The business of influence: How Zinhle Masango makes bank on social media

Social media has given everyone a public voice, and many people use these platforms to build their personal brands and make money as social media influencers.

While celebrities typically attract the largest followings (and command the highest fees from brands for content), health and fitness influencers are also popular as people look to them for information, tips, insights and opinions to help them achieve their goals.

As the influencer marketing industry in South Africa continues to grow, especially with video content on platforms like TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, we spoke to a top influencer to share her tips on how you can break into the business of influence.

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Insta Fitness Junkie

Zinhle Masanao is a mother, certified nutritionist and fitness coach, competitive bodybuilder, fitness model and cover girl, an award-winning influencer, a brand ambassador, and she has a full-time job as an account manager.

Social media stats

After Zee transformed her body after her first pregnancy, she started competing as a physique athlete. She started using her social media platforms to showcase her love for fitness and inspire others, and quickly developed a social media folloing.

Her intention was not to monetise her social media platforms, but as her influence grew, business opportunities came knocking.

We chatted to Zee to get insights for those looking to build their brand and business as a social media influencer.

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How did your content creation strategy change when you decided to monetise your channels?

I had to start being more creative and think out of the box. I also had to ensure that I created much cleaner content, so I got a photographer and videographer to shoot my content. When I started in 2018 with my first paid campaign, I used my iPhone, but content creation has evolved since then. Hiring a professional photographer and videographer ensures Iget the right quality content.

What are your different revenue streams?

I generate revenue via multiple streams. A paid campaign happens when a brand reaches out to me to create content for a specific campaign. The brand would rely on me to create a specific amount of content against set deliverables for the campaign, which typically include a combination of reels, stills and stories to convey a certain message.

I have started consulting and drafting for other content creators, offering other influencers with templates for their rate cards and media toolkits for a fee.

An ambassadorship programme entails an exclusive agreement with a particular brand for a set time to create content for them.

I also offer bootcamps for corporate clients and host bootcamps with my partner Grace Motswana, which anyone can attend by purchasing tickets.

I earn appearance fees when a brand pays me to attend their event, which sometimes entails content creation on the day, and I earn a daily rate when a brand contracts me to model for a photo or video shoot.

In your experience, what do brands look for from a paid media influencer?

I believe brands firstly look for alignment. If there’s no alignment between the brand and influencer, the campaign is more likely to fail.

Secondly, they look for authenticity and versatility; as much as I am a fitness influencer, I also work with lifestyle brands in the skincare, alcohol, and consumer goods sectors, This is possible because I am a very versatile content creator. I believe I am also quite authentic as I share bits and pieces of my everyday life in my content.

Thirdly, brands look at the quality of your content. Most brands choose influencers who create clean and captivating content.

Lastly, they look at numbers and reach. Brands are most likely to work with influencers with a good following who engage with their content.

Do you manage your platform/s content yourself, or do you have someone helping you from a production or a creative perspective?

I run a one-woman show. I do not have a manager, I believe this has contributed to many brands coming back for repeat business as we form a relationship. Content creation is still a money-making hobby for me, which is why I have not considered a manager. However, I have a photographer and videographer who shoot my content. If the budget does not allow this, I shoot my own content or get my partner to do it.

Do you believe being a social media influencer can generate enough revenue to make it a full-time career in South Africa?

It is definitely possible. I earn a lot of money from creating content – enough that I was able to pay off my parents’ bond and save up venture capital for my new business.

However, I firmly believe in creating multiple income streams for stability. Campaigns can pay great money, but you never know when the next one is coming. As such, I have a full-time job, which gives me financial freedom and a sense of security.

Content creation may seem glamorous, but it is actually a lot of work negotiating rates, attending briefing sessions and events/launches, coming up with creative concepts and captions, redoing content when it is not approved, and post campaign reporting.

And I always say that a person needs capital to become a content creator. Brands usually pay you after the campaign, so fees for videographers, photographers, venue hires and other upfront costs needs to come out of your pocket.

What’s the most revenue you have made in a month from social media?


What tips would you give to someone who wants to become an influencer?

Be authentic! Brands are always looking for someone new and fresh. Always have something that sets you apart from the rest.

Have a good work ethic. Most of my campaigns are repeat business, and I believe this is because I submit content on time, produce quality content and have great communication skills.

Engage with your followers: I try my best to engage with my followers by replying to DMs and comments. I also do questionnaires to find out what content they want me to create.

And be patient and consistent. Many want to become top-earning influencers overnight, but building a profile and community takes time. Ensure you post consistently as this will help your following grow over time.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

When he's not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He's worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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