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Brands are still hiring influencers who party during the pandemic

Happy Thursday! This is Amanda Perelli and welcome back to Insider Influencers, our weekly rundown on the influencer and creator economy. Sign up for the newsletter here.

During the pandemic, many mega influencers have ignored social-distancing guidelines by attending large gatherings, traveling, or appearing in public without masks. But brands are still hiring them.

An example: 19-year-old TikTok star Blake Gray was charged with a misdemeanor alongside fellow creator Bryce Hall on August 28, after throwing a massive party that Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer alleged violated the county's COVID-19 guidelines, including its "Safer LA" order and "Party House Ordinance."

Two days after the city attorney's charge, Gray posted a promotional video on TikTok for the fashion and cosmetics retailer Asos. And a little over a week later, Nabisco paid Gray to promote its Nutter Butter cookies on TikTok, with the brand cheekily pretending to flirt with Gray in the video's comments section. 

Gray and Hall are just two examples of influencers who have publicly ignored health measures. For instance, TikTok collab group Clubhouse traveled to Tulum, Mexico in June, and The Hype House hosted a large gathering in July. 

But by and large, brands seem to be sticking with these mega stars.

Why is that? 

My colleagues Dan Whateley, Sydney Bradley, and I spoke with influencer industry insiders on the reasons.

Some insiders said one potential reason is that dropping a mega influencer or celeb could provoke a bigger problem than any backlash would, especially as many have millions of loyal fans and are repped by high-powered Hollywood agencies and management firms. 

But, unlike some top creators, some influencers with smaller follower counts have faced tangible consequences.

One influencer with under one million followers had a brand cancel a year-long ambassadorship after they took a road trip with their children and posted about it on Instagram, according to their manager. The brand used the "morality clause" in their contract.

Check out the full analysis for more, here. 

The parents of the world's top-earning YouTube star, 8-year-old Ryan Kaji, took us inside his business

The 8-year-old Ryan Kaji is the highest-paid YouTuber in the world, making an estimated $26 million in yearly income reviewing toys, according to Forbes. 

His main YouTube channel, Ryan's World, has 26 million subscribers and billions of views. But his success doesn't stop there.

The Ryan's World brand spans beyond YouTube, with a show on TV, and dozens of products sold at major retailers like Target and Walmart. In 2019, the brand generated more than $200 million in retail sales, a spokesperson said.

I spoke with Ryan's parents, Shion and Loann, about the family's rise to fame online and how they built their business.

The family now manages a 30-person production company, Sunlight Entertainment, in their home state of Texas. When Ryan is attending school during the day, Shion and Loann will usually head to their office and work with their team of editors, animators, and voice actors to produce content. 

Read the full story here. 

How a cooking Instagram influencer doubled his follower count in one month using Reels

The 18-year-old influencer Eitan Bernath is a social-media cooking star who has become popular for his short-form content, particularly on TikTok, where he has over 1.3 million followers.

Sydney spoke with Bernath about his recent audience growth and how he strategically edits his short-form videos to go viral on TikTok and Instagram.

After Instagram launched Reels (its own version of TikTok) in August, Bernath started creating Reels immediately and suddenly gained over 200,000 followers in one month — doubling his following. 

His Reels are now some of the most popular on the app. He's accumulated over 60 million views in total and reaches the Instagram "Featured" page almost every day. 

"It's almost a joke now with me and my family: at what time of day will Instagram feature my Reel?" Bernath laughed.

Read more on his Reels strategy for success, here. 

An Instagram 'nano' influencer started making money with fewer than 3,000 followers

Instagram "nano" influencer Amber Broder has just over 2,300 followers, but she's already earning money from brands.

Broder is a skincare influencer, and she spoke with Sydney about how she monetizes content, and what her starting rates are for branded Instagram posts. 

Broder is a full-time student at Georgetown University, and this year, she turned her "passion project" into a money-making side hustle. On Instagram, she posts reviews of skincare products and sponsored content for brands on her "Amber Skincare Diary" channels. She mostly uses Instagram, but she also posts to TikTok and maintains a blog.

