So you think you’ve got social media clout? You consider yourself a potential “influencer”? You attract impressive numbers of page views on your blog or “likes” on Instagram but you’re not sure how to monetise it?
Perhaps it’s time you found yourself a talent manager. If you’re anywhere near as good as you think, there might be some money in it. Top earners can pull in millions of dollars, digital media talent agencies say, with payment for Instagram posts ranging from $300 to $2000 and blogs anywhere between $1000 and $10,000 a post.
Talent management agencies have been evolving at a rapid pace since they worked out there was serious money to be made. Their role is to represent social media personalities with large Instagram or social followings, and those who have blogs with large amounts of traffic and loyal followers. Twitter doesn’t appear to have as much traction.
These “creative hubs” make money by taking a cut of both sides of any deal they arrange between a brand and “content creator” or “influencer”. One of the first to hit the Australian market was Sydney-based Ministry of Talent, which launched in 2012 with a couple of girls known in social media circuits as They All Hate Us.
Best friends Tash Sefton and Elle Ferguson quit their day jobs in retail fashion to concentrate on a fashion blog and Instagram feeds that caused sell-outs in the world of denim. These days they have 242,000 and 483,000 Instagram followers respectively, and attract about 2.5 million visits to their blog each month.
These numbers are vital, their manager and Ministry of Talent director Roxy Jacenko says.
“Numbers are important. It’s like when you book an ad – you look first at readership and circulation, and the third consideration is the look and feel,” Jacenko says. “Some of these people have huge followings, at times bigger than magazine circulations and readerships.”
Over the past two years brands have increasingly been collaborating with such influencers to tap markets broader than those available though traditional media channels, says Katherine Moses, talent manager at Sydney’s Chic Blogger Management.
“Media agencies are now dividing their budgets across not just TV and print but also social media – splitting it into Instagram, Facebook, blogs and websites,” Moses says. “It’s really picked up over the past eight months and I don’t see it slowing down. All the media agencies and brands are planning to spend with these types of people in the next financial year.”
Kate Bensimon, of new Melbourne social media management outfit The Co Collective, agrees.
“All the corporates are paying attention now,” Bensimon says. “Some brands are 100 per cent in already but others will be more of a slow burn. They know they have to be in there and they’re dipping their toes in a little. They’re not yet fully immersed, but in the future they will be. I don’t think they’ll have a choice.”
DEVELOPING POTENTIAL STARS
Talent management agencies have responded by taking on and developing more potential social media “stars”. Later this month, for example, another Sydney agency, Max Connectors, plans to announce an expansion of its stable of beauty and lifestyle influencers from the 10 it’s had since it opened shop last year to 20. Its original talent includes Lauren Curtis, Australia’s number one beauty YouTuber with almost 3 million subscribers to her channel, 1.2 million followers on Instagram and 1.7 million likes on Facebook.
“Since inception, [business] has gown exponentially, with a huge spike in the number of requests and bookings for talent,” owner Lynette Phillips says.
Ministry of Talent offers concierge and PR capabilities to its influencers to help them improve their craft and extend their reach, thus improving their numbers and their earning capabilities.
And this talent is affordable, which is propelling them into “filler talent” status – they have a profile, of sorts, and are accessible to advertisers without the budgets to pay for the likes of Elle McPherson, Kylie Minogue or Cate Blanchett.
But you have to be at the top of the game to be invited into the serious money.
An ability to take a pretty picture or attract big numbers is not enough get you there, Jacenko says. It’s also about how you handle yourself.
“They have to be able to go on The Morning Show, or give their commentary on the red carpet at Cannes Film Festival,” she says. “They have to be able to communicate. They have to be confident.”
For those who think they only need to fake it to make it, think again. It’s hard maintaining the kind of momentum and quality that’s required to break into – and remain in – this social media game.
“We’re about keeping our brand quite niche and sophisticated,” Moses says. “All the influencers we have on board – all their content, all their imagery, the way they write – everything is top-standard.”
In other words, professional photographers are hired to shoot a job rather than making random use of an iPhone. Successful influencers are expected to post at least one to two blogs a week and upload on Instagram at least three times a day. And, of course, they have to operate across multiple social media platforms, though Instagram is the most popular.
Inflated numbers can be easy to see through, too.
“If someone’s got 500,000 [Instagram] followers but they’re only getting 10,000 likes and a few comments per post, you know there’s something amiss,” Jacenko says. “We’d be very, very sceptical.”
She says the Ministry gets 40 people each week pitching themselves as the next big thing. Most are turned away.
“We only make money by the commission, so if the person doesn’t have the numbers, or their offering hasn’t got a look and feel that’s commercial, we don’t touch them.”
If that’s you, never mind. You can always be a legend in your own lunchbox.