How Do Influencers Make Money? The Complete Guide
How do influencers make money on social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube and TikTok?
A lot of you are familiar with the way YouTubers generate revenue from ads that play during their videos, but how do influencers make money beyond that?
What about influencers who only stream through Twitch or upload content to Instagram?
In this post, we list the most common (and some uncommon) monetization strategies influencers use to fund their empires.
How do influencers make money? 11 monetization strategies that work
Because other monetization strategies on this list are unpredictable, many social media influencers turn to subscriptions instead.
You can charge subscription fees on YouTube (where they’re called “channel memberships”) and Twitch.
You can also use a third-party service like Patreon.
Subscribers receive premium content and additional perks no matter which option you decide to go with.
If you’re active on YouTube, use channel memberships. If you’re active on Twitch, use Twitch subscriptions. If you use both, use both!
However, both social media channels have partner programs you need to be part of in order to use the subscription feature.
Here are the prerequisites you must meet before applying:
- YouTube Partner Program
- 1,000 subscribers
- 4,000 watch hours in the last 12 months
- Have a linked AdSense account
- Live in a country where the program is available
- Have no active Community Guidelines strikes
- Twitch Affiliate Program
- Stream for at least 500 minutes in the last 30 days
- Stream on 7 different days in the last 30 days
- Average of 3 concurrent viewers in the last 30 days
- 30 followers
- Twitch Partner Program
- Complete Path to Partnership achievement as a Twitch affiliate
- Stream for at least 25 hours
- Stream on 12 different days
- Average of 75 concurrent viewers during livestreams
- Acceptance into the program occurs on a case-by-case basis, but it mainly boils down to:
- Average number of concurrent viewers
- Type of content you stream (advertiser friendly, consistent style)
- How often you stream
- Your follower count on other platforms
- Complete Path to Partnership achievement as a Twitch affiliate
And yes, Twitch has two kinds of programs you can join that allow you to earn revenue from the platform.
You’ll be accepted into the affiliate program first, and then the partner program when your following is big enough.
Partners have more benefits than affiliates, but you can still collect Twitch subscriptions as an affiliate.
You can also collect subscription fees on Facebook, though this feature is still being tested by the platform.
You need to have either 10,000 page followers or over 250 return viewers as well as “180,000 watch minutes,” which equates to 3,000 hours.
YouTube and Twitch subscribers receive special “sub badges” that appear next to their names when they type messages in the chat section during livestreams.
They also receive special “sub emotes,” which are emoticons they can use in chat.
Each YouTuber or Twitch creator has their own sub badge and emotes, either designed by themselves or with the help of a graphic designer.
Subscribers also have access to exclusive livestream events and videos.
While many influencers prefer to use YouTune and Twitch’s in-platform subscription features, others use a third-party service like Patreon instead.
This is a fantastic alternative if you’re not yet eligible for monetization on Twitch or YouTube.
It can also help you keep premium subscriber content separate from regular content.
2. Ad revenue
Influencers can earn ad revenue from content they upload to YouTube, Twitch and Facebook.
This is the easiest and most passive way to make money as a social media influencer as it doesn’t require any extra work behind the scenes. You just need to enable monetization and increase the number of views your videos receive.
However, the path to receiving that ability can be difficult.
All three platforms require you to become a partner (or affiliate with Twitch).
We already talked about what this requires on YouTube and Twitch, and Facebook’s still testing revenue sharing strategies, so their requirements are likely to change.
For now, they mostly consist of adhering to several different policies.
In the meantime, Facebook recommends checking your eligibility status yourself from the Creator Studio dashboard.
Some Instagram influencers earn ad revenue from Reels, but this program is invite only and not a very popular way to make money.
Keep in mind that the best way to earn ad revenue from YouTube is by making longer videos of at least 10 minutes in duration each.
3. Affiliate marketing
Like Patreon subscriptions, affiliate marketing is another suitable monetization strategy for small and large creators alike.
This is because it’s not dependent on any partner programs, so you can get started whenever you want.
Instead of views, your success is dependent on engagement rates.
Here’s a quick explanation of affiliate marketing in case you need it:
Companies create affiliate programs as a way to encourage content creators to promote their products and services in their content.
These creators are given their very own affiliate links for the products and services they promote.
When their viewers click these links and make purchases, the creators are compensated through commissions, which are typically percentages of what their viewers paid.
It’s a simple way to generate revenue from products and services you may already recommend in your content.
