The journey to becoming an internet influencer, particularly on Instagram, and earning global social media fame has never been more real. If you have begun your journey as an Instagram influencer, then you probably already know about the scale of the platform. The best way to describe an influencer is someone who has built a strong fan base by projecting an aspirational lifestyle on social media. This aspiration influences the followers when it comes to purchase decisions. Other names for influencers include bloggers, vloggers, content creators and KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders).
The one platform where influencers thrive is Instagram, as photo sharing goes a long way in building a personal brand and directly connecting with followers. Most brands and celebrities alike love Instagram. While other platforms provide the necessary scope for influencing as well, none come close to Instagram. When brands and companies use influencers as a medium to educate and influence the audience about products and brand recognition, it helps build trust and credibility. It generally involves an influencer creating content for a brand and sharing it on social media with an authentic tone. The key is to align your interests with the brand’s objectives for every influencer marketing campaign.
With the constant rise in social media users in the world, the scope to make money by connecting brands with users is great. Influencers need to grow their online influence to achieve this. The range of opportunities and recognition online is endless.
How did influencer marketing become a 'thing'?
As the popularity of social media grew, brands realized that these platforms were taking over people’s lives. With the amount of time people spend on social media, it would make sense that it had as much influence over a consumer’s decision making process. Brands are spending large parts of their social media budget on influencer marketing these days. If you spend any time on Instagram at all, you’ll instantly come across an influencer’s post.
What was once a niche space with very few players is now a full blown industry to the tune of $8 billion in 2020. Instagram, for reasons we’ll get into later, has twice the engagement rate in comparison with other platforms with users more likely to like, comment and share whatever they’re consuming.
Instagram influencers eliminate traditional advertising barriers purely on the basis of trust. Therefore, the process is two-fold – build a following that trusts you and use this trust to advertise brands to them. This personalized, trustworthy push is a medium that brands didn’t have access to earlier through traditional ads. Nearly 1 billion people use Instagram monthly, and 500 million use stories. Numbers of that magnitude never existed before. As a result, brands recognized this connection with the audience in the last decade or so, making influencer marketing the force it is today.
Why brands need it VS Why influencers need it
To highlight the advantages that Instagram holds for a brand, let us go over a few statistics. Instagram is the second most downloaded app on the App Store, worldwide! Instagram has the best gender mix of all apps with 52% female users and 48% male users. The average user spends 28 minutes a day here. 200 million Instagram users visit at least one business profile per day. A combination of all these make a fairly compelling argument as to why brands are migrating to Instagram-based marketing campaigns.
Even if you are a traditional marketing maverick who prides yourself on running stellar brand campaigns, chances are a targeted Instagram influencer campaign can get you way better engagement with a fraction of the investment, thereby driving higher ROI.
Building a successful niche as an Instagram influencer can be an extremely empowering, fulfilling and creative journey. With the Covid-19 pandemic driving up online buying behavior, brands are increasing social media budgets and platforms are introducing more features to help content creators.
Collaborating with brands to travel the world is a great way to satisfy the digital nomad within you. Building a personal brand that helps you finally quit that 9 to 5 job and truly impact global purchase patterns through a dedicated and engaged fan base is now a reality. Whether it's visiting exotic destinations or charging for a promoted story, leveraging your Instagram following is an extremely lucrative way to be your own boss and make a killer living.
Types of Influencers
The internet loves buzzwords and in lieu of that, influencers can be broken down into 6 main categories. These categories help brands segment their respective campaign, thereby allowing money to be spent more effectively. It’s important to not only separate them, but build effective strategies for each:
These are influencers who are more famous than influential. They might not be subject matter experts but still influence followers purely based on stature. It’s a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach where you throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. They’re best used for awareness campaigns that need a broad reach.
Figure 1: Source – Instagram
They differ from mega influencers in respect that these are people who have amassed a following through the internet itself. Be it podcasters, bloggers or vloggers, their following is in the range of 100,000 to 1 million. Macro influencers are used when the brand wants to dive a little deeper based on the topic, but still in the awareness stage.
When brands move from the awareness stage to effective methods of promotion, they use micro influencers as they have a following that is smaller but more invested, in the range of 1,000 to 100,000. Micro influencers are respected and considered to be thought leaders on specific topics.
Example: Steven Onoja ,Tyson Mayr
Figure 2: Source – Instagram
As a brand transitions from the awareness stage to driving lead generation, they seek advocates who will wax eloquent about the brand at any point of time. They speak about the brand positively and defend it online. These help garner traction online and also drive a message home.
