More than 20 years ago, in a now-classic manifesto, Tom Peters announced to the world that branding was no longer the domain of companies alone. Everyday people must also become marketers for their own brand — the brand called You — and actively ensure that the world perceives them as they wish to be perceived. That once-novel idea has become an integral part of the way we live now, in large part thanks to social media, where set of precocious toddlers can gain millions of YouTube subscribers, and a household cat can become a household name.
BECOMING AN INFLUENCER IS WITHIN YOUR REACH
The influencer industry is growing at an unprecedented pace, with a 48% increase in Instagram influencer activity from 2018 to 2019 alone, as reported by the 2019 State of Influencer Marketing Annual Report. Within the next few years, the Sabguthrie 2020 Influencer Marketing Trends Report shows exponential growth of opportunities for social media influencers. And yet, this industry is still early enough in its evolution that becoming an effective influencer remains an open door for anyone across the globe that is willing and able to effectively brand themselves. In fact, because influencer marketing has recently gone mainstream, and mega influencers may be difficult to work with or access, many reputable marketers are looking to nano-influencers for their next big break.
Nano-influencers typically have between 1k and 10k followers on Instagram. They have enough clout to spread a message, but few enough followers to still be approachable. Some business employ scouts whose sole is to source out diamonds-in-the-rough on Instagram – those who have small numbers now, but will see quick future gains in followers.
Influencers with lower numbers of followers also feel more authentic and trustworthy. “Their lack of fame is one of the qualities that make them approachable,” explains Sapna Maheshwari, writer for the New York Times. “When they recommend a shampoo or a lotion or a furniture brand on Instagram, their word seems as genuine as advice from a friend.” Because a large number of their followers are actually close friends.
The average compensation for sponsorship when you’re a nano-influencer isn’t going to get you that new Tesla you’ve been eyeing, but it’ll certainly help to pay the bills!
Additionally, most agencies review an influencer’s brand portfolio, aka influencer marketing kit, before investing the big bucks, so each sponsorship plays a pivotal role in long-term growth.
In fact, the 2020 Influencer Marketing Trends by Influencer Marketing Hub suggests that as we move forward, macro influencers like celebrities will continue to decrease in prominence and value as smaller influencers with higher quality engagement and the potential for long-term relationships increase.
HOW TO BECOME A SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCER
- Define Your Brand & Know Your Audience
In the world of social media, you are your brand. It’s important to define your brand with things that you’re passionate about, so that you enjoy consistently creating content in these areas. Once you’ve defined your focus and interests, make sure that your actual audience maps on to your intended audience. If you’ve already built a small following, you can gain insight into your audience by taking advantage of built-in analytics tools provided by your platform. Know your audience and you’ll better understand what your followers want.
Once you’ve defined your brand, you’ll want to make sure to refine all major social media platforms associated with your brand.
Be careful not to stretch yourself too thin, though. Many successful influencers focus their efforts on only a couple of platforms. Select your platforms based on how well your content maps onto the strengths and focus of each platform.
Across platforms, some of the most important areas to refine are as follows:
Switch to a Business Account. This makes it easier to manage multiple influencer contracts.
Create an Engaging Bio. Think of your bio as a first impression because it’s often the first thing a person or company will read about you. Make sure to include your name, contact information, location, and brand areas of interest. Make it easy for interested contractors to connect with you.
Use Relevant and Targeted Hashtags. Strategic use of hashtags is one of the easiest ways to get discovered by new audiences on Instagram. One great way to find popular community hashtags is to take a cue from influencers that are already successful in your niche area. People are often tempted to use the most popular hashtags currently circulating, but Benjamin Chacon, author of the 2020 Ultimate Guide to Instagram Hashtags, offers different advice. Chacon writes that "it’s better to find and use hashtags that are smaller, more niche, and have an engaged audience that’s relevant to your industry...the best way is to look and see what Instagram hashtags your audience, competitors, and industry leaders are already using." Track your hashtag success rates by monitoring Instagram's hashtag analytics feature.
A Professionally Edited Profile Picture and/or Cover Photo. Much like a bio, your profile picture and (when applicable) your cover photo, serve as a first impression of your brand to your audience. Get ahead by using Lightroom presets and/or Photoshop actions to edit and enhance your image. The Luxe Lens offers several collections and packages exclusively designed for portraits.
