and being down-to-earth is important, according to Canty. "Today's consumer is savvy," said Canty. "They want to go to trusted places where they can get honest advice. They want something more authentic and genuine than standard advertisements."

Avoid coming across as materialistic and giving the impression that you're only posting messages or blogs that will earn you money or freebies. "There's a bit of a backlash [against some influencers] at the moment as there's a view that some influencers are becoming too monetised - and consumers don't trust that," said Canty.

Choose your social media platform well too. Some platforms will be more suitable than others for the message you're hoping to get across, the brands you're hoping to promote, and for building up your particular profile. Some businesses or people can use the likes of Facebook to sell brands through their lifestyle. "However, that doesn't work for everyone," said Arlene Foy, social media manager with Fuzion. "Selling through lifestyle might not work for a technology business for example. Just because you're on Facebook doesn't mean it will work for you. LinkedIn can work well for business-to-business. You need to figure out where your customers are - and which platform is best for you."

Don't be too reliant on one platform, however, and be mindful that the way that platform works can change quickly. Facebook, for example, often changes its algorithms (essentially rules followed by a computer which influence how widely read or prominent your social media content or messages are). "When an algorithm changes, what worked for you yesterday may not work for you today," said Canty. "So while 30,000 people might read your Facebook post one day, you could do the exact same thing the next day and your post might only reach 50 people. Social media platforms are dangerous things to be relying on for income."

Consider too building up a presence across various types of media, including social media and more traditional media, such as radio and print. "Getting an interview with yourself in traditional media gives weight to your social media profile," said Canty.

Starting out

If starting to build up a social media presence, blog about something you're passionate about.

"Many people who are making money on social media today started off talking about something they were genuinely passionate about - such as food, clothes and so on," said Canty. "Companies then realised this person had a load of followers and offered to give him or her some free product - in return for them selling or promoting it."

It can take time to build up a strong social media profile so be prepared to be in it for the long haul. Some of the most successful influencers or bloggers have spent years building up their brand - and followers - on social media.

When individuals first start off promoting things in social media, they typically recommend things within their own circle of friends - or to guests on their wedding list, according to Foy. "As your business evolves, more people come into your contact list," said Foy. "You can also set up groups and sell through a private group page - so that only people interested in buying a particular product are in that page. Many people use the live video aspect of Facebook to get their messages across."

Should you be planning to use Facebook as a way of making money by promoting certain products, consider making your personal Facebook page public, according to Foy. "You've a greater chance of reading a wider audience in this way," said Foy. You need to have brands who are willing to pay you to promote their products - and to achieve that, you typically need to have a large number of followers and a respected reputation.

Videos & Advice

Should you have a knack for making videos, explore the option of earning money by making ads or reviews for YouTube. You might, for example, review the latest iPhone - or the last meal you've had in a restaurant. Typically, the more people watch your for ad or review a certain length of time, the more advertisers are prepared to pay - and the more money you make.

Social media is also a useful way for businesses to promote their products. Businesses however need to be careful how they do so.

"Social media has to be about social conversation and interaction," said Canty. "You can develop a personality for your business by building up a conversation with people on social media."

It is these conversations which help you to build up a rapport with perspective clients - and to subtly promote, and in turn sell, your business products.

"However, the minute you start to head-butt someone and sell something directly, social media can stop working for you," added Canty.

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