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How much do momfluencers get paid?
And why Faith Hitchon thinks Instagram is dying.
After spending the last few years researching my book, one object of fascination came up time and time again. Money. How much do momfluencers make? And how are their fees determined? What are brands and external companies paying momfluencers for exactly? Pretty pictures? Quippy copy? Impeccable photo styling? On-camera charisma for Reels? Creative storytelling? Entrepreneurism? Small business ownership?
There is no simple, one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Momfluencers’ skill-sets vary widely. The influencer economy is also famously unregulated. Pay scales fluctuate wildly according to influencer (and brand and platform), and an aspiring momfluencer might enter the industry having no real sense of what her peers are making. I interviewed academics Brooke Erin Duffy and Emily Hund, both of whom have done significant research on influencer culture, and they each expressed professional frustration that financial metrics were (and are) so difficult to come by.
So I was delighted to talk to Faith Hitchon about how momfluencing is monetized and the symbiotic relationship between influencers and brands. Faith has worked in various capacities in the momfluencer (and momfluencer-adjacent) space for years, most recently for Hatch, a company that sells maternity and postpartum clothing. I initially reached out to Faith to help me with a Refinery29 article I wrote about the intersection of momfluencers and MLMs, and she’s been a touchstone of wisdom for me ever since.
I hope you enjoy our chat!
So many people are curious about how momfluencers get paid, and what the meetings that take place behind the scenes involving brands and influencers are like. Can you share your insight?
It’s gonna sound a little mad scientist-y, but I can break it down for you. So Instagram is an app. It's built for people. It's not built for brands; they're very upfront about that. And therefore, you know, storytelling is first and foremost. It's what performs best and it's kind of what hooks you in, right? If you really think about the best influencers, you know the trajectory of their lives, you know their ups and their downs. And the reason you have a clear sense of their stories, and you feel like you know them, is because of the storytelling they’ve been able to do via the app itself. So if brands don’t have a central figure themselves to create a story around and to center the marketing on, they really need an influencer or momfluencer to do it for them. In terms of a brand having a clear figurehead, I’m thinking of the owner of Solly Baby, who fully worked her brand around her story and that's part of why Solly was so successful on social media. Or the Doen sisters who placed themselves strategically.
I did not even know there were sisters behind Doen! Looking them up right now. I’m thinking of the founder of Christy Dawn as another one. Or the founder of Hill House home (of Nap Dress fame).
Exactly. So that’s the best-case scenario. Or if the founder of the brand is an editor or something, someone who has clout and is already doing a bit of storytelling. And then the next-best option is to find someone who really lives on the internet whose lifestyle represents the lifestyle you think aligns with your brand.
Okay, and so brands will bring you on to basically scour the internet and find someone?
Yeah. I started in content production. So I’d produce videos or content for brands, sometimes really big brands, sometimes smaller brands, back when like, Nike needed a three minute YouTube video or whatever. In the mid-aughts, I was traveling all over the world with my first baby and was constantly using the Ergo carrier. And Ergo Baby was like, Oh, this girl understands content and she is traveling the world with a baby on her back while she’s working. She represents exactly what we believe in as a brand, which is that moms can do anything. They just have to strap their babies to their back.
That message is problematic in some ways, and I think their ethos has become much more empathetic as time has passed. But yeah, they brought me on to run their social and build their influencer relationships along with a woman named Dani Hampton. And that's how I got my start.
But back then, everyone was sort of starting out at the same time, and the internet felt like a different place. Instagram ads hadn’t even been launched yet. Back then, people were trading products for posts, right? It was very much before influencer monetization. So you would invite people to events, they would come for free, you would give them products. And then, you know, as brands started to leverage that content more deeply and influencers started to get more followings, that relationship between brands and influencers started to shift.
As we're talking about narrative and storytelling, somebody who immediately jumps out to me is Julie D. O’Rourke. If you think about her brand, you immediately have a clear image of like, the kids playing on the rocky shoreline of Maine, and groups of beautiful people eating periwinkles cooked in butter on a campfire, and Julie making something cool with her hands. And of course, Julie creates sponsored content as well, and sometimes it’s just a 15 second video endorsing Coco Floss or whatever. I know you can’t speak to what she earns specifically, but people are so curious about how much folks with really strong, recognizable brands are getting paid. Can you share any insight?
I mean, it really depends on the brand. At this point, it’s very technical whereas it used to be more organic. I can type in an influencer (if they have a creator account) into a tool to see audience segmentation, where people who follow them live, how many of those people are aligned with my brand, what their conversion rate may or may not be, what their engagement rate is, how many bots they have, right? And then I have to consider how I want to utilize them. Do I want to use them to gain new followers for the brand I’m working for? Do I want to use them to create brand awareness? Do I want to use them to sell the specific products? All of these are very different functions. So all of these considerations go into numbers as does the size of the brand. If a brand like Dove approaches an influencer with 50,000 ish followers, that influencer could probably get $5,000.00 for delivering maybe a reel and a lifestyle photo.
That makes sense. And is it different with a small brand?
Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. The budget that used to go towards media spend has transitioned into influencer spend. And there are companies who specialize in this kind of crazy ROI of influencer codes and affiliate codes. So you hand these companies like $100,000, and they hand you back like three times that amount through influencer networks they have established who generate revenue for the brand, mostly through affiliate links.