A Consistent “Look”. Have you ever noticed how the pictures in some people’s account seem to all blend together, even though pictures were taken years apart? A person’s photographic style certainly comes into play when creating this look, but the real secret to a standardized profile is the consistent use of the same style of editing preset for one’s photos. Soda Pop Preset Shop presets were designed exclusively for bloggers and social media influencers seeking to enhance their image. Other trending profile looks include light and airy and film-based documentary.
What is the number one thing that your followers seek? Consistent and relevant content. The more you’re able to engage people, the more followers and clout you’ll gain. It’s important to maintain variety in the types of content that’s posted, but this content shouldn’t stray from one’s core brand areas and interests. You can choose your posting schedule, but make sure it’s regular. For platforms such as Instagram, a consistent recommendation tends to range from one to two days per week. A recent study by Sprout Social showed that the highest engagement rates can be seen during the late morning and afternoon hours (see day-by-day summary below), with Wednesdays the most recommended day to post. In order to manage regularity in the context of busy lives, many influencers rely on a content management schedule.
While quantity and timing of posts is important, it’s not enough if you’re aiming to influence. A critical component of influencing is engagement of your audience. What are some key aspects of engagement?
Reply to comments. Let your audience know that you see them and that they matter. Liking and responding to posts will show your followers that you’re engaged and will contribute to increased interaction on a post.
Start a conversation. One simple way to encourage engagement is to ask a question or request people’s thoughts on a topic. Engagement in this manner can help to build personal connections with your followers and contribute to followers feeling a sense of community from similar commenters.
Give and get.Looking to bring in new followers while engaging your current? Give away something for free that has value within your community.
Post Stunning Images.We caught up with some well known influencers to get their take on images. "When it comes to your Instagram or blog, your photos need to be high-quality," recommends Emmelie De La Cruz - an entrepreneurial influencer with over 30.4k Instagram followers. "Your visuals are going to be a big factor in whether a brand wants to be associated with you or not. They will take into consideration if you fit their brand’s aesthetic and can repost your content." Artist Heidi Wong (276k Instagram followers) attributes her unique and recognizable style to the application of mobile presets on her social media images. "My paintings tend to have intense shadows and contrasting cool with warm tones, I...try to mirror this with the posts featuring myself." Likewise, Lauren Mayhew (aka Lolo, 98k Instagram followers) tells us that "you don’t necessarily need a DSLR camera to capture great content. But, just like with any other business… invest in yourself!" Since 2019, all Luxe presets have been formatted for installation and use on mobile and they represent a small investment for long-term gain.
From a brand perspective, there’s nothing worse than finding the ideal influencer, and then having to spend forever tracking down their contact info. Often, an influencer sourcing contact for a brand won’t have access to the brand’s Instagram messaging, so they’ll look to contact influencers directly. And if there is no contact info, they’ll quickly move on to the next candidate.
Prominently display contact info. Looking for brands to collaborate with? Display your website, blog, or email directly within your bio. This way, brands and businesses will be able to contact you with ease.
Connect with an influencer agency. Much like talent agencies for the media world, influencer agencies manage social media talent for brands. Influencer Marketing Hub typically keeps an annually updated list of top agencies.
Join influencer marketing platforms. The purpose of these platforms is specifically to connect influencers with brands. Upfluence, AspireIQ, NeoReach, Fanbytes, and IZEA are give top platforms for 2020.
Directly target relevant brands. Tag products that align with your profile and reach out directly to these brands regarding your interest in becoming an influencer. Get yourself out there and be proactive in your connections. Give brands the opportunity to see your work in action.
Address common pain-points. Finding and succeeding with influencers doesn't come without it's challenges. In fact, there are specific challenges common among brands when searching for an influencer, such as finding accounts that have authentic engagement or clear and measurable audience reach. Your job is to show brands that you're aware of these challenges and that you've already addressed them.
Create a marketing kit for yourself. Learn how to pitch yourself and present your followers, demographic, and ideas about what you would post, recommends brand-conscious Forbes magazine.
Social media is a burgeoning industry that's ripe for fresh talent. Follow these six steps and you're well on your way to becoming a successful (and compensated!) social media influencer.