How to make money from social media
Stop that aimless late night scrolling and learn how to make some actual cash from your social media addiction...
Research has shown that the average person spends around two hours a day on social media – but if you're a social media addict you'll likely spend much more!
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 might even become an Insta-star like Cardi B!
In fact, according to Instagram influencer app Takumi, with just 1,000 followers you could be making £4,160 a year by posting twice a week.
So if you fancy turning your social media obsession into a handy little side-hustle, here’s everything you need to know…
What’s on this page?
Do you need lots of followers to make money from social media?
The answer to this is both yes and no.
A lot of people 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 wares, 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.
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 engage with your mates. But you only really need to reach around 1,000 followers to be able to start making a small amount of money.
Keep reading for 10 ways to boost your following...
How much money can you make from social media?
When it comes to making money from social media and blogging, 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.
However, building up a social media profile and audience to that level takes a serious amount of dedication and effort, something that you probably won't have time for when studying a full-time degree.
But with brands paying between £40 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 crazy amount of money for doing something you already do all the time anyway, right?
At the moment Instagram is all the rage and can bring in some serious money, but trends change and it 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.
Once 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
There are literally hundreds 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 completely bonkers, but it does mean you need to find your specific niche.
Have a think about what it is you’re passionate about or particularly knowledgeable in. 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 budget travel, 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.
But don’t fall into the trap of going too niche either. It needs to be a topic which 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 opportunity to monetise too – are people willing to spend money in this area? Are there products available for them to buy?
How do you get more followers on social media?
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 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 2-3 years is average.
10 ways to boost your social media following
- Be consistent - Whatever you do, make sure you’re doing it on a daily basis. If you only post sporadically, your followers will quickly lose interest.
- Link your social media accounts - 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 (as an actual photo, not a link!). This will save you time and keep your posting consistent across platforms.
- Run a competition - 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 followers. Just ask people to like/tag/share a post and watch your reach spread.
- Interact with others - 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 or social media takeovers.
- Use hashtags - They might seem a bit uncool now, but hashtags are a great way of connecting with people who are interested in a similar niche. Use tools like hashtagify.me to find out which hashtags are most popular and when, or even create your own and encourage your followers to use it when sharing certain posts.
- Try geotagging - Especially on Instagram, people often search via location, and this creates another route for people to find your account.
- Use analytics - 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.
- Use video - 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 can use YouTube or Facebook for this, or Instagram stories are a quick and effective way of doing it.
- Paid advertising - 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 which is doing particularly well, or investigate Google Adwords for some smaller, niche terms.
- Quality 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.
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 thinks 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.
Ways to monetise your social media accounts
One of the most common ways to make money with social media, particularly on channels like Instagram, YouTube 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:
On this app the focus is on the quality of the content rather than the number of your followers.
You choose from a selection of briefs, which will outline exactly what kind of post the brand is looking for and any things they want included such as a hashtag or discount code. You create the post (on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram), set your price and submit it for approval.
Of course the downside to this is that you might spend ages creating the perfect post only for it to be declined – but at least you can get stuck in regardless of how many followers you have.
This app is specifically designed for promoting on Instagram. All you need is a public profile, over 50 posts and at least 1,000 followers to get started.
They tag you with interests which match your feed (food, travel etc), and along with your age, gender and location, use this to match you to relevant campaigns.
Also don't be afraid to contact brands yourself, especially smaller, local businesses who might not be signed up to 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!
Use affiliate links
Affiliate marketing is a form of passive income that's similar to promoting a brand, except you specifically need your followers to click on a link and make a sale to earn commission.
For example, if you’re promoting a hotel, you need your followers to click the 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 Clickbank and Affiliate Window 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 Ts&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’s over a million products to choose from, but commission rates vary greatly across different product categories. For example, you make 1% commission for home entertainment and mobile phones, and 10% for things like clothes, shoes and jewellery.
Getting those clicks
Once you’ve got the links, now 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. Just remember that it’s all about trust, and your followers will only buy into your recommendation if you provide genuine reviews.
Create information products
This 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 via a blog or other social media channel, and you can then start selling products such as an 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 the sites will take a chunk of the profit you make from each sale, which can 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.
You can also try offering a freebie to entice a new customer in. Give them a free eBook in return for their email address and if they’re impressed, they’ll be likely to buy more products off 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!
Don't forget, if you're looking for other ways to make money at university, we've got loads of ideas here.