Every year, Sarah Boyd hosts a series of influencer marketing conferences for aspiring Instagram stars and digital marketers. In her seven years of hosting the event, Boyd, the founder of Simply, a digital influencer agency, has noticed an interesting trend: When one of her ex-Bachelor clients promotes the conference, they will sell 10 times the number of a tickets as when an A-List celebrity promotes it.
This massive difference is evidence of the increasing power of current and former reality stars, many of whom hope to parlay their success on a TV series into careers that extend beyond their 15 minutes of fame.
For some, it's working, and they have Instagram to thank. While many influencers are hesitant to disclose exactly how much money they're raking in from sponsored deals, new research published today by influencer marketing agency Mediakix estimates the top reality TV stars can make over $1 million every year on Instagram alone.
To reach that figure, the company tracked popular current and former reality stars, such as Amanda Stanton, Jade Roper, and Ashley Iaconetti, over the course of 30 days on Instagram. Mediakix looked for posts that were "definitively sponsored," as evidenced by #ad or other disclosures, and "likely sponsored," since they featured a particular brand or product. Then, they tallied the number of sponsored posts — typically between seven and eight per month — and multiplied that number by the amount of money stars can earn per post — $5,000 on the low end and $15,000 on the high end — to come up with a prediction for the monthly and yearly Instagram incomes of today's top reality stars turned influencers. The company suggests influencers with fewer followers and lower engagement rates are earning $444,000 a year, while those with higher numbers are earning upwards of $888,000 to $1.33 million.
Remember, that's just from sponsored content on Instagram.
Boyd, who represents ex-Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants including Lauren Bushnell, Ali Fedotowsky, and Ben Higgins, is hesitant to generalise, but also says reality stars can easily make six figures from sponsored content on social. She says 100,000 followers tends to translate to rates of $1,000 to $5,000 dollars per post, while 1 million followers equates to rates starting at $10,000 and up.
She attributes the success of reality stars on Instagram to their I-can-identify-with-you factor. Whereas celebrities have beautiful, but unattainable lifestyles, reality stars are often the girl and guy next door: "America loves them because they are real people," Boyd says. "They can relate to them, which brands love because it translates to sales."
Still, starring on The Bachelor doesn't ensure an easy transition to Instagram's million-dollar-club. Boyd often sees new cast members take every deal that comes their way, instead of accepting ones for products and companies that align with their off-show, personal brands.
"America loves [reality stars] because they are real people. They can relate to them, which brands love because it translates to sales."
Sarah Boyd, Founder, Simply
"They're taking anything and hurting the industry because they'll take deals for basically no money, devaluing everyone else," Boyd says. "All of our clients are looking for longer term, more authentic deals as opposed to the one-offs, because the consumer is getting much savvier."
The stars who are able to break out of the reality realm and survive beyond the 15-minute spotlight are the ones who found their own businesses on the side. Bushnell, for example, now has a clothing line and rosé brand.
Influencer marketing is constantly evolving, so it's hard to say whether Instagram income will remain lucrative in years to come. A current industry trend, for example, is what Boyd calls "dark ads." In a dark ad, a brand will use an influencer's name to promote their product, but the influencer will not post about it on their own feed. (The frequent Influencer-headlined Instagram ads from HelloFresh seem to fit this new category.)
There are also changes that happen on the social network side of the equation. Now that Instagram is putting a bigger focus on video with the launch of IGTV, influencers will need to figure out how to leverage their personal brands there, too.
If anything, Instagram is showing that, for reality stars, making it to the final rose ceremony isn't the end of their fame, nor is it a requirement for establishing their long-term money-making prospects. What would Chris Harrison have to say about that?