The Secrets and Mysteries of Influencer Status
Last week I received my first offer for “sponsored content” for an incredible sum of $50 through a teeth whitening startup. It made me curious about the industry.
There are three types of influencers. Hubspot breaks them down from Macro (100k+), Micro (10k-100k) and Nano (<10k). Ultimately, it’s meant to segment audience reach, niche, and engagement.
For many of us, we cringe at the terms “content creator” or “influencer,” but this is an industry built by Millennials and Gen Z. So like it or not, it’s here to stay and grow…
In 2022, the influencer industry was valued at $16.4 billion
72% of Gen Z and Millennials follow at least one influencer
89% of marketers plan to increase their influencer marketing budget
Millennials trust influencers over celebrities to promote products
Marketers prefer working with microinfluencers
Macroinfluencers on TikTok average 35k views per post (2022)
On average, business earn $6.50 in revenue per $1 spent on influencer marketing
The average price per post for influencers 1M+ followers was just over $1,034 on TikTok and $1,200 on Instagram
Influencer marketing in 2022 surpassed $4 billion in total spent, but this doesn’t include free products, services, or compensation outside of cash.
Shopify shares more stats that may interest you.
Life as an Influencer
I’m native of Michigan and studied computer science at University of Michigan. My first software engineering role was at Amazon in Seattle. After cutting my teeth there for a couple years found myself more interested in roles outside of coding. Today, I’m a sales engineer for a smaller company and love what I do.
How did you get started on TikTok?
Truthfully, after Amazon I felt the urge to explore old hobbies like video editing. A friend of mine told me to download TikTok (had no clue what it was) and began with a niche audience like Indian Americans that I could relate to on broader scale.
When did you gain popularity?
In 2021, I began to see crazy view counts and traction. I remember being at a family wedding where I got what I would define as “mixed feedback.” Some people have negative views about social media others find it as entertainment.
I focused on very niche but highly relatable content that hit home for the right people. Since then, I’ve pivoted many times across comedy in corporate world, software engineering, dating humor, cooking vids, food reviews, and more. So…incredibly all over the place. This summer I began to cross into video counts in the millions.
What are your key takeaways?
Stay authentic and be who you are. Putting yourself out there is easier said than done. It’s a unique place to be in where I work a typical 9-5 like most, but have videos with millions of likes. Just think about that…millions of people seeing, hearing, sharing, and creating opinions on you.
Varun’s Next Steps
I’ve begun sponsored content with startups like Jam.dev, but I don’t create roadmaps or have much structure. I think it’s time to organize, go back to the drawing board, and think of how I can turn this into a business. Right now, I mostly do it for fun and laughs.
What do you do for a living?
I started in engineering and spent time in investment banking, but now I’m a content creator full-time.
I really disliked my job working in investment banking. The money and prestige were great, but when I envisioned my future, I DID NOT want to become some IB/PE MD. In general, there weren't too many senior people in the industry who had a life I "envied".
Since I grew up during the golden era of Youtube (2009 - 2014), I was heavily influenced by it and wanted to try out content creation myself. So in January of 2021, I quit my job cold turkey and started posting content on TikTok. Quitting my IB job without a solid gameplan was by far the hardest decision I've ever made in my life.
How have you begun to monetize?
I started monetizing my account with the occasional brand deals around 9 months into creating content, I think I had around 200k followers at that time. However, brand deals were always inconsistent for me (and for many creators).
How did you find consistent monetization?
My real form of monetization came early this year when I began to work with startup companies by building out their social media presence. Here are a couple of accounts I've built: jenni.ai, pdf.ai, shop deft, Jenni 2. I also manage influencer marketing campaigns for a small group of companies such as the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel.
My goal was to hit 100k followers, everything after that has just felt like a bonus. I try my best to not turn my personal brand into a full-time job, I find it limits my creativity and impacts my mental health as I become too fixated on the views and impressions (as those metrics matter a lot when negotiating brand deals). Hence that is why I found other monetization methods.
Overall Content is still fun for me, but some days I dislike it, while other days I love it. Either way, it's something I would probably keep doing even if it doesn't pay me.
What’s your posting history?
I’ve been doing a bunch of stuff for 3 years now. Started with straight-to-camera thoughts, mixed with duets, but really just trying to figure out the app.
When did it begin to take off?
My girlfriend gave some suggestions for one off skits and boom that video had 9 million hits in the first few days.
What have you learned or what would you share for others?
Authenticity - not just for you but your audience
Relatability - depending on your niche find the common ground
Consistency - it’s a grind, I post 5-6 new sketches a week since May
Experiment - get outside your comfort zone
I genuinely enjoy building characters that we have all seen throughout our lives. Maybe it’s my married female audience who love my inpersonations of nightmare first dates or New Yorkers who laugh at my NYC Deli skits. This is what I enjoy and now trying to grow my Instagram presence through my TikTok followers.