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Make Money

How to make money from social media

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Stop that aimless late-night scrolling and learn how to make some actual cash from your TikTok addiction...

woman with phone in front of social media icons

Credit: De Repente (foreground), Miss Ty (background) - Shutterstock

Research has shown that the average person spends around two and a half hours a day on social media – but if you're a social media addict, you'll likely spend much more time trawling through the 'gram.

How about you use all that dedication to scrolling to actually make some money? Social media is quite a lucrative business if you know how to play it right and you're prepared to put in the effort.

You can make money on Instagram with just 1,000 followers as a micro-influencer if you know how to approach it. But, of course, the more followers you have, the easier it will be.

If you're looking to make money on TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat or any other channel, here's everything you need to know...

For some super easy ways to earn cash online, check out our guide to making money from watching videos.

How many followers do you need to make money on social media?

Does having more followers mean you'll make more money? The answer to this is both yes AND no.

Exposure to the most successful influencers on Instagram and TikTok has led a lot of people to assume you need hundreds of thousands of followers to be able to make any money on social media. This simply isn't true.

Brands are increasingly seeking quality over quantity – this means they would rather pay for a smaller audience of engaged or niche followers. They no longer just want expensive celebrities to advertise their products, they're deliberately looking for ordinary people and 'influencers'.

For example, if you can prove that the vast majority of your followers are UK university students aged 18–24, you've instantly got your selling point – even if you don't have an absolutely huge audience. In other words, it's not a question of how many Instagram followers you need to make money, but who those followers are.

How many followers on Instagram do you need to get paid?

That being said, you do still need to have a fairly decent amount of followers. No one's going to pay you anything just to make Instagram reels or TikToks that only your friends will watch. But you only really need to reach around 1,000 followers to be able to start making a small amount of money.

How much money can you make on social media?

instagram like icons

Credit: Alex Gontar - Shutterstock

When it comes to making money on Instagram, blogs and social media, the sky is the limit.

For many people, this is literally their full-time job, giving them the freedom and independence to work for themselves with a comfortable salary.

You may have even heard of the famous (or infamous, depending on what you read...) YouTube and TikTok houses, where creators live together in a mansion and spend their days generating content that makes them some serious money.

However, building up a social media profile and audience to that level takes a huge amount of dedication and effort – something that you probably won't have time for when studying for a full-time degree.

But with brands generally paying between £10 and £2,000 per Instagram post, depending on the number of followers you have, there's still ample opportunity to make some spare cash on the weekends.

If you do manage to make it big, Instagrammers with over 75,000 followers could be taking home over £100,000 a year! That's a huge amount of money for doing something you already do all the time anyway.

At the moment, Instagram and TikTok are all the rage and can bring in some serious money, but trends change and they might not be so profitable this time next year. It's important to stay on top of any changes in the industry and be quick to respond to any new platforms which pop up.

We spoke to Charlie Watson who created the running blog, The Runner Beans, while studying to be a Dietitian at university. She is now fully qualified and has almost 75,000 followers on Instagram!

Charlie WatsonOnce you have a following, I think it's quite easy to make money from your channels as there are plenty of brands that want to align themselves with bloggers/influencers.

However, she has also talked openly on her blog about how making money this way isn't always as glamorous as people think it will be.

I battle with PR companies to be paid for work. I then have to chase to actually get the money once I've done the work.

It can be scary when you're relying on the money to pay rent etc., and it's why I've worked as a nanny the entire time I've been at uni, to ensure I have guaranteed income alongside the blog.

How to find your niche on social media

There are literally thousands of people out there on the social media side-hustle game, so if you want to make it, you're going to have to do something different.

That doesn't mean you have to do something crazy, but it does mean you need to find your specific niche.

Have a think about what it is you're passionate or particularly knowledgeable about. You're going to have to dedicate a lot of time to the subject, so make sure it's something you're going to enjoy writing about.

Once you've got the general area, try and narrow it down to a specific angle that hasn't been done before.

For example, if you're interested in travel, you could focus on making budget travel orientated content, student travel, rail travel or eco-travelling. A generic travel blog is going to get lost in the noise unless you have something to set it apart.

Or, if you love reading, you could try to make money on BookTok (the book-focused community on TikTok).

Another option is to try making money through studygrams – Instagram accounts filled with pictures of your revision notes!

