Financial opportunities as an influencer 'truly endless' - Simone Anderson

Ten years ago, if you asked a child on the street what they wanted to be when they grew up, you would get a raft of answers: "ballerina", "fireman", "doctor", "teacher", as examples. 

Now, you're bound to get at least one or two dying to be an "influencer", one of the glowy social media experts paid to promote and feature products on their glossy social media accounts. 

There are 332 million Instagram users in the world, but only a handful of them are making money as influencers - it's a tricky balance to get right.

Newshub asked lifestyle influencer Simone Anderson and an influencer marketing agency for tips on getting started, what makes people successful and what they can earn.

When Anderson started a Facebook page, 'Simone's Journey to Health' six years ago, she didn't expect to end up with 600,000 followers and a lucrative full-time career.

"I weighed 169kg and knew I had to make some serious changes," she said.

"Sharing my life openly and publicly for friends and family to see [was] a way to keep myself accountable."

Following a snap decision to share a photo exposing what she refers to as "fat rolls" and disclosing her body weight, Anderson eventually became a brand ambassador, author, motivational speaker and clothing designer.

"There are paid travel opportunities with New Zealand tourism boards, international opportunities and I'm about to launch my own activewear line," Anderson said.

Georgia McGillivray, CEO and co-founder of The Social Club, said that some successful influencers - like athletes and actors - quickly gain interest online, while others start out as regular social media users.

"Generally, they'll build their following by being thought-leaders in their niche through exceptional content [and] having a lifestyle that users would like to follow and engage with," McGillivray said. 

When working with brands, influencers are usually paid for their content and ability to reach and engage with their audience through social media.

"Remuneration depends on the strength of the influencer's account (reach, engagement, content and performance) and can be through product or payment," McGillivray added.

Although incomes vary, the cost to a business to engage a Kiwi influencer can start from as little as $50, but go up to $50,000 or more.

"Micro-influencers (5,000 to 15,000 followers) might be working with one-to-two brands per month, while macro-influencers (50,000 - 100,000 followers) might be working with 20 or [more]," McGillivray said.

But how to get up to 100,000 followers? Authenticity is key.

Rather than being in it solely for the money, passion and self-belief are said to be key attributes for making it big as an influencer.

"You have to have full belief in what you're doing and have good intentions behind it," Anderson said.

"If you're in it for the gifted moisturiser, your audience will quickly see through this and trust will disappear."

The cost to start out is low, requiring just a smartphone or camera, a social media account and an internet connection - but the biggest cost is likely to be time.

"It's often underestimated how much time goes into building a profile on social media: it's not just a case of posting a photo and hoping for the best," McGillivray said.

"A lot of time is spent creating the content, building an audience, engaging with that audience and continuing to add value to their lives." 

Although social media users might be tempted to share pics of themselves at their best, Anderson said that posting only beautifully curated photos is unlikely to resonate.

"Be yourself: there's no better way to stand out than to be 100 percent authentically you."
"Be yourself: there's no better way to stand out than to be 100 percent authentically you." Photo credit: SimoneAnderson/Instagram.

Simone Anderson's three top tips for people wanting to get started as an influencer: 

  • Be yourself: there's no better way to stand out than to be 100 percent authentically you
  • Engage with your audience: constantly engage with the audience that you're creating online
  • Use the Story function: everyone loves to see and get to know your personality - it gives you an edge over everyone else, and [making yourself] vulnerable builds trust over time.

As with success in most things, earning money as an influencer takes drive: people must be prepared to continually work at it.

"It's truly endless and depends on how much work you're prepared to put in to build relationships and curate opportunities for yourself," Anderson said.