The Influencer Business Model: How Lucrative Is It?

In the influencer business model, trendsetting social media users get paid for promoting products and services on their profiles. 

A fashion brand might send a package of clothes to Instagram influencers in exchange for posts showing off their favorite looks. Or a tech company might send their latest gadget to Youtube influencers for an unboxing and review. In both cases, the influencers promote the brand and its marketing goals.

But, some influencers are going further than just posting on social media. Many have created their own product lines or even their own brands. Some influencers have risen from being social media to full-on entrepreneurs. In fact, last month, Forbes hosted a summit in Spain to talk about influencers’ space in and relationship with the business world.

Let’s take a look at two recent extreme examples of success with the influencer business model.

Chiara Ferragni going public?

First, Italian influencer Chiara Ferragni popped up in the news last week with talks that she’ll sell shares of her personal brand to investors. The 33-year-old from Cremona started out blogging about fashion at The Blonde Salad 10 years ago. 

Since then, she’s accumulated some 21.6M followers on Instagram and started her own fashion line. Oh, and she recently had her own documentary, Chiara Ferragni Unposted, on Amazon Prime Video.

Chiara Ferragni promoting sweaters from her personal fashion brand on Instagram.
Chiara Ferragni (center), with sisters Valentina and Francesca, wearing sweaters from @chiaraferragnicollection’s Norwegian capsule.

If Chiara goes public, her brand will allegedly be worth $80M, and could be the first IPO for a brand born strictly of the influencer business model. That is to say, she didn’t first get famous for her work outside of the Internet, she built her company around her personal brand, and she rose to her current status solely through online promotion.

Kim K reveals influencer business model pays better than being on TV

Also in the news recently, Kim Kardashian revealed that she makes more money from being a social media influencer than from her TV show Keeping Up With the Kardashians. The information comes from an interview Kim did with David Letterman for the third season of his Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction

US Weekly reports that when talking about wrapping up KUWTK, Kim said, “We would not be who we are today without Keeping Up With the Kardashians and that’s why we continue to share our lives. Even if, realistically, we can post something on social media and make more than we do a whole season.”

Kim Kardashian promoting Balmain on Instagram.
Kim promoting @balmain in an Instagram post.

Kim allegedly makes between $300-500K per post, and sometimes up to $1M, according to US Weekly. At this rate, with just a few posts a year, Kim can make more on social media than the $4.5M the magazine says she makes in one season of TV. Of course, keep in mind that Kim has 190M followers on Instagram and 1.73M subscribers on YouTube.

Conclusion

So just how lucrative is the influencer business model? Well, if you strike right and have a bit of luck, very lucrative. The bottom line is that the influencer business model exists as a path to financial success. 

The influencer marketing industry is valued at $9.7 billion, which means the interest and investment is there for those who know how to look for it. As an influencer, you might not make the same as top influencers like Ferragni or Kardashian. But, maybe you can support a passion or make a living. 

And for brands, remember that you don’t have to spend a million dollars to make an impact with influencer marketing. Don’t forget to check out nano or micro influencers. They can get you good results without breaking the bank.

Kate works on the Marketing team at Heepsy as a content writer. When she's not online she can be found traveling or trying out a new recipe.
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