Either way, when it comes to figuring out how to make money on Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat (or any social network), checking out some of the thousands of genres and subgenres should get your creative juices flowing.

But don't fall into the trap of going too niche. It needs to be a topic that will generate conversations and content ideas for years to come, so there needs to be a lot of depth to it.

Make sure to check out the competition to see what they're doing and where the gaps in the market are.

Check that there's the opportunity to monetise too – are people willing to spend money in this area? Are there products available for them to buy?

Building up a strong base of followers takes some serious time and effort, but is it a better job to juggle alongside your studies than a traditional part-time job? Charlie says that it can definitely be tricky at times.

During exam time I find it incredibly tough. I am on placement at a hospital for 12 weeks as part of my course, and I'm definitely struggling. But most of the time, it's an easy balance.

How to get more followers on social media

instagram followers on phone

Credit: PixieMe – Shutterstock

Ok, so you might not need hundreds of thousands of followers to get started, but you are going to need a fair few if you want to make some decent cash out of this.

There's no quick and easy way to build up your following on social media – it takes some serious hard work and dedication. Charlie from The Runner Beans says it takes at least a year.

It took me a long time but I know influencers who have grown hugely in a year or so. I think it depends on your niche and how much work you're willing to put in. I'd say two to three years is average.

But if you are looking to increase your audience on social media, there are some tried and tested tactics that can help speed the process up...

10 best ways to get more followers on Instagram

  1. Post content consistently  Make sure you're posting Instagram content on a daily basis. If you only post sporadically, your followers will quickly lose interest.
  2. Link up your Instagram account to Facebook and Twitter – There are some great apps out there, like IFTTT, which will allow you to link up your social media accounts automatically. So, if you post a photo on Instagram, it'll automatically post to your Twitter and Facebook (as an actual photo, not a link!). This will save you time and keep your posting consistent across platforms.
  3. Run a competition to increase follower interaction  This can be difficult to do because you need a prize, but if you can get your hands on something either by a little investment or by using your contacts, they're a great way of getting new Instagram followers. Just ask people to like/tag/share a post and watch your reach spread.
  4. Interact with brands and influencers  People often forget about the 'social' part of social media. Reach out to other people in your niche, like their posts, comment and share, and they'll likely return the favour. If you manage to build up a strong enough relationship, you can organise collaborations such as guest blogging on their site, appearing in their TikToks or even doing social media takeovers.
  5. Use relevant hashtags to attract new followers – They might seem a bit uncool now, but hashtags are a great way of connecting with people who are interested in a similar niche. Do some research into which hashtags are most popular and when, or even create your own and encourage your followers to use them when sharing certain posts.
  6. Add geotags to your posts – Especially on Instagram, people often search via location, and this creates another route for people to find your account.
  7. Use Instagram analytics to monitor activity – It's important to pause every now and then and take stock of what has done well on your social media accounts (and what hasn't). Sites like Fanpage Karma and Squarelovin (Instagram only) will provide data on which of your posts have been most popular. You can use this to identify what content tends to work best, and the best time to post it.
  8. Share videos and post stories on Instagram and Facebook – The thought of recording yourself might seem slightly terrifying, but people like to see the 'human' behind the page, and your followers will engage with you more if you can talk to them directly. You could upload a video to YouTube, or post stories on Instagram and Facebook which is a quick and effective way of doing it.
  9. Paid advertising posts – Although it is possible to build up your audience organically, you can try doing some paid advertising to give yourself a quick boost. Try paying for a boost on a Facebook post that is doing particularly well, or investigate Google Adwords for some smaller, niche terms.
  10. Quality personalised content – At the end of the day, followers will be attracted to your account if you're offering them something they're genuinely interested in. Avoid being too promotional and tell some good stories, and they're bound to keep coming.

If you're looking for inspiration, check out Save the Student on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok to see how we do it!

Don't be lured in by the idea of 'buying' followers as a quick fix to boost numbers – they'll most likely be fake accounts and of no use at all in the long run.

How to monetise your Instagram, Twitter and Facebook

There are three ways you can use your social media channels to make money: brand promotion, affiliate marketing and creating online resources.

Promoting brands and marketing

One of the most common ways to make money with social media, particularly on channels like Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and blogs, is by promoting brands or their products.

