In 2017, Entrepreneur Alex McLean has amassed 150,000 followers on Instagram, partly thanks to his successful clothing brand, East Coast Lifestyle, The apparel line she developed a few years earlier during her undergraduate course at Acadia University gained mainstream attention when celebrities took a liking to her. Ed Sheeran McLean was invited to meet then US President Barack Obama after winning the Global Student Entrepreneur Award. It didn’t take long for big companies like Samsung and Chevrolet to find out about sponsored content deals, offering them money in exchange for posts about their product. Things were good. But despite his business acumen, McLean didn’t know how to handle the sponsorship opportunities.
McLean learns about four-year-old digital and social agency, viral nationAfter the firm reached out to him. The Toronto-based start-up was helping influencers grow and monetize their online presence—whether through Facebook or Instagram—in exchange for a cut of the profits. It seemed like a great option for McLean to develop his personal brand and earn money on the side. So, he signed on and let Viral Nation handle the business leads coming in from social media.
McLean is one of over 900 people who have launched influencer careers with the help of Viral Nation. The agency, which was founded in 2013 by Joe Gagliese and Matthew Micheli, boasts a roster of celebrities, pro athletes and influencers, including NFL superstar Tyreek Hill and actor Zach McGowan. And now, as more brands are engaging audiences micro and nano influencers—people who may have a few thousand or a few hundred followers, respectively—Viral Nation is also building an app that will help anyone build a social media following.
global dominant market estimated at $16.4 billion By 2022, but in an online landscape filled with content, it can be difficult to stand out. Most people need a little help with their social work, whether they are a bona fide celebrity or not. “It’s a way for everyday people to get a foothold in the job market. Entrepreneurs use it to grow their audience,” Gagliese says. “Having a strong social media presence is the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree for the next generation of people.”
Big business to impress
The idea to start their agency came to Gaglies and Micheli while they were students at the Ted Rogers School of Management. He saw platforms like Instagram and Snapchat explode, giving everyday people a chance to be their own brand. “Our view was that, with social media, everyone has influence over their audience,” Gaglies says. “We thought maybe we had a way to help people make money.”
Viral Nation began as an effort to help NHL players monetize their brands. (The founders were friends with a hockey pro, which inspired them to join forces with others.) By 2016, the business was booming, with over 100 influencers joining the roster. The founders stopped attending classes and dedicated themselves to building their agency. The business model works like this: Viral Nation identifies influencer talent and helps them broker endorsement deals, develop their following, sell merchandise, license existing content and sell content to streaming companies like Netflix. Creates new content for. In return, Viral Nation takes anywhere from five to 25 percent of the earnings, depending on the earning potential of the influencer.
“We live in a world where, if you’re an athlete or a celebrity, you run the risk of becoming irrelevant and not making money in the future,” Gagliese says. “We want to help them maximize their value, so they can continue to monetize their likeness long after their careers are over.”
Since launching, the Viral Nation team has taken full advantage of the booming influencer market. Earlier this year, the company raised $250 million With investment from John Ruffolo of Mavericks Private Equity and American billionaire Todd Bohli, partial-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. As a result, Viral Nation received a valuation of $650 million, indicating the scope of the business. Back Influential Business.
“We live in a world where, if you are an athlete or a celebrity, you run the risk of becoming irrelevant and not making money in the future”
The firm is also expanding its offerings. Viral Nation is releasing an app next year that will give everyday people a playbook on how to monetize their personal brand, covering everything from creating an account to creating engaging social media content and staying up to date on trends. It will be available via subscription for between $40 and $60 per month. (Gaglies hasn’t finalized the cost yet.) Viral Nation wants to be able to help everyone turn their personal passion, whether it’s fashion or fitness, into influence — and capitalize on it. “We are not here to replace learning academy by Instagram, TikTok and YouTube,” says Gagliese, “but to help everyone start their own social journey to be successful.” Also, both view educational apps as both B2B and B2C. While the app is aimed at the general public, Gagliese says it will also be valuable to businesses that want to generate leads through social media.
doing it for the ‘gram
Since joining Viral Nation, McLean has expanded his social media presence to earn money while increasing brand awareness for the East Coast lifestyle. He also connects with other influencers, which has led to international travel and speaking opportunities. On Instagram, MacLean now has more than 400,000 followers and his feed includes images of him smiling alongside the likes of NHL legend Sidney Crosby and investment guru Gary Vaynerchuk. Viral Nation helps McLean with his creative strategy, which comes up with ways to maximize engagement and thus, monetary potential. This has helped them broker brand deals with Apple, Canon, Doritos, and Xbox.
And McLean says that monetizing social content is attainable for anyone willing to invest the time and effort — even if they’re not already famous online. “If you work day in and day out to grow pasture, anything is possible.”