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How to be an influencer: Expert financial advice for would-be social media stars

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Becoming an influencer has become big business, with celebrities and social media stars commanding large fees for sponsored posts to promote a product or service to their followers on websites such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Actor Dwayne Johnson and reality star Kylie Jenner are reported to charge $1m for a sponsored Instagram post.

Influencers fall into two broad camps. There are those who regularly review products such as makeup or video games and celebrities or personalities promoting their own brand.

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There can be a crossover between the two and some of the main ways influencers make money is through sponsored posts, brand partnerships and income earned through ads on their own website or YouTube videos. They may also use their posts and websites to sell their own products and services.

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For example, Sophie Hinchcliffe – better known as Mrs Hinch – has built a 4 million Instagram following sharing cleaning tips and now has her own range of products.

Not everyone can attract $1m per post but Tribe, which runs a platform matching brands with influencers, says someone with between 3,000 to 10,000 followers could get £50 to £100 per post, rising to more than £350 for followings above 100,000.

With more followers comes more financial responsibility and experts warn that influencers could easily fall into tax traps and money mazes as they start to earn more.

“These are often young influencers who suddenly are getting lots of cash and don’t realise they are now responsible for the tax,” says Antony Smith, a director at tax advisers Hillier Hopkins, which advises several influencers.

“That is the biggest mistake I see. You could have years of loads of money coming in and then HMRC comes along with a big tax bill if income hasn’t been declared.”

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Consider your business structure

Like any business, an influencer can setup as a sole trader or limited company.

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Mr Smith says there is a whole level of compliance that comes with being a limited company such as keeping accounts and paying corporation and dividend taxes, while a sole trader’s main fiscal worry is income tax.

“How you are structured isn’t just about tax, it is also about protection,” he adds.

“Everything is at risk if you get sued for saying something in a video or post as a sole trader, but a company provides a protective shield. Only whatever the company owns can be targeted.”

Watch out for the perks

Influencer marketing is already a billion-dollar industry as global brands lavish celebrities and social media stars with free products or holidays to promote to their followers to boost sales.

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The industry is expected to grow to more than $13.8bn this year, according to the Influencer Marketing Hub.

But Mr Smith warns that HMRC may view freebies as income and to be cautious about how items are expensed.

“If you are getting paid by a brand to advertise a product and they gift you the products, that can be seen as part of your compensation for providing those paid-for posts so it could be taxable and need to be declared in your tax return,” he adds.

“Additionally, an influencer may take pictures wearing clothes they have purchased and then put the items down as an expense in their accounts but HMRC won’t see it that way as the garment isn’t just being used for work.”

Use professional support

As well as tax and keeping on top of their finances, influencers also have to follow rules on advertising products clearly.

Love Island star Molly-Mae Hague was reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority earlier this month for failing to make clear how the winners were chosen in an £8,000 competition for some of her own products such as tanning foams.

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Influencers should also be clear about what they are agreeing to promote.

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“Check your contract to see what you are getting paid, what you have to do and any restrictions such as non-compete clauses that stop you promoting similar products,” says Mr Smith.

“Also consider how much it may cost to do a promotion such as travel as this could reduce your fee.”

Mr Smith says having a business manager as well as access to an accountant and legal team can ensure you are operating lawfully and help keep on top of your income.

‘My social media success is boosted by scone sales’

Charlie Gray, 40, has built a 7,000-strong social media following as life and home skills influencer Ask Charlie after realising many people haven’t learned how to do traditional domestic chores such as planning family meals, cleaning or the best way to put on a tie.

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Her Facebook, YouTube and Instagram followers regularly watch her demonstrate practical tasks such as cooking a Sunday roast or doing French plaits from the home she shares with her husband and three children in West Sussex.

Her followers doubled during the pandemic as more people found themselves at home and having to cook or run a household, which they may not have been used to or didn’t learn from their parents or grandparents.

Once her content was getting monetised from online courses and YouTube views last year, Charlie knew she needed to change her setup as she was previously a sole trader.

She launched her own company, opened a business account and got an accountant.

“It makes it easier to keep things separate once money is coming in and to leave it to the professionals,” she says.

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“I am also careful about freebies.

“You have to be really clear about items that are gifted. It’s one of the reasons I don’t like accepting too much and I will only promote items I have used and like.”

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Charlie says one of the biggest challenges is funding everything yourself so she sells homemade items such as jam and scones through her website to keep money coming in.

“I think I made and posted thousands of scones last year,” she adds.

‘Partnerships have helped me grow’

Financial adviser Emmanuel Asuquo, started making his own videos explaining subjects such as pensions, investments and money habits four years ago and has amassed more than 24,000 followers on Instagram.

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The 35-year-old grew up on a council estate in the shadow of Canary Wharf in Tower Hamlets and felt people from his background are underrepresented and underserved as clients and colleagues in financial services.

His financial coaching posts have proved popular and he can now use it as a platform to help those who need help such as with setting up a pension.

But the father-of-four says it can take a while to get to a level where being an influencer is self-sufficient so it is important to budget and try it part-time until you generate enough income.

He says one of the biggest shifts is the lack of a regular payday and warns you have to be clear and careful what you talk about.

“Financial advice has to be individual, what I put online is education, I am just trying to make people aware of what’s available,” says Emmanuel.

