It’s been over a decade since YouTube and other social media platforms spawned the nebulous influencer class. But despite the seeming lucrativeness of the “profession,” influencer economics are actually a pretty stark boom-or-bust scenario, according to a recent article from High Snobiety.
Breaking down a decade-long academic study, the story notes that “96.5 percent of YouTubers don’t make enough annual ad revenue to reach the U.S. federal poverty line” — $12,140 per year — and that only the top three percent of the “most-viewed YouTube channels bring in more than $16,800 a year in advertising revenue,” which is less than most minimum wage jobs will net someone.
Instagram, on the other hand, can be insanely lucrative for particularly influential influencers — those with “100,000 followers on Instagram can charge around [$2,700] per picture, while celebrity influencers with between four million and 20 million followers can charge [$6,700-$17,500].”
That said, while the study did find multiple influencers that are pulling in six-figure incomes, it found even more folks who are just desperately trying to keep up the appearance of their online persona. “My Instagram account has 340,000 followers,” one prominent blogger observed, “but I’ve never made $340,000 in my life collectively.”
Ultimately, it seems for influencers to really make the most money, they need to essentially turn themselves into a store. “Influencers would probably be better off focusing on selling merchandise rather than relying on ad revenue from content,” which allows those same influencers to “have higher earning potential than a commercial model.”
“What this reveals,” the story posits, “is how social media has helped to corporatize the individual. Models are fundamentally just workers, exchanging their particular form of labor and talent for a wage. Influencers, meanwhile, are more like companies than employees.”
You can read more about it at High Snobiety.