Arie Luyendyk Jr. never thought he'd become a social media influencer when became the unexpected star of The Bachelor at 36 years old.
Prior to the premiere of his season in January 2018, the race car driver and real estate agent who first appeared on the franchise during Emily Maynard's season in 2012, Arie told E! News he wasn't too interested in any influencer opportunities that could come out of his return to Bachelor Nation in the social media era.
"For me, I've never really wanted to be too involved with social media," Arie said. "I'm not going to be promoting any teeth whitening or Sugar Bear hair care products anytime soon. And no FitTea for me! I love racing, so that side of it, yes, I do promote that, it's part of my career...when it comes to the little things like getting a free TV and putting it on Instagram, it's just not me. It's not worth it to me."
Alas, a few months and a new public relationship later, Arie's feelings has clearly changed. All's fair in love and spon-con, especially when it comes to navigating the tricky waters of life after The Bachelor.
Arie's drastic shift in perspective inadvertently aligns with the franchise's own complicated feelings and ongoing begrudging acceptance of its stars often using their time on the show as a platform to launch their second career as a social media influencer.
And it's easy to see why when you take a quick look at the stats: The average rate for sponsored content is generally $1,000 per 100,000 followers, or one cent per follower, according to Later. If you have one million followers, you are looking at roughly $10,000 per post. If it's a partnership, the influencer receives a percentage of any of the purchases made through their link or special code.
Pair the franchise's steady ratings each season with its position as one of the top TV shows on social media and it's a head-start for those looking for a way into the influencer community...that is if you can actually hack it.
Just 20 Bachelor contestants have been able to make it to one million followers on Instagram, though many are knocking on the elite club's door.
In 2017, fans snickered when producers listed Robby Hayes, JoJo Fletcher's "former Olympic swimmer" runner-up, as a "social media influencer" on Bachelor in Paradise, clearly taking a jab at the non-stop promoted posts and level of thirst on his feed.
But by Colton Underwood's most recent season, the typical job titles like nurse and teacher were replaced with content creator and content consultant without a hint of irony.
When The Bachelor first premiered in 2002, Facebook was a mere thought in Mark Zuckerberg's brain. "Normal" people signed up for this reality TV experiment in the hopes of finding true love, quickly returning to their regularly programmed lives after their stay in the mansion, including the leads. (When is the last time anyone saw let alone heard a whisper from the original Bachelor, Alex Michel?)
But with the rise of Facebook and then Twitter, the contestant pool slowly started to shift. Tabloids started covering the show, turning them into C-list celebrities. Villains thrived and fan-favorites emerged. And opportunities to make a quick buck off of your time on the show started to present themselves.
"If you were on reality TV in let's say 2007-2008, you didn't really have social media. You had Facebook back then, but there weren't really many ways to monetize and there was Twitter, but Twitter was also not the easiest to monetize," Paul Desisto, a talent agent at Central Entertainment Group who represents a large group of Bachelor franchise alumni, said. "So if you were on reality TV the way you made money was through your TV contracts, releasing your own products, book deals, and personal appearances were very big. Most of the personal appearances…some of these clients would be out four or five days a week, literally Wednesday through Sunday, just doing appearances for maybe six months to a year after the show was over."
One of Desisto's first clients from the franchise was Juan Pablo Galavis, season 18's lead, widely considered the least popular Bachelor of all-time. Still, there was money to be made for the Venezuelan former soccer player after he handed out his final rose.
"There was a big demand for nightclub appearances back then, so with Juan he did a lot of personal appearances. He did Las Vegas, Atlantic City, we booked him a couple of dates."
After that short period of time, a contestant would usually return back to their normal life, occasionally popping up in a "Where Are They Now?" round-up several years and many contestant cycles later, with some remaining relevant by writing tell-all books, including leads Andi Dorfman, Trista Sutter, Bob Guiney, Emily Maynard, Sean Lowe, "Prince Lorenzo Borghese and Jen Schefft, as well as contestants like Melissa Rycroft and Courtney Robertson. And who can forget when Helene Eksterowicz and Gwen Gioia teamed up to write a book about bonding after falling for a "jerk," season two lead Aaron Buerge?