A referrer is someone who drives traffic eyeballs straight to the brand’s website or landing page and will only talk about one brand. Their recommendation of the brand is considered loyal and solid. They serve as lead magnets and are trustworthy.
They are probably the most crucial piece of the puzzle as they have moved along the entire influencer funnel from the awareness stage to supporting the brand through thick and thin. They take all the strategies, campaigns and tactics, and imbibe them to become a crucial de facto part of the brand.
Types of Instagram profiles and brand profiling
In addition to the default personal profiles that Instagram offers its users, there are two other types of profiles that help you in capturing useful data and analytics. These metrics are extremely beneficial to brands as it drives marketing behavior.
When you log in to Instagram, this is the default profile generated. This is a limited profile as it doesn’t offer you any metrics or analytics to work with. Your activity can’t be analyzed further and buttons can’t be added to your bio. You can create posts, stories and lives without any restrictions. However, these posts generate no analytics for personal profiles.
These accounts are primarily used by public personalities, bloggers, artists or athletes. The categories offered here include: Fashion designer, entrepreneurs, public figure or tutor/teachers. These accounts separate companies from influencers and have no limit on the number of followers they can have. Apart from the analytics, they also reply to messages and offer paid collaborations. These influencers are usually bombarded by fans and brands with 3 types of messages: General (to get back to later), Primary (to be seen first) and Requests (from profiles the influencer doesn’t follow). They also allow influencers to add contact buttons to their bio.
These are profiles that are mainly created for local businesses, brands, organizations and service providers. These include most of the perks that creators get – analytics, CTA for contacts and paid promotions. The additional features that come with a business account are the nomenclature and the segmented categories, triple inbox and the possibility of activating and deactivating the contact info.
One process that brands need to keep in mind is brand profiling. This is a systematic process of creating, developing and implementing the persona and personality of your brand on Instagram. You can start by defining the following three parameters:
- 1. Vibe and Communication Style
- 2. Target Audience
- 3. Fundamental Values
The core values of your brand promise to come out through this process along with the do’s and don’ts, the story, the emotions, the culture and what it stands for. The same process applies for an influencer as well. Every influencer’s page tells a story, and it is this emotional connect that urges brands to collaborate.
Followers vs engagement rate
While a constant desire to grow your followers on Instagram exists, it is futile if this is an empty audience with no intention to interact. There needs to be a balance between the size of an influencer’s audience and how much they engage.
The general rule of thumb on Instagram is – the more the followers, the lower the engagement rate. Influencers with a smaller following generally tend to have a closer and more impactful relationship with them.
On an average, someone with 0 to 5k followers usually has an engagement rate of 8%. On the other end of the spectrum, someone with 1 million to 7 million followers has an average engagement rate of 1.6%. Let’s look at what the engagement rate actually is.
The simple equation to calculate your engagement rate is:
(The number of likes and comments / No. of followers) x100
So if you had 1000 likes, 100 comments and 10000 followers, this is how your engagement rate is calculated:
(1100 / 10000) x100 = 11% engagement rate
As per industry standards, an engagement rate of 3% is considered efficient and should be aimed at on a consistent basis. If an influencer’s engagement rate is too low, it signifies a large pool of fake followers. One effective way of increasing one’s engagement rate is to build a sense of community through engaging copy, stories and a consistent content strategy.
The Cost of Influencer Marketing
While the early days of influencer marketing involved social stars promoting a brand in exchange for free product, today’s influencers charge a marketing fee for every promotion done. There are reports of some influencers charging $5,000 to $10,000 per sponsored post. While this may only account for 1%, a whopping 66% influencers charge up to $250 per sponsored post.
Becoming an influencer
Building a fan base
The biggest currency in the world of brand collaborations is a carefully cultivated audience. It goes without saying that your Instagram feed should display your creative vision while also putting out a tangible message that is engaging. With time, smart work and persistence, followers will come to your page. While there are no shortcuts to achieving this, there are a few things you can do on your part to help your presence grow.
A loyal audience demands to be actively engaged while you also contribute to the larger Instagram community to draw new followers. This pertains to posting meaningful comments and replies to proactively engage the wider Instagram community in a meaningful way. Display consistency with your time of posting, the content you post and the tone of voice that your social media presence displays. In recent years, a look at how the content is created (behind the scenes stories) is a great way to generate that last mile engagement.
Some influencers grow a lot faster than the rest either due to being suggested users on Instagram or through first mover advantage. This means that Instagram follows you and suggests you to new users over a 2-week cycle.
