By Michael Magnus
The life of an “influencer” seems quite glamorous. Brands paying you to post about products you love, being invited to exclusive events, and getting the VIP treatment; it all sounds too good to be true. Often, that’s because it is.
Being an influencer takes work; it’s a job, just like anything else. The goal is to make it look effortless, but those who are making bank often worked hard to get there. Here are some insights on how to break in to the influencer industry.
Develop Your Branding
Before getting started, you’ll want to figure out a few things about the style, aesthetic, and personality of your accounts. Of course, you want to be authentic, but most influencers are a character version of themselves. Be bold. Put yourself out there!
Developing this early on helps you have some vision of what type of content you want to post, who you want your audience to be, and how you want companies to perceive your “brand”. Identifying this early will help you create consistency in your content.
Consistency is not only a must for your branding, but also of your posting. To build an audience, it’s important to have regular content with the appropriate hashtags to gain new viewers. Once you gain those followers, there is an expectation for content; they followed you for a reason.
Don’t kill yourself with the posting schedule, but it’s smart to have a plan. Marketing agencies and businesses alike will develop “content calendars” to strategize when and what they will circulate on their accounts. You’re your own boss and have more flexibility than a company, but you may be smart to create a schedule or daily goals for yourself to make sure it gets done.
The quality of your content is an important factor as well. Most phones take quality video, but learning a little bit about sound and lighting can go a long way. Investing in a little bit of basic gear can help, however understanding how to use the existing lighting can help a lot.
Interact With Your Audience
Have you ever gone for a high-five and the other person didn’t notice? That’s kind of the same feeling that your audience gets with they comment on your pictures and you don’t respond. Creating a good dynamic with your following is crucial to growth.
An added bonus: the algorithms on most social sites factor the amount of interaction on your page with how frequently your content is seen. If you reply to a comment, and the poster replies back to you, that generates more engagement. Other people are likely to see that you are replying and want to intermingle with you as well, which creates a chain reaction of more traffic.
Replying to your followers isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes sound strategic sense.
Get A Website
Although most of your interaction will be on your social pages, it’s a good idea to create a website early in your career as an influencer. It gives you an added layer of legitimacy and sponsors can contact you without sliding into your DMs. Your content is constantly being cycled out with your newest selfie, so having a page that doesn’t change much is helpful for companies who want to learn more about you.
It gives you a place to centrally collect some of the work you’re the proudest across all of your platforms. You can also share an “About Me” section that links to all of your social profiles. But perhaps most importantly, it provides a platform for companies to know what kind of partnerships that you are open to. Maybe you traditionally post about make-up, but a CBD brand is interested in reaching your audience? Including information on the types of collaborations you’re willing to consider might open up new opportunities you hadn’t anticipated.
It’s worth noting that a website is a bit more involved to set up than a social media account, and it can be somewhat time consuming to pull it together in the first place. Fortunately, there are site builder tools for those who are less tech savvy, and you can have your site up in a matter of hours. The little bit you pay each month for this digital homestead is an investment in yourself and a valuable asset for your growth.
Fulfill Your Commitments
You’ve developed your brand, started to grow your audience, built your website, and you catch the attention of a company that wants to work with you. Maybe they want to send you a free product, maybe they want to pay you for posts, or maybe they want to feature you on their accounts.
Typically, there is some sort of arrangement, formal or informal, regarding what the posting expectations are. Make sure that you understand those going in and that you are capable of fulfilling those commitments. Not only is it a matter of integrity, but posting good content may lead to other opportunities. If you decide to ignore your commitments, it’s hard to repair burnt bridges and sponsors frequently go to each other for references.
Be Willing To Put In The Work
The influencers who have a glamorous post-yoga sheen as they pose suggestively in their athleisure wear typically didn’t start there. You may be doing some work for a drink company and part of your commitment is not just to post, but also to give out free products. Being able to give away stuff sounds awesome, and often it is.
But you can also find yourself carting several cases of flavored seltzer half-way across a college campus to then take sweaty selfies with each passerby you hand a can. But that’s part of it. Everyone starts somewhere, and you need to be grateful for those opportunities.
Your Network Is Your Net Worth
Create relationships with other influencers and demonstrate good work ethic. It’s not uncommon that a sponsor will ask their partner ambassadors for recommendations of who else to work with. If you have a reputation of being easy to work with and produce a quality product, a solid recommendation from a peer can open doors.
If you don’t know anyone yet, interact with other influencers on their social platforms. Maybe even connect with them on LinkedIn, asking for their advice on how to get started. If there’s a local sponsored event, attend it and try to meet the people putting it on. Networking is a proactive approach to getting the attention of sponsors rather than waiting around and hoping they discover you.
Disclose. Disclose. Disclose.
This is not anyone’s favorite part of being an influencer, however it’s an important one. Make sure that you disclose the nature of the relationship with your sponsor. Sometimes it feels a little embarrassing or bougie to post #Sponsored on content your friends will see, but it’s very necessary. You need to comfortable with it early, because it’s the nature of your job as an influencer.
Why? People posting #Sponsored or #Ad aren’t doing so because it inflates their ego. That may be a byproduct of doing so, but the real reason is that they are legally required to by the FTC. It may feel awkward or unnatural to post that as a hashtag, but trust that it’s better safe than sorry.
Michael Magnus is a Strategic Communication professor moonlighting as a marketing consultant through Magnus Opus. Although he leverages a broad range of digital strategies on behalf of his clients, Magnus’ specialization is in off-page SEO (Search Engine Optimization) through link building, content marketing, and measurable PR tactics.