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Inside the world of a social media influencer; how content creating generates cash

Inside the world of a social media influencer; how content creating generates cash
Inside the world of a social media influencer; how content creating generates cash 02:58

CHICAGO (CBS) -- He took a video of himself drinking lemonade every day for more than 6 months, then called CBS2. Why is this a story? Well, the Sycamore man was making money doing it, and the Morning Insiders got to thinking: how do influencers generate cash?

Lauren Victory took a look at how social media sausage is made with the help of two local TikTok stars.

It felt like 105 degrees in Douglass Park, but Robert Carpenter was there to crank up the heat on his TikTok account.

"I try to post at least three to four times a day," said the 21-year-old.

Older adults might not understand the appeal of content creating, but Carpenter's seemingly mundane challenges - like guzzling lemonade for 200 days in a row - have helped him meet famous people, like Lyrical Lemonade's Cole Bennett, a music video director. 

Losing it while playing "Sweet Home Alabama" for 7 hours straight caught CBS 2's attention last year. We told the band and Lynyrd Skynyrd's lead singer invited Carpenter and his friends to a show. 

The influencer is racking up cool experiences and raking in cash. He estimates he made about $2,000 over the past three years.

"When I finally started getting paid for TikTok, I was like, 'Wow. I have an opportunity. I have a real shot at this,'" said Carpenter who lives in Sycamore.

Millions have seen videos posted by Dr. Katrine Wallace from the University of Illinois Chicago. She creates content about COVID-19 and other diseases.

She's paid based on views every few weeks out of the TikTok Creator Fund. Guidelines state that video makers can get money if they have an account in good standing and:

- Are at least 18 years old
- Have at least 10,000 followers
- Have at least 100,000 video views in the last 30 days
- Post original content

"I made a whopping $648," said Wallace who showed us her 1099 federal income tax form.

The epidemiologist could make more if she accepted sponsorship opportunities, or if she linked to certain products. She says she declines the offers.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with those things. It's just that my mission is public health information, and I need to build trust in order to get people to believe what I'm saying," said Dr. Wallace.

Carpenter does a few sponsorship videos, but mostly he's breaking a sweat to try to break into the digital marketing industry.

TikTok dedicates a whole section to "branded content" rules on its website but there's no simple explanation of what's allowed for a paid partnership. 

Perhaps a sign of the times -- the Federal Trade Commission created a guide it calls "Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers." 

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