A key point to remember is to never give in to frustration, and attempt cheating the system. Buying followers or using bots seems like an obvious approach to growing followers. ‘Faking it’ in the hope of ‘making it’ is in no way feasible in the long term. It is seldom the smart approach though. Brands are finding it easier and easier to spot influencers with fake followers through their influencer marketing agency. That could get you blacklisted, making fake followers a lot worse than less followers.
Large followers as an influencer and no engagement, are fairly useless as far as brands are concerned. To draw an analogy, if a musician was to accumulate a large following online without converting them into any ticket sales for their live concerts, then it’s evident that the musician isn’t engaging with the audience in a way that would influence the same. It is an accepted assumption in the world of influencer marketing that low engagement is a clear indication of fake followers/bots.
Before you post your next Instagram image, engage with similar accounts within your niche to understand what works. Engagement feeds engagement on Instagram and by interacting with them, you increase your chances of being noticed. Using keywords and hashtags that are relevant and trending help you get noticed through associated content.
Replying to comments is essential to keep a conversation going and helps push your post to the top of many more of your followers’ feeds. As people respond to you more and more, Instagram recognizes your post as a valuable piece of content that will probably also be interesting to others. We can’t talk about Instagram engagement without talking about Stories as boosting your engagement on Stories keeps your audience interested.
You can also use Instagram Stories to draw attention to new posts on your feed and boost your engagement. A good Instagram engagement rate is essential to growing your account, and so it’s unsurprising that this is the number one goal for many Instagrammers and social media marketers. Unfortunately, Instagram engagement is prone to fluctuate along with algorithm changes, and it can be difficult to maintain, never mind improve!
Finding your voice
Every successful influencer has developed their own personal brand. Your personal brand is everything the audience knows about you and it is essentially what differentiates you from the crowd in the eyes of the consumer. Consumers are fickle and would like to know what they stand to gain from engaging with you. The stronger this personality, the more likely they are to feel a connection and stick around. Your follower’s loyalty to you is a direct impact of your brand voice on Instagram.
Find a niche and master it. It’s much better than being a jack of all trades and master of none online. The most successful voices have a clear voice on Instagram. Utilize your bio and story highlights to instantly communicate your brand proposition to audiences.
If deleting or archiving posts is what it takes to maintain the aesthetic integrity of your feed, go for it. Finding your voice as an influencer isn’t the easiest job. It involves figuring out what you want to be known for and then committing to that. The truth of the matter is that it will always be a work in progress. The space you choose now may not be the final one you land on.
Once you do land on your niche though, you need to go all out in establishing that voice. As with all things worthwhile, first you have to actually start and then give yourself permission to evolve.
Content creation and analytics
There are no two ways around it, create high-quality Instagram posts and followers will follow. It sounds a lot easier than it is, but Instagram is ultimately a content platform. The quality of content on your feed is directly proportional to how much audiences like, share and comment. This, in turn, is directly proportional to the number of followers your account accrues. Blurry pictures of scenic locales or poorly-lit selfies don’t usually get savvy users excited. High quality, non-pixelated and aesthetically pleasing images inspire, educate and engage all at once. A post is a combination of a visual and a caption. Investing in a good DSLR camera or a smartphone with an excellent camera is a no-brainer for aspiring influencers. Solid composition, good lighting and focus gives users something to attach to the narrative you’re attempting to weave through your caption.
Tracking Instagram analytics is the best way for everyone, from micro-influencers to global brands, to get the data they need to see which of their posts are connecting with their audiences. These analytics tools show you which of your social media goals are worth focusing on (and which aren't), as well as provide the data you need to prove your ROI on Instagram.
People love interacting with brands and other individuals. Without engagement, social media doesn’t exist, and engagement matters more on Instagram than most other platforms. When it comes to tracking engagement, everybody knows that it’s the details that matter. You’ll get insights on things like the most engaging photo and video filters, top tags by interactions, the best time to post, posts that have received the most engagement, sources of the most engagement, and so much more. Plus, you’ll be able to keep close tabs on your hashtag performance.
The 4 C’s of influencer marketing
The 4C mantra involves the big 4 C’s of Instagram marketing. These are primarily clarity, content, creativity and consistency. As an Instagram influencer you must have clarity - a crystal clear idea, about your expertise. Once you figure out what that is, you must then accumulate all the relevant content that you find in connection to your niche. As influencers you need to make sure that you creatively express your ideas through your content.
It is recommended to learn from mentors and experts in the field and gain insights on how to curate content, as long as you are creative with your delivery. Finally, be consistent in posting this creative content to help your audience and to establish constant engagement. Strongly abiding by the 4C golden rule will gradually help you with your influencer journey. This guide aims to help you with these 4 C’s, by discussing important pointers that you need to remember while working on your Instagram Influence.
