Video-sharing social media platform TikTok facing a ban in India has brought the spotlight on the financial security of social media influencers in the country. How secure are their finances as influencers, and if you are dependent on social media for your earnings, should you worry?
Just like any profession comes with its perils, content creation on social media also comes with its own.
Artists, popularly known as influencers, indulge in creating interesting content that is widely liked and shared among viewers consuming the internet, particularly social media for their entertainment and learning. These influencers attain stardom quickly as their content gets viral, and that’s when they start engaging with brands for promotions, advertisements and live events, opening a large window to earn big income.
In general, an average monthly viewership of 5 million views can fetch you close to 4-5 lakh in brand deals and platform monetization. Although, other factors like the creator’s brand positioning, content USP, genre selection, and subscriber engagement also play a significant role in deciding the monthly income of a creator.
TikTok Ban in India
Among social media apps that are popular in India, TikTok was climbing the charts at an alarming speed. The number of TikTok users in India was estimated to be up to 119 million out of the 800 million users worldwide. US-based social media giant Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram also consider India as one of their largest markets owing to the country population of billions.
However, a ban on TikTok has left many influencers and influencer managers bereft of work and in shock.
Celebrity manager Dev Mishra envisions a loss of up to 80 per cent of his total influencer business with the ban. The 17-year-old, who started onboarding more TikTok influencers than ever before in the last two years owing to increased demand from brands, used to charge 5-20 per cent of the influencer’s total income.
TikToker Aashiv Midha, who had 2 million followers, was a step ahead in his financial planning and didn’t rely on only one platform to earn. He however thinks for a social media influencer, it’s pretty hard to plan finances because trends change everyday and so do people’s interests.
Potential of Social Media Influencing
With India yet to add another 500 million users on the internet, and with the advent of high-speed internet, cheap data packs, and the influx of smartphones in the Indian markets, citizens are expected to be glued to some form of digital content, and that makes many hopeful of the future of digital content to be bright and sunny.
Viraj Sheth, the co-founder and CEO of digital media company Monk Entertainment is confident India is a massive playing field, and it is only going to get bigger.
He thinks digital content creation is an extremely lucrative career option and, as it stands with every entrepreneurial venture, the risk to reward ratio is high. His influencer marketing wing that works with more than 150 brands enables him to work with creators who have unique voices and organic and well-engaged audiences.
Mishra, too, is hopeful of a bright future for content creators given the global access that digital content enjoys. As far as earning a decent income is concerned, he thinks influencers can rely on social media and benefit from their personal websites and YouTube channels.
Combat Financial Insecurities
Today, Indians are not only consuming entertainment content, but they are also learning how to bake bread, how to speak English, how to practice intermittent fasting, how to apply mascara and how to invest in mutual funds all through the internet. With such a massive opportunity at hand, social media influencers may need to focus on managing their finances to make the best of the opportunity.
Considering the shelf-life of being a digital creator is fairly short-lived as opposed to other professions, it is wise for digital creators to plan their finances during their peak very well, be cautious in their spending behaviour and invest their money accordingly, says Sheth. He thinks diversified presence on various social media platforms can also help.
He strongly feels influencers should start investing early on in their careers, especially the ones starting off young.
Rahul Jagtiani, a Mumbai-based entrepreneur who has ventured into social media influencing, believes a social media influencer’s career can ebb and flow, and it is best to supplement that with a more stable form of income.
He advises experimenting with writing, videos and podcasting. And since all of this may require some investment from your own pocket, he thinks having multiple streams of income coming in is prudent and helpful. In a decade, Jagtiani built a production arm and began hosting a global travel show called Plush Places, along with his premium gifting and merchandise company.
Midha cautions against quitting studies or jobs for those who are newly getting famous on social media. He himself waited a year before hanging up his boots on his day job once he was fully sure of his earnings via YouTube.
He knows of many peers who left their jobs when they got fame on TikTok, but now they are all jobless, and many of them are regretting taking this step. He urges budding influencers to plan their finances by investing elsewhere and never depend on social media for their bread and butter.
Ranveer Allahbadia, popularly known with his social media name “Beerbiceps,” thinks it is crucial to keep diverse streams of revenue generation, especially in times like these where we don’t know where we are all headed with the pandemic, the economy taking a hit and even with social media platforms being banned.
With 4.5 million subscribers across three YouTube channels, Allahbadia is highly active on all social media platforms, has co-founded a digital entertainment company and has his own podcast. To manage his finances, his motto from the beginning of his career has always been to save at least 60-70 per cent of his income.
He thinks social media is more of a long-term income source and requires a lot of patience and consistency. “In the beginning I do think it’s also very crucial to bring in money from other sources, because social media only starts paying back after a year or two into the process. Hence influencers should always try making money from other sources as well by utilizing skills that they may be good and reinvest in the business,” says Allahbadia.
YouTube influencer Nikunj Lotia, more popular as “Be YouNick” on social media, advises splitting your funds into different buckets, “Invest in ideas, there’s a lot of brilliant minds out there that you could help. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
With a food truck business in California, and having made some more investment in ideas, products and people, Lotia thinks if you are somebody with influence, you can monetise it to make more revenue in the right way and that’s not limited to doing merchandise or selling T-shirts.
For example, using your influence and your funds to boost emerging talent. “Who knows, they might outshine you someday, but more importantly you will still be profitable in the business both mentally and financially,” says Lotia.
Instagrammer Jitendra Sharma, who goes by the internet name “tedthestoner,” believes you can never fully rely on any one social media platform because your work can literally disappear in a second. In the long term, every influencer must think about developing their own website, a different set of audience on multiple platforms and having more control over their content and the relationship with their audience.
Sharma well understands the pain of TikTok content creators as he had to himself shift to Instagram when Facebook shut down his original page in 2014.
With the right financial planning, social media influencers can get over fears of being out of ways to earn a living abruptly. So if you’re one, get started with investing your hard-earned money back into the machinery … with or without TikTok.