The social media millionaires

$8,000 per Instagram photo, $25,000 per Vine and $35,000 per Snapchat: The tech-savvy entrepreneurs who make their social media accounts earn them millions.

Peter Iantorno April 26, 2015

In a single month, 288 million people use the 144-character-based social network Twitter; image-centric Instagram attracts more than 300 million users; more than a billion people head to video giant YouTube; and social media behemoth Facebook welcomes a staggering 1.44 billion people into its blue and white world of likes and shares.

Although undoubtedly impressive, these massive audience statistics are hardly surprising given the way that social media has become such an integral part of so many people's lives. And as with anything that has a large following, companies are extremely keen to do whatever they can to communicate their message - which is usually "buy our product" - to that audience.

The most straightforward way to do that is to pay for advertising. Facebook and YouTube are the major players in this regard, with Facebook charging advertisers a minimum of $1 per day (but realistically much more than that for a reasonable amount of exposure) and YouTube charging between 10 and 30 US cents per view. 

With Facebook an advert is pretty straightforward for all concerned: the more a company pays to Facebook, the more people will see its advert - simple. However, with YouTube, which brought in more than $1 billion last year through advertising, there has to be some sort of kickback for the people who create and upload the content that companies are so desperate to advertise against. And that kickback for the video maker comes in the form of a 55 per cent cut of all advertising earnings, with YouTube keeping the remainder.

Even with YouTube wetting its beak to the tune of 45 per cent, the most popular channels still have the capacity to earn millions of dollars for their creators. Take the YouTube channel DisneyCollectorBR, for example - an anonymous woman who makes videos of herself opening up popular children's products. For such a simple concept, she clearly struck a chord with her target audience of mothers and children, as the channel has more than 4.3 million subscribers and gets 380 million views per month.

These figures converted into earnings of some $4.9 million in 2014 - not bad for opening toys on camera. Another YouTube sensation is 25-year-old Swedish video game expert Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg - better known by his online alias, PewDiePie. He has become so salable that he rakes in around $4 million per year, simply by posting videos of himself playing and discussing video games. pewdiepieWhile placing adverts before the massively popular videos of the likes of DisneyCollector and PewDiePie is a great way to guarantee exposure, it will always have the problem that the people viewing the videos don't want to be advertised to and, after the first five seconds of the advert that is mandatory to view, will simply skip it. And it's the same concept with Facebook and Twitter - in the majority of cases, as soon as users see the word "promoted" ahead of posts, they quickly skip past them.

Of course, advertisers are not dumb. They know this as well as anyone, and it's for this reason that they are trying to be a bit more inventive with how they get their message across, exploring different avenues that are a bit smarter than a standard advert. One such avenue is to approach popular individuals directly to promote their products in a much more subtle way than a great big, in-your-face advert at the start of a video.

Instagram is massive in this field, and more and more companies are using the network's most popular users to get highly prized access to large communities of interactive users. According to estimates from Mobile Media Lab, a company that puts popular individuals in touch with companies looking to advertise, an Instagram user with 100,000 followers can demand between $700 and $900 per photo, and someone with 500,000 followers could charge anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000 for a single sponsored shot, depending on the kind of product they feature.

And these are just normal people - if a celebrity such as Kim Kardashian, who now has more than 30 million followers, decided to sell a shoot, the figures would be astronomical.Kim Kardashian InstagramAnd even away from the visually beautiful and product-friendly world of fashion bloggers and Instagram, there's big money to be made even by those who use social media as nothing more than a way to play pranks. Without a doubt the biggest case of this is that of 24-year-old Frenchman Jerome Jarre, who shot to fame as a result of his humorous posts on Snapchat and Vine.

Now boasting more than 8.4 million Vine followers, Jarre's famously turned down $1 million from a New York advertising agency to do a campaign for them. This might sound like a crazy move for a 24-year-old prankster, but $1 million is pocket change for Jarre, as he earns $25,000 per sponsored Vine and $35,000 per sponsored Snapchat post, with the likes of Taco Belle and General Electric paying mega bucks for campaigns with him.

The sums mentioned may seem extortionate for single Instagram photographs or six-second Vine clips, but with today's media-savvy generation that is increasingly adept at skipping traditional forms of advertising, the native content these social media moguls are offering is increasingly valuable, and while ever they can attract the big audiences, companies will pay handsomely to be associated with them.