But then social media came along and changed the game, beginning around the time of Chris Soules' season airing in 2015, which introduced four of the franchise's current most followed contestants to viewers, including Kaitlyn Bristowe, Jade Roper Tolbert, Carly Waddell and Ashley Iaconetti. With the popular spinoff Bachelor in Paradise premiering that same year, contestants were given even more time to make an impression on viewers in a more relaxed and fun environment.
Before Instagram, reality TV stars weren't exactly in demand when it came time for brands to pick public personalities to represent or promote their products, with A-list talent considered much more palatable. "Reality and pop culture became extremely in demand only five years ago," Desisto explained. "When Instagram came along, that's when everyone wanted to work with them…overnight everyone wanted to work with them."
Since then, the franchise has slowly become a bonafide influencer factory, with contestants going on the show, establishing dedicated followings on social media that they can then leverage to monetize their content.
More so than other any reality TV program, contestants from The Bachelor have proven to have longevity in the space long after their time on the show has ended, enduring two months of isolation during filming in exchange for paid vacations and a curated feed of gifted products and promo code offerings. At least that's how it may appear, but behind the filters and pre-sets the hustle of being a full-time Bachelor alum-turned-influencer is anything but glamorous.
"It's all about long-term growth and sustainability than just coming off TV and just the short-term in order to make it in the space right now," Desisto, who works closely with 10-12 former contestants, said, highlighting Ashley Iaconetti's drive to use her time on the franchise's shows (The Bachelor, two seasons of Bachelor in Paradise and Winter Games) to fuel her longterm ambitions.
"A lot of people just in general they think that this is just given to you on a silver platter, but to make a career out of something in the entertainment space is very hard. You have to treat it as a full-time job and Ashley 1,000 percent does."
In the four years since she was first introduced as a Disney-princess-obsessed Kardashian wannabe, Ashley I. has slowly but surely formed her own little media empire, hosting several podcasts and her own YouTube show, working as an entertainment reporter and wrote a children's book. Finding love with Jared Haibon and sharing their love story (2.2 million views for their YouTube video detailing their unconventional road from BFFs to romance) and wedding planning process has just been profitable icing on the cake.
"Ashley is a master networker. She has a very natural personality where she gets along with everybody. You have to network, you have to meet the right people, you have to be liked and you have to bust your butt," Desisto said. "She did well on TV, but to be honest with you, most of her fame came after television. I think after all the Bachelor shows she was at 300,000 on Instagram, she has over 1 million now. Where did the other 700,00 come from? They know her from developing herself as a character and blowing up on other platforms, like her podcasts."
From an outsider looking in, it is easy to believe most of the contestants go on the show looking for an easy way to trade their mundane reality for Instagram fame, but that's a common misconception, both on behalf of the viewers and prospective contestants. And it's a short-term get-famous-quick strategy that's becoming more and more unlikely in the bloated market that has no Detox tea to serve as a quick fix.
"I do think that Instagram is getting very crowded. I think what's going to happen is the top tier is going to have more opportunity and the low to medium cast members…their opportunities are going to just almost disappear," Desisto said. "Because the way the Instagram algorithm is looking like its changing, it's favoring only a handful of people now. If someone is on The Bachelor...there's a lot of profiles that were able to get hundreds of thousands of followers, now it seems like it's favoring a handful of people vs. a wide range."
So if you look at the most successful alumni who've managed to maintain and grow their followings long after they left the show, they are focusing their efforts on other platforms and projects rather than relying on followers swiping up or typing in their codes at checkouts.
"If you have a wildly successful YouTube or a podcast, they're going to find you on your Instagram," Desisto said. "You can't just rely on being given fans or followers from television anymore."
In early March, Jade and Carly teamed up to launch Mommies Tell All, their podcast in which they discuss share personal anecdotes and experiences on topics such as pregnancy, motherhood and "today's pressing women's issues" with guests. And it was the platform on which Carly chose to make the announcement that she and Evan were expecting their second child.
"To really have longevity in this space you have to really work at it and have opportunities from different angles," Desisto explained. "If you have a sponsorship on your podcast, 99 percent of the time they're going to work with you on Instagram and on YouTube."
Mommies Tell All is just the latest podcast hosted by Bachelor vets to join the rapidly growing space, with Ashley I. and Ben Higgins' The Ben And Ashley I Almost Famous Podcast and Kaitlyn Bristowe's Off the Vine really leading the charge.
