Digiday’s Shareen Pathak has published a revealing–though anonymous–interview with a social media executive about the business of finding and cultivating social media influencers to promote brands. (A subject we’ve tackled quite a bit — here and here.)

Reading it, you’ll learn that the process is anything but scientific. It’s chaotic and lucrative.

“So in 2014, [influencers] were making $500 to show up and take some photos,” the executive says. “Then it became $1,500. Now it’s hundreds of thousands of dollars. They no longer value their art. I remember I once did a speaking thing to a school of young social media people, and they asked, “How do I become an influencer?” So I asked them what they were good at. And they said, ‘Nothing.’ We’ve gotten to the point that if we have a meeting with them, and we ask what they do, and they say “influencer,” we don’t hire them. If they say photographer, we do.”

Paying influencers/photographers/famous-on-social-media-people isn’t straightforward either:

“We have no idea what to pay them,” the executive admits. “That’s the problem. Right now, I separate their role as a ‘content’ producer and influencer. So I pay them, maybe, $4,000 for 50 images, fully edited, that I own.”

Recruitment is done by “a bunch of millennials” or by the CEO’s kid. “At this major car brand I worked for, we paid $300,000 for a few photographs because the CEO’s kid liked someone,” the executive notes.

Read the whole thing.

Frankly, the idea of the “good at nothing” influencer sounds like a promising career path….

READ MORE

When Instagram Success Leads to Work (Subscriber)

How to Be an Influencer Without Being Unethical

What Should Photographers Charge for Social Media Usage?


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