20th May 2024

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Technology and Computer

Passive income ideas: creating content on social media

If you’re like many people who are tired of the 9-to-5 grind, you may have dreamed of a life where you can earn passive income from social media while travelling or relaxing on a distant beach.

But just how legitimate are claims by some social media influencers and content creators that the average Jane or Joe can earn passive income from platforms like TikTok and Instagram, if you follow their advice?

I’m here to argue that it’s very possible to earn passive income from social media. However, it’s not as simple and easy as some self-styled gurus make it out to be. It requires time, effort, and quite often, a bit of luck.

How going ‘viral’ can change your life

Today, almost every major company has at least some type of social media presence. Before coming to social media platforms, many companies were already successful businesses and many of today’s influencers already had some level of fame, notoriety, or influence in their niche.

Not everybody, though.

Take 83-year-old Calgary resident Bill Oullet, for example. Earlier this year, Bill became a viral sensation on TikTok, garnering millions of views for his comedic short-form content. His content is original, funny, and authentic. Now, he’s known around the world.

Going viral can take your small-time social media presence worldwide overnight, and can completely change your life by:

  • Exposing your content to a global audience

  • Helping you catch the eye of big-name brands and celebrities

  • Exposing your small business to millions of customers

The best part is that going viral is essentially free, other than the time and effort you put into making the content. You can receive the same level of attention that multinational corporations like Coca-Cola spend billions for.

The difficult part is that it’s almost impossible to predict what content goes viral. It’s almost like winning the lottery, which means that it’s not always an achievable goal most people should aim for.

Here’s the good news, though. You don’t need to go viral to create a passive income stream for yourself on social media.

How TikTok and Instagram influencers make money

If you’re reading this, you’ve likely seen so-called gurus selling online courses on how anybody can create a full-time living for themselves on social media. The thing about gurus, though, is that they always make things seem easier than they are.

Just like entrepreneurship and starting your own business, creating a successful social media presence that you can profit financially from isn’t easy.

You’ll also have to learn to adapt and pivot when sudden changes come, such as Twitter buying Vine in 2012, or the potential for a U.S./Canadian TikTok ban.

However, if you’re consistent, work hard, and are willing to adapt to changes, there are several time-tested ways that anybody can use to earn passive income as an influencer on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and others.

1. Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is one of the oldest ways of making money online. Essentially, you market and endorse another brand’s product through your page. Whenever one of your followers takes your advice and buys a product through your unique affiliate link, you earn a small commission from the sale.

Amazon currently has one of the world’s largest affiliate programs, making it one of the easiest places for social media start-ups to start earning some side money. Once you have a more established presence, you’ll likely find it more profitable to work with larger, more reputable brands.

2. Influencer marketing

Once you’ve built a strong organic following for yourself, businesses and brands may approach you and pay you to help bring awareness to them. On a large scale, you’re talking big-name celebrities and sports stars endorsing a makeup brand, fast-food chain, or car brand.

You don’t have to have millions of followers to become an influencer, though.

Smaller, more local businesses often prefer to work with “micro-influencers” who have a strong loyal network of fans, often fewer than 20,000 followers. This can be a great way for you to build a passive income stream by leveraging your knowledge of your own city.

3. Selling a product or service

If you have a side hustle or small business, growing your social media presence can be one of the best ways to attract new customers.

Aside from directly promoting your content using TikTok or Instagram, consider making fun, informative content that makes your brand more personal, such as:

  • Behind-the-scenes (how you make or do what you do)

  • Product/service giveaways

  • Customer testimonials and reviews from your loyal customers

  • Free tips and advice that relate to your product or service

4. Donations and memberships

While most social media platforms discourage heckling, you may still post links in your bio to other platforms such as Patreon, GoFundMe, Discord, and others where you can accept donations or sell membership programs.

For example, I know a music producer and guitar player who offers a $5/month membership to access his tutorials on mixing music and learning guitar. If you truly consider yourself an expert in a certain niche, this can be a great way to leverage your skill set and earn money as an educator.

Being an influencer isn’t as passive as it seems

Like many things in life, having a career as an influencer is often glamorized. In reality, the average social media influencer isn’t out here earning six figures, jetting around the world, and driving supercars.

Is it possible? Yes.

Should you expect it? No.

If you want to build a passive income stream on social media using one of the time-tested methods I outlined above, it’s going to take time. You’re going to have to learn videography and editing, spend your nights and days off creating content, and stick to a consistent posting schedule.

It will require just as much work as starting your own small business, and you may not see a financial payoff for months or years, while you build your following. But if you truly love it and enjoy it, why not give it a shot?

Unsure of where to start? Entrepreneur and social media expert Gary Vaynerchuck has a great free guide that simplifies how to start making content by documenting your daily life.

Don’t quit your day job … yet

Creating an income stream from TikTok or Instagram is an achievable goal. At first, though, it’s not going to be passive. You’ll need to invest time and money into creating content and building your brand.

Even after you’re established, you’ll need to continue to create if you want to keep growing. If you work hard and stay consistent, the payoff is that you can build a career for yourself that you truly enjoy and where you’re not bound by set schedules.

This will all take time, though. I recommend that you stay in your current line of work to keep your bills paid. If you’re truly interested in building an online brand, start doing it in your free time, until you start seeing results. Once you no longer need your job to pay the bills, then you can go all-in on your social media brand.

Not all influencers quit their jobs, though. Starting a social media brand can be a great way to diversify your income or help you expand your personal network while remaining in your current line of work.

Christopher Liew is a CFA Charterholder and former financial advisor. He writes personal finance tips for thousands of daily Canadian readers on his Wealth Awesome website.

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