Amanda Lee is a personal trainer and Pilates instructor by trade and also majored in modern dance at Sarah Lawrence College. But it is neither her dancing nor her Pilates classes that is responsible for Lee's recent success. Instead, it is her  social-media presence, and particularly her Instagram account, that allows Lee to generate as much as $5,000 per post.

The Instagram celebrity is the penultimate entrepreneur in 2016; post enough but not too many pictures, engage an audience, and watch as the offers to promote products begin pouring in. Surely, the process is more complicated than described, and Lee explained how she got to where she is today, with almost 4.5 million followers and a business based on social media.

How Amanda Lee spotted an opportunity with Instagram.

"When the social-media craze started happening, I knew it was going to be really big for fitness, because a lot of people want to know how to get into shape and eat right, but don't necessarily know how," Lee says.

A couple of years ago, I noted a similar opportunity, as well as a few females who were exploiting it for real commercial gain. At the time, fitness model Jen Selter had amassed roughly 350,000 followers on Twitter and 2.6 million followers on Instagram. Today, she has 1.05 million followers on Twitter and a whopping 9.5 million followers on Instagram.

For Lee, Selter and others, the opportunity to commercialize social media has only expanded with time.

"Fitness is the fastest growing genre on social media," says Lee. "It's the kind of thing where girls like to follow you to figure out how to mimic your routine. Guys will follow because you look good and post sexy photos. Mine is actually the fastest growing fitness page. Everyone wants to have a nice butt right now. Because I post a lot about butt workouts, I think that people relate to it and it's something that's very on trend right now."

The social media money is based on followers and engagement.

Lee's first paid Instagram posting opportunity came at the time when she had around 100,000 followers on the platform. She received $150 for the post and was receiving $300 at best soon thereafter. Her price has multiplied over the two years it has taken her to go from 100,000 to 4.5 million followers.

Now, Lee earns $3,000 to $5,000 per post. She will only publish roughly one post per week, as engagement and authenticity are important for building and maintaining a hefty price tag. According to Lee, social-media celebrities get paid based on a combination of followers, Likes, and engagement.

"I could do 3 or 4 [posts] a week, but I won't, because I want to keep my page fun and authentic and keep the followers engaged," Lee says. "I try not to do too many posts per month, because I want to keep engagement high. You won't be as likable if you do too much. I don't want to only be promoting products, but also enjoying what I do."

She also explained that her payment per post can be negotiated to a lower amount when she signs longer-term deals, which are typically for a one-year span in the fitness model industry. Lee currently has longer-term deals in place to be a brand ambassador with Women's Best and Fit Tea.

Social media is just the start for Lee.

Many "social-media celebrities" are content with earning solid fees from posting sponsored content. Lee wants to use her social-media stardom, which includes over 2 million followers on Snapchat, as a springboard to build an even bigger business. 

Lee truly believes that she has more to sell than simply her body. She currently teaches certain fitness techniques through short instructional videos on Instagram, but those videos are limited by Instagram to play for no longer than 15 seconds each. Thus, Lee is transitioning to a membership-only website where she will sell fitness plans online for followers who want to take their regimens to the next level.

Right now, Lee gets contacted by brands on a daily basis and she is constantly asked to promote them. She wants to convert the demand to something more sustainable and is in the process of building her own brand to accomplish just that.

Published on: Jul 14, 2016