Jan 25, 2023

Influencer Business Model: How Does It Work?

Business Model Innovation
by Stefan Lemmerer

Influencers have, in fact, disrupted the traditional marketing industry. They are not simply individuals with a large number of social media followers. In the eyes of the brands, they are effective marketing channels for reaching their target market. And from a business standpoint, they are entrepreneurs who have built their companies around their following.

There are numerous ways for an influencer to generate income. But before we get to that, it is important to understand how they operate and how their content informs their business model.

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How do influencers operate?

A person who has a sizeable following and the ability to influence the behavior and decisions of those followers is an influencer.

They may be celebrities, athletes, or social media personalities, as well as common individuals with a large number of followers on their social channels.

The operation of these influencers is not complicated:

  • They select a niche and platform with which they are comfortable.

  • They create content that resonates with their target audience and their followers.

  • They increase their following by engaging their audience and providing useful content.

  • Once they have amassed a sizeable following and a high engagement rate, they search for brands interested in marketing to their followers.

  • The brands join forces and compensate the influencer to produce sponsored content or promote their product.


Influencer Business Model

The influencer business model is comparable to that of any other digital enterprise.

Influencers target customer segments in accordance with the channel they employ:

  • Audience driven by intent if they use pull-marketing channels such as YouTube. This segment consists of people who are already interested in long-form content such as product reviews, guides, etc.

  • If the audience uses social engagement channels such as TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter, micro-moments have a significant impact. This segment consists of individuals who watch these channels during their downtime.

They provide value in the form of high-quality content that entertains, instructs, and assists their followers in solving problems, making the most of their free time, learning new things, and staying abreast of the latest trends.

The key activities involve creating, curating, and distributing content that resonates with their target audience in the form of blog posts, videos, photos, or live broadcasts.

Once an influencer has amassed a sizeable following and level of engagement, they begin to sign contracts with brands that will become their most important partners.

However, it does not end there. The influencer also collaborates with other companies to expand its reach and revenue.

These important partnerships may include:

Content monetisation platforms such as YouTube that share revenue with influencers in exchange for a larger audience Talent agencies that connect influencers with brands and manage their endorsement deals.

Social media management firms that assist with content creation, editorial calendaring, and reporting.

In addition, they must continue to grow their following by interacting with their audience and fostering positive customer relationships with them and their partner brands.

Once everything is in place, the influencer develops a revenue model that allows them to earn money from multiple sources.


How Do Influencers Generate Revenue?

Although brands are the primary source of income for the majority of influencers, there are other ways influencers make money. These consist of:

Ad-Revenue Distribution

Typically, influencers who use ad-powered channels such as YouTube, Facebook, etc., sign up for ad-revenue sharing with these platforms, where the platform takes between 45% (Facebook) and 55% (YouTube) of the ad revenue generated by the influencer's videos and gives them the rest.

The model operates as follows –

  1. A brand approaches the platform in order to distribute a campaign to an audience with a specific interest, browsing history, or demographic.

  2. The platform then identifies the appropriate influencers and places the advertisement on their channel.

  3. Based on how much traffic or engagement their video content generates, the platform divides the ad revenue with them.

  4. The benefit for brands is that they can directly target influential people without having to go through a third party and also gain detailed insights into what is and is not working.

This is a popular way for influencers to make money because it requires minimal effort on their part and provides a steady income.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a commission-based model in which the influencer receives a commission for each sale or lead generated for the partner brand.

The influencer promotes a partner brand's product or service on their social media channels or blog and provides a link to purchase the item.

If a user clicks the link and makes a purchase, the influencer receives a commission.

In exchange for a commission, brands gain access to a large number of influencers willing to promote their product.

This is a common method for influencers to earn income, as they can sell the product in their own unique way and receive a commission.

Product Placement

Product placement is a form of marketing in which the brand pays an influencer to include its product in their content.

The brand provides the influencer with the product, which they then feature in a blog post, video, photograph, or live broadcast.

This is a common method for brands to increase both brand awareness and product sales.

The benefit for influencers is that they are allowed to keep the product and are also compensated.

This is a common method for influencers to earn money, but it requires a great deal of trust between the brand and influencer.

Brand Channel Takeovers

Channel takeover is a form of marketing in which an influencer is compensated by a brand to take over their social media channel and post about the brand's product.

In this model, the influencer posts about the product or service on the brand's social media channel for an agreed-upon period of time.

This is a popular method for brands to expose their product or service to a large audience.

The most advantageous aspect of this partnership for the influencer is that they are not required to use their own channel for promotion and can continue to use it for their own content.


Some influencers monetize their audience by requesting donations from their audience.

Although this model is less popular than the others, a few influencers use it to earn extra money.

In this model, the influencer solicits donations from their followers in exchange for exclusive content or simply for the pleasure of supporting them.

Sponsored Brand Content

Sponsored content is a type of content in which an influencer is compensated by a brand to create and publish content about them.

The brand provides the influencer with creative materials such as a story, video, or photograph and specifies what the influencer should say or do in the content.

The influencer then creates and publishes the content on his or her social media channels or blog.

Brands can directly control the messaging and gain access to a large number of influencers, which is advantageous.

This is a common method for brands to generate revenue because they can control the content and message.

The disadvantage for influencers is that they may not be able to publish the content elsewhere or have little control over it.

Subscription Revenue

With an increasing number of platforms, such as Only Fans, Patreon, etc., and Instagram adding the creator subscription feature, some influencers can now earn a significant amount of money through subscriptions.

In this model, the influencer develops exclusive content for their subscribers and charges a monthly fee for access.

This is a popular way for influencers to earn money because it does not require them to collaborate with brands and they receive a steady monthly income.

Personal Brand Offering

Some influencers develop and sell their own products or services to their audience.

The influencer launches their own product or service line, promotes it on their social media channels, and sells it directly to their followers under this model.

Launching a product line in the niche is a strategy for capitalizing on brand equity and can be a more effective means of converting followers into customers.

In addition, influencers keep the entire profit from a sale and are not required to split it with a brand.

How Much Money Do Influencers Make?

Different types of influencers are in the spotlight, and their compensation varies accordingly. Those with a larger following can typically charge more for a post.

According to Hype Auditor data,

  • Less than 25% of influencers with 1,000 to 10,000 followers generate income from their social media accounts.

  • Less than 45% of influencers with 10,000 to 50,000 followers profit from their social media accounts.

The real earnings begin once you surpass $50,000.

Micro-influencers earn approximately $1,420 per month, while mega-influencers earn more than $15,355 per month.

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