For top celebrities like Kylie Jenner and Ariana Grande, a single Instagram post endorsing shoes or products can earn them hundreds of thousands of dollars. But as advertisers increasingly turn to 'influencers' to mix promotional posts in their social media feeds, people with just a tiny fraction of Grande's 168 million Instagram following are also cashing in.
So-called micro or nano-influencers with as few as 10,000 followers can earn about $100 for a single product post, according to social media management platform Hootsuite. The advantage for brands working with such companies is that smaller influencers tend to get higher rates of likes and other engagement from their followers than do mega-stars like Cristiano Ronaldo.
Janese Watson, a 23-year-old entrepreneur and Instagram nano-influencer is among those trying to capitalize on the trend. The St. Louis-based Watson has 3,000 followers and has begun receiving free products from companies in return for promoting them on her account. She's also recently launched her own Christian-themed clothing line, empowearment, which she promotes on social media.
"The most challenging part to being an influencer is being rejected," she says. "Not everything is sunshine and butterflies." Watson spoke with Global Journalist's Kasey Baiter about the challenges and opportunities of turning a social media hobby into a business. Below, an edited version of their conversation:
Watson: It was kind of weird. I first started seeing it with celebrities and thought: “Wow, this is something I want to do.”
It just grew from there. I started building an aesthetic, which for me meant posting similar and relevant content, photos with similar color tones... This is what helped me get noticed and set myself apart.
Watson: I have been contacted by companies and I have chosen to politely decline. The contracts are binding and it would result in me being restricted to one specific sector in the market. The contracts require me to not like, follow or be seen with certain products and I just don’t want that weight on my shoulders this early in my career.
Watson: Random Instagram accounts send me products to put on my Instagram for marketing purposes and in return I send them products to put on their Instagram for marketing. I do not get paid cash for doing that yet, but my long-term goal is to eventually get paid. I know someone who makes $45,000 a month in this industry. Everything is being ran by social media so the size is only getting larger by day.
Watson: I launched my clothing brand, empowearment, that is all about building others up and starting a movement of positivity. So far it has been received well, and my boyfriend and I, who started the company, have almost sold out of our first round of merchandise. It’s been great. I’m glad that I haven’t partnered with any other companies in the past, clothing brands specifically, because I would have had to wait for that contract to end before starting my business.
GJ: Are their drawbacks to doing this? What is the most difficult/challenging part of being an influencer?
Watson: The most challenging part to being an influencer is being rejected. Not everything is sunshine and butterflies. There are a lot of people in the world that walk in hate instead of love and their job is to shut down positive people. My main challenge is dealing with the people that only want to bring me down.