Gone are the days when young girls and boys aspired to be lawyers, teachers or doctors. In a time when hitting that 11-like mark on Instagram is more important than hitting that A-mark in math class, the career goals of today’s youth has shifted: Making a living as an influencer is a dream shared by just about anyone with a social media account. And I don’t blame them. It can pay well, it allows you to focus on your interests and, best of all, you can manage it from the comfort of your bed (pants optional).
The path to building a large enough following to make all of this feasible isn’t always an easy one though. For most influencers, their success story didn’t happen overnight. It took a ton of hard work that likely went unrecognized and unappreciated for a long time. Just like with any type of entrepreneurship, it takes a lot of perseverance to drudge through the repeated failure that often comes before success. If being an influencer is truly what you want though, drudge away.
If you’re steadfast enough to make it as an influencer, it can completely transform your life. The vast network of followers that comes with it can unlock huge opportunities. Not only can you make a ton more money than you do at most 9-5 jobs, it grants you an attentive audience to voice your ideas.
Rising to the top of a field with such high supply isn’t cake though. Competing for likes, comments, reposts, and attention is a constant battle. Luckily, this market also has a huge demand and, with the right plan of attack, can be won over. If you’re looking to become what Kylie is to lip kits or Jen Selter is to butts, check out our guide to becoming a successful social media influencer:
Choose a Platform
When it comes to social media networks, there are a lot of fish in the sea. And just like with dating, choosing the right one is key to not crashing and burning. If you’re feeling frisky, you can get into bed with all of them. Networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat all certainly have something to offer. But being super popular on one of them is much better than being only quasi-popular on many.
The first step is to align your goals with the best vehicle to take your there. For example, if your plan is to garner a following based on your killer recipes, LinkedIn may not be the way to go. A blog or YouTube channel which allows for descriptive videos or longer text would be more efficient.
When it comes to the influencer world on the whole, Instagram is winning hard. Unlike their biggest competitors, Instagram’s streamlined interface of photos and short video clips is most conducive to social media marketing. What makes Instagram so popular is how easy it is. All you need is an eyeball and a thumb and you’re set for hours and hours of browsing (and/or snooping).
To back our claim that Instagram is the best choice, we gathered up some pretty convincing evidence. The 2017 Bloglovin’ Marketers Survey found that Instagram is ranked the top social media platform for influencer marketing by over 90% of respondents. It further found that over 99% of influencers consider Instagram to be a great place to connect with their followers and with brands.
Find Your Niche
Becoming an influencer requires people to develop a kind of obsession with you. They should want to see your pictures, hear what you have to say, and use the products you’re using. How do you get them to find you in the first place though?
Unless you’re a movie star or posting wildly inappropriate photos, gaining popularity on Instagram requires you to be an expert at something. Your expertise can be as general as humour or as specific as gluten-free, sugar-free, taste-free food recipes. Once you can provide value to your audience in a creative and unique way, the people will follow.
Unfortunately, simply posting selfies or sharing your sub-par sandwich from lunch won’t quite do the trick. A good place to start is to pinpoint what you’re good at or passionate about and present it in a way that only you can. The most successful influencers are ones who have something that differentiate themselves from everyone else. Literally millions of people are posting to Instagram every single day. If you want your page to stick out, you need to be different. Your content needs to be cooler, more creative, prettier, wilder, more honest, or more informative than everyone else.
If you’re just in it for the money (which I’d advise against), there are certain niches that will bring in a higher paycheque. Modeling, photography, food, pets, and fitness round out the top 5 spots at over $300 on average per post.
While you can certainly do your research to see what successful influencers are popular for (and then putting your own spin on it), you should also look into what’s untapped. For example, you can find an Instagram feed that is about just hotel carpets (@myhotelcarpet). And that’s not even code for anything. It’s photo after photo of unimpressive carpets from low to mid-level hotels. If that wasn’t crazy enough, this account has over 660k followers. If this guy can get hundreds of thousands of followers for taking pictures of drab hotel carpets, there’s definitely hope for you.
Make some friends
If you plan on being a successful influencer, you’ll need to make a lot of friends. Though people have differing opinions on how to do this, there’s a clear line between the right way and the wrong way. Let’s start with the ugly and move towards best practices.
