Influencers have relied on paid partnerships with brands to monetize their social media feeds for years. But now several major Instagram stars are experimenting with ways to bring in revenue directly from the digital wallets of their thousands of followers.
Several well-followed ‘Grammers, including Gabi Abrão (@sighswoon) and Caroline Calloway (@carolinecalloway), are charging interested followers a small monthly fee, typically between $2 and $4, to become a Close Friend on Instagram, where they can see members-only content. Instagram debuted the Close Friends feature on its Stories in 2018 as a response to TikTok, which teens were using to communicate with friends without parents seeing their content. Users can set up a Close Friends list and share Stories only with that group.
Other influencers are utilizing Patreon, a membership platform that debuted in 2013, as a pay-to-participate platform. Followers pay to receive members-only content, and even one-on-one interactions, via Skype, email, and messaging.
Abrão told Vogue Business she has 415 subscribers on Patreon, and charges each $3.33 a month. She adds those users to her Close Friends list on Instagram, and for $9 a month, she’ll “share a vlog every week on a password-protected Vimeo site,” reports the outlet. And there’s more: Followers can pay $55 a month to be shipped some manner of merchandise and $222 monthly to receive personal, weekly emails from Abrão “answering questions, giving advice, or just talking about their lives.”
The membership models offer new and autonomous streams of revenues for influencers. But will those avenues lead to less brand-based partnerships? Will influencers on every tier eventually be less open to partnering with companies?
Not any time soon, we’re guessing. Only the biggest IG superstars have the sway to sign up enough followers to replace big-budget brand partnerships (which for social supers like Chiara Ferragni and any Kardashian can pay out in the millions of dollars).
And the new streams may ultimately benefit brands. Because signing up for “membership” connotes a deeper level of dedication to an influencer, the models could provide paying brands with more meaningful, targeted ways to reach audiences.
Top: Instagram influencer Gabi Abrão (image via: @sighswoon)
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