11 Ways to Make a Living on Social Media Without Selling a Single Product
Do you have lots of social media followers? Want to learn how to turn those followers into dollars?
Right now, there are people making a living on social media without selling anything.
We’ve all seen those profiles of seemingly regular people with tons of followers.
It always seems as if they’re traveling or doing something fun. But what exactly do they do to fund this fairytale lifestyle?
They are social influencers.
Experts predict that in the next two years, global influencer marketing will be a $5-10 billion dollar industry.
In 2017, 86% of marketers relied on influencer marketing campaigns at some point during the year.
And 39% of marketers say they have increased their influencer marketing budgets for 2018.
All of this is promising news if you’re interested in making a living on social media as an influencer. Even if you don’t have lots of followers right now, this guide will show you what you need to do to make yourself more appealing to marketers and brands.
In the past, I’ve explained how to use micro influencers to increase your product credibility.
But now I wanted to write an informative guide aimed to help influencers make more money.
With influencer marketing making my list of the top marketing trends to look for in 2018, there is plenty of money to be made in this space if you position yourself accordingly.
These are the top 11 ways to make a living on social media without selling any products.
1. Pick a platform
The first thing you need to do is decide which platform you’re going to prioritize the most.
Ultimately, you’ll want to have profiles set up on as many social networks as possible, but one needs to be your bread and butter.
Research shows that nearly all social influencers work on Instagram.
In 2018, more than 82% of social influencers said that Instagram is their number one platform. Just over 12% responded with YouTube, and less than 2% said Facebook.
That’s probably because 76% of influencers say that Instagram has the best tools compared to other social platforms.
Based on these numbers, I highly recommend picking Instagram as your top priority.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. If other influencers are having so much success on Instagram, you should be able to follow in their footsteps.
Your other social profiles should be used to enhance the image of your personal brand and ultimately expand your reach.
But you can use Facebook and Twitter to try to get more followers on Instagram.
2. Join a network for influencers
Another way to make money on social media is by joining networks made for influencers.
These platforms are used to connect brands with people based on their followers and specialties.
Brandwatch is a great place to start.
Let’s say you share lots of content related to yoga and holistic health on your social media profiles.
Your followers are obviously interested in this content as well, which is why they are following you in the first place.
If you join one of these networks, it will be easier for brands to find you if they have a product or service related to your content.
If a brand wants to work with an influencer to sell their newest yoga mat and yoga clothing, it’ll get matched with you through these networks.
You can handle all communication with the brands through these platforms as well.
This can help you stay organized as opposed to using direct messaging through social media. Once you get lots of followers, it’s tough to keep up with all of the messages in your inbox.
I recently wrote about my favorite platforms for effectively managing social influencers.
The post was intended for brands, but it’s helpful for influencers to read through it as well. Go through the list to see which platforms fit your wants and needs the most.
3. Boost your engagement rates
The reason why brands want to work with social influencers is they historically have extremely high engagement rates.
In fact, brands named engagement as the top metric for measuring the success of influencer marketing campaigns.
If you want to make yourself more appealing, you can show brands how high your engagement rates are with your followers.
Start by learning how to write captions that drive engagement.
You want your followers to like, comment, tag, view, and share your content.
Respond to your followers.
I know, this can be tricky, especially for those of you who have tens of thousands of followers. But the key is getting into a habit of making time to respond.
At the very least, like their comment if you can’t respond to it.
Remember, we’re treating this as your job. If you want to make a living on social media, you need to dedicate a certain amount of time each day toward making yourself a more valuable influencer.
If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
Engaging with your followers will help them feel a personal connection with you. When you recommend a brand to them, they will be more likely to act on your recommendation, making your marketing campaigns more successful.
4. Give away free stuff
Everyone wants to get something free.
To increase engagement with your followers, hosting a giveaway is one of your top options.
Once you start negotiating with brands and deciding what kind of content you should be posting, you can suggest a giveaway.
Ultimately, the decision is theirs. They will be the ones paying you for sponsored content.
But you don’t have to commit to anything you’re uncomfortable with. If you think the content they want you to post doesn’t add value to your followers, you can respectfully turn down the offer.
After all, you don’t want to lose credibility by posting everything and anything someone presents to you.
Otherwise, you could see a drop in engagement from your followers.
Take a look at this post from Instagram personality Jen Selter:
Jen has more than 12 million followers on Instagram.
How do you keep 12 million people entertained? Don’t spam them.
Yes, it’s clear that this post is promoting a brand. But she’s doing it in a way that adds value to her followers by giving them a chance to win something free.
This post has all the elements required to run a profitable giveaway.
If you are still trying to grow your following, giving something away could be the best way to do that, even if you aren’t getting paid by any brands yet.
It may be worth spending $100 out of your own pocket on a gift card, for example, to give away to your followers.
Then you can show brands how good your engagement rates were for that campaign as you move forward with your career as an influencer.
5. Use multiple hashtags
If you’re trying to make money on social media, you can’t be afraid to use hashtags.
But don’t use only one per post.
Research shows that using multiple hashtags leads to higher engagement rates.
The magic number here is seven.
Posts with seven hashtags have the highest engagement rates.
But that doesn’t mean you should go overboard. Using more than eight hashtags on one single post can seem spammy.
Use a variety of hashtags.
Some should be broad and intended to reach the highest number of people. For example, #tbt or “throwback Thursday” is a popular hashtag used on social media.
So your post would be exposed to the masses.
However, you don’t want to get lost in the shuffle.
Create some unique and more specific hashtags appropriate for each campaign. If you look at the giveaway example again, you’ll see that Jen used #JenSelterGIVEAWAY in per post to stand out.
6. Partner with a mobile app
All too often I see social influencers partner with the same types of brands. They’re promoting clothing, fitness apparel, accessories, and food.