There are a few different websites and apps out there which make it really easy for you to do this, and here are two of the best:

  1. TRIBE Influencer On this app, you choose from a selection of briefs that will outline exactly what kind of post the brand is looking for. You create the post, set your price and submit it for approval. The downside to this is that your posts can be declined – but at least you can get stuck in regardless of how many followers you have.
  2. TAKUMI – This app is specifically designed for promoting things on Instagram. They tag you with interests that match your feed (food, travel, etc.), and along with your age, gender and location, use this to match you to relevant campaigns.

Don't be afraid to contact brands yourself, too – especially smaller, local businesses who might not be signed up for these services. A local restaurant might be willing to offer you a free meal in return for a review, for example, but you'll only find out if you contact them.

Just beware of over-promoting, as your followers will switch off if they're bombarded with adverts every day. Try building a social media posting schedule to prevent this.

Running blogger Charlie also recommends exercising caution when choosing what you're going to promote.

My advice would be to be picky about the brands you work with – you want to maintain your authenticity and reputation!
Fancy giving YouTube a go? We've got loads of tips on how you can use your channel to make money.

Use affiliate links

Affiliate marketing is a form of passive income that's similar to promoting a brand, except you need your followers to click on a link and make a purchase in order to earn you some commission.

For example, if you're promoting a hotel, you need your followers to click your link and make a booking at the hotel – then you'll earn a share of the profit.

How does affiliate marketing work?

Use networks like Rakuten Advertising and Awin to find affiliate programmes that work for you. They have hundreds of thousands of products to choose from, but you obviously need to find something that's relevant to your subject area.

Make sure to do your research beforehand so you know exactly what you're going to be promoting, and that you're comfortable associating yourself with that brand.

And don't forget to check the T&Cs, as some brands have specific rules on how you can, and can't, promote their products.

You can also try becoming an Amazon Associate, allowing you to earn commission through affiliate links for promoting Amazon products.

There are over a million products to choose from, but commission rates vary greatly across different product categories.

For example, you make 1% commission for video consoles, and up to 12% for things like clothes, shoes and jewellery.

To find out more, see our full guide to affiliate marketing.

Increasing the click-through rate on your posts

Once you've got the links, you just need to get people to click on them and buy the products. The key is to not spam your followers with links but embed the links within high-quality content such as reviews.

Remember your followers will only trust you if you're balanced – only promote what you genuinely believe in and make sure to highlight any negatives too.

You can also use affiliate links in things like banner ads, emails or as part of any content you produce. If you're trying to make money from TikTok, Instagram or Snapchat, your options for affiliate marketing are a little more limited, but you could try placing a link in your bio or, where available, as a link button in your story.

Just remember that it's all about trust, and your followers will only buy into your recommendations if you provide genuine reviews.

Make sure it's clear to your audience when you use affiliate links by highlighting it as an ad. Not only is this good practice, but it's also part of the guidelines recommended by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Non-fiction resources and digital products

Selling non-fiction resources online is great if you've already got knowledge in a niche or specific subject area, but it doesn't happen overnight.

You have to establish yourself as an authority in a subject, either by creating a website or social media channel, and you can then start selling your eBook, email series or audio/video course.

In this case, the quality of your followers is definitely more important than the quantity. You want people who will engage with you on the subject and will invest in you enough to buy your products.

There are a whole load of sites out there designed to help people sell their products online.

Services like Gumroad, Sellfy and Udemy allow you to set up your own 'shop' to sell products: they'll deal with the payment process, delivery of the product (providing it's digital) and the marketing, so all you have to do is focus on producing really high-quality stuff.

Just be aware that sites like these will take a chunk of the profit you make from each sale, which can potentially be as much as 10%.

It's also a good idea to try and capture people's details like their email addresses when they buy from you. This means you can send them emails promoting future products and content. Just remember that people will need to opt in to receive marketing emails.

You can also try offering a freebie to entice a new customer in. Give them a free chapter of your eBook in return for their email address and, if they're impressed, they'll be likely to buy more products from you in future.

These are just three of the main ways you can make money from your social media and blogging, but be creative and think outside the box – there are loads of ways of doing it.

We have a step-by-step guide talking you through how to become an influencer.

Jessica Murray

WRITTEN BY Jessica Murray

As an Editor of Save the Student, Jessica Murray has written extensively on student money news and money-saving tips. She was co-host of our podcast, No More Beans, and is now a journalist at the Guardian. Her tips and insights range from fun guides for freshers, to information for graduates entering the workplace.
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