In 2016, marketers and brands spent $570 million on Instagram influencers. And that was long before Instagram hit 1 billion users. But Instagram is only a small piece of the influencer marketing pie.

If you’re a celebrity or you simply know how to leverage social media to gain followers, the cloud is the limit. Where there is an audience, brands will pay to get exposure.

But how much do influencers actually make? And what brands are most likely to utilize an influencer? Let’s talk about that.

1. Who Are Influencers? Not Just “Celebrities”

One misconception I want to squash right now is the idea that only high profile celebrities can be influencers. This is complete B.S.

In fact, if you can gain even 10k followers on Instagram, brands will flock to you. The same goes for platforms like YouTube and Twitter. I wouldn’t even discount Facebook although it’s rapidly becoming a pay-to-play arena.

But why do brands go for influencers with smaller audiences? Wouldn’t they reach more people by focusing mainly on the celebrities with millions of followers?

The problem with high profile celebrity influencers is depersonalization. When you have a million followers or more, you’re likely not going to engage those people in a personal way. While smaller influencers might have a marketing consultant deal with their social media, it’s easier to engage a smaller audience and maintain the engagement.

From the Beginning

Smaller influencers maintain a loyal following of engaged individuals from the beginning. When a person starts following someone on Instagram or YouTube, they get to ride along with them. And when the future influencer becomes a current influencer, they’ve brought with them an extremely loyal fanbase.

And in an age where 42% of Americans find brands “less truthful than 20 years ago,” connecting with an audience at a more personal level is even more important and valuable.

When an audience feels connected to an influencer through real engagement and interaction, they’re more likely to trust what the influencer promotes. And many influencers won’t promote a product they don’t believe in.

Matthew Santoro, a YouTube star and influencer, vowed early on to never promote a product without being honest about it with his audience. He won’t promote anything he wouldn’t use himself.

Santoro is the definition of a smart influencer. He not only consistently built his brand through informative listicle videos, but he started another channel to record and vlog about his life as a YouTuber.

Fans could both enjoy his regular informative content and plug into his personal life. The more personable an influencer is, the more likely they are to have a loyal, devoted, and trusting fanbase.

Why Do Celebrities Get Less Engagement?

It’s true, major celebrities actually get less organic engagement than some smaller influencers. And there is a point at which a brand will make get more for their dollars if they choose a lower tier influencer.

While the smallest influencers still can’t beat major influencers like Brittany Furlan for a brand’s ROI. They will strangely beat out top influencers like Jada Pinkett Smith.

Now, a smaller influencer still won’t make nearly as much as anyone in a top-tier influencer category. But that’s not due to ad budget but has more to do with the hundreds of other gigs that pay even more for these actors and celebrities.

What Do Influencers Actually Make?

If you’re starting out as a social media personality, you’re probably wondering if it’s worth your time. I can’t attest to whether it’s worth your time. But I can give you a snapshot as to what’s possible if you’re successful at building an audience and achieving influencer status.

First, we’ll start out with what an A-List celebrity makes to give you a dose of sobriety. Unless you go viral, get a film deal, or your band gets picked up by a major label, you most likely won’t make this much as an influencer. And that should be ok with you.

Selena Gomez

If you grew up in the aughts, you probably watched Hannah Montana. You also probably wouldn’t have guessed that some of the stars would go on to become major celebrities.

Selena Gomez is one such celebrity. She is now the top influencer on Instagram.

But what does it mean to be the top influencer on Instagram? How does 133 million followers sound?

And this woman makes bank on each promotional post. Her posts are worth $550,000. Each post is worth that much.

If she were to make that much on a post twice a day, she would be making $200 million a year on Instagram posts alone.

That’s some mad cash right there. And nobody can touch her numbers right now.

Forbes Top Entertainment Influencer: Lilly Singh

Here is what it looks like to truly optimize and grow online. When you network and get the attention of slightly bigger influencers, you can become one of the top influencers in social media.

Lilly Singh graduated with a degree in psychology. The only way she could use her degree: more school. But instead, she became a YouTube star.

Once she met Jenna Marbles, her life exploded on YouTube. She is now a full-time comedian.

What is her estimated YouTube income? Oh, only a paltry $10.5 million a year. Nothing to bat an eye about, of course.

Lilly’s comedy and singing career is set if she continues to grow as she has as well. According to Forbes, her overall social media reach is 246,920,000 people. You can guarantee that she is making bank as a social media influencer with those kinds of numbers.

Maybe It Is Worth Your Time

It’s entirely possible to make a living as a social media influencer. And if you’re looking to invest in an influencer, you can reach a mass of people.

It pays to gain a loyal and trusting audience. And if you play the influencer game right, you’ll attract brands and make thousands if not millions of dollars.

If you enjoyed this article, check out more awesome info on influencer marketing at

By Ben Mattice

Benjamin Mattice is a freelance writer/editor, horror and sci-fi writer, SEO and affiliate marketing newbie, dog wrestler, cat wrangler, capoeirista, and long distance runner. He lives in the Palouse with his wife, three dogs, two cats, and two rats. Yes, that would probably be considered a mini-zoo.