How Much Do Social Media Influencers Make?
Browse through the forums on Linus Tech Tips for more than a minute and you'll often see the question "How Much is Linus Worth???" or the claim "Linus is a MILLIONARE". While Linus is a giant in his own right -- his channel Linus Tech Tips has nearly 9.4 million subscribers -- is he really, personally, a millionaire? In fact, is it possible, as a social media influencer, to make a living wage?
While most social media influencers would guard their income streams and granular traffic data judiciously, IZEA, an operator of an online marketplace connecting brands and publishers with influential content creators recently released a report tracking the value of an influencer post over the last 13 years.
What Social Media Influencers Make in 2019
- A Facebook Status Update has risen 49.4x from $8 to $395 on average.
- A YouTube Video has risen 16x from $420 to $6,700 on average.
- A Twitter Status Update has risen 14.6x from $29 to $422 on average.
- An Instagram Photo has risen 12.3x from $134 to $1,643 on average.
- A Blog Post has risen 3.54x from $407 to $1,442 on average.
Trends in the Social Media Influencer Industry
These costs per post roughly follow the trend line of user engagement on the various social media platforms. According to benchmarking by social media consultancy Quintly, Instagram leads the pack in user engagement -- people that actually interact with ads as opposed to passively view them -- when compared to Facebook or Twitter. Per Quintly, video posts receive up to 49% higher interactions than still images.
The trends IZEA has reported on broadly track the continued shift away in spending from traditional media to social media. They also track the effectiveness of different mediums. IZEA notes that the dramatic jump in the value of Instagram has come from the introduction of Instagram stories: influencers are able to dramatically increase what they charge advertisers by bundling together stories (which are attracting more eyeballs) and still frames. Stories get much better engagement than singular posts.
According to Quintly, without a doubt, Instagram is where the growth is. According to the company's 2019 benchmarking study, the Instagram influencers it used in its sample pool grew their follower audience between 9.4%-16% during the first half of 2019.
But the popularity of the influencer industry is also spawning something new: the removal of 'Likes' on Instagram. By keeping data about the popularity and engagement of influencers private, brands would have to bypass influencers and go right to Instagram directly to broker deals. This won't destroy the industry by any means, rather simply give Instagram a way to get a cut.
What Does All of This Mean for the PC Hardware Media Industry?
As the value of social media influencers grow, the temptation from the PC hardware industry is to force these new forms of media onto those that are supposed to objectively cover the industry and hold it accountable.
A friend has just shown me Computex coverage invoices from popular YouTubers. If you think you are being shown interesting hardware because it is interesting, then you are very wrong 💰💰💰💰https://t.co/MBWnuU92p4
— VideoCardz.com (@VideoCardz) June 13, 2018
Imagine this: Why would a manufacturer stick to the old advertising model of running banner ads on a website (when 40% of users surfing the web on a PC use adblockers) when they could instead pay for an advertisement via social media channels that will have a far better engagement ratio? After all, even if the intentions of a YouTuber are noble, the glamour shots of hardware at a booth can blur the line between advertorial and editorial.
In 2014, Eurogamer wrote this about the blurred lines of YouTubers in the gaming world:
Without a dividing wall between editorial and advertising, there is greater danger of coercion. It's an issue that all media publishers face as we enter an era where the majority of content is supported entirely by advertising (which, in turn, exerts greater power). The difference is that YouTube is too young to have known anything different.
Still, YouTube has rapidly moved from a breeding ground for talented young broadcasters who might never have had the chance to step in front of camera to a slick, commercial vehicle. The most prominent YouTubers are not only presenters, they are also powerful businessmen. The responsibility that comes with this power is simply to be truthful, lawful and open with their audience.
The Eurogamer piece names a number of cases where some well-known YouTubers have blurred the lines between advertorial and editorial. VideoCardz tweet from 2018 caused a storm throughout the techtuber community with accusations flying and stern responses being sent back (and the occasional threat of a lawsuit). To be sure, to date there's no concrete evidence that suggests wrongdoing or lack of disclosure on the part of any well-known YouTubers covering the PC hardware space.
But as the marketplace shifts from reviewers to influencers the temptation remains, even for something not as blatant as an advertorial. Think about this: if you earn a commission from Amazon for anyone that buys a product after reading your review do you really want to trash a flawed product? Or might you hold back?