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What Does It Take To Be An Influencer

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 10 minute read

There are a lot of influential people out there. We keep up with their every move and update on sites like Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube because we’re envious of them. Indulging in their flawlessly presented branches in far-flung locales, brilliantly painted fingernails, or gleaming automobiles and bodies allows us to live vicariously through them. It’s impossible not to be fascinated by their lives (or at least the carefully crafted, edited, and whitewashed versions of their lives) on a daily basis.

The public often has the impression that an influencer’s life consists solely of fun and games, freebies, and exotic getaways. A recent poll by Harris Poll and LEGO found that 29% of American youngsters want to be a YouTuber when they grow up.

However, behind the heavily manipulated Instagram photographs, YouTube videos, and carefully constructed tweets of actual influencers — as opposed to your cousin’s cousin who received free sneakers that one time — is genuine business knowledge and hard work.
If becoming an influencer is something you aspire to, read on to find out the truth about the job.

What Is an Influencer?

A person’s outstanding fashion sense, purchasing prowess, or fascinating knowledge of a certain topic was once required for them to be considered an influencer. Perhaps others at school or work frequently tried to mimic your appearance or manner of speaking. You couldn’t hide what you were consuming or desiring from the people around you.

The greatest highlights may get you sponsored by a hair color brand if you’re an influencer in today’s Internet culture. Companies may feel obligated to shower you with gifts and endorsements if they learn of your impending nuptials or the arrival of a new family member. 

Brands want their products seen by more people, and influencers provide rapid access to a highly engaged audience in certain demographics. Generally speaking, influencers may be broken down into three distinct types.

Micro-Influencer

Those with a little but sizable fan base might benefit greatly from the adage, “good things come in small packages.” A micro-influencer can be someone with between one thousand and one hundred thousand actively engaged followers, however definitions vary.

Micro-influencers are highly sought after since their fan bases are devoted to them. Those who follow micro-influencers are more likely to respond to their calls to action than those who follow macro- or celebrity-level influencers.

Moreover, micro-influencers are more approachable than macro- or celebrity-level influencers since they are more likely to routinely communicate with their followers.

Macro-Influencer

In this hierarchy, the macro-influencer often has between 100,000 and 1,000,000 followers. The macro-influencer is also more likely to have a diverse audience because their fan base isn’t limited to die-hard supporters.

Many of the people who fit this description have achieved widespread recognition and influence thanks to their participation in social media platforms like Instagram. That’s a strong idea for online companies, but it doesn’t necessarily convert to offline purchases or customer loyalty.

Although brands would want to have their ads viewed by a massive audience, micro-influencers have a much tighter grip on their market. While all one million of your followers will notice your promotions, only a fraction of them may really be interested in buying your goods.

(Celebrity) Mega-Influencer

Mega or famous influencers often have at least a million fans. These celebrities have found success in both the online and offline spheres, using their fame to earn money as brand ambassadors and product sponsors.

Although social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter frown upon paying for followers, many of the accounts who follow influencers online (as in politics) are bots, which are completely or partially automated accounts.

Wise influencers, however, recognize that it doesn’t matter if they have 10,000 or 1 million followers; what really matters is being genuine and establishing meaningful connections with their core audience. The brand loyalty that influencer marketing campaigns depend on can only be found among highly engaged followers.

What It’s Really Like to Be a Celebrity

We conducted in-depth interviews with influential people to learn the secrets of building a powerful personal brand. We probed them further, inquiring about such things as how much money they make, how they got started in the industry, and whether or not being an influencer is really as glamorous as it appears. It was interesting to hear some of their responses.

The Expensive Side Effects of Becoming an Influencer

Maybe you’ve wondered, “What do people like Chiara Ferragni and Chrissy Teigen have that I don’t?” (Except for the ostentatious living arrangements, famous spouses, cute children, and designer endorsements, of course.)

Money and time are two of the most important factors.

We found large discrepancies in how much cash is needed to launch a successful project that attracts a dedicated fanbase. Some people were able to get started with a basic camera, paying less than $500 total, depending on their specific specialization. Others claimed to have spent more than $20,000 on things like high-end video equipment, outsourced Web design, and many other miscellaneous costs like unboxing products and meal sampling.

Our YouTube-based influencers had the lowest initial investment requirements. Two of the three said they got their channels started with just a cheap camera and spent less than a thousand dollars total on their first production costs. In contrast, bloggers and Instagram influencers spend anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 on web development, photographic gear, and search engine optimization education.

Start-up expenses for an influencer business, even at the high end, can be far lower than those of a conventional firm. Though everyone with an internet connection and some spare cash may get started on the path to being an influencer, only a select few will ever achieve the degree of fame necessary to have a significant impact.

Affluence is not a sufficient condition for power. John Hill and Dustin Luke, two successful YouTubers, have both indicated that time was the single most important factor in attracting and retaining a large fan base. The return on investment, however, may be tremendous if you put effort into building your own brand.

Traveling Like a Celebrity

Instagram feeds of most influential people have plenty of pictures of luxurious vacation spots, “out the airplane window” views, and posh hotel rooms. However, not everything you find is without cost.

Influencers we interviewed said that in 2019, they had been on brand-sponsored vacations to Japan, a NASCAR event in Florida, and Disneyland, among other destinations. Several, however, also mentioned that they had to pay for their own transportation on several occasions.

In December 2019, Luke went from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires, stayed there for three days, and then flew to Tokyo for a week. From what he has heard, these vacations may run upwards of $9,000.