Taking advantages of the digital world
Current times have become the epitome of the digital era with smartphones taking precedence over almost all traditional means of business and communication. Users around the world are trying to find their preferred brands online and are open to being influenced. Influencers on Instagram are increasingly playing a key role on how various industries will be shaped in a post-pandemic world.
Here are a few statistics to highlight how the internet has become the most efficient and effective marketplace in the world as of 2020:
- 1. As of April 2020, 59% of the global population of approximately 4.57 billion people were active internet users.
- 2. In terms of penetration, 58.7% of the global population has internet access.
- 3. Of the total number of internet users, 50.3% are in Asia, 15.9% in Europe, 11.5% in Africa, 10.1% Latin America, 7.6% North America, 3.9% Middle East, and 0.6% in Oceania.
- 4. In addition, 4.2 billion people were active mobile internet users, 3.81 billion were active social media users, whereas 3.76 were active mobile social media users.
- 5. Moreover, 854 million Chinese adults or 59.3% of the population are active internet users. On the other hand, 292 million US citizens or 89% of the population are active internet users.
- 6. In 2014, there were 2.485 billion internet users. This number has grown steadily over time to reach 4.388 billion users in 2019.
The statistics above can give you a perspective on how social media is playing a key role in influencing people. With so many eyes on Instagram, you can build and use your influence for the right cause, based on the niche you’ve chosen.
A checklist of potential pitfalls
Everything big and exciting in life comes with its own sets of pitfalls and challenges that need to be navigated carefully. The internet is a volatile and fickle space, and hence even a single error from you as an influencer could force loyal patrons to get disenchanted and defer to other influencers.
Lack of promotions
One of the biggest fears people have in most aspects in life is investing time and money. An influencer isn’t entirely different from people in other professions. The adage goes ‘one needs to spend money to make money’. The quest for major results passes through a path laden with major risks. Once you’ve put in the hours to understand your niche and the content strategy, it’s important to give this content the necessary legs to reach enough of the desired audience.
Putting in money in a systematic and planned manner to promote your posts and advertising yourself goes a long way in getting noticed. The key is patience. Being an extremely crowded marketplace, Instagram might not give you the necessary results initially. Getting past this challenging test period is all you need to propel yourself to even greater height in the world of social media. Sponsored ads help you achieve three things primarily:
- 1. Brand awareness
- 2. Consideration through increased traffic
- 3. Conversion and loyalty
Taking risks with content
Putting yourself out there on Instagram and its 1 billion users can be a daunting proposition - we apologize for quoting Spiderman but “with great power comes truly great responsibility”. With so many influencers around, the only way to succeed is to give the audience something that is unique and something nobody’s seen before. Taking risks, within an established limit, is necessary to innovate with content. Putting yourself out there with your unique thoughts and expression requires one to be bold and courageous.
Being bold in an extremely transparent online universe is a challenge in itself. Every time you hesitate to take a leap of faith, remind yourself that the perseverance and persistence will soon be worth it.
Lack of consistency/engagement
Given everything we’ve covered so far, this might seem like a bit of a no-brainer. Your engagement with your community is like all relationships in life. Relationships work best when both the giver and receiver are consistent. The biggest by-product of being consistent with your fans is trust. Trust is worth its weight in gold in the world of influencer marketing. The more they trust, the more likely they are to invest in you, be it time, money or energy.
Another positive of building trust is that it isn’t just restricted to online space. It translates to offline trust as well. Say you’ve got a personal commitment on a day you usually post content and need to schedule the post in advance, do it. Be it daily stories, weekly posts or monthly engagement contests, once you’ve committed to a routine, stick to it! Getting your fans into a cycle of waiting for your scheduled content rather than just finding it once you post it is a massive win and a huge responsibility that every influencer needs to respect. Consistency and engagement should be at the top of any influencer’s priority list. Consistency is what separates a flash-in-the-pan influencer from a truly committed one.
Who doesn’t want overnight success? Particularly in a fast-paced, internet-driven lifestyle where every prior success projects aspiration, it’s easy to get disheartened at the lack of instant traction on Instagram. Sustained success takes time. Being an influencer with a solid fan base that is sustainable requires a large amount of ground work that no one will ever know of. Time is your best friend and worst enemy as an influencer. Being a profession that requires people to buy-in to you and your personality takes a tad of time.
