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How to make money as a sneaker influencer explained

If you want to get paid to post pics of you rockin’ your fresh sneakers, this article is for you.

sneakers Dunnie West

“Kickin’ Facts” is REVOLT’s sneaker column, written by sneaker expert Jazerai Allen-Lord, where she dives into the culture and discusses all things kicks with a special emphasis on Black people who are in the scene, but who the now very-gentrified sneaker industry often overlooks. Come here for the real from an absolute sneakerhead who truly is of the culture.

When the word “influencer” comes up in conversation, one of two things tends to happen: People either roll their eyes or become very intrigued. No matter your viewpoints on the topic, influencers and influencer marketing is not only here to stay, but thriving in the pandemic.

And with 99.9% of Americans connected to the internet plus the social media and e-commerce boom, it’s virtually impossible not to come across an influencer (or five) every day. The sneaker industry is deeply reliant on influencer culture with Nike and adidas included in the top 20 performing brands generating almost $3 billion in Instagram Earned Media Value in 2018. And it’s not just Nike and adidas; the “big five” sneaker brands frequently lean on influencer partnerships in various ways from gifting and endorsement to product and design collaborations.

I asked John Clayton, Marketing & Digital Strategist at Foot Locker, to define what an influencer was from both a brand and a community perspective.

“From a business perspective, I would say that an influencer is a partner that aligns with the sentiment, and direction of the brand, and its products. The influencer’s personal brand is accessible and aspirational to its followers. Their integration into any brand campaign feels like a hand in glove.

But, when looking at influencers through the lens of someone who is a member of the sneaker community, an influencer is effortless. Pure influence isn’t forced or preachy (verbally or aesthetically). Their actions and vibe are infectious to the point that they become leaders.”

An aspirational lifestyle is a crucial ingredient to being an influencer, which is probably why the career path is attractive to 54% of Gen Z and millennials. According to Business Insider, the influencer marketing industry reached $8 billion in 2019 and is estimated to be worth up to $15 billion by 2022. There is massive money to be made, and thousands of sneakerheads are ready to cash in.

At least twice per week, those sneakerheads are in my DMs asking the same four questions around influencer marketing.

  1. Could I be an influencer?
  2. Do I need a manager?
  3. How much should I charge for a post?
  4. Is this contract fair?

As someone who works on both sides of influencer culture — both booking talent and being talent — I thought it was time to take the private conversations we are all having around rates and engagements and let that education fly. We have to understand the business if we want to do profitable business. So, in this week’s “Kickin’ Facts,” we’re discussing the nuances of influencer partnerships and equipping you with the knowledge you need to not only assert your worth, but be paid appropriately for it.

Are You Micro, Macro, or Mid-Tier?

The general assumption is that anyone with over ten thousand followers is an influencer, but that is false. Someone with as low as one thousand followers could be deemed an influencer, and in 2020, those creators — often called nano or micro-influencers — are actually in greater demand.

Nano Influencer: 1000-10K followers

Micro Influencer: 10K-50K followers

Mid-Tier Influencer: 50K-500K followers

Macro Influencer: 500K-1 million followers

Mega/Celebrity Influencer: Over 1 million followers

After understanding what type of influencer the industry will classify you as, it’s time to start assembling your analytics. Chances are that your social profiles are already converted to either a Creator or Business page, and your insights are available. But, if not, here is a simple equation to work out your engagement — something every brand will want to know before working with you. Your engagement rate will tell the brand how active and engaged your community is with you. On average, your engagement rate on Instagram should land between 1 to 5% - anything above that is stellar.

How to find your engagement rate:

  1. Add up all of the likes, comments, reshares, and saves)
  2. Divide the total sum by your follower count
  3. Multiply by 100, this is your engagement rate percentage

Note: Studies show that engagement decreases for posts with six or more hashtags, so go easy on your caption.

After figuring out your influencer level and engagement rate, it’s time to set your pay rate. To be honest, this is where it gets spicy. For example, just because you and your spouse have the same number of followers does not automatically mean your rate is the same. To find a rate that uniquely works for you, there are quite a few things to consider, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Let’s start at the baseline:

The standard equation to calculate your baseline pay for a single static post on your Instagram feed is:

$100 x 10,000 followers = baseline rate

Now that you know your baseline worth, it’s time to add the tax. With the information in mind that we are creating a rate for a single static post, if you are asked to do a video, that should raise the price. If you are required to produce and edit the video, that should bump it up a bit more. When considering the baseline rate, make sure you include the cost of your supplies and the compensation for your time, labor, and talents.

Next, you want to look at the exclusivity of the contract, assuming there is a contract. If someone slid in your DMs and offered to send you a t-shirt, some sneaker cleaner, or a pair of kicks because they like your feed, that’s called being seeded or being gifted. These are non-contractual agreements, and it’s crucial to keep that in mind because any content you create, post, and deliver is for free.

Going back to exclusivity, frequently, sneaker brands will ask influencers to sign a non-compete. Signing a non-compete means that entering into this contract prohibits you from working with (or posting to your timeline) any brands that are identified as their direct competitors. The terms vary from two weeks to three months and can go much longer dependent on how long the campaign is and how the relationship unfolds. If a non-compete is a problem for you, this is another place that you can raise the price. Add the tax until it no longer becomes a problem.

The next tax, and often the heaviest, comes with evaluating the usage rights of the content you are creating as an influencer. There are commonly two types of campaigns that influencers participate in:

  1. Influencer campaign: You produce the content and post it on your personal social feeds, using a copy directive from the brand and a hashtag.
  2. Owned media: Either you or the brand produces content with you in it, and the brand can use this content on their channels and website. (In specific situations, this can also be referred to as a buy-out)

Owned media and/or a full buy-out indicates that they will be selling products for a defined amount of time using your likeness, and in the sneaker industry, this typically means your face and feet. The images could be on their website and social accounts or even on a bus stop or billboard. They indeed have to pay a tax for that, and the longer the time frame is, the bigger the number should grow.

Lastly, the smaller ancillary asks, for example, are including a link in your bio or posting a swipe up link to your story. There is no formula for these actions, but influencers often include them as add-ons in their rate sheet. When considering the tax you are adding to your baseline rate, anytime the brand asks for additional visibility, they should pay for it each time. As the creator or the influencer, you are responsible for building and owning your personal brand’s business and creative direction. If managing both pieces becomes overwhelming, this is the point that you should bring in additional help. A manager to help organize the brand infrastructure or an agent to help find new opportunities would be recommended. But, in either case, don’t give up more than 20 percent. You still have to pay taxes, and the IRS does not play.

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