Oooh, the catchword we can’t escape: influencer. What do you think of when you read the words social media influencer? Is it someone with hundreds of thousands of followers? Someone who’s posting for huge brands? Do you wish you had the influence but count yourself out of this type of opportunity?
Let’s kick this post off with my favorite truth, one we tend to forget: if you have even ONE follower on social media, you have influence. It not all about the numbers, but instead your ability to influence others in a way that drives action or engagement in some way through the trust you’ve built with your audience, regardless of that little number under your name.
The First Step: Build Trust
Becoming an influencer doesn’t start with signing a contract with a brand to promote their work. The work happens way before that point, in my case, it took years. If you’re considering moving in the social media influencer direction, my best advice is to first focus on building up your brand and loyalty with your followers. More important than the number of followers you have is if the people who follow you trust you.
How do you build trust? By being a real human, not just a highlight reel. This is about building a recognizable brand as a human being and not just a business. Show up, ask your audience questions, share your life authentically, engage with your audience. The more that you can share the things you love freely (even when you’re not paid to do it yet) the more people will be attracted to the things you like.
As someone who has worked with dozens of brands over the years, brands want to partner with people who have true influence and an engaged audience that trusts them. What does this mean? Take Instagrammer A who has 7,000 followers with a high engagement rate (likes and comments) or Instagrammer B who has 100,000 followers but barely any action?
Brands understand that person A with 7,000 followers but more engagement is going to be a much more successful campaign that’s worthy of an investment than person B with a larger audience. So don’t count yourself out if this is something that you think would be a good fit…. also don’t go out and buy followers, just don’t. Trust me on that one!
You don’t have to be a Kardashian to book brand deals but the amount of followers you have will likely impact what kind of partnerships you may get pitched and what the offers may look like. One study done by Influence Co found that the average following an influencer had was 63,000 followers. I get it, 63k is a big number, but before you get discouraged, a lot of brands are shifting the way they work with influencers and are seeing positive results with something called “micro-influencers” or those with smaller followings.
A micro-influencer generally has a significantly smaller social media following, but they may have more of an ability to influence purchases by their audience. Many micro-influencers have high engagement rates and are frequently asked for their recommendations online, while their audience may be small, it’s an engaged audience that trusts the influencer more wholly. That means your one-time collaboration may reap benefits for the long-term if it is a successful collaboration for both parties and it can be a great place to start if you don’t have a large following… yet.
Building Trust in Action
The key to building trust and influence with your followers is in doing the hard work of serving, serving, serving before you ever go to sell or pitch anything. What does serving with the goal of building influence look like? It could be sharing insights that will help your followers, giving away free content or information that will serve them, openly sharing resources, services or products that you love and finally, making your followers care about YOU before anything else. This means showing up every day, being open, authentic and consistent in your posting and quality of content.
Long before I was ever paid to post about products, I would share things because I loved them. If I bought a new dress I loved, I’d tag the brand. If someone sent me a gift in the mail, I’d tag the company. If I read a book or listened to a podcast I loved, I would tag the creator. Getting your audience used to checking out and trusting your recommendations without any benefit to you is a great way for them to become used to taking action on your posts. That way, when you do influencer marketing, your audience will receive it well and show the brand that they are buying whatever you’re sharing.
How Many Followers Do You Need to Book a Collaboration?
There isn’t a magic number and things have shifted dramatically in recent years. In my experience most of my partnerships started to happen when I hit 10k followers – I don’t want to make that a magic number for you but in my experience, that seems to be some sort of threshold for when brands are more willing to partner or take your pitch seriously.
I also know people with less than 10k that work with brands because they are excellent at pitching or offer their services (such as styled photos or created content!) I believe if you have something to offer a brand and are willing to put together a good pitch, the number under your name isn’t as important as we are led to believe. I’d focus on a high engagement rate over a bigger number of followers anyday so start with what you’ve got and make sure your audience is double tapping and commenting on all of your posts because you’re inviting them to engage!
Brands want good relationships with influencers
Have you ever thought about someone’s experience with you? Sometimes what’s more important than the metrics or numbers is that you are someone who is easy and fun to work with. A huge focus for brands is looking at influencers who are: responsive, pleasant, and takes partnerships seriously. As an influencer, you have the opportunity to give the brand an experience whether it be good or bad. A lot of brands would rather work with a smaller influencer if they are easier to work with than a bigger name or celebrity – because of the number of hoops they have to jump through to book bigger influencers. Never underestimate the power of being easy and fun to work with!
Be prepared for work
My final tip for getting started with influencer marketing is that it might not seem like a lot of work, I get it… you think you just snap a photo and post it and the money comes in. Influencer marketing can become a part-time (or full-time job) when you start working with PR agencies who have high demands for their clients.
From sending in the vision for the brief to shooting and editing, crafting caption options, creating Instagram stories, meeting deadlines, making edits and more, it can start to feel overwhelming and time-consuming. My first paid posts brought in a few hundred where now my paid posts pay thousands of dollars. With the increase in rates comes an increase in demands, so I really try to be selective about my “yes-es” so that my feed doesn’t become one big sales pitch!
I set limits on the amount of paid posts I share per month and turn down a lot of opportunities and dollars just to make sure my feed stays authentic and true to me. We almost had to hire on another team member just to manage collaborations because of the amount of work they were adding to our workflow so keep this in mind as you start to plan for this additional work in your business.
As you begin to navigate influencer marketing, I want you to ask yourself what’s worth it to you? Are you excited about free products? Are you spending a lot of time styling, shooting, and editing images? Are you feeling pumped up about partnerships or burdened? Does this partnership align with your long-term goals (or does it take away from the sales opportunities or ways you could sell your own products or services to your audience?). These are all questions that can help you determine what’s worth it for you in terms of structuring your influencer marketing opportunities and rates.
Want to dig deeper into this? Here are some podcast episodes to help:
Being an influencer is such a blessing. To live in a world where you can get paid to share the things that you love and to gain true influence with people online is such a cool thing! The biggest thing to remember is you already have influence, whether you have 10 followers or 10k. Use your influence for good, share the things you love, and let your feed help share YOU with the world. What do you think, will you add this to your business? What excites you about it? What concerns do you have? I’d love to hear them below!