Mouthing Off with Olivia Caridi finds the former "villain" exploring pop culture, often through the lens of her experience on the show. Becca Tilley's Scrubbing In won Choice Pop Podcast the at the 2019 People's Choice Awards. Nick Viall offers dating advice on The Viall Files, with Jared Haibon, Dean Unglert and Vanessa Grimaldi, Viall's ex fiancee, also offering the same services on Help, I Suck At Dating. Let's Talk About It is where Taylor Nolan, a mental health counselor, gets deep. Bekah Martinez is one-half of the Chatty Broads podcast. Even Chad Johnson has his own show, Bachelor Chad, that he hosts when he's not off filming yet another reality TV show. Jordan Kimball mixes motivational words with reality TV insight on NON-ambiguous.
One common denominator among all of those offerings? They constantly circle back to the franchise, with the hosts and guests often recapping the episodes and revealing behind-the-scenes tidbits from their time on the show. Podcasts are the new tell-alls, with a quicker turn-around rate and a more steady revenue stream, thanks to advertisements.
Another key characteristic all of these podcasts share is intimacy, with the hosts often revealing deeply personal stories, which they also do across all of their social media platforms.
During Bachelor in Paradise, Jade had around 300,000 followers. Now, she has over one million, which Desisto credited to her strong branding and authenticity.
"She's very raw and she's very true to her fans and she's not afraid to express how she feels," he said. "It's because of her personality that she's so successful and has that connection."
One of her most vulnerable moments came when she and Tanner revealed Jade had suffered a miscarriage during Bachelor in Paradise, sharing the story in an emotional YouTube video. It has almost 365,000 views.
In 2016, it was reported that Jade and husband Tanner Tolbert, who fell in love during season of Bachelor in Paradise, made $1 million on their social media activity alone, thanks to sponsored content, according to UsWeekly. At the time, their combined follower count (on all platforms) was 1.24 million.
Now, Jade has close to that amount just on Instagram alone, with Tanner adding an additional 650,000 or so.
"All I have to say our business, we've gone from $5 million to 60 million in a matter of four to five years. Our client base has also exploded," Desisto said when asked if Jade and Tanner's Instagram-driven income has increased since that initial report. "The opportunity for them now is much bigger than three years ago when the articles came out because of the parent/baby space."
And that space is the sweet spot for couples that met and managed to find love within the franchise, with brands and fans alike investing in both the female and male contestants' content pegged to their little bundle of joy, who usually has their own social media accounts as well.
"If they get to the stage in their life where they are parents, there's so much opportunity for the couples because a male, for example Tanner, will take dozens of pictures of his beautiful daughter and wife to promote baby products…carriers, strollers, you name it, and it works out phenomenal," Desisto said. "It's just another really strong profile to promote baby products and a lot of time those baby companies love working with not only the wife but the husband as well. So the baby space and couples, that is where there's a lot more opportunity because it's just another space that can relate to more people."
Back in 2016, Jade and Tanner had just gotten married, with their wedding featured as part of an ABC special, and most of their sponsored posts featured food delivery services and home-cooking, teeth whitening products and promoting TV shows like Netflix's Santa Clarita Diet. And, of course, your Sugar Bear hair vitamins and seasonal FabFitFun boxes.
But after Jade and Tanner announced they were expecting their first child, even more opportunities came their way. Following their initial reveal, they both posted about Jade wearing an Ava Women bracelet to help them get pregnant faster (offering a $20 off code, JANNERBABY, for their followers). She started taking vitamins and supplements from Premama. They posted about partnering with Americord to store their baby's cord blood.
Even non-baby related products seamlessly tied back into their lives as new parents: a curling iron to help save valuable time as a busy new mom, a watch to count down until the baby's arrival and then to keep track of "precious time" with their little one, a tea from Teami Blends to help them fall asleep faster.
"They are very fortunate and they are extremely hardworking," Desisto said of the couple, who recently made the move from Kansas City to California after Tanner left his job as a car salesman to focus on their social media opportunities. "They are both amazing business people."
Similar to Jade and Tanner, their Bachelor in Paradise besties Carly Waddell and Evan Bass also found new spon-con opportunities after announcing (via an ultra-sound during a Bachelor special) they were expecting their first child together.
