In an article about social media influencers, a woman looks at her phone screen.

How Hard is it to Become a Social Media Influencer?

It turns out there is a lot more to it than posing for pictures and copy-and-pasting captions.
December 27, 2022
7 mins read

Considering the times, it may or may not be surprising to hear that as many as 75% of teenagers under 17 say that their dream job is to be a social media influencer. With more and more social media enthusiasts — of all ages — turning to influencer lifestyles, the question of why people choose the influencer lifestyle over a more traditional career path persists. From finding a niche, to doing the hard work of cultivating a dedicated following, some of today’s social media celebrities almost make it look easy. And with the perks of partnerships and free brand deals, wouldn’t many see it as a win-win situation? However, several influencers and social media-related studies have made the case that it’s not as easy as it might look.

Social Media Can Be a Full-Time Job

The average social media user might get the misconception that influencing is all about posting a few easy snapshots of whatever brand you are contracted to and securing free stuff and a paycheck for doing it. However, social media apps are ever-changing, as are the audiences that frequent them. One new influencer talked about the in-depth training she had to undergo when she signed onto her first agency as an official influencer. Some of this training included being told what times of day were best to take photos, what she should take photos of and even what surfaces in her house were “too shiny” for her Instagram aesthetic. While it takes a lot of hard work to make influencing a feasible career choice, even after “making it” as a social media star it can be extremely rare to net an enormous profit from it if you aren’t already ultra-famous.

Algorithms Are Hard To Keep Track Of

Social media users must base the delivery of their content on specific algorithms on each app. However, those algorithms are subject to frequent change. This means that influencers must constantly re-educate themselves on what works and what doesn’t; for instance, how Instagram chooses to prioritize posts in users’ feeds affects how influencers can reach them. Content creators have continuously expressed outrage over these changes and have gone as far as creating petitions demanding Instagram to reverse their alterations to its algorithms. This includes when Meta, the parent company of Instagram, made a series of changes to make the app prioritize video content via reels in order to make Instagram behave more like TikTok. For those hoping to simply make posts and influence with ease, the ever-changing landscape of these apps proves to be a tough terrain to navigate through. Simple changes to a social media platform can derail follower engagement overnight. But if making money from influencing on social media takes so much time and effort, what drives one in four younger Americans to desire this difficult path?

Gen Z America Trusts Influencers Over Brands

In August, Higher Visibility published a study of data collected from around 1,000 Americans between the ages of 16-25 about social media influencing and how many of them seriously aim to pursue it as a career path. Some of their information can be found here:

  • 20% of Gen Z males see influencing as their sole potential career path compared to only 13% of females.
  • 16% of Gen Z claimed they “would pay” to become an influencer.
  • 12% stated that they would quit college to become an influencer.
  • 38% stated that they believe there is “enough work” to go around for those in social media influencing careers.
  • 27% of high-school-aged Americans said they wanted to become influencers after school, versus going to college or getting a more traditional job.
  • 20% believe the older generation doesn’t understand social media.
  • 40% chose TikTok as their primary platform.
  • 62% said that getting free products was one of the best parts of influencing with high earnings as the second-best part and the appeal of networking and making connections as the third.

When asked about how much they believed social media influencers make, Higher Visibility reported that most respondents guessed that they earn between $75,001 to $100,000 a year. This falls in line with the percentage of respondents who stated that earnings are the most appealing part of becoming an influencer; others stated that “becoming celebrities” was what they liked most about the prospect of social media influencing.

The Current Job Market Is Too Competitive

Since younger Americans have access to more information than ever right now, the looming state of the job market and how difficult it can be to stand out among a sea of applicants is something that more teenagers are aware of — before they even finish high school. It’s no surprise that the job market being difficult to navigate has become a major reason that influencing may seem more appealing. The rising cost of education and the crushing weight of college debt are also contributing factors. Hence, Gen Z is wary and looking to embrace alternatives to the employment struggles that they’ve watched millennials face.

Some of the more specific appeals of influencing may come in the form of ad revenue, content creation funds, sponsored posts and partnerships. All of these might seem like better options to college-aged Americans, rather than struggling to secure an interview or pay off thousands in debt.

Is Influencing Worth It?

With the formation of “The American Influencer Council” in 2020, it’s apparent that social media influencing is only poised to become bigger and more popular as the years go on. This means that not only will the audiences of influencers continue to grow, but more and more people will decide to devote themselves to this career path. And, if the job market doesn’t improve before high school and college graduates attempt to enter it, the number of youth who desire to go into influencing may only grow.

Kane Howard, York College

Writer Profile

Kane Howard

York College

Kane Howard is an English major at York College. He has experience with writing both fiction and non-fiction works.

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