You can even create content specifically made to promote affiliate products, such as product reviews.
Getting started with affiliate marketing is also easy since most affiliate programs don’t require you to have a specific follower count or number of views.
You just need to fill out a simple form in most cases.
Once you do, you can add affiliate links to YouTube video descriptions, your Twitch channel page, and a link-in-bio page for platforms like Instagram and TikTok.
4. Brand sponsorships
Sponsorship deals are a key component to receiving larger sources of revenue as an influencer.
They’re like affiliate marketing in that you get paid to promote other companies’ products and services, but they’re also quite different in a couple of ways.
The first is what it takes to get sponsored.
While many companies don’t have strict requirements for their affiliate programs, most prefer the influencers they sponsor to have a fairly sizable following.
This is to ensure they receive decent returns on investment on sponsored posts, which leads us to the second way sponsorship deals differ from affiliate marketing, and that’s the way influencers get paid.
With affiliate marketing, you don’t receive a commission until one of your viewers clicks on your affiliate link and completes a purchase.
With sponsorship deals, sponsors typically pay influencers in advance with the expectation that they’ll receive an influx of sales by appearing in their content.
5. Become a brand ambassador
Hiring brand ambassadors is another form of influencer marketing brands use alongside affiliate marketing and sponsorships.
This strategy is more similar to sponsorships than anything else.
This is because brands pay ambassadors in advance with the expectation of appearing in their content.
However, while sponsorships are often one-off deals, meaning creators and brands negotiate an individual social media post or a single set of posts at a time, brands pay ambassadors to appear in their content long term.
That payment could be in the form of free products, a higher affiliate marketing commission or even a payment arrangement, the latter of which is often based on the industry’s average cost per engagement.
6. Branded merchandise
Merch is one of the most popular ways influencers make money online, especially smaller creators who aren’t able to join partner programs or land sponsorship deals.
This monetization strategy has been used in the entertainment industry for decades, from merch booths at concerts to gift shops at amusement parks.
Now, YouTubers, Twitch streamers, TikTok creators and Instagram influencers alike can use it to define their brand identities and earn revenue at the same time.
Most sell branded t-shirts, hoodies, hats and drinkware, but some go a little further by offering jackets, bags, phone cases and more.
Some influencers with large revenue streams opt to shop around for manufacturers, and then handle inventory management and shipping themselves.
Most use print-on-demand dropshipping services. These are services that handle printing, shipping and returns for you.
All you need to do is set up an online store to process orders as well as market your products.
Sellfy and Printful are great print-on-demand services for influencers.
7. Original products & services
Influencers who want to kick things up a few notches can create their own original products or offer their services.
Branded merch is almost always the first step creators take into selling their own products, but things like books and online courses often follow.
Some even offer one-on-one coaching and niche-specific services, such as an artist offering custom artwork.
Here are a few examples of creators who launched their own products:
- MrBeast – Feastables, a snack brand.
- Jacksepticeye – Top of the Mornin, a coffee brand.
- Linus Tech Tips – Screwdriver, a tool optimized for PC repair.
- Simply Nailogical – Holo Taco, a nail polish brand.
- Addison Rae – ITEM Beauty, a makeup brand.
Some smaller creators, and even a few larger ones, fund their operations through donations from their followers.
These are different from subscriptions as followers donate without the expectation of receiving special benefits, such as premium content or exclusive emotes.
Influencers typically receive donations through PayPal, Venmo and Cash App. Some even use a tip service like Ko-fi or Buy Me a Coffee.
For example, Adam uses the latter here on Blogging Wizard.
Check out Adam’s Buy Me a Coffee page if you’d like to see a live example.
To encourage donations, influencers will place their donation links or IDs in their bios, video descriptions, social media posts, and on their website (if they have one).
Creators who livestream through YouTube, Twitch and TikTok have a higher likelihood of receiving donations.
This is because these platforms make it possible to highlight donation messages in the stream’s chat section or feature them on screen.
These are often read live by influencers themselves, so viewers are incentivized to donate in order to have their messages featured during livestreams.
Influencers with large projects in mind can rally their audience and raise the funds needed to accomplish them.
Most creators use crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, GoFundMe and Indiegogo.
They use limited-time campaigns to generate a lot of money in a small amount of time.
Contributors receive perks for pledging, such as free access to the completed project, exclusive content, free products, meet and greets, and even producer credits.
Multiple tiers are available for contributions, and the list of perks differs for each one.