Carly, initially on Chris Soules' season, and Evan, a polarizing figure on JoJo Fletcher's outing, won viewers with their unusual courtship on BIP, and their posts, especially Evan's, usually take on a quirky edge, similar to Tanner's sarcastic-yet-relatable dad posts.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY AND I HOPE INSTAGRAM STILL EXISTS IN LIKE 20 YEARS SO YOU CAN SEE THIS," he wrote in his caption celebrating the first birthday of their daughter, Isabella.
Newer to the parenting space are Arie Luyendyk Jr. and Lauren Burnham, whose road to happily ever after was a little rocky considering how his season of The Bachelor ended. But just over a year later, they are married and just welcomed their first child, a daughter named Alessi Ren (who already has their own Instagram account with 283,000 followers and counting), and had been the inspiration for sponsored social media posts and a gifted babymoon vacation to Bermuda prior to her arrival.
Chris Randone and Krystal Nielson, villains turned Bachelor in Paradise success story, are already teasing kids in their future as they celebrate their engagement, including on their YouTube series, Glitter and the Goose.
In April, Ashley I. revealed she and Jared plan to start trying for a baby soon after their wedding in a sponsored Instagram post.
"Jared and I hope to actually be shopping for a Baby Haibon a year from now. We'd consider ourselves so fortunate if getting pregnant goes according to our plans," she wrote. "To help us set appropriate expectations, I'm using @modernfertility, the first at home kit to give women accurate reads on their fertility hormones. It's surprisingly affordable."
But Instagram isn't enough, as Bachelor Nation alum are expanding to other platforms, (in addition to podcasts).
Jade and Tanner started their own YouTube channel, which has about 50,000 subscribers. Their videos are often related to pregnancy, with their first daughter Emerson's birth story attracting almost one million views, and the couple posting their Ultrasound from their second pregnancy to their channel. They also post home renovation videos and Jade's beauty tutorials.
In May, Carly launched her own jewelry company, Reviver Jewelry, Kaitlyn Bristowe created her own line of scrunchies and is set to launch her own wine, and Alexis Waters (aka Shark/Dolphin Girl) has her own line of hoop earrings; meanwhile, many of the male alums have turned to the fitness space, including Shawn Booth, who has since opened his own gym in Nashville, Peter Kraus and Chase McNary.
For the contestants not yet at the level to start their own lines or companies, it's all about aligning with the right brands, strategically partnering with companies to promote products that feel authentic despite the clear #ad accompanying the post.
"I think what's important to me is something that interests me, something that I already enjoy doing," former contestant Wills Reid said at Yandy's Summer Sultry party. "If it's a food product, is it something I can see myself consuming? If it's a clothing brand, can I see myself wearing it? I don't want to promote things just for the sake of promotion but if it's something that I enjoy or a brand I enjoy, then I'll promote it."
But what is it about The Bachelor that makes its alumni so appealing to audiences and brands alike?
"While on the show, audiences really get to know these women...viewers can relate to their struggles, their happiness, the good and the bad," Jolie Jankowitz, the Head of Influencer Marketing for FabFitFun, said. "People become invested in their lives because they're so relatable. The members of the franchise we've worked with have been great at engaging with their fans, they're willing to show their real lives and carry the vulnerability from the show into their social presence—this authenticity resonates with our community."
When it comes to why companies specifically seek out Bachelor Nation members to promote their products, it's about the type of audience the show itself attracts as opposed to cast members from the Real Housewives franchise or Teen Mom.
"Some people love those shows but they live a different life and they attract a different type of viewer," Desisto said. "The Bachelor tends to be more of an affluent woman viewer that watches the show and it's just a stronger audience. Someone that has 200,000 from The Bachelor might be more valuable than let's say someone from Teen Mom or Jersey Shore that has millions because the quality of the fan and the viewer is just completely different."
FabFitFun was one of the first brands to start working with contestants from the franchise, and has now partnered with over 30 alums. But their most successful collaborations have been with partners like Ashley I., Jade, Carly, and Catherine Lowe, on projects beyond an Instagram post featuring their box.
"We've partnered with them on product curation, they've filmed exclusive content for our streaming service: FabFitFunTV," Jankowtiz said, "and we've supported them with their personal business endeavors—launching their own brands, podcasts, and events including Ashley Iaconetti's recent bachelorette party."
