Money Toks: How is Revolutionizing Influencer Advertising

$8 million
paid to influencers in less than three years
40 hours
of manual payment work saved each month
per week saved on accounting fees during tax season
Company Info
Influencer marketing, creator economy
HQ Location
Chicago, Illinois
Customer Since
Influencers, streamers
Payout Countries

Brands know that TikTok fame is the key to lightning-quick brand awareness and new customers. Without the followership or resources, getting “TikTok famous” isn’t easy, so brands search for top influencers to create buzz on their behalf. But identifying and signing an influencer can be tricky. What if, instead, brands could share their campaign to a central location so influencers looking to monetize their following could choose to promote it on their own and then get paid?

That’s the question Ben James asked himself in March 2020. After years of experience in cost-per-install (CPI) ad tech, he noticed a glaring gap in the influencer market: Brands were starting to take notice of the power of influencers but lacked the resources or knowledge to get them on board. Influencers wanted to make a living creating content on their terms without forking huge percentages to their agencies.

This is especially true for “micro-influencers” who might not have the millions of followers that make partnerships fall into their lap but have a loyal, motivated follower base in the tens or hundreds of thousands.

Our influencers love our model of a dedicated manager who’s there to help them. Thanks to Trolley, we can also talk up seamless signups and speedy payments in our recruitment pitches.

Samantha Leon, Senior Director of Influencer Partnerships at
Ben did what he does best and set to work leveraging technology to solve the problem, and this grew into what is today

An influencer network that connects influencers and brand campaigns, allows both sides to develop profitable influencer partnerships. The timing was fortuitous; as much of the world went into lockdown, more influencers and users turned to the digital world for connection and income. worked—big time.

The challenge

Stacks has about 7,000 active users, most of whom are micro-influencers with between 10,000 and 300,000 followers. 70 to 80% of these social media mavens are on TikTok, with some on Instagram and a handful on Facebook or Snapchat.

“As a performance-based influencer network, Stacks pays influencers per install or per engagement,” explains Samantha Leon, Senior Director of Influencer Partnerships at Stacks. “Some campaigns pay up to $9 per user action, and with influencers having networks of 10s of thousands to 100s of thousands of followers, this can easily add up.”

If an influencer signs up for Stacks and gets approved, they can start looking at brands and their active campaigns. In the Stacks app, the influencer can see the different types of campaigns (app install, survey, and per sale) and then apply to join those they want to promote.

Once approved, it’s up to the influencer to do what influencers do best: promote! Stacks assigns them a unique campaign link they can add to their social profile. They post a video promoting the campaign and direct their followers to the link, tracks performance, and the influencer gets paid.

“We did not expect Stacks to become as big as it became. I never thought that in the first year, I’d have to pull together information to send one thousand 1099s manually.”

Ben James, Co-Owner of

“Our average individual daily payment amount is $287. An influencer recently did a post and made $6,000,” shares Leon. “It’s the huge earning potential that sets us apart.”

On top of just a marketing platform, Stacks works to help its influencers grow. Every new influencer is assigned a manager who is a coach and point of contact to help new influencers brainstorm promotion ideas.

Behind the scenes, a lot of money is changing hands, and payments need to be made. Back in 2020, James handled daily payments manually in PayPal by building a script. “It took me about two hours every day,” he recounts. “It was a pain.”

He was also manually collecting recipient W-8s and W-9s as he onboarded influencers—something that seemed reasonable at the time. By the end of 2020, however, Stacks had done $3 million in revenue, and James was staring down the barrel of a thousand or so 1099s that all needed to be distributed. manually.

“It was a nightmare,” James recalls. “It took about three weeks to do it all properly. Never again.”

The solution

After the 2020 end-of-year taxes fiasco, James and his business partner, Tom Voitik, knew it was time to automate and overhaul the payment and tax processes. James found Trolley through an online search, and it was our easy integration into their desktop and mobile platforms, and intuitive UX that impressed him from the jump.

He also appreciated the sales and onboarding process.

“In my other businesses, I’ve worked with Trolley’s competitors. With Trolley, there wasn’t any pressure to get started, and when we did, our point of contact held my hand through the whole process. We got up and running super quickly.”

Ben James, Co-Owner of

Stacks onboarded with Trolley in February 2021, and James was smitten with how easy it was to send payments and perform functions they’d never been able to before. “Now it’s easy to spot fraud. Because I can see what country a user logs in from, I can see if they say they’re from the U.S. but log in from Morocco or Vietnam,” he says.

James and the Stacks team now uses Trolley to automatically collect W-8s and W-9s and then identify forms that have been completed incorrectly or falsified. This has been crucial for keeping the business functioning and profitable.

“With Trolley we know we won’t get fines for submitting bad 1099s to the government,” says James. “It also keeps us compliant with OFAC [Office of Foreign Assets Control], so we don’t unwittingly make payments to people in sanctioned countries or with ties to terrorism.”

The results

Social trends move fast, and immediacy is king, so it’s no surprise that influencers want quick, seamless payments. If an influencer posts a video in the morning, Stacks tracks engagement and pays out the day's earnings by that evening.

Thanks to a personalized dashboard in Trolley's widget, influencers can even see all their engagement stats and earnings in the Stacks app. “It looks great,” says James. “It looks just like it’s part of our app.”

“Our influencers love our model of a dedicated manager who’s there to help them. Because we look at this as a true partnership, we offer more transparency than is common in the space,” Leon shares. Trolley’s ease of integration, speed of payments, and immediate insight into personal analytics have helped Stacks build trust and provide better support to influencers.

Stacks has continued their explosive growth every year. Stacks paid $4.6 million to their influencers in 2022 and had already paid out 800 users in the first two weeks of 2023. In 2023, James’ goal is to grow Stacks by 20% and continue enabling better relationships with their influencers.

“Being an influencer is a legitimate career path now, just like a doctor or astronaut. There’s a real opportunity to have this be your sole source of income. And we are helping all types of people make the money they need to live their lives.”

Samantha Leon, Senior Director of Influencer Partnerships at

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