Even at present day, its still taboo to say that you work full-time as an ‘influencer’. Yet today, we see our favorite YouTubers and gamers making more than enough to move apartments, buy new cars and travel the world (when there’s no global pandemic, of course). So what’s the secret? How do influencers make money?
YouTube is where it all began. In May 2005, regular people were given the opportunity to share short snippets of their lives in video format, all for free. Channels like Zoe Sugg and PewDePie gained popularity, and suddenly ‘making content’ became their full-time job.
Today, more and more people are joining YouTube in the hopes of also becoming an influencer, but how exactly does it work?
In order for a creator to start receiving money from their account, they must enable their account for monetization, meaning joining the YouTube Partner Program. A part of this process is setting up an AdSense account, and through this, creators can start receiving a portion of the ad revenue. AdSense is run by Google that sells ad spaces to advertisers. The top YouTubers can earn $29 million a year through AdSense, but of course the income differs based on the traffic you bring to your channel and videos.
YouTube sponsorships is another highly successful method for an influencer to make money. Both parties benefit from the sponsorship - the YouTuber will get paid for promoting the brand and the brand gains more exposure and visibility. Every YouTuber has their own rates for mentioning a brand in their videos, and this can vary depending on the length of the ad as well as the following size that the YouTuber has. Honey, a subsidiary of PayPal known for its browser extension that automatically applies online coupons for you when shopping online, invested $29.1 million in 2021 on influencer marketing on YouTube, and sponsored more than 20 channels.
Affiliate links are also a popular stream of income. A company provides the YouTuber with a special link to their site so that the company knows exactly where potential visitors have arrived from, and the YouTuber will receive a percentage of the purchase price, if that visitor ends up buying the product. For example, Whitney Simmons, a popular health and fitness YouTuber and an athlete for the popular brand Gymshark, has an affiliate link in the bio of every video for Gymshark products. She’s not being sponsored by Gymshark to mention their products, but she will get a portion of the income that Gymshark makes.
Another method that’s becoming a lot more popular in recent years is to offer premium content to their most avid listeners through platforms like Patreon, Glow and Supporting Cast. Patreon, specifically, is built off of membership tiers. The number of tiers and the subscription rate is
determined by the creator, and can start from as little as $1 a month. Higher tiers, and by default - higher prices, offers more premium and exclusive content. Just like the membership tiers, Pateron then offers different tiers to the creator, with different levels of support in exchange for an increasing percentage of the creator’s monthly income.
The world of podcasting is the hot new thing. The number of podcast listeners has doubled over the last 10 years, and almost 60% of US consumers over the age of 12 listen to podcasts. Podcasts are not only so easily accessible, they make it very easy to multi-task. Whether you’re stuck in traffic, commuting to work or sorting through laundry, listening to a podcast can help you pass the time.
As you can probably guess, advertisers see podcasts as a very strong way to get their product out to a large audience. The feeling of trust and intimacy that is quickly formed between the listener and the host make sponsorships highly successful. Additionally, most podcasts are over 30 minutes long, allowing for multiple ads to play, without it bothering the listener too much. In 2022, there’s a podcast for almost everything, making podcast advertising very targeted. Whether you’re listening to a podcast about health and fitness or a podcast about unsolved crime from the 20th century, there’s no doubt that there’s a product that can be seamlessly mentioned throughout the podcast. Not only that, but the cost of the ad will vary depending on the length of the ad, the size of the podcast audience, the niche, as well as when the ad is mentioned (at the beginning, in the middle, or near the end of the podcast).
Another way that podcasters make money is through subscription services. Most podcasts are broadcasted on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, but there are some platforms, like Stitcher Premium and Luminary - that offer exclusive podcasts included with a monthly subscription.
Twitch is a platform unlike any other. Twitch officially launched in 2011 and in 2014, the site was purchased by Amazon for $970 million. The premise is pretty simple - creators live-stream their content, and viewers are given the opportunity to interact with the streamer in real-time via the live chatbox. This opportunity to interact with the streamer is what makes Twitch so unique and successful.
Once a creator has established themselves on Twitch, there are two different programs available to them that can help them monetize their channel - Twitch Affiliates and Twitch Partners. The lower level is a Twitch Affiliate. After meeting four criteria (audience of at least 50 followers, having an average of 3 viewers per stream, stream for at least eight hours in the last 30 days and stream on at least seven days in the last 30 days), Twitch automatically invites you to be an affiliate. Being a partner, however, is aimed at the platform’s best steamers, and is exclusive - you have to be invited to be a partner.
There are many streams of income available on Twitch, both for Affiliates and Partners. Affiliates and Partners are able to earn money from subscriptions, Twitch bits (mini donations from viewers through Amazon payments), running ads, and by selling games and in-game items. Twitch subscriptions give the streamer the option to add monthly subscriptions to their channel for $4.99, and the money collected is then split 50/50 between the streamer and Twitch.
There’s also the option to choose to run ads on their stream and share the advertising revenue with Twitch and the more they receive, the more the creator will receive. Twitch offers a high degree of flexibility in regards to how often the ads run and the length of their ads (between 30 seconds and 3 minutes). The difference between an Affiliate and Partner in terms of ads is that a Partner will have higher ad revenue.
There are a few reasons why sponsorships work so well on Twitch. For one, Twitch viewers spend hours with their favorite streamers, building a unique and trusting bond. Another thing is that the product or service being mentioned can be used live during the stream, giving the viewer the ability to see how the product or service works to its full potential. The Twitch Chat feature also lets the viewers discuss the product or service, and ask the streamer themselves any questions they might have.
In 2022, there’s a platform out there for everybody. If you’re passionate about something, find that platform that works best for you, and you could be the next big influencer who gets to do what they love, and make money!