“I have loads of companies wanting me to promote forex and Bitcoin but I won’t as I know the risks.”

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Social media partnerships can also help your brand grow, he says.

“I used to pay huge amounts on Instagram marketing but realised it was more effective to work with other influencers or people with larger audiences and doing stuff in partnership to get my name out there.

“That worked out a lot cheaper than paying for social media.

“It doesn’t feel like a business when you are doing your passion.”

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INSTAGRAM

5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android

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Alright, we get it. You’re an Instagram Nostradamus.

You know exactly what you want to post and when you’re gonna want to post it. Maybe there’s a meme or comment you want to make that you know will be totally relevant for a future moment or event. Or it could be that you’re an influencer and you want to make sure you keep a steady stream of content coming, so you want to schedule posts for times when you know you won’t be active (or won’t have internet access).

You’ll be happy to know there are apps that are specialized for just such situations. So listen up, InstaNostradamuses…Instagrostra…Instadam…Insta…uh…you guys (we’ll workshop it. No we won’t. We’ll probably just abandon that effort completely. You’re welcome) — these are the Instagram-post-scheduling apps for you.

While all of the iPhone apps below are free to download, they all have some in-app purchases.

1. Planoly

PLANOLY

We’ll start with “official partner” of Instagram, itself, Planoly — an Instaplanner that uses a grid to let you plan, schedule, and publish posts (as well as Reels) on Instagram. The app also lets you see post metrics and analytics so you can make sure your post didn’t flop.

Planoly is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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2. Buffer

BufferCredit: buffer / app store

Buffer is another Instagram post scheduler that helps you plan your posts and analyze feedback once they’re published. Use a calendar view to drag and drop posts into days/time slots for easy scheduling.

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Buffer is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

3. Preview

PreviewCredit: preview / app store

Preview offers typical post-scheduling tools and analytics along with a few helpful extras. Get caption ideas, recommendations for hashtags, and more.

Preview is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

4. Content Office

Content OfficeCredit: content office / app store

An Instagram post scheduler with a visual boost, Content Office allows users to plan and schedule Instagram posts while learning “marketing and visual guides to grow your brand on Instagram.” Like aesthetics and using visuals to create cohesive themes? Maybe this is the Instaplanner for you.

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Content Office is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.

5. Plann

PlannCredit: plann / apple store

You’ll never guess what “Plann” lets you do…

Aside from scheduling posts, get content ideas and recommendations, as well as strategy tips to ensure you’re maximizing your Instagram engagement. Ever wonder when the best time to post something is? Plann can offer you some help with that.

Plann is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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Social networking websites launch features to encourage users to get boosters

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Facebook Instagram and TikTok are launching new features to encourage people to get their coronavirus booster jabs.

From Friday, users will be able to update their profiles with frames or stickers to show that they have had their top-up jab or aim to when they become eligible.

It follows on from people previously being able to show they have had their first and second jabs on certain social networking websites and apps.

TikTok also held a “grab a jab” event in London earlier this year.

I urge everyone who is eligible – don’t delay, get your vaccine or top up jab today to protect yourself and your loved ones

More than 16 million booster vaccines have now been given across the UK.

People who are aged 40 and above and received their second dose of their vaccine at least six months ago are currently eligible to have their booster.

A new campaign advert is also being launched on Friday, which shows how Covid-19 can build up in enclosed spaces and how to prevent that from happening.

Vaccines minister Maggie Throup said:  “Getting your booster is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and your family this winter.

“It is fantastic to see some of the biggest household names further back the phenomenal vaccine rollout, allowing their users to proudly display that they have played their part in helping us build a wall of defence across the country.

“I urge everyone who is eligible – don’t delay, get your vaccine or top-up jab today to protect yourself and your loved ones.”

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How many hashtags should you use to get the most ‘Likes’ on Instagram?

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Hashtags are a key feature of Instagram posts. In fact, they have become an essential means of ensuring more ‘Likes’ on social media – so long as you choose them wisely.

But how many hashtags should you use to maximise your popularity on the social network? The answer might surprise you.

It’s a question that many Instagram users ask themselves: what’s the right number of hashtags to add to a post? To find out, the Later platform analysed 18 million Instagram posts, excluding videos, Reels and Stories.

Interestingly, Later’s results differ from Instagram’s own recommendations. According to Later’s analysis, using more hashtags helps get better results in terms of “reach”, or the percentage of users exposed to the post. By using 20 hashtags, Later observed an optimal average reach rate of just under 36%. Using 30 hashtags gets the next-best reach rate. With five hashtags, reach hits just under 24%.

And while a post’s reach is important, engagement is even more so. From “Likes” and comments to shares and follows – on average, 30 hashtags appears to result in better engagement rates: “When it comes to average engagement rate, using 30 Instagram hashtags per feed post results in the most likes and comments,” says Later’s research.

Yet, at the end of September 2021, Instagram advised its creators to use between three and five hashtags for their posts, while warning them against using too many. The social network advised that using 10 to 20 hashtags per post “will not help you get additional distribution”.

For Later, there could be other reasons behind Instagram’s recommendations: “As Instagram continues to expand their discoverability and SEO tools, it makes sense that they want users to experiment with fewer, more relevant hashtags – this could help them accurately categorise and recommend your posts in suggested content streams, like the Instagram Reels feed or the updated hashtag search tabs,” the website explains. – AFP Relaxnews

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