Sure instant validation feels great, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Should you follow suit with those who chose a fast-paced, shortest route, your brand and its value can fall faster than it took you to build. The problem with viral sensations and one-hit wonders is the lack of a body of work. Virality is a sum of many parts and is impossible to replicate, especially with dynamic trends and evolving audiences. Be it months, weeks or years for the recognition you desire, don’t get discouraged.
Set yourself up for brands
New influencers often complain about brands not coming to them and, more often than not, it’s because their profile just isn’t viable enough to entice brands. As an influencer, you need to ensure you have a business profile. Not only is this crucial to attract brands, but it also allows you to access analytics features that regular profiles don’t. Not to mention the ability to auto publish your posts for later. Switching to a business profile is just one click away in the ‘Account’ tab. In order to accept enquiries and proposals to collaborate, make your email address visible in your bio or accessible through the “email” button on your business profile.
Collaborating with brands
A strong first impression
The first thing anyone sees on visiting your profile is your profile picture. In a cut-throat space such as this, it could make or break your chances among potential competition. It needs to communicate your aesthetic instantly in a way that the brand instinctively knows what your offering is. The most effective choice is usually a candid portrait or a selfie with edits/filters that naturally reflect the vibe of your place.
A winning bio
What does a brand see right after your profile picture? Your Instagram bio. It needs to reflect what your page represents as well as personal information for brands and followers to connect with you. Again, being a competitive space, avoid clichés and redundant information that takes away from the impact of your Instagram bio.
Most of the time, your only point of contact with brands is your email address or Instagram DMs. Make sure you know your way around these and are well versed in your messaging. Consider updating to a more relevant and professional moniker if you still own one of those cringe-inducing embarrassing email addresses from high school. It goes without saying that your emails should have a signature that exudes sleekness and professionalism. Stay honest and leave an “out of office” auto reply message for times when you don’t have immediate access to your email.
Be a brand yourself
While participating in a photo shoot or creating content for your feed, put on your thinking cap and try to put yourself in the shoes of the brands you desire to work with. Yes it is important to be original and stay true to your creative vision, but at the end of the day if you want to collaborate with brands, it is important to put out content that entices them to connect.
The more you shoot like a brand, the more likely they are to select you for additional usages. This in turn leads to higher revenues and more exposure across all mediums. If you are already doing brand collaborations, make sure the brand is the hero of your creative output. Most importantly, pay attention to the brief and keep referring back to it. Treat your reputation as seriously as a brand would.
Research is always key
In the brand collaboration funnel, do not rely on just the brand’s brief. Do your own research and delve into the brand’s creative vision. Study their social media platforms and previous influencer collaborations to gauge their aesthetic. A brand manager would much rather work with an influencer who doesn’t hesitate to ask queries rather than make assumptions and digress from the brief given. The end product is a common goal once the collaboration is agreed upon.
Network, network and network
It would be amiss to assume that networking is just done with clients and brands. As an influencer, it is your job to stay on top of all the contemporary trends and relevant content formats. You might have noticed that very often we learn of a new meme or viral video from an influencer we follow. That means, the meme reached the influencer before us to a point where they recreated in their own unique way. Stay ahead of the curve and constantly update your skill set as an influencer to truly differentiate yourself.
Consistency is almost a reflection of your reputation in the world of Instagram influencer marketing. No matter what the decided hourly, daily or weekly content, deferring from it is almost criminal as an influencer. Influencers are a powerful voice in democracies today and it is very, very essential to recognize your responsibility and stay true to it.
We have already discussed analytics and how to use it while planning your content strategy. Instagram has a direct option to view Insights on the top right corner of your feed that tracks content performance as well as saves all insights for future planning. It gives you all the information you need on impressions and activity of your online followers. This constant tracking helps tailor content the way you, your brand or the audience desires. All these parameters are crucial for a successful influencer profile on Instagram.
Being an influencer is not as easy as everyone assumes and honestly, it might be harder than most traditional professions. We hope the comprehensive list of points put forth in this article inspires you on your influencer journey. If curating content is something you’re passionate about, this is the right career path for you to flourish. A symphony of creativity, strategy and community, influencer marketing gives you the opportunity to work with the world’s best brands while becoming a more astute marketer yourself.
The world of influencer marketing is poised to evolve and it is important to stay on top of new changes, trends and collaborate with like-minded creators in the process. If you’ve got any influencer marketing related questions, we at atisfyre are here to help you. At atisfyre, we provide services that help influencers establish a strong presence across social media platforms, and connect with brands through tailored marketing campaigns and data-driven content. Get in touch, and let us help you build a true connection with your audience.