You guys have been requesting for me to share some insight into what I do for quite a while now. I’ve received numerous questions which I’ve left piling up in my inbox, asking me how to turn your social media passion into a brand, how to work with other companies, how to create quality content, how to grow your audience, and most importantly, how to keep your audience engaged once you get them.
First of all, I haven’t been ignoring you. I want to be more of a resource to you that just answering one of your questions when chances are, you have thousands more where that came from. I’m in the process of writing an entire E-book answering all your burning influencer/Instagram/branding questions. But while I wrap that up, I wanted to give you guys a bit of background information about how I started as an influencer.
I’ve always been a big fan of Instagram as a social media platform. It’s a quick way to share a story with your audience. The second you arrive on someone’s Instagram page, you can very quickly grab insight as to what their goal is behind their account. Let’s call this your mission. In order to be successful on social media, determining what your mission is should be the first step in branding yourself. For example, the second you get on a brands Instagram page, you know instantly what they sell, and when you look on an influencers page, you know what the purpose behind their content is. If you want to be a mom blogger, ensure that your content showcases your children, if you want to be a food blogger make sure that your content features delicious looking dishes. Instagram gives you a lot of freedom to market yourself, but if you’re not specifically keeping your content aligned with your mission, your followers will more than likely be confused, and thus less likely to engage. Instagram gives you the opportunity to broadcast your message in tiny square visuals for the world to see and engage with, but what you create to be broadcasted (your content) is much more important that that magic number under your name. No number of followers can make up for inconstant content that doesn’t support your mission on this platform.
My journey to determining my desired niche was a long one. One thing you may not know about me is that I’ve had many other blogs prior to this one. I played around with the idea of blogging about my life as a mom a few years ago. But I found that sharing (and even over-sharing perhaps) the choices I made as a parent just wasn’t something that I wanted to build a brand around, and that BlogSpot account was short-lived.
Fashion, however, has always been a huge passion of mine. I was obsessed with rummaging through thrift stores for unique pieces and playing around with colors and textures in middle school. And through many trials and errors (my mom can show you the photographic proof of many of the errors) I eventually found my own unique style to be a mix of modern classics, with a touch of edge. I became a mom and wife, but fashion always remained that one part of my life that was unique to me (that’s what I love about fashion, we can all see, and wear it differently).
In May of last year, I took the plunge into sharing my style with the world. I created a new Instagram account, and posted a couple photos my husband took of me, in cute outfits, standing in front of bright colored walls. My style, the quality of our content, and the way we stage photos has evolved from our day one, but my mission has remained the same. To create looks and content that would inspire my audience. This is important in becoming an influencer, to have a mission and stay true to it in everything you do (it’ll really help put everything in perspective when you’re branding yourself). Weather your audience is 1 follower of 1 million, make sure you’re creating content that’s in line with your mission. This will ensure that the people who follow you, will hold actual interest in what you bring to the table.
My audience didn’t come to me overnight. It took 8 months of networking, connecting, and engaging with others to build my community. Yes, that’s right. I had to go out and find my following. Anyone who tells you that their followers all came running to them is either dishonest, or extremely lucky. Growing an audience that’s genuinely interested in what you do is a lot of work, we’ll get into all the details of how to do that later.
A lot of people underestimate the amount of time it takes to run a successful Influencer business. I spend well over 40 hours a week, creating and editing content, growing my audience, negotiating with brands, and posting for and engaging with my followers. Add writing a new blog post every day into the mix and if you’re an influencer who doubles as a blogger, you can easily work a 50-hour week. While the workload is heavy, I get to live out my dream from home while my kiddos run around, and not much beats a gig like that.
When I first started out, all my spare time went into growing my audience and creating content. It doesn’t matter how great your content is if there’s no one there to appreciate it right?
When I hit 2,000 followers, I worked with my first brand. I appreciate that experience so much, because it taught me so much about the business side of being an Influencer. Learning my worth to companies wanting to market their clothing was something I had to do early on, in hindsight I’m so glad that I did. If you don’t understand your worth as an influencer you can very easily get taken advantage of (something else Ill discuss more later).
Around two months into my journey, I decided to try make my own preset for my page. For those of you who don’t know, a preset is a filter that I apply to all my photos to make them all look more cohesive and aesthetically pleasing on my feed. If you are running any business on Instagram, I’d highly recommend using one.
I've watched about 10,000 YouTube videos on how to use Adobe Lightroom and spent a good 20 hours messing around with colors and temperatures until I got everything just right. That preset was my baby and I used it for 5 months straight. Since then I’ve tinkered with several other presets, but I’m constantly perfecting it. There’s always room for growth in this industry. It’s a factor that can be extremely intimidating if you let it. But if you choose to see it as motivation instead, you’ll probably find yourself accomplishing amazing thing.
When I began my journey on Instagram. I didn’t intend to become an influencer. I wouldn’t advice anyone to start out seeking a certain number under your name. It’s also so important not to put all your eggs in the Instagram basket. Instagram is a great place to start, but you don’t own your page, you’re simply renting it. If your page is deleted, hacked, or spammed tomorrow. It’s important that you have other outlets to fall back on (a website, other social media accounts etc.) so that your brand doesn’t crumble and burn with that account. With that all being said, if you lead with a passion for the content you want to create, and not with a set number of followers you want to have, or a certain amount of money you want to make, then I truly think you will succeed.
On the day I started just wanted an audience who shared the same joy for fashion as I did. I wanted my page to give people the feeling they felt when they found that pair of suede booties, they’d been eying for months, on the sale rack 50% off. I wanted to inspire people in fun ways and create beautiful content in those tiny square boxes. At the end of the day, that’s still my overall goal. If I’m not giving people that sale rack goodness kind of a feeling, then I need to change things up.
So, my biggest piece of advice I can give you right now entering this industry (if it’s something you really want) is to remind yourself every day of why you started. I still remind myself, when days are long and 5pm work I’m trying to get to, becomes a 3am task, that I’m doing this for the 15-year-old Rachel, who would paw through thrift store racks trying to find herself in a sea of colors and textures.
Let's grow together,