Do Quit your Day Job: the Social Media Influencers that are Making Millions, One Post at a Time

By Sean Thornberry (LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram)

It seems like there’s not an hour that goes by without someone posting a multi-level marketing scheme or some affiliate product on social media. I’ve become so accustomed to these posts that I’m subconsciously scrolling past without giving a second thought to what they contain. This new trend isn’t without merit however. Companies have jumped on board with their own business accounts, and we’re now seeing the emergence of influencers and entrepreneurs marketing products and services over social media feeds.

Social media was initially intended with the simple purpose of staying in touch with your friends, but along with everything else in this world, social media evolved into big business. According to the data collection website, Statista.com, investments in social media advertising worldwide was forecasted at nearly $31 billion last year, with over 97% of the global share of businesses using social media marketing. Generating income through social media has now become people’s full-time jobs. I’ve looked at some of this industry’s highest earning influencers, on various social media platforms, and how they’ve been able to capitalize on this new phenomena to make their millions and garner fame.

Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg – YouTube (PewDiePie)

The now infamous Swedish YouTube blogger has amassed a serious following on the video platform. At the time of writing there are over 50 million subscribers to his channel, racking up almost 15 billion views on his videos since 2010. A self-proclaimed comedian and video producer, PewDiePie (Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg’s username) has been the most subscribed user on YouTube since 2013. Regularly uploading commentary on video game commentary and comedic rants, he’s gained a cult like following all over the world. As a result, Time Magazine named him as one of “The World’s 100 Most Influential People” in 2016, and his “Oprah effect” on the masses have resulted in sales boosts for the many products he endorses on his channel.

Net Worth: $20 million

 

Chiara Ferragni – Instagram (@ChiaraFerragni)

This Italian model started the lifestyle and fashion blog, “The Blonde Salad”, in 2009. With the rapid growth of Instagram, Ferragni capitalized on reaching a greater audience by creating her own personal account on the site. Despite “The Blonde Salad” accounting for 288k followers on Instagram, Chiara’s own account has amassed nearly 8.5 million followers, showcasing constant content of her lifestyle and fashion interests. Through her new found fame she’s been able to collaborate with many high-end fashion designers including Steve Madden, Christian Dior, Louis Vitton and Tommy Hilfiger, among others.

Net Worth: $12 million

Cyrene Quiamco – Snapchat (CyreneQ)

Quiamco became so successful at making money from 10-second snaps that she quit her corporate job in 2015. With over 100,000 followers to her Snapchat account, the former web designer utilized her creative and digital background to form “Snapchat masterpieces”, featuring stories of artistic drawings that captivated audiences. An early project saw her drawing pop icon, Kevin Jonas, on her snapchat story, and subsequently started a “Celebrity Selfie Series”. MTV jumped onboard and asked for more selfies with celebrities. Since then, she worked with entertainment companies like Disneyland and NBC’s The Voice to promote sponsored stories, as well as provide speaking gigs and consulting. Today, her account features three to four branded stories per month, which can bring in anywhere from $10,000-$30,000 each.

Net Worth: N/A (Earns roughly $500,000 per year)

 

Justin Halpern – Twitter (@shitmydadsays)

Twitter is a different animal all together. Typically, it hasn’t garnered as much revenue potential as other social channels like YouTube and Instagram for the unknown individuals trying to make it big. You’d have to be a somebody first, before generating enough interest from 140 characters – just ask Lady Gaga, it’s been estimated that she makes over $30 million per year from Twitter! Many of you however may have come across tweets from writer Justin Halpern, or perhaps his Twitter account @shitmydadsays. When he moved back in with his parents in 2009, Halpern started a daily journal of comments his father had said to him and his siblings throughout their childhood. He created an account on Twitter to share this hilarious commentary and quickly gained 2.85 million followers. In February 2010, he completed the book “Sh*t My Dad Says” and topped The New York Times Best Seller list for hardcover nonfiction, selling 1.2 million copies. The success of his Twitter account led to a CBS television series starring William Shatner, two more published books and another TV show, Surviving Jack.

Net Worth: $1.5 million

This Article Has 9 Comments
  1. Brooke Halvorsen says:

    This is awesome.

    I was hoping for more of a how-to guide though to be honest… It has all been done before… guess I will just sit here and keep trying to be funny and/or fashionable. (just kidding)

  2. Jon Fisher says:

    It’s crazy to me how people like this gain such a huge following on social media and have become some of the biggest influencers. I understand how Chrissy Teigin and with frustration how the Kardashians became influencers through their famous family ties and captivating personalities. But how does someone gain 2.85 million followers for tweets about what his dad says? What criteria do I have to fit to become an influencer?

  3. Mahina Husain says:

    So where are my millions of followers? I am hilarious. But really, it amazes me that these “normal” people are literally catapulted to a life of fame. As Jon says above, I get the whole Chrissy Teigen, Kardashian/Jenner clan fame. But other influencers make millions and have million of fans because they are able to blog? I can do that too! Follow me! I guess I should just be happy for them and hope one day they’ll follow me too.

  4. Amanda Lam says:

    Great post! I love reading out social influencers who have the means to quit their day jobs. I wonder if there is research on how these bloggers come to fame. I am interested to see where these influencers will be in 10 years, will their fame phase out? Or will they move on to bigger and better things?

  5. Karalyn Arnett says:

    I would almost consider this inspirational. Everyday it seems like I am coming across a new social media influencer. It also seems like I fall into the influencer trap everyday as well. Influencers are becoming so popular on the internet and I would love to be apart of this fad – if you can call it that. It is going to be more important than ever for companies to use social media to its advantage and somewhere in that social media plan will HAVE to be influencers.

  6. […] what is the mindset of the influencer? As Sean Thornberry pointed out a few days ago, there is a lot of money and status to be made by blowing up a personal brand through influencer programs. There is also a lot of adventure to be […]

  7. Sean Willcox says:

    Very interesting post! The net worth of some of these influencers is incredible when you consider that being a “social media influencer” wasn’t even a real job just ten years ago. I think the story of regular people becoming hugely successful though creative and interesting uses of social media is actually really inspiring and shows that success isn’t always a straight line. I think it would be fascinating to investigate the stories of influences who aren’t at the highest level, but who’ve become popular enough that it is their full-time job. It’s really cool that social media has allowed these people to make a living by following their passions, and I wonder what the long-term trajectory of an influencer will be down the road

  8. Adam Kantor says:

    This whole thing kind of pisses me off… I guess I always saw social media as an extension of people’s personality. The core concept of using your influence to sell seems deceptive and dishonest to me.

  9. McKenzie Edgar says:

    I think the idea of getting paid to post on social media is absolutely amazing to me. I would not be opposed to doing that for a second job. I am guilty of following accounts where people are getting paid to travel and stay at hotels. It seems like a never ending job that you can’t take a day off from though.

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