By Dan Kieran, co-founder and CEO of Unbound
Particularly amongst Generation Z, the first generation to grow up with the internet from day one, becoming an online content creator and influencer is a popular career choice. It is potentially lucrative as some influencer get highly paid if they have highly-relevant content and followers. However, there are surprisingly few ways for influencers and creators to monetise their audiences outside of professional endorsement and ad revenues.
Here are some ideas for you on how you can monetise your social media followers, while keeping control of your personal brand.
Offer exclusive content
When people start to follow your content avidly, they’ll want as much of it as they can get. For example, if you write a popular blog, you’ll be able to put some articles behind a paywall, just as many newspapers and new media organisations do. This means that only paid subscribers will be able to view certain content. YouTubers and podcasters might also offer exclusive, early access, or bonus content on their website that only paid backers can access.
You can also offer exclusive content via your own personalised app, which you can build for free using templates from a range of creators. If you have a certain expertise and your content is educational, you could even run your own paid course. Naturally, this will require a significant amount of time, effort, and extra time, cost and resources.
Another way to offer exclusive content is through live events. You could hold a physical event, although this will require a lot of logistical planning and extra cost. It would also rely on your fan’s dedication and, of course, their geographical location. The most logical way to run a live event is to hold it where all of your fans can access it: online. By holding some form of online event, such as a live Q&A, demonstration, performance, or other event, fans will buy their own access link and join you.
When you’ve developed a personal brand, using Instagram or YouTube to build an audience, you’ll already know how important a design aesthetic is for your content. And how important authenticity is to your fans. You can create merchandise in creative ways that enables your online fans to reflect their online interests in the real world.
You can put your branding on obvious things like T-shirts, hats, mugs, posters, tote bags but your fans will want something unique. Something other fans of yours will recognise in the real world. When our authors crowdfund their books on Unbound, they offer a range of different merch and other rewards that readers can buy to support the publication of their book. This stuff – particularly exclusive merch – is incredibly popular. The more absurd it seems the better as long as it’s authentic and meaningful to your work.
Never has this been so aptly demonstrated than with popular YouTube comedian, Stuart Ashen, when he offered a ‘box of mystery tat’ as part of his Unbound crowdfunding campaign for his book Attack of the Flickering Skeletons. He sold three boxes of junk at £250 apiece. Of course, what he put in those boxes was not ‘junk’ or ‘tat’. It was carefully curated and put together with huge care and attention to give his super fans something hilarious and unique.
Collate your content into a book
Every successful content creator has a plentiful supply of great content and supportive followers. Whether you’re a popular podcaster, a YouTube sensation or a respected blogger, years of activity will mean that you’ll have gathered an impressive arsenal of media assets and access to the people who love to consume it.
Publishing a book can be an excellent way to collate the best of your work to-date into a physical form, offer it to your fans, and make some well-deserved income from countless hours of unpaid content creation.
Publishing a book gives you the opportunity to control the narrative so you can keep your work true to your online image. But you’ll need to find a publisher who shares your vision or publish the book yourself.
Finding a publisher is much easier said than done, with many looking solely at which titles have sold well in the past. And chances are you’re not offering an alluring crime thriller or a celebrity biography. The likelihood is that you’ve built your following by offering your audience something that mainstream popular culture has missed. Therefore, it’s most likely that publishing the book yourself will be the best route to go. The time it takes to tout your book around the publishers could be better spent getting on with it yourself.
However, publishing a book costs money, so you’ll either have to find or make the initial money required first, or go directly to your fans.
The obvious solution to funding your book without having the initial capital to do so, and without losing creative control, is to crowdfund your book. This way, you’ll be able to produce something you truly care about, follows your vision, and will in turn appeal to your followers.
Traditional publishing is also limited by the public expectation of what a book should cost – typically up to £10 for a paperback and £20 for a hardback. However, by crowdfunding your book, you can set your own price range, and also offer merch.
For example, video games social media influencer, Dan Hardcastle, raised over £300k for his book, Fuck Yeah, Video Games, on Unbound.
We’ve even developed a machine learning algorithm, using social media engagement as a key variable, that helps us to tell, with a high degree of accuracy, how much a book is likely to raise before an author crowdfunds it.
Become an Amazon influencer
The retail giant has recently embraced the power of influencers, launching an influencer program for content creators on all the major social platforms to earn money by recommending products on Amazon. Influencers can make their own Amazon page and recommend products of their choice. They then get a personalised link to share with their followers and earn a commission from the sale of qualifying products sold via the link.
YouTube and Twitter influencers will get a real time denial or approval, while those on Instagram and Facebook will be manually vetted by Amazon and get a response within five days. This is a good option for those who don’t want to endorse any product or company. So, providing you don’t have an issue with Amazon itself, you’ll have control over which products you endorse.
The downside is that you have to shift a huge amount of product to make relatively small amounts of money.
As you share your message with the world, delivering powerful content to your followers I hope you’ll make the living, or raise the funds you deserve from all your hard work.
About the author
Dan Kieran is the Co-Founder and CEO of Unbound, a crowdfunding publisher that combines data science and an award-winning publishing brand with an online marketplace. Readers pre-order books through pledging, Unbound publishes and sells them, giving authors a 50/50 profit split and access to an engaged community.
The publisher’s 200k users from 195 countries have pledged £7m+ to fund 436 books to-date, including bestsellers like Letters of Note and The Good Immigrant.
By predicting future trends, Unbound funds books more quickly and reaches instant, data-driven acquisition decisions. The best example involves a video games influencer, who raised £300k on Unbound, £100k of which in a single day.
Instagrammer with 100,000 following could charge up to $2,000 for a post: https://www.ft.com/content/fc964254-155f-11e7-b0c1-37e417ee6c76
Video Games influencer, Dan Hardcastle, raised over £300k for his book on Unbound: https://unbound.com/books/nerdcubed/
Stuart Ashen sold three boxes of ‘mystery tat’ at £250 a piece during his book’s crowdfunding campaign: https://unbound.com/books/moreashens/
Business Insider Amazon Influencer Program: https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-is-ramping-up-its-influencer-business-2019-1?r=US&IR=T