The business behind social influencers. This is how local stars are making major bank

Posted at 3:57 PM, Apr 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-02 08:57:35-04

(WXYZ) — Social Media Stars are born every day, many right here in Michigan! Like Brian Barczyk. He is a reptile expert based in Utica, who started posting videos to YouTube in 2008.

"I figured it would be good practice for television, that's what I really thought,” he said.

But now, his videos have exploded.

“Now I turn TV down almost all the time,” Barczyk said laughing.

He has more than two-million subscribers on YouTube, hundreds of millions of views and he gets paid for every one through the YouTube Partner Program.

“So every million views you get, you're going to make $3,000 to $5,000, let’s say," he explains. "A channel like ours, we'll typically do 10 to15 million views a month."

To do the math, that's $30,000 to $50,000 a MONTH!! On top of that, Barczyck has large followings on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, too. Brands pay big money for a personal social media shoutout.

“All the way up to $15,000 for a 60 to 90 second integration," Barczyk said.

His social media success has financed other dreams. He bought and built the Reptarium in Utica with three months of Youtube and social media earnings.

“It is unbelievable the opportunity that comes from social media success," he said. "Not only things like my reptile zoo, the Reptarium, but brand lines, merchandising, gear."

Brian Barczyck isn’t the only Michigander making a living using social media.

“There are loads of people that are making their living and quitting their jobs,” says Joel Beckett, founder of The Outloud Group.

Based in Detroit, Beckett connects brands with social media influencers from around the world.

“Here's what you can say, here's what you can't say," Beckett explained. "We want this to be authentic. We want it to be in your voice, but there are also things you can't say about the brand."

And his business is booming.

“It's really grown exponentially, I mean every single year we are doubling or tripling,” Beckett said.

The industry is exploding!

“The most reliable numbers I'm seeing right now are putting this between 4 and 6 billion dollars,” Beckett said.

So how much realistically can you make? Well, it depends on the number of followers and views you have.

Beckett says if you consistently have 100,000 views and do a 30-45 second shout out, “You're looking at somewhere between 2 and 4 thousand dollars per shoutout.”

On the high end, the really established social media influencers and content creators: “They're easily making 100 to 150 thousand dollars per endorsement and they might do four or 5=five of those a month!”


“But it works," Beckett said. "Brands wouldn't keep paying that if it wasn't working. It’s working."

And why does it work?

Brian Barczyk believes it's his positive energy and sense of adventure that his audience loves.

“Wow there's someone that followed their dream and is happy," Barczyk said. "Wakes up in the morning, can't wait to get going and I think that is what resonated."

Also, he points out, the world loves reality TV.

"I'm telling the story of my day and that story might be good, it might be bad, it might be fun, it may be not fun,” Barczyck said. “People love that! They love being a part of it and they love the fact that they know there's not someone telling you what to do; that it's real and raw and it's genuine."

It takes a lot of passion and a lot of hard work but you don’t need millions of followers or views to break in.

“We'll start working with a YouTube channel that has 20,000 viewers consistently, for Instagram," Beckett said. "It would be less and the dollars would be less."

He says The Outloud Group has an oversupply of advertising dollars and not enough social media influencers to pay.

“We would spend more money if we could on behalf of our clients, if we could find more quality channels," Beckett said. "Those who are producing really, really, really great content."

And what makes really great content?

“Look, it's the difference between... if you start a photography channel because you want to get a Canon contract and you want Canon to pay you," Beckett said. "Your content is not going to be that great because you're doing it for the wrong reasons. If you are passionate about photography and you're passionate about teaching other people, it's gonna be good content! It's going to be a good channel and then you're going to get advertising dollars that follow you.

“We need people who are passionate about certain topics, creating good content around that topic and the ad dollars are going to follow. If you have personality and you are passionate about whatever the thing is we'll find the ad dollars for it."

Other Michigan social media star influencers to check out:

Katie Betzing from Macomb County is a lifestyle influencer.

Also from Macomb is Justin Odisha, who creates instructional and educational videos.

In Monroe County a family of six vlogs together on their YouTube channel, “Our Family Nest.”

In Detroit, Leah Vernon’s vulnerable and raw Instagram account landed her a book deal - “Unashamed: Musings of a Fat, Black, Muslim” is available for pre-order on Amazon now.

Tyler Oakley is the biggest social media star to come from Michigan. Born and raised in the mitten, he started his YouTube channel while still in high school, he graduated from Michigan State University and now lives in Los Angeles.