How to cash in on the influencer economy

I'll try to be succinct. Here's an idea if you'd like to steal it...

#Today's influencer landscape

Brands currently pay influencers between $1,000 - $5,000 per campaign. For a tenth of that, they can also choose to pay for adhoc shout-outs, or use micro-influencers instead.

These campaign require co-ordination and a lot of admin work. Marketing teams must plan logistics (when/where influencers post), scale (how often to post), and payment (how/how much to pay them). Of course there are SaaS platforms that make this work simpler, but it's a non-zero amount of work nonetheless.

#Here's a novel approach

Instead of finding and managing influencers, an alternative for brands is to simply empower everyone to become an influencer. How? Through real estate. More specifically, by establishing a photo studio with a few strategic incentives in mind.

The idea is to take what teamLab Borderless has done with their light museum in Japan, and apply a model-centric spin on things. Imagine a warehouse with multiple sections and themes that are Instagram-friendly.

#The kicker

Sure, "Instagram locations" aren't a new idea, but if you provide everyone easy access to a beautiful location, props, and even photographers, and have marketers subsidize ticket prices, then you're golden.

And I do mean everyone.

All (or most) of your furnishings would be provided by partnering brands (the marketers and their products). You'd employ full-time photographers and stylists (probably MUAs that apply some basic touch-ups) and their sole mandate would be to make people feel like models.

The idea is that anyone could pitch up, pay a small entrance fee, and an hour later, an average person can go home with 50 to 100 incredible images that they'd never have access to otherwise.


The democratization (read: dilution) of the influencer economy is inevitable, so you may as well get ahead of the curve and provide a service that fits the state of the market 10 or 20 years from now.

Your studio would provide brands with an endless stream of influencers without them having to do the gruntwork of planning campaigns. They'd simply need to provide your studio with their products roughly around the time of their product launches (or just whenever).

You'd increase a partner brand's internet reach by an order of magnitude compared to contemporary influencer campaigns because there'd be like 1000x the amount of influencers sharing images that incorporate their products in their social media posts.

Currenty, brands often send products out to influencers already so we can consider shipping and inventory costs irrelevant when considering a switch from traditional influencer campaigns to this novel model.


Of course you could make money by charging people for access, ala theme parks. But your revenue could be skewed towards the other end of the marketplace. Much like brands pay for shelf-space in retail locations, you could charge brands for access to the space in your studio sections.

Furniture, art, fashion, tech - not only would you have a steady supply of props that people would want to have in their photos, but the shelf-space fees could subsidize the entrance fees for your model customers. The subsidy package could also provide any brand featured in any photo with some type of licensing rights to any creative works.

To ensure repeat visits, or continued interest, you'd want some level of stock rotation. But that just results in more "shelf-space purchasing". Plus, having a storage room and weekly scene reshuffling could go a long way...

#Making everyone feel special

By having a full-time team of professional photographers, you'd be incentivizing the best results for your models. Hiring photographers on a per-day or per-week basis would guarantee them income so their time would be spent helping people look and feel special (as opposed to being spent finding leads).

Having part of your staff doing post-production in real time as shoots are happening would be an insanely positive experience because of the quick turnaround times. Most people have never had a professional photo taken, let alone on a set that looks like their dream living room.

I have no doubt that the demand is an untapped bottle of revenue waiting to explode.

#Product-market fit

The image on this page is from Unsplash's sponsored sets. Microsoft likely paid a good amount for the "Do Great Things" campaign that this image comes from. So the idea of brands paying to be featured in public domain works is already proven.

There are countless ambassador marketing platforms online, and if you're interested in tapping into the influencer economy you can certainly compete on the front. But owning a physical location like this is the influencer equivalent of selling shovels during a gold rush.

#Closing the loop

I think this is the trickiest part - ensuring that a brand gets something out of their investment. Sure, you can have a photo of yourself sitting on a luxury couch, but unless you tag that brand, they might not actually benefit (in marketing ROI terms).

I guess one way is to insert small, elegant logo annotations during the post-production process - and maybe allow people to bypass this by forgoing the subsidized entrance fee? Kind of how Instagram's shopping tags look.

Then again, I suspect that most people would tag brands anyway because most people are aspirational creatures.

#Target market

Anyone can be a model if you operate this type of studio.

Today, a lot more people have beautiful photos on their social media profiles than they did a decade ago. But there are still more people that have low quality photos than those that have nice ones. Why? They either don't know how to take good photos, they don't have access to good locations or props, don't know how to use make up, post-production, or lighting.

Millions are spent annually on premium dating app subscriptions. Framing your photography studio's services as a way to help improve their dating profiles is a no-brainer.

Having a physical location in a sizeable city (or cities) provides entertainment value. If a person is bored on a Saturday, you can spend some time with your friends having your photos taken for a nominal fee.

I'm sure there are a handful more clever ways to frame this...