This influencer industrial complex, if you want to be technical about it, is evolving fast. Kevin Bello, cofounder and COO of Snapbac a new apparel brand that counts Derek Jeter as a cofounder and investor and works with lower-profile athletes such as Olympic sprinter Mikel Thomas ( @mikel_thomas ,15K Instagram followers) and MH Top Trainer Gideon Akande ( @getfitwithgiddy , 59K Instagram followers)says that when considering a potential partnership, he focuses on the quality of the fitfluencers following, not the quantity. If every comment is Wow, you look fire, we wont engage,Bello says. The companys team is careful to select influencers whose audiences care about more than just smashing like.
There are even multiple matchmaker platforms for influencers and brands to come together, like Viral Nation and Open Sponsorship . Ishveen Anand, OpenSponsorships CEO, walked me through the five-year-old platforms setup. While most of the profiles belong to traditional professional athletes, some influencers are in the mix. The platforms tools allow companies to view just about every conceivable metric about possible partners, including audience-engagement figures (which would ID bot followings immediately) and ROI estimates. This whole shift to digital means everything should be so trackable, says Anand. Now youre going to have to show the value or the tide will turn.
Hejnas hasnt used these platforms to broker deals, as hes dedicated his efforts to building his training business before expanding his personal profile. He says he was paid $500 for a one-and-done deal with an apparel brand he declines to name (he recently posted a video on YouTube showcasing gear from GymShark , a social-media-friendly company popular with fitfluencers) and estimates hes made less than $10,000 directly from Instagram, since hes been selective about brands hell shill to his audience. Ninety-five percent of my income is going to be from coaching and my business, he says. Not much is coming from the affiliate stuff.
As of now, Hejnass only sponsorship agreement is with a supplements company, PEScience , but he hopes to land a permanent apparel deal soon. His ideal partner would be a brand like GymShark, because it puts its endorsers in flashy campaigns.
5:05 p.m. #CHEATMEALGOALS
Dinnertime. Almost. We leave the house to run an errandHejnas likes to add a personal touch to his services, and today hes mailing out T-shirtsand then we head to Chipotle. Its all so jarringly normal; if not for Hejnass bulky frame and brightly colored tank top, no one in the place would give our table a second glance. His social media following is most likely double that of everyone else in the building combined. I feel more like Im hanging out with one of my little brothers friends than like Im out on assignment, and I nearly forget that the kid Im eating with is probably pulling in well over six figures. He drops me off so I can take the bus back to New York City, and we part ways with a bro hug. Hell go home to take a few more calls from clients, then wind down early.
Most of the time, its lights out around 8:00 p.m. After spending the majority of his day working the phones from inside his house, the influencer with 188,000 followers and counting scrolls through the days training documentation while in bed and preps and posts his last photo to Instagram. Then he falls asleep before most bars end happy hour. On my ride home, I scroll through my own feed. There are posts from professionals who create shiny #content for a living and posts from friends who share photos for fun. In their look and feel, Hejnass posts fall somewhere in between, and if hes going to break through to the next tier of social-media relevance, hell need to put in even more work and more hustleand hell be up at 4:01 a.m. tomorrow to do it.