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Okay. Interesting. So there’s basically no industry standard, right?
There's no industry standard whatsoever. I will say that’s changing a little with TikTok. They have paid influencers themselves and still do pay some of the big ones to post on TikTok. So because they’ve created their own internal network, you can see with a lot more transparency the rates of various influencers. I think the world where influencers are haphazardly throwing numbers at the wall is quickly coming to an end simply because there are so many of them. They’re cannibalizing themselves, you know? Micro influencers are often more effective than macro influencers, so if I can get the same return for a post I paid an influencer $7,000.00 for versus a post I paid an influencer $2,500.00 for, why wouldn’t I choose the person who wants less money?
Influencers really raked it in big in 2020 because brands weren’t able to shoot their own campaigns. So they were leveraging influencers to literally shoot campaigns for them, which I think gave influencers a skewed idea of what their posts actually do in terms of impact. But there are some people who are worth every single dollar that you spend on them. I’d say those people are like, one out of seven influencers.
Do you care to name any names?
Let’s take Rachel Parcell as an example. Rachel Parcell clearly has an Amazon partnership, right? So if I were to make a conservative guess, I would not be surprised if she makes six figures a month on affiliate with Amazon alone.
Wow. Holy shit. Who are some momfluencers really nailing their storytelling?
Interesting. I'm probably the worst person to ask because I see through a lot of it – ha. Oh! Chelsea Jean from Hawaii.
Oooh I don’t know her.
So I started working with her when she had like, 10,000 followers and first of all, she has fucking beautiful photography. It’s very Sally Mann-esque, you know? It’s very elevated. And I just respect the fuck out of her visual creativity. And she doesn’t come from money. She and her husband have sort of built this life through a photography business initially but now they do brand partnerships. And like, she doesn’t make you sort of question reality, you know, like Ballerina Farm or whatever.
Why are micro influencers more effective?
Because everyone knows that macro influencers are there to make money. They’ve monetized their lifestyles. And like, I would probably believe you when you say that, like a certain face cream has worked wonders for you over, for example, Rachel Parcell. Because 10 out of 10 times, if I click on her personal story through to a moisturizer she loves, it’ll be an affiliate code she’s making money off of.
But the micro influencer with 30k followers is also making money from her sponcon, right?
That’s the sweet spot – like roughly 30k followers. Because that tells me they’ve built an authentic-enough story for their audience to trust them (and their product recs). There's a reason people are following them. They’ve likely done non-paid content for smaller brands, which has in turn, boosted the influencer’s brand. Ok, so before she was as big as she is now, I was working with Beyond Yoga, and we used to send Fatima Dedrickson stuff for free, and she would post about it frequently, and then we’d feature her on our page, and that gave her clout, right? This isn’t to say she became as beloved and successful as she is now because she did a few product trades - her content and storytelling skills are incredible on its own. My point is just that micro influencers leverage brand relationships in the beginning as a mutually beneficial trade-off. And often, micro influencers build their platforms in this way, with organic relationships with brands they actually enjoy and trust and use.
So, if Fatima has been posting about Beyond Yoga for months (even before she was huge), and then eventually has a code for you, it feels authentic. It doesn’t feel like it’s come out of nowhere.
That makes sense. I'm thinking about like, Julie D. O’Rourke with Misha and Puff sweaters. It’s obvious she genuinely loves ‘em and something about that genuine love does make me more likely to buy one for myself.
What do you think of TikTok as compared to Instagram?
I see Instagram dying.
I mean, it's so fucking boring, right? I'm bored out of my mind on Instagram. It’s the same shit over and over again. After you’ve been on TikTok for even a month, you’re just like, how is Instagram even still alive? I think that it's going to become almost like Facebook, and Instagram stories will just completely overtake the feed. I think Stories will become a “day in the life,” almost like YouTube but more accessible. But in terms of growth and getting paid, TikTok is undoubtedly the future of content.
Do you have anyone that you personally are obsessed with for good or bad?
Ballerina Farm definitely sucked me in for a really long time. I eventually unfollowed her.
Obviously me unfollowing her means nothing to her, but it was more for my own sanity because it was all so unrealistic. And when, in the middle of the pandemic she was walking through an airport maskless with all her kids like it was no big deal, it was just like, fuck you and your privilege and your bullshit and the fact that you never talk about anything real. And I just couldn't participate anymore, because I've seen her doing a lot of harm.
I have a real soft spot for Brandi Sellerz, Fatima Dedrickson, and Ashley Chea. There are so many women out there who have something important to say, who have built their followings in a deeply authentic way.
This app was created for storytelling, it was built to take away the chokehold that traditional media has always had on storytelling. You know, traditional media got to decide who was worth going on the cover of magazines, and Instagram allowed everyone to create their own magazines. And there are people who are doing really important things in the world, working incredibly hard, and it’s amazing that we get to hear their stories.
Last question (and this is a fun one!) I know you are passionate about destigmatizing cannabis (especially for women and moms). Do you have any products that you want to shout out?
Yeah, I’m obsessed with Rose Delights edibles. I call them the glass of wine of edibles. I’m a lightweight after having kids, and I’m absolutely obsessed with these edibles. Every mom I’ve ever given them to is obsessed. They’re amazing. Oh! And the Foria cannabis lube is really great.