Unlike many other reality TV stars, a Bachelor contestant's airtime is more more finite, with a new batch of hopefuls ready to come in just a few months later for their shot at love and Insta-fame.
So what separates the main-stays from the flash-in-the-pans, the ones who can build the foundation to make a living as an influencer and content creator vs. the contestants who try to jump to other reality shows before fading into obscurity?
You have to be business-minded, looking at the bigger picture and long-game rather than be distracted by the red carpet invitations and free trips you're initially offered.
"It's not the short-term scope," Desisto said. "There's no short answer it's hard work and you have to be made of that cloth to make it in this industry, you have to be made to want to do it. It's something where you have to work on it to maintain longevity in terms of income."
After ending their time on season 12 as an engaged couple, JoJo and Jordan Rodgers have quietly been building a lifestyle empire (in addition to his gig as a ESPN?SEC Network analyst), documenting their house-flipping adventures on social media since riding off into the sunset.
Initially, they offered their devote following a glimpse inside their life in Dallas with their own web series, Engaged with JoJo & Jordan, which has amassed 125,000 subscribers.
And this summer, the couple is set to make their official play at taking over the home renovation golden couple mantle vacated by Chip and Joanna Gaines with their own CNBC show Cash Pad, which will find them partnering "with homeowners hoping to turn their properties into ideal short-term rentals. JoJo and Jordan will transform these ordinary spaces with unrealized potential into profitable vacation-rental hot spots."
With 2.2 million followers on Instagram, JoJo is currently the most followed Bachelor star on social media, using the rabid interest in her outfits to launch a successful clothing line, Fletch, in 2017.
"She's lovely to work with, everyone loves JoJo," Desisto, who works with the 28-year-old, said. "JoJo is a businesswoman."
While she wasn't a lead or the winner of her seasons, Amanda Stanton, the single mother on Ben Higgins' season, has managed to make a full-time career off of her time on the show. With 1.2 million followers, Amanda often posts about her young daughters (each with over 35,000 followers of their own), outfits and beauty routine, hitting all of the biggest markets.
That's results in her own clothing line, Lani the Label, a book deal, and partnerships with H&M, Crest, thredUP and more.
Given the franchise's target demo, the influencer opportunities tend to favor the female contestants, with only a few of the male alums cracking over 1 million followers (and they are all leads, with Colton Underwood netting 2 million followers, the second-highest amount in the overall franchise).
"It works better with women and there are more opportunities because it's like, 'Hey, reality star off TV that has women fans...promote our makeup line, promote our hair curler,'" Desisto said. "I would say there's probably double the amount of opportunity on Instagram for women than there are for men."
Still, men come off the franchise with roughly 95 percent of their followers being female, which can be surprisingly lucrative with mutual sex products.
"A lot of times women buy male products for gifts and what not, so males promoting male products a lot of time actually works very well, which is what we've come to learn," DeSisto explained. "For men, there is opportunity there, it's just more limited. It has to be more neutral sex, like food delivery services or toothbrushes because anyone can use those."
Basically, "It's QVC on steroids," according to Desisto, and it's just a swipe up away.
As Instagram continues to evolve, so does the art of being an influencer, with a huge advertising shift happening in the last year: Instagram Stories.
While many of the larger brands and activations will warrant permanent placement on the main feed, "everything has converted" to Stories in the last year.
"In terms of results, Instagram Stories is very aggressive right now," Desisto said. "[Stories] drive a lot of website traffic, that's why a lot of brands are very excited about [it]. If you've had over 10,000 people, all millennial women within the U.S. go to your website, you're doing something right. It's very desirable to hit that demo, it's also the most expensive in the U.S. when you advertise. This brings a very high amount of that specific fanbase to your website in 24 hours."
Stories has also helped influencers avoid having an entire main feed filled with spon-con and #ad, a turn-off for many followers as Desisto noted he's seen contestants drop thousands of followers with just one sponsored post that doesn't feel authentic.
"We like to position them to do a lot more Instagram Stories because 1. It's more organic. 2. live video is in demand and you can really get a vibe for the person talking about the product. 3. Over the course of 30 slides, you can slip in three to four and you can make it organic in your day," he explained. "You very rarely get any negative feedback from Stories when you do promotions and ads versus feed posts where people can write negative comments and something permanent they can see and just unfollow."