The absolute worst thing you can do is buying followers. This method is fast but has incredibly high risk. While some argue that a boost of a few thousand followers can give you the jumpstart you need, it’ll almost always bite you in the Insta butt.
Those in favour of buying followers do it in part for what’s called “social proof”. Social proof is a psychological effect where people take on an action because other people are doing it. Basically, someone with 500k followers is much more likely to gain followers than someone with 500 followers- even if the 500k followers aren’t real. While this may help you grow quicker, the quality of your followers (and thus your engagement rate) will haunt you down the road.
The negative impact bought followers can have on your engagement rate can ruin your brand’s reputation. Firstly, in order to trick a brand to work with you, you’ll need to also buy likes/comments to match your follower count. If they happen to not do their due diligence to notice that your account is populated by fake-ness, they’ll surely notice once they work with you the first time. If you collaborate with a brand and post a photo promoting their product, the brand will run analytics on your content. How many website visits did you generate? How many people used your promo code? Once they see that only 3 of your 500k followers clicked through, you’ll be blacklisted.
If that wasn’t bad enough, social networks are starting to sniff out bots. They’re on a mission to not only delete these accounts but to suspend users who bought them. This may have you losing even your real followers and will put you back to square one.
Automating Your Account
The best way to gain Instagram followers is to engage with people who have an interest in your niche. If you’re focusing on fitness, for example, check out who’s following big fitness accounts and try to interact with them in an authentic way. This can mean commenting/liking their photos, offering fitness-related advice, or featuring them on your feed. Having real people with a passionate interest in your content will translate to a sustainable following that will give you a higher rate of return in the long run.
Everyone loves free stuff. For this reason, giveaways can be a great way to up your follower count quickly and effectively. Whether it’s a contest or a challenge, you can invite people to tag their friends on your posts, follow your account, or use a custom-made hashtag promoting your page.
Participate in Pods
Using pods is a great way to flirt with Instagram’s algorithm. Pods are a group of people who agree to support each other on social media networks with likes and comments. Basically, it’s your own personal group of Instagram cheerleaders. Since Instagram’s algorithm boosts content that gets a lot of action immediately after it’s posted, having this group of people engage with your post will help you get seen by more people.
Initiating a pod can be done by creating a group message on Instagram and letting them know as soon as you’ve posted something new. Working with other influencers works best as they’ll want your support in return. Pro tip: Instagram’s algorithm will recognize a comment of more than 4 words as being better.
Something all influencers have in common is that they’re consistent with everything from a posting schedule to the aesthetic of their feed.
Aesthetics is single-handedly the most important factor to your Instagram page. Before they’re reading you captions or your bio, people are checking out your photos. You’ll notice that some of the best influencers have a very uniform brand aesthetic throughout their social media accounts. This can be through color scheme, photography style, or overall vibe.
Posting consistently is also key to keeping your followers hooked. If you go days without posting you’ll likely become overshadowed by your competitors. A great way to automate this process is to use a scheduling tool for Instagram. This allows you to schedule multiple posts at once so that you don’t need to repeat the same posting process every day. It saves on time and keeps your posts regular. Sharing content at least once a day is a great way to not only stay relevant but to learn what your followers respond to best.
Use productivity apps
Being a social media influencer can be incredibly time consuming so don’t shy away from using time saving apps. Not only can they help you take better photos, they can collect and analyze data, help you plan your feed layout, and help you to understand your followers better. There are a ton of apps out there to help you work more productively, but some stand out better than others.
Keep learning and evolving
“You snooze, you lose” couldn’t be more accurate when it comes to influencer marketing. Social media and its platforms are constantly changing and if you’re not changing with it you’ll be left behind. Almost every new feature Instagram has released has in one way or another benefited influencers. Being an early adopters of new features will help you stay on top of your Insta game. Learning to adapt your brand aesthetic and the way you deliver it with these new features is crucial to staying fresh.
To go a step further, learn as much as you can about the social media platform you’re using by doing your research and staying educated. Figure out what people respond to best, how they like to use the platform, and how the app can help you increase your reach.
While this should give you a rounded idea on how to get started in the world of influencer marketing, there’s really nothing like the ol’ trial and error. The best words of advice for anyone wanting to jump into this crazy, voyeur world is to just start. Stick to a niche you’re an expert in, create value for people, and keep posting. Unique, creative content that is presented in the right way can launch you into influencer stardom- you just need to keep pushing forward.