Here’s why top social media influencers can charge millions for a post

In today’s world of online marketing, Google and Facebook might command the majority of attention – and 64 per cent of digital ad revenue – but the best-known users of social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat arguably represent a more valuable investment.

Just like supermodels and top Hollywood stars, the most towering figures among them don’t come cheap – models Kendall Jenner, Cara Delevingne, and Gigi Hadid reportedly receive up to $300,000 USD for a single post, while socialite Kim Kardashian has charged $1 million USD each to promote products and services on social media.

But numbers like that are old hat for Joe Gagliese, co-founder of Vaughan, Ontario-based social media talent agency Viral Nation Inc., who believes the ROI is worth it.

“Every social influencer is different,” he says. “They all have their own niche that they fill, whether it be moms, comedy, or entertainment, but the common thread is they have all built an audience for themselves that they continuously post content for and engage with on a daily basis.”

Those audiences are more receptive to a single message from their favourite influencer than thousands of readers could ever be to an ad, he says.

Viral Nation cofounder and managing partner Joe Gagliese
Viral Nation cofounder and managing partner Joe Gagliese thinks the right message from social media influencers can be more valuable than any ad.

And he should know: through Viral Nation, Gagliese acts both as an agent to more than 100 social media influencers, and runs a marketing service utilizing them.

The company also uses its own in-house analytics software, Viral Nation Lab, to measure engagement, and includes the resulting metrics in its service fees.

“I think the influencer stuff has been emerging to the point where if you compare the value you’re getting to mainstream stuff like TV ad buying, the numbers are kind of tit for tat,” he says.

Gagliese divides social media influencers into three tiers: community influencers, which reach a small but very engaged audience; social media-savvy celebrities who command tens of millions of followers thanks to ad, TV, and movie appearances (think LeBron James or Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson); and the social media stars with millions of followers but less mainstream recognition who bridge the two.

Gagliese estimates that hiring community influencers for a social media campaign can ultimately cost anywhere between $500 and $4,000, while social media stars, depending on the length of the campaign, could charge between $4000 and $25,000 per post, and the largest content producers could charge between $25,000 and $250,000.

(He isn’t surprised by the prospect of models Karlie Kloss, Behati Prinsloo, or Miranda Kerr receiving up to $50,000 USD for a single Instagram post, in other words.)

For companies who might be interested in hiring a community influencer, Gagliese says that agencies such as ViralNation typically charge based on a price-per-engagement model of between, say, 10 and 25 cents per unique view, like, comment, or share – “any action taken by a consumer or one of their followers in response to the content that influencers are putting out,” he says. “It means the audience has taken an extra step to engage with the influencer.”

The payment structure for social media stars is similar, though of course, the prices are higher.

Celebrities, naturally, can be as expensive to hire for Snapchat campaigns as they can be for television.

But the payoff is worth it, he says: Once hired, social media influencers will often use their new assignments as an opportunity to produce creative, organic content, which often means increased goodwill from viewers – and is often included in the price for their services.

“Influencers are called ‘content creators’ for a reason,” Gagliese says. “By hiring an influencer you get to leverage their content for free and access their audience in an organic way – so content and reach are packaged together unlike, say, a YouTube preroll where you’d have to pay for the production, distribution, and reach of the video.”

So if you’re paying a premium for a star like Caleb Natale (below), who doesn’t have a massive audience but creates very high-end content, there’s a good reason for that, he says.

“You’re tapping into customers in a warm, heartfelt way, as opposed to an in-your-face promotion,” Gagliese says. “We see a big bump in ROI between the people who engage with a video an influencer puts out versus people who engage with a preroll.”

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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