While there is nothing wrong with this strategy, it may not be sustainable for long-term growth.
Those brands will end up using other influencers in the future once they feel they’ve gotten the most out of you and if your cost per post rate gets too high.
Think outside the box and try to partner with unique brands, such as mobile applications.
Here’s a great example of this strategy used by social influencer Eric Rubens:
Eric has more than 380k followers on Instagram.
If you look at his bio, he promotes a few different things related to his personal brand image. You can see his YouTube name and link to his website.
But look at what I highlighted. It’s his partnership with Explorest, a new mobile application.
The idea behind this app is very unique.
It shows users exact directions to places where they can take cool photographs.
This idea also fits within Eric’s personal image. If you look through his profile, he takes amazing photographs of places all over the world. So his followers are obviously interested in this type of content.
That’s why he was able to successfully partner with a mobile app such as Explorest.
7. Find your niche
It’s tempting for new influencers to take jobs from any brand that offers them money. But you need to understand how these posts can impact your future.
You don’t want to partner with any brand that goes against your core values and beliefs.
Furthermore, you need to analyze how this content will affect your followers and how you’re perceived by other brands moving forward.
Let’s look at an example to show you what I’m talking about. Here is James Tollefson’s Instagram biography:
James has just over 23k followers, which is a great number for micro influencers.
While his biography doesn’t promote anything specifically, like in the previous example, it tells you more about his life and who he is.
He’s a software engineer, living in San Diego, who is a fitness enthusiast.
Now, just saying you’re a fitness enthusiast and being a fitness enthusiast are two different things. Let’s take a look at his pictures to see if they fit the description:
As you can see, the content definitely fits the biography.
James shares content related to his fitness journey, and he promotes products that fit that niche.
If you join a community that connects brands and influencers, you want to make sure your content fits your speciality.
Don’t say you’re a foodie in your biography and then never share content related to food or work with brands in that industry. It doesn’t make sense, and it won’t make you any money.
8. Know your worth
According to research, 80% of influencers say sponsored content is their primary source of income.
This ranked higher than advertisements and affiliate links. Only 33% of influencers actually sign a contract with sponsors.
You’ve got to make sure you protect yourself and get paid for your work.
Don’t just post content for brands who offer to send you free products. That’s not enough if you’re trying to make a living.
As you can see from the graph below, marketers are planning to increase their marketing budgets for influencers:
Only 5% of marketers say they’re going to decrease their influencer marketing budgets.
The money is out there. It’s just a matter of finding it. Don’t settle.
How much is a post worth? The numbers will vary based on the number of followers you have and your engagement rates.
On average, 66% of businesses pay less than $250 per post.
And 27% pay between $250 and $1,000.
Just 4% pay up to $3,000 per post.
Unless you’re a celebrity, you probably won’t see $3,000 for one post. But with that said, it’s not unreasonable to aim for that $250-1,000 window.
Let’s say in a week you share two sponsored posts from two different brands. One pays you $750, and the other pays $250.
If you can continue getting rates like that steadily throughout the year, you’ll make more than $50k annually.
9. Post high-quality photos
Look back at all the examples I showed you so far. What do all of them have in common?
If you want to become a social influencer, you need to make sure you’re sharing only quality photos.
Buy a professional camera if you have to. Or at least get yourself a new smartphone that takes better pictures.
Invest in yourself.
As you saw in the example of partnering with a mobile app, taking high-quality photos can lead to big opportunities for you.
Just look at Albert Hongbo Yang’s Instagram profile:
These images are breathtaking.
Albert has over 24k followers who are interested in his photos, which is a huge leveraging point when it comes to working with brands.
Even if you don’t want to sell products on Instagram, if your photos are good enough, you can make money as a photographer.
Post pictures that draw attention and make you seem more legitimate.
Refer to my guide how to take and edit photos without hiring a professional to help you with this.
10. Fully disclose your relationships with brands
Part of being a social influencer means you need to fully disclose your relationships with brands.
First of all, you don’t want to mislead any of your followers or cause them to distrust you. That’s not right.
But more importantly, it’s a requirement by the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC says that these disclosures must be clear and obvious. It doesn’t want you to use anything ambiguous, like #thanks or #collab, which could be misinterpreted.
You also can’t rely on a disclosure that will only be seen if people “click more” or view the content on a separate landing page.
To show you how to properly disclosure your relationships, look at this post from Anastasia Ashley:
Anastasia is promoting La Roche-Posay skincare products.
As you can see, she clearly tagged them in her caption and used the hashtag #sponsored to disclose her relationship with the brand.
There is definitely nothing ambiguous about that. She’s complying with FTC regulations.
11. Promote your services
OK, so you want to make a living on social media without selling any products. But you can still sell your services.
Earlier I explained how you could make a living by taking high-quality photos and then leverage your photography skills to make money.
That’s just one way to do it, but there are plenty of others.
For example, let’s take a look at Rob Atkin’s Instagram profile.
Rob is promoting his personal website in the biography.
Clearly, he’s a personal trainer. But the way he positions his services is much more creative than just saying “personal trainer.”
Instead, he uses creative phrases such as “I help busy people get abs” and “fitness specialist” to promote his services.
As you can see from his posts, his content fits into that niche, which is extremely important, as I mentioned earlier.
So if you want to make money on social media without selling any products, consider using your distribution channels to promote your services instead.
There is tons of money to be made on social media right now.
People are making a living without selling a single product.
Those of you who have a large social following can use your profiles to get paid by brands.
Even if you don’t have lots of followers right now, you can increase your following and engagement metrics to make yourself more appealing to prospective clients.
If you follow the tips and advice I’ve outlined in this guide, you can turn your social media profile into a money-making machine.
How are you leveraging your social media followers to make money as a social influencer?
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