Is an influencer a legit career?

Discussion
Photo: Getty Images/twinsterphoto
Sep 23, 2022

Many young adults are aspiring to become social media influencers as a career, although the income potential remains questionable.

A survey of 1,000 Gen-Zers in the U.S. taken in late July from Highervisibility found just over 27 percent plan to become social media influencers after finishing school. The benefits of being an influencer were found to be free products, cited by 62 percent; earnings, 61 percent; meeting other influencers, 48 percent; followers, 47 percent; holidays/traveling, 46 percent; and being a celebrity, 37 percent.

Of those surveyed, over 38 percent agreed that there is enough work to become a social media influencer. Nearly one in four believe there should be social media influencer training in school.

Other recent surveys likewise found high interest influencer as a career:

  • Adobe’s “Future of Creativity” study found being able to express yourself, follow your passions and advance causes among other motivators to become an influencer. 
  • A survey commissioned by YouTube Shorts found 41 percent have considered becoming a content creator with 49 percent believing they can make a “decent living” doing so.

Some doubts about influencers’ potential as a career came from Highervisibility’s survey. Only seven percent of the Gen-Zers surveyed believed their parents would support them becoming a social influencer.

Income appears to be the main concern. A global survey earlier this year of over 9,500 creators published in April by Linktree, a link-sharing platform popular with influencers, found only about 12 percent of overall online content creators earn more than $50,000 annually.

Adobe’s survey found influencers spend an average of 15 hours per week making content, underscoring challenges diversifying clients to support full-time work.

Qianna Smith Bruneteau, founder of the American Influencer Council, a trade association for social media content professionals, told the Financial Post, “Like any small business, it takes about two years to reach break-even.”

Still, the opportunity may grow as influencers become a bigger driver of sales. According to a January survey commissioned by Oracle, 37 percent of consumers trust social media influencers over brands for advice and recommendations with Gen Z and Millennials two times more likely than Boomers to trust influencers.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Has social media influencer marketing proved itself as a career worth pursuing? What apprehensions may you have as a parent, a high school guidance counselor or a brand hiree?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"If you love doing it, try it. But be realistic about the long-term outcome."
"For every one that makes a living as an influencer, there are likely thousands who cannot live on the income they earn."
"For most who are successful in the space, influencing is a great side hustle, rather than a full-time job."

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12 Comments on "Is an influencer a legit career?"


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Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

This same discussion could be written about becoming an actor, singer, or professional athlete. I suspect the success rate would be equally challenging. The career pyramid is way too steep. The viable life of those careers is often quite short.

If you love doing it, try it. But be realistic about the long-term outcome.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

A self-sustaining career as an influencer is only an option for a handful. For everyone else it is a hobby or a side-hustle. Schools should absolutely not offer social influencer training – which is a gross waste of taxpayer money. However they should provide business related education including marketing, finances, brand building, entrepreneurship, etc. which is useful for aspiring influencers and people who want to take other career paths.

Scott Norris
Guest

Let’s add coursework in composition, literature, media studies, and stage/video performance so they can write and produce good storytelling – and some visual arts classes to understand what’s been done before and to find their own style. Hmm, sounding like a well-rounded liberal arts degree plus business basics is just what the kids need!

Melissa Minkow
BrainTrust

Influencing is like many other careers in that the top does really well, and the microinfluencers likely won’t make enough money for it to be their full-time job. The ROI on influencing for brands is quite high considering how low cost influencer marketing is, so this industry will exist in the long-term, but consumers have to be aware of the fact that most influencers are not making the money their aspiring-influencer followers may think they are. For most who are successful in the space, influencing is a great side hustle, rather than a full-time job.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

The key to the answer is in the make-up of the audience a brand is trying to reach. I am only influenced – and infrequently at that – by people I know (or think I know) and whose opinions I respect. Everyone else can make all the noise they want. If I know they are getting paid to push, I can immediately discount their opinion. But then, I don’t think I am the intended audience.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Content creation and authentic storytelling are emerging trends, and the demands for influencers and content specialists are more significant than ever. While traditional university courses may not address this evolving social media phenomenon, influencer marketing, social selling, and content creation are truly where the market is going.

In the efforts to be where the customers are, the need for livestreaming, and authentic content creation has proven that the typical linear corporate model may not apply to all. Creative types have constantly challenged the process, and the market demands for their talents and specialties have created an emerging and potentially lucrative career.

For an example of the potential of influencer marketing, look no further than Mr. Beast, who has an amazing content creation strategy resonating with millions of Gen Zers.

Michael La Kier
BrainTrust

Influencer IS a legit career, but NOT an easy one. For every one that makes a living as an influencer, there are likely thousands who cannot live on the income they earn. So tread carefully.

David Spear
BrainTrust

Curricula in high school ought to stay focused on core subjects (math, science, English, history and languages), while universities ought to extend their offerings into strategic business fundamentals, from which influencers can learn a lot. If an individual has the passion and desire to become an influencer, then follow it. But don’t think that everyone in this field commands a six-figure salary.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust
Richard Hernandez
Director of Commerce
1 day 1 hour ago

I agree here. All of the basics are required, as are basic financial courses, marketing, etc.

For those that earn six figures being an influencer – kudos to you.

Dion Kenney
BrainTrust
1 day 2 hours ago

Life is short. Try things that interest you. The career ladder doesn’t look like it did 50 years ago, so having a side-hustle may not only provide a creative outlet, it could help improve your skills, burnish your reputation, and provide the springboard to another financial path. Will you be the next Huda Kattan? Probably not, but one of the greatest joys in life is to work enthusiastically at work that inspires you.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Has social media influencer marketing proved itself as a career worth pursuing? Um … what? The whole concept of an “influencer” — a concept I’ve never care for and yet, incredibly, I find I like it less even now — was that it was
… well, genuine: someone that people — for whatever reason (and often I thought “God only knows why!”) — thought was worth taking advice from. The idea that “influencer,” in itself, could be a career, contradicts the very notion of what it’s supposed to be.

David Biernbaum
BrainTrust

Being an influencer is potentially a legit career if it’s approached, practiced, and executed as a real business. However, the opportunity was much greater, and easier too, a few years back when influencer-competition was a fraction of what it has become, and before most consumers realized as much as they do today, that an influencer is paid by the brands which they influence. It’s often regarded today the same as advertising.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"If you love doing it, try it. But be realistic about the long-term outcome."
"For every one that makes a living as an influencer, there are likely thousands who cannot live on the income they earn."
"For most who are successful in the space, influencing is a great side hustle, rather than a full-time job."

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