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Meet the ordinary people making a living on social media

The social media behemoth grew another head with the launch of Instagram in 2010. Designed as a photo-sharing app, Instagram quickly took off and it wasn’t long before it landed in the lap of Zuckerberg for $1 billion.

For most Instagram is another filter through which to glorify life; a measurement of self-worth; and another black hole to fall into and waste time mindlessly scrolling. But for a dedicated few, Instagram provides a livelihood.

In our constant search for an Instagrammable photo – rustic backdrops, dainty food, colourful cocktails, photogenic alleyways, seductive landscapes – we unconsciously become market puppets for companies. A simple picture and location tag of last night’s dinner out, while chiefly there to boost your personal profile, is free advertising for the restaurant you visited.

Companies have learnt that the best way to market themselves is to go to the place where we’re all at (Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users) and that provides lucrative opportunities for Instagram users with a substantial following.

While it is no surprise to find Keeping Up with the Kardashians stars and other popular celebrities dominate the 2018 Instagram Rich List (yes, that’s a thing), there is a growing cohort of micro influencers that are making a living from our addiction to visual entertainment. Kylie Jenner (115 million followers, $1,000,000 per post);  Selena Gomez (143 million followers, $800,000 per post); Cristiano Ronaldo (141 million followers, $750,000 per post); Kim Kardashian West (117 million followers, $720,000 per post); Beyoncé Knowles (117 million followers, $700,000 per post); Dwayne Johnson (115 million followers, $650,000 per post); Justin Bieber (102 million followers, $630,000 per post); Neymar da Silva Santos  Junior (102 million followers, $600,000 per post); Lionel Messi (98.2 million followers, $500,000 per post); and Kendall Jenner (95.4 million followers, $500,000 per post) are the all too familiar figures in the top 10, respectively.

Those numbers are just crazy. With just 3000 paid posts, Kylie Jenner would have earned an amount of money equivalent to the figure the UN estimates it would cost to solve the global food crisis for one year.

While a huge Instagram following and its economic benefits stem from a wider foundation of fame for celebrities, there are opportunities to make money from Instagram for ordinary people, otherwise known as micro influencers. Not all users are so lucky to get lots of followers, some of them purchase Instagram followers first to increase their audience.

Micro influencers are not the owners of six-pack abs, flashy sports cars, bikini bods and whatever else is associated with perfectionism. Rather, they are ordinary people with a small (between 1,000 and 50,000) but loyal following who have been able to quit their 9 to 5 job for an Instagram income. Micro-influencers are an attractive social media marketing technique for companies due to their lower cost and more niche audiences compared to the prolific following of celebrities.

The first step to trading a monotonous routine of 9 to 5 for a full-time job on Instagram seems to be in gaining a large, loyal and niche audience on Instagram by being a trusted and informative voice. Then companies will view you as an attractive marketing tool and will seek you out.

That’s often the story of micro-influencers, who initially trade Instagram posts for free products, before gaining a more authoritative standing from which to charge companies. Micro influencers with a following of 1,000 can expect to earn about $70 per mention on Instagram but this figure hikes up with more followers. Find yourself with 5,000 followers and you could charge more than $100 dollars per post. 20,000 followers or more and you’ll be laughing. Into the millions, you’re raking it in.

While we remain hooked with viewing the world through an Instagrammable lens, the marketing potential of Instagram will only increase and with that will come increasing numbers quitting their 9 to 5 jobs for a life sat on the sofa uploading photos for hundreds of dollars per post.

It’s at points like this where you can’t help but wonder what the world has come to. I can only hope that the future of humanity’s connection with social media depicted in the Nosedive episode of the Black Mirror series, an unrelenting and unceasing attachment to personal ratings online, does not come to be. If it does, then climate change might be a good thing after all.