How Santa Barbara’s Online Creators Make Money and Brand Deals on Social Media
Parlaying Popularity into Sponsorships, Pop-Ups, and Sales
By Caitlin Kelley | September 16, 2021
The average Instagram post is worth a million binary digits. And sometimes that feels like the amount of figures influencers are making. But it’s not just the Addison Raes and Kylie Jenners of the world making a buck on the web. Accounts big and small have found ways to parlay their online reach into real-world success. Yes, there are the fabled sponsorships, where brands pay users to post #ads. But local entrepreneurs are also using social media as a means to bolster their sales through community building. We spoke to four content creators raised in Santa Barbara about how they transform follow counts into dollar signs.
Vitakari, artist and owner of Vitawood studio
S.B. Connection: Grew up in Santa Barbara, now lives in Los Angeles
On TikTok becoming the hub of her online business:
I had a following on Instagram for my music and some of my visual art, and then on TikTok, I explored visual art and posted a lot about creating the studio and the meaning behind my work, which was inspired by mental health. It kind of blew up on TikTok, to be honest. So now even though I’ve been doing IG for years and years, my platform on TikTok is three times as big at this point.
How TikTok affects studio bookings:
Pretty much everybody is coming from TikTok. I do get larger-scale bookings from Instagram, like more serious clients. But in terms of my day-to-day people that want to do a photo shoot or video, definitely TikTok.
I’ve definitely been approached to do a couple of sponsored posts on TikTok. I’m very selective with what I do, because I’m blessed that, financially, the studio is carrying me right now. But yes, I’ve definitely had different brands reach out to me for a TikTok video, including an Instagram video or a grid post versus a Story post.
It kind of depends. Sometimes if it’s just a small artist trying to make stuff happen, I’ll just do it for free. But if it’s a brand and they want a grid post [on Instagram], I’ll charge a rack [aka $1,000] for that. If it’s a really big company, I would charge closer to $2,500. On TikTok, I haven’t said yes to a sponsorship, but I would assume it would be similar pricing.
Barbara Martinez-Rios, jewelry designer at AHAPPYMUSH
Followers: 1,200+ on Instagram
S.B. Connection: Family moved here when she was 6.
How her collaboration with Olipop, a major soda brand, happened:
I tagged their product in one of my stories because of the packaging, and they contacted me about working to
I did a collab with Olipop, but it wasn’t for my @barbara.goes.wear [account]. It was for my small business which is a separate IG account. The way that came about was that I tagged their product in one of my stories because of the packaging, along with my AHAPPYMUSH page and they then contacted me about working together. We worked out a collab in which they would send me their drinks and I’d create rings inspired by their packaging for each!
It was a really amazing project to be part of since I had just started my jewelry business. I had full creative control, and I genuinely loved their brand! I asked my sister Cher, who is a professional photographer, if she could take the photos and they ended up buying 4 of them at around $150 each! But that was mostly for Cher since she did the work and I got exposure, some payment, and a collab with them, which was fun!
Any fave collab experiences?:
I think my top three have been with Mejuri, WyldeOne, and Olipop because I’ve felt the most in control in terms of full creativity, and the people I was in contact with really took the time to interact with me as me, and not just another content creator.
How do you make sales with AHAPPYMUSH?:
At the moment, I mostly sell online, more specifically through IG. However, I am starting to get more involved in local markets and pop-ups whenever the opportunity is there. It’s still kinda new to me, but they’re so much fun that I’m trying to apply to as many as I can find.
Elysia Guillén, vintage reseller and owner of La Segunda Goods, co-founder of Mujeres Makers Market
Followers: 3,400+ on Instagram
S.B. Connection: Born and raised in Santa Barbara.
Selling in-person versus online:
On my Instagram, I do a Story sale at least once a month. But my focus is more on the markets. Of course, if things close back down, I would have more time and energy to just focus on Instagram.
On curating the online aesthetic of La Segunda:
People know me as the “basket lady.” I love baskets. I’m very into earth tone colors, and I like ceramics, brass — anything you can find in my home you’re going to find in my shop. Everything is very curated. The prices reflect that because I’m taking my time. Sometimes I have to clean and restore stuff.
On her Instagram Story takeover for popular home design blog Apartment Therapy:
That was probably, like, the first one that I had where they actually paid me. … They reached out to me. And then they said they wanted some videos of what I do as a curator. So I just got in little stories.
Edwin Guzman, phone technician and owner of GadgetFix
Followers: 840,000+ on TikTok
S.B. Connection: He lived here since he was 8 years old, but recently moved to Ventura County.
On trying out sponsorships
The more traction I get, the more companies that I get trying to do sponsorships for my videos. I have a company [called Aukey] that is going to send me some charging stations that they want me to do a video on. So I’m going to do that and see how that goes. And it just really depends on how it goes with my followers. Like if they don’t like me doing stuff like that, I’ll probably just stop.
It’s not about the money. It’s purely just for fun and educational purposes. I have like three or four companies that have emailed me for sponsorships. So we’re just kind of just going on, you know, what they want and what I can provide them and compensation.
On TikTok’s creator fund
Not too sure how they calculate how much they pay you. I think they go based on how many views and how you comment back. But, I mean, it’s not very much. The last time I pulled out money from there was like 300 bucks probably two months ago.