Here are a few examples of successful crowdfunding campaigns by small and large influencers:
- Critical Role
- Project: Animated special of the group’s first Dungeons & Dragons campaign. It’s now an Amazon Prime original.
- Goal: $750,000
- Amount Pledged: $11,385,449
- Real Time History
- Project: WWII documentary about the Battle of the Rhineland.
- Goal: €25,000
- Amount Pledged: €110,136
- Alex Blue
- Project: New album by ex-cover YouTuber turned folk singer Alex Blue (formerly Alex G).
- Goal: $40,000
- Amount Pledged: $42,159
10. Influencer network
An influencer network is a hub that connects brands with influencers that can promote their products.
It’s one of the easiest ways for brands to utilize influencer marketing.
Without this sort of network, influencers need to pitch themselves to potential sponsors through DMs, contact forms and applications or wait for sponsorship opportunities to appear in their inboxes.
One of the most popular examples of this type of network is Upfluence.
From the brand side of the network, Upfluence offers several influencer marketing tools, including ecommerce tools, influencer discovery and analyses, campaign management, product seeding, influencer payment management, affiliate management and more.
For creators, all you need to do is connect your Facebook account, install the Chrome extension, add other profiles, then wait for the platform to analyze your profile and connect you with brands.
It’s that easy, and there are plenty of other networks to choose from as well.
11. Create your own product line
Influencers with sizable followings can amp up their sponsorship and brand ambassador deals with their very own product lines.
This is a collaboration between a brand and an influencer in which the brand creates a special product line integrated with the influencer’s branding.
Both parties then promote the line.
Influencers are typically given much larger commissions in collaborations like these.
Better yet, the commissions come from all sales of the product line, not just the ones the influencer refers.
Here are three examples of brands who collaborated with influencers.
Ninja x Wicked Cool Toys
Prolific Twitch streamer Ninja collaborated with Wicked Cool Toys to launch a line of collectible figurines created in Ninja’s likeness.
The collaboration included two-inch figures hidden in blind boxes as well as larger “dancing” vinyl figures.
Additional products were wigs in Ninja’s hairstyle, mini clip-on plushies and sticker packs.
Rhett & Link x Beard and Lady
Rhett & Link, the hosts of the ever popular YouTube channel Good Mythical Morning, teamed up with beauty brand Beard and Lady to create a line of grooming products with the channel’s branding.
Beard and Lady specialize in creating grooming products for men and women that have “unique flavors and scents which enhance the chemistry of relationships.”
The collaboration includes hand lotion, beard oil, pomade, beard balm and lip balm products as well as a comb and hair brush.
G FUEL Collaborations
G FUEL, the makers of a popular energy drink formula, relies on influencer marketing for their entire marketing strategy.
They do this by releasing special “flavor collabs” with popular creators, including Pewdiepie, Roman Atwood, xQc, several members of FaZe clan and more.
Flavor collabs are G FUEL flavors handpicked by the creators themselves with packaging for each flavor featuring the creator’s branding.
G FUEL has even grown popular enough to team up with video game companies, releasing flavors for Sonic, Crash Bandicoot, Elden Ring, Fallout and more.
How do influencers make money? FAQs
How much money can an influencer make?
There’s no limit to the amount of revenue an influencer can generate from their content.
There’s also no set rule that says “X amount of likes and views generates Y amount of money.”
It boils down to the type of content you create, the number of views and likes you receive per video, how advertiser-friendly your content is, your engagement rates, the affiliate programs you join, and more.
How much do influencers make per post?
Again, there’s no set rule that states how much influencers make per post. It’s different for each influencer.
Also, some influencers only use ads. Some promote affiliate products in their posts. Some promote sponsored products. Others use all three.
And in some cases the amount can vary between platforms. For example, for sponsored content some creators will earn different amounts from YouTube and TikTok.
All of these affect how much influencers make per post.
How many followers do you need to be an influencer?
An influencer is any social media personality that has the ability to get their audience to take action, such as purchasing a product the influencer recommends.
By that definition, any creator that receives engagements on their posts can be considered an influencer.
Do Instagram influencers get paid?
Instagram does not pay influencers directly for likes, video views and Stories.
Some influencers can earn ad revenue from Reels, but this program is still in its infancy and is currently invite only.
Influencers must instead use Instagram to promote their own products, affiliate products and sponsor products in order to generate a meaningful amount of revenue.
As you can see, influencers can make money from a variety of different channels.
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