This isn’t my regular life, but it’s what I want to do, Luke clarified. The author said, “I do not encourage someone doing that if they do not have a following yet, but it is absolutely a good small glimpse of what I’d like to be doing.”

Skater, artist, and YouTuber Hill said that his month-long trip to California from Brooklyn cost him a staggering $10,000. This included airfare, lodging, and living expenses.

A lot of times, influencers will use their travel budgets as a kind of marketing for their respective companies. It happened to Bethanie Garcia, a parenting blogger from Arizona, when she went to a convention in Austin, Texas. From Arizona to Austin, her trip cost just about $400, while the conference itself cost an extra $500. Garcia coordinated with a property in the area to cover her stay, which would have cost an additional $1,000 per night had she paid the going rate. The cooperation arrangement she started working on in Austin will pay out 35 times her initial investment in this conference.

However, would-be influencers shouldn’t count on this type of success to cover their initial investment. Jane Ko has not done much traveling this year because her blog is focused on the Austin culinary scene. However, in order to provide material for her audience, she traveled to Nevada and explored Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley. She spent about a thousand dollars on this trip and didn’t come back with any exciting new business leads.

The Advantages of Influence

Jane Ko is a well-known Instagram micro-influencer and food writer who often features reviews of the best new restaurants in Austin.

One of the most appealing aspects of being an influencer is the possibility of receiving free merchandise. However, most of the opinion leaders we contacted reported they were inundated with parcels. After their fame increased, Hill, Ko, and Garcia all reported receiving up to ten parcels of free stuff every week. The novelty soon wore off, and they no longer take advantage of most free offers.

The benefits our opinion leaders listed mostly aren’t monetary, but they do provide intangible emotional support in ways like:

  • Full-time Employment in a Field of Interest. This is a major factor in why Hill is so influential.
  • Serving Others and Motivating Others. Both Ko and Garcia are thrilled by the opportunities their careers give them to serve others. Ko also noted that she gets a kick out of being an inspiration to others.
  • Possessing the ability to have pleasure in the now without sacrificing future pleasure. Luke agrees with Hill that he has found his calling and adds that he can always look back on his progress in the field.

The Disadvantages of Influence

Being an influencer isn’t all flawless hair and a devoted fan base. There are a number of mental and emotional challenges that might come with becoming a public figure.

  • Can’t focus on anything else right now. At the time Garcia began her blog, she was a housewife. The more powerful she became, the more people wanted to speak with her. There reached a point where she couldn’t be a successful influencer and a good mom. Depending on the day, “I was either slacking at cleaning and being a parent or slacking on my work,” she admitted. Thankfully, the success of her business has allowed her husband to give up his work and focus on running the home. To to Garcia, “I now financially support our family at 100%, which is very humbling and exhilarating.”
  • Having no time for loved ones. In a similar vein, Ko acknowledges that she isn’t always present for the people who matter most to her since she is too busy balancing her career and her fan base.
  • Difficulty Forming Trusting Connections. According to Ko, “it’s tough to create true connections” since “people instinctively show me their best side” or “want to be ‘friends’ so they can urge me to post about their business/service or spotlight their account to acquire followers.”
  • Becoming the Object of Mockery. A Lot. Garcia said, “I realize that it is simply part of putting yourself out there, but I know that it stinks to be continually mocked and tormented.” ‘I am so glad that I get to stay home and be with my family all day while providing for them, and I wish there wasn’t so much criticism about what I do for a career,’ she says. It’s the greatest gift possible. In my opinion, that’s something that just about everybody would want to accomplish if given the chance.
  • Learning That Success Doesn’t Guarantee Happiness To paraphrase what Hill stated, “Money and celebrity don’t make you feel as strong as you may imagine.” After pressing record, anyone can act confident for a while, but “influencers feel all the worry and suffering everybody else does for the same foolish reasons.” “The key to success and pleasure,” he continues, “comes from working toward a purpose you feel will create a positive influence, and anyone can accomplish that, with or without followers.”
  • One who consistently fails to properly estimate the time and effort something will need. According to Luke, one of the worst parts of being an influencer is that fans don’t appreciate the hard work and creativity that goes into building and keeping an audience.
  • Don’t count on that being cheap. Those in certain fields often pay a premium. Ko said he spends between $7,000 and $10,000 per month. That sum covers everything from her legal counsel and consultants to her cosmetics and dining out.

The Guideline

It’s not a snap decision to affect your career focus. Becoming an influencer calls for sufficient financial resources to cover initial and continuing fees as your audience expands. Countless would-be influencers fail to get traction for every one who achieves widespread acclaim.

Living in the public eye isn’t cheap, and financial costs aren’t the only ones you’ll incur. Successful influencers know that opening out to their followers is essential to their growth. While most influencers highlight the positive aspects of their lives, haters will always find something to criticize. The more people see you, the more likely it is that they will make fun of you.

Conversely, the influencer lifestyle offers extraordinary chances. Accomplished influencers are afforded the opportunity to travel to far-flung locales, test out cutting-edge goods, motivate their followers and communities, and earn a living wage in the process. While influencers are often recognized for promoting related products and services, they may also raise awareness of critical social concerns and charitable organizations. The opportunities for doing good are limitless. Plus, you get the opportunity to earn a livelihood doing what you enjoy.

Influencers’ lives, as seen from the outside, appear carefree and simple. However, capturing that ideal Instagram moment or making that viral YouTube video requires a lot of hard work and devotion. If you want to be an influencer, you need to consider the costs as well as the gains. Making it can be financially rewarding, but your chances of success increase in proportion to the amount of preparation and research you put into your chosen field.

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