As the viability for influencer marketing continues to grow—so, too, does the competition. Yes there are myriad tools and services, and even more influencers jockeying for position. But let’s focus on the latter: For an influencer, it’s hard to get noticed and harder even to turn it into a fulltime job, and why shouldn’t it?
After all, being an influencer has proven to be a viable business, complete with perks (free shit, travel, frame—etc.)! It would seem that all you need to get started is a smart phone. What other business can lay claim to such minimal requirements to get started? (We can think of a couple but they’re not exactly legal.)
Be that as it may, with minimal overheard and prospects up the wazoo—we understand the allure of becoming an influencer. It makes us think of the great Van Halen song that goes, “Everybody wants some / I want some too / Everybody wants some / How ‘bout you?”
So, how ‘bout you?
If you answered in the affirmative to the above, we’d like to offer some tips for you to consider as you get started—because it does take a bit more than just a smartphone to succeed. And if you’ve already gotten started …well, it might still be worth a read.
This is as good of a place to start as any and perhaps an incredibly important answer to have at the ready. Why, indeed, should anyone follow you?
We’ll get to that answer in due time.
First, think of someone you follow on social media. Not a friend; someone to whom you’re not personally acquainted. It could be a brand or an influencer. It doesn’t matter; the answer to the question will be the same. And that question is: Why do you follow them?
Back in college, a film studies professor asked (in reference to movies), “What do people want to see?” All the students hurled ideas for movies, thinking they had the answer. They were all wrong. The answer the professor gave was simply, “something they haven’t seen before.”
So now, taking that logic, let’s go back to that question: Why do you follow them?
Regardless of your answer, we’re confident that if you boil it down, it’ll be because they offer you something you’d otherwise not be able to find. Maybe it’s their wit, physical attributes, aesthetic, or discounts or tips on a particular topic or product. The point is, it’s unique to them and it’s of interest to you. So you clicked follow, you clicked like—maybe you’ve commented a few times, or even turned on post notifications. A connection has been made. This is how it starts. This is what leads to successful influencers who parlay that affinity into big business opportunities.
Now think about that in relation to you. Prove your mom, who told you you’re special so many times, correct. What is it in fact that makes you special? Figure it out and put it out there for everyone to see.
We can’t, obviously, answer that question for you—but we can help guide you there.
It might help, in fact, to start by thinking of your interests. What area can you focus on that isn’t perhaps overpopulated and can offer you an arena in which to excel?
Here’s an example: Say you’re interested in cosmetics. That’s quite broad, but we can start there. We’re looking for a specialized segment within that category—a niche. So, maybe within that wide world of cosmetics you can focus on the best eyeliners. Narrow it down and take over that space. Provide the best possible insight for that particular niche—make it so your profile is THE ONLY resource you’ll need to explore when looking for information in that particular field.
This makes you marketable. This makes you indispensable. This makes you appealing to both brands and the public alike.
Now that you have your topic, it’s time to think about how you’ll display it.
If you take any single frame from a Wes Anderson movie, show it to your average movie fan, and ask them to name the director, they’ll be able to tell you immediately who’s responsible for it. Why? Because he has a distinct visual identity. His framing and color palate are unique to him. Sure, not every post has to be as masterfully composed as his pictures, but bolstering your content with terrific visuals will only serve to further your pursuits. Look at Ralph Fiennes coiffed and centered below:
We’re not saying to steal from Wes. You can be inspired by him, of course, but take your time. Comb through other profiles. Watch movies. Browse through Tumblr. Develop your aesthetic. Don’t just snap and post. Learn how to retouch or color correct your images. There literally are tons of apps for that. Afterlight is a great one.
At the very least, promise us you won’t post lo-res images—for the love of god.
If you’ve made it this far, if you found your niche and figured out how to convey it, you’re now at the stage of marketing your profile. Yes, the time has come to start engaging with the public. Let people know you exist. Let them know where to find you. You must do this first before reaching out to any brands for collaborations. In fact, if you excel here, those brands will probably reach out directly.
You can start by employing a hashtag strategy. Read more about that here.
But you can also comb through and engage with posts on like-minded topics. This is likely the best use of your time. Seek out the community, comment, like, DM. It’s quite reciprocal and will pay dividends, but you have to invest the time.
Now that you’ve got your ducks in a row, it’s time to post and repeat the process.
We’ve heard people swear by 3 and even 5 times a day. We can point you to articles like this one or this one that attempt to answer that question, but the fact of the matter is there is no right, universal answer.
You have to get to work, see what sticks, and see what you can sustain.
We’ll sign off with some tips for the working influencer.
Assuming you’ve already done the above and with it built a nice following, we’ve got a few additional morsels of advice to ensure continued success. As you can imagine, we come across people on both sides, brands and influencers, with questions or roadblocks—and we do our best to help them get over those humps. So it’s based on those conversations that we culled together this list. Yes, those hiccups are occasionally caused things out of anyone’s control—but more often than not, they could have all been easily avoided.
If only the influencers put a little bit of effort and made themselves accountable. It’s important to do so to excel. Again, while it can look like you’re leading a life of leisure, it’s a job—and with it comes responsibilities. So:
If a brand has hired you to do something, but hasn’t sent you all the information needed in order to fulfill the collaboration, contact them! Don’t just wait for them to do so. Don’t use that as an excuse NOT to post and honor your commitment. And CERTAINLY don’t assume you know what they want and drum up a post based on that assumption.
Make sure you know what to post; how to post; and when to post—before you actually go and post it.
Maybe they’ve sent you product, but haven’t followed up to see if you’ve posted. That’s lazy on their part, true—but don’t wait for them to connect. Follow up and get the answers to the above questions. They’ll thank you for it and likely hire you again!
Whatever tool you’re using to acquire these jobs (maybe it’s REP), make sure you’ve got the notifications turned on (assuming the platform has those) so you don’t miss any messages. It might even be worth getting into the habit of checking your messages a few times a day, if you don’t already.
This might be a side-gig or your full-time job, either way—you probably have messages waiting for you …and you don’t want to pass up on those opportunities because you failed to respond. If you pass on a job, it should be because it wasn’t right for you—not by default, because you ignored it. That won’t get you anywhere.
The regular workweek is fast becoming a thing of the past. Social media doesn’t open at 9 and close at 5, therefore brands (or rather people employed by those brands) are now working around the clock to churn out content, stay relevant, and maybe even offer customer support—and they’re expecting influencers to avail themselves in the same manner.
So make yourself available. By no means are we saying to slave away, disregard your health and sleep and dedicate every waking second to your life as an influencer, but take it seriously.
Hopefully, we’ve impressed upon you the hard work and responsibility that comes with being an influencer. You certainly can start armed with nothing more than a smart phone, but you’ll need patience and elbow grease to turn it into something great, something that stems beyond Paul Smith’s pink wall.