Dan Kieran is co-founder and CEO of Unbound – one of the biggest outreach brands at the forefront of people power and influencer marketing. Here he unpacks some great advice on product sponsorship and on-brand marketing…
There’s no doubt that online content creation can be a viable career option, leveraging the power of the likes of YouTube and Instagram. Given this, it’s estimated that as much as 75% of Generation Z, the first generation brought up from day one with the Internet as part of their lives, are considering a career online.
IT’S TOUGHER THAN YOU THINK
Instagrammers with 100,000+ followers have been known to charge up to $2,000 for a post (according to a Financial Times report) – and that’s before you get into the crazy figures commanded by those with celebrity status or their followers in six figures. However, fees for promoting products depend on the quality of their content and the relevance of their audience. So, receiving $2000 for highly-relevant posts might not happen often enough for a decent living.
And it’s important to pick your promo product wisely. Promoting products or companies that are ‘off-brand’ for your supporters can cause a drop-off in your following. This means influencers need to spend time defining and protecting their brand to grow their following, whilst still attracting valuable sponsorship deals.
Despite being a popular career, it’s definitely not all sunshine and roses. There are surprisingly few ways for influencers and creators to monetise their audiences outside of ad revenues and professional endorsements.
Let me share my top tips for ways to monetise your accounts, but whilst still maintaining control of your personal brand and integrity.
When you’ve developed a personal brand using Instagram or YouTube to build an audience, you’ll know how important a design aesthetic is for your content. And how important authenticity is to your fans. You can create and market merchandise in creative ways, so your online fans can reflect their online interests in the real world.
There are obvious items, e.g. t-shirts, posters, hats and tote bags (or similar) that you can put your branding on, but your fans will want something unique and something that’s instantly recognisable to other fans. When our authors crowdfund their books on Unbound, they offer a range of different merch and other rewards that readers can buy to support the publication of their book. This stuff, particularly exclusive merch, is incredibly popular. The more absurd it seems the better, as long as it’s authentic and meaningful to your work.
This was aptly demonstrated when popular YouTube comedian Stuart Ashen offered a ‘box of mystery tat’ as part of his Unbound crowdfunding campaign for his book Attack of the Flickering Skeletons. He sold three boxes at £250 each. Of course the content wasn’t junk or ‘tat’. It was curated with huge care to give his superfans something hilarious and unique, but the fact they bought into the uniqueness of the offer tells you how keen people are to have a distinguishable piece of the action.
BECOMING AN AMAZON INFLUENCER
The retail giant has recently launched an influencer program for content creators on all the major social platforms, to earn money by recommending products on Amazon. Influencers can make their own Amazon page and recommend products of their choice. They get a personalised link to share with their followers and earn a commission from the sale of qualifying products sold via the link.
YouTube and Twitter influencers will get a real time denial or approval, while those on Instagram and Facebook will be manually vetted by Amazon and get a response within five days. This is a good option for those who don’t want to endorse any product or company. Providing you don’t have an issue with Amazon itself, you’ll have control over which products you endorse.
The downside? You have to shift a huge amount of product to make relatively small amounts of money.
According to Business Insider, one influencer claimed that some users “make $100 a day” but making money depends on what you’re willing to endorse and what your followers will buy. Amazon’s fashion line pays influencers the most commission at 10%, followed by furniture at 8%. ‘Non-Amazon apparel, jewelry, and shoes’ and Amazon’s digital services like Echo are at the upper end, with 7% commission. At the lower end video games and consoles earn influencers 1%.
COLLATING YOUR CONTENT INTO A BOOK
OK so we’re bound (Unbound?!) to mention this. Whether you’re a popular podcaster, a YouTube sensation or a respected blogger, years of activity will mean that you’ll have gathered an impressive archive of media assets… and access to the people who love to consume them.
Publishing a book can be an excellent way to collate the best of your work into a physical form, offer it to your fans, and make some well-deserved income from countless hours of unpaid content creation.
Publishing a book gives you the opportunity to control the narrative so you can keep your work true to your online image. But you’ll need a publisher who shares your vision or publish the book yourself.
Finding a publisher though is much easier said than done, with many looking solely at which titles have sold well en-masse in the past. The likelihood is that you’ve built your following by offering your audience something unique. Therefore, it’s most likely that publishing the book yourself will be the best route to go. Time touting your book around the publishers could be better spent getting on with it yourself.
However, publishing a book costs money, so you’ll either need to make the initial money required, or go directly to your fans. And traditional publishing is limited by consumer expectations based around what a book should cost – typically up to £10 for a paperback and £20 for a hardback. However, by crowdfunding your book, you can set your own price range and offer your own merch.
For example, video games social media influencer Dan Hardcastle raised over £300k for his book, Fuck Yeah, Video Games, on Unbound.
We’ve even developed a machine learning algorithm, using social media engagement as a key variable, that helps us to tell with a high degree of accuracy how much a book is likely to raise before an author crowdfunds it.
OFFERING EXCLUSIVE CONTENT
When people start to follow your content avidly, they’ll want as much of it as they can get. If, for instance, you write a popular blog, you’ll be able to put some articles behind a paywall, as many newspapers and new media organisations do, for paid subscribers to view certain content. YouTubers and podcasters might also offer exclusive, early access; or bonus content on their website that only paid backers can access.
If your content is worth it – kerching!
You can also offer exclusive content via your own personalised app. You can build one for free using templates from a range of creators. If you have particular expertise and your content is educational, you could even run your own paid course. Naturally, this can be time-consuming and costly, but something to consider.
HOST LIVE EVENTS
Another way to offer exclusive content is through live events. The most logical way to run a live event is online where all your fans can access it. With an online event, such as a live Q&A, demonstration, performance etc, fans will simply buy their own access link and join you.
Whichever method you choose, if you put in the hard work, offer a unique brand and build a big audience because of it, you’re bound to get paid, eventually.
I’m sure that you are currently creating great content because you love the process and the relationship with your followers. I hope these tips will also help you to make some money from all your dedicated work.
About the author
Dan Kieran is the co-founder and CEO of Unbound, a crowdfunding publisher that combines data science and an award-winning publishing brand with an online marketplace. Readers pre-order books through pledging, Unbound publishes and sells them, giving authors a 50/50 profit split and access to an engaged community. The publisher’s 200k users from 195 countries have pledged over £7m to fund 436 books to date, including bestsellers like Letters of Note and The Good Immigrant.