Given the ever-crowded influencer field, it's getting harder to stand out from the crowd or to make a splash once you are eliminated from the show. For every Hannah Godwin (Colton Underwood's third place finisher who just hit one million followers pre-Bachelor in Paradise) there's a Lucas Yaney aka "Whaboom" who showed up with his own merch ready on Rachel Lindsay's season and currently has just 60,000 followers; more than ever, eagle-eyed viewers—and other contestants—ready to call out those who blatantly are not there for the right seasons.
"It's become more and more difficult to filter out who's there for the right reasons and who's there for social media. It's really tough because for people who do make it far, that is part of it…it's really tough," Wills, who appeared on Becca Kufrin's season of The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise, said. "I don't know how it's going to be handled in the future because it's part of it. You just hope these people who do get these opportunities and do get these great things, [they] take it with a degree of humility and are genuine."
But then, what does "the right reasons" mean anymore? Many of the female contestants partner with clothing companies and boutiques prior to filming, getting free clothes to wear throughout the season in exchange for posting about their outfits as the episodes air—the possibility of social media opportunities are clearly in the back of hopefuls' minds when they apply.
"I think that comes with the territory now," Kirpa Sudick, a contestant on Colton's recent season, said at the Yandy event. "You apply in hopes that you're going to have this great connection with whoever the Bachelor is and then you know if it doesn't work out, there's always that that comes with it."
And hindsight is 20/20 for those who aren't thinking of the potential to profit off of their 15 minutes of fame when they send in their application.
"I just feel like when they went into The Bachelor—I'm not speaking specifics for who they are—but a lot of the girls go in knowing we're not all going to find love," Jaimi King, who was on Nick Viall's season and Bachelor in Paradise, admitted. "We could just come out with a bunch of new followers and ways to make money and I look at that as being prepared. They went into it knowing there are multiple roads out there—not just finding love."
Most of those opportunities favor those based in California, with Jaimi, who has 12,000 followers, admitting she feels like she "missed out on a lot" because she was living in New Orleans.
"I really wished I lived out in Los Angeles because they have some pretty cool stuff right after getting off the show like going to Coachella or Stagecoach for free with all the added, extra perks," she explained.
It was an opportunity Kirpa (90K followers) was able to take advantage of, going to Stagecoach with a handful of her fellow contestants on a sponsored trip thanks to boohoo.
"A clothing company reached out and wanted to do a collaboration and they said they would fly us out to Stagecoach and they made it happen," she said.
Given the free products and experiences, it's easy to see how someone can get wrapped up with remaining an active member of Bachelor Nation.
"I definitely think it's hard to have a balancing act," Wills (119K followers, partnerships with Bumble, Express and more) said. "You do have these opportunities to promote things, the compensation is nice and we do have to support ourselves so it's kind of a balancing act between supporting yourself and being true to yourself."
It's something reigning Bachelor Colton Underwood said prospective contestants should be aware of, but not driven by.
"You can monetize it after the show but it's so short-lived too. It's an interesting dynamic," he told us at the grand opening of Tacotopia in Los Angeles. "You'd be almost dumb not to do it but it all depends on what comes after the show and what you want to make a priority. The show is what you make of it."
Remaining true to yourself (or at least what the audience's perception of your true self is) is key for longevity when it comes to navigating your post-show career, with Colton sharing insight he received from a fellow Bachelor who has also managed to maintain relevance and gain followers over the years.
"Ben Higgins left me some great advice. 'Let the show enhance your life, don't let it change your life,'" he shared. "That's something I always stick with and I'm living my post-Bachelor life by."
But for these stars, there really isn't life post-Bachelor, as their ties to the franchise are essential to their longevity.
In a somewhat full-circle moment, Ashley and Jared, Jade and Tanner, Nick Viall and Dean Unglert have teamed up for a docu-series about about navigating their careers, relationships and lives after their time on the show. Originally titled Rose Buds, the Kinetic Content series What Now? premiered on May 21 and follows Ashley and Jared as they plan their wedding and he prepares to make his Chippendale's debut, Jade and Tanner's move to California and their second pregnancy, and Nick working on the launch of his essential oils company, all while recording their podcasts, attending events and maintaining their friendships.
It's all content in the world of The Bachelor.