As a travel vlogger and social media influencer, Christina Galbato got a lot of messages from her online followers. They requested tips for hotels and restaurants, but many seek another kind of advice.
“A lot of what they were asking was: How can I do what you do?” the 29-year-old recalls.
That’s why Galbato launched “The Influencer Bootcamp,” 20 hours of prerecorded lessons in how others can monetize their social media presence. She charges $700 for a package that includes that course as well as other tools, such as sample email pitches and access to a members-only Facebook support group. Galbato says she’s on track to take in $4 million in revenue this year.
The influencer marketing business is already a $20 billion industry and one that’s projected to grow as social media users increase and brands seek out online talent to pitch their products on YouTube, Instagram and other sites. It’s such a big business, influencers are now selling courses to each other on a variety of topics. Chefs with big followings give online cooking lessons. Financial strategists peddle money planning tips. And others, like Galbato, teach about the art of viral marketing itself.
Courses vary in length and focus. Darius Moravcik, a 32-year-old technology entrepreneur who writes about online marketing under the name Darius Mora, documents his own journey as a TikTok personality and shows users how he boosted his follower count from zero to more than 35,000 in three months. Simple tricks — like posting often and consistently — can help users increase their followings, according to Moravcik.
“If you study the formula, anyone can do it,” he said.
Kristen Bousquet, a 28-year-old “influencer mentor” who created a course in January 2021, sells weekly live lessons as well as access to planning materials like organizational calendars and templates outlining how best to negotiate with potential sponsors. Like Moravcik, many of the lessons are easy to implement. Bousquet advises her students to limit TikTok videos to 10 seconds to increase the chance viewers will watch them multiple times, for example.
Prices for the courses also vary. Moravcik sells his prerecorded class, including roughly eight hours of content, for under $40. Bousquet markets her ten-week course for just under $400. Galbato charges as much as $9,000 for six months of live coaching. Her premium offering comes with one-on-one support, as well as a two-day retreat with other students in the program. Her sales overall doubled last year, she said.
Successful online courses can diversify influencers’ incomes. “If you want to be a creator, you need to be doing multiple things,” says Mae Karwowski, chief executive officer of influencer marketing agency obviously.
For TikTokers, multiple revenue streams can be especially important. Creators like science commentator Hank Green and technology reviewer Safwan AhmedMia have publicly complained that TikTok underpays its influencers, especially relative to other sites such as YouTube. They allege that TikTok’s “Creator Fund” doesn’t offer enough resources to pay all of its successful content posters, especially as more people go viral on the platform. TikTok said its fund is just one way creators get compensated, and the social media app’s tools allow the creators to be compensated directly by their fans.
Not all influencers have found online courses worthwhile, however. A year and a half ago, social media strategist Caitlin Jenco paid $200 to take an Instagram management course.
“The information was generic and lacked value beyond what I could find on Google for free,” she said. Jenco, who has over 110,000 followers on TikTok, describes herself as “anti-course.”
Instead of teaching online classes, she charges a monthly rate to consult with companies and individuals one-on-one. The fees range from $500 to $4,500, based on the clients’ needs. Sometimes she can answer questions in an email or text message. Other students require a more substantial review of things like the scripts for videos.
“It’s very much tailored to where the creator is,” Jenco said.
While students risk wasting money, the social media teachers are ultimately increasing their own competition. Bousquet, the influencer mentor, sees that as a benefit, with more people negotiating higher fees from sponsors.
“I won’t have to fight with brands that don’t want to meet me at my rates because another influencer is OK doing it for free,” she said.