Broder uses a straightforward formula to calculate where to set her starting rates for content: 4% of her total of followers. This doesn't factor in time, quality, engagement, or usage rights, however. Rather, the formula acts as a guideline or minimum for where to start when negotiating her rates.  

Her starting rates for Instagram content include:

  • In-feed Instagram post: $100 to $120

  • Instagram Reel: $50 to $75

Check out her rates for IGTV, and her strategy for starting to work with brands, here. 

More creator industry coverage from Business Insider:

YouTube 

  • How much YouTube pays influencers for 100,000, 1 million, and 150 million views (by Amanda Perelli)

Ask an influencer: "Favorite social-media app for leisure?"

  • Cosette Rinab (TikTok creator, 2.3 million TikTok followers): "My favorite app for leisure is TikTok! I love scrolling through TikTok before bed or if I'm feeling stressed, it clears my mind and helps me unwind after a long day."

  • Josh Sadowski (TikTok creator, 4.6 million TikTok followers): "For leisure, TikTok and Reels would have to be my favorite! I'm able to watch a large variety of content in a short amount of time. I find myself laughing one moment and then watching an inspiration story the next."

  • Jair Woo (YouTube creator, 445,000 subscribers): "My favorite social media app for leisure would have to be Twitter. I use Twitter for my news, entertainment, funny memes, and everything in between."

  • Katherine Rose (YouTube creator, 489,000 subscribers): "Definitely TikTok because it makes me crack up at all times of the day." 

  • Taylor King (YouTube creator and video editor, 98,000 Instagram followers): "My favorite social media app for leisure, without a doubt, is TikTok. I love it because it can instantly get me out of a bad mood, makes me belly laugh, and it teaches me new lingo/trends."

Submit your questions about the influencer industry or for creators to [email protected] We'll answer your questions in an upcoming issue of Insider Influencers.

This week from Insider's digital culture team:

Beauty guru James Charles was accused of stealing clothing designs from YouTubers Ethan and Hila Klein (H3H3 Productions)

Beauty guru James Charles (22 million subscribers) was recently accused of stealing clothing designs from YouTubers Ethan and Hila Klein (from H3H3 Productions, 6.5 million subscribers).

Charles recently teased an upcoming collection of color-blocked hoodies from his Sisters Apparel brand (which launches today). Shortly after, Ethan responded to the collection on Twitter suggesting that Charles had copied the color palette used in his wife Hila's designs for their apparel company Teddy Fresh.

Margot Harris from Insider wrote that Charles addressed the allegations, claiming that he had communicated with Klein and provided a photo of his inspiration for the collection and that he had asked Klein for guidance on how to proceed. 

In a separate post, Ethan said the similarities could be "a totally cosmic coincidence" — but he thought this was unlikely given that Charles' merch "used pretty much the identical colors."

In his final messages, Charles said that there was really "no competition" between the two, as they "don't have the same fanbase or demographic."

Read the full post here.

More from Insider:

  • YouTuber Jeffree Star's merchandise company Killer Merch received a coronavirus relief loan (by Palmer Haasch)

  • Videos showing what people claim to be unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings are going viral on TikTok (by Rachel Greenspan)

  • Twitch streamers are telling stories of being harassed and abused by violent stalkers to increase awareness and help other victims (by Lindsay Dodgson)

Here's what else we're reading: 

  • Instagram is rolling out updates to Reels, allowing users to make 30-second videos instead of 15 (by Julia Alexander, from The Verge)
  • Aesthetic iOS 14 home screens that'll inspire you to customize your iPhone (by Morgan Sung, from Mashable)

  • Dunkin' saw a huge boost in sales after releasing TikTok star Charli D'Amelio's limited edition drink, The Charli (from TMZ)

Thanks for reading! Send me your tips, comments, or questions: [email protected]

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