Even two decades ago, the term ‘social media influencer’ did not exist as a legitimate career path. Interactive platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have not only increased opportunities for small businesses to grow, but have added various new jobs to the industry. Being a ‘Social Media Influencer’ has become the new sought-after job for people who want to attract followers and share their experiences. Our writers, Adiba Kamal and Jewel Tynes joined forces to interview Instagram Influencers Julia Weber and Bushra Kabir, in an attempt to find out the biggest challenges and charms of this line of work.
Career, Hobby or Side Hustle?
According to Bushra Kabir, a Bangladeshi-Australian Lifestyle influencer based in Sydney, working as an instagram influencer can be a really hectic yet fun job. Many such influencers start off in this path while exploring a hobby or ‘side hustle’ and some are able to gain enough traction to turn it into a full-time job or business. A chat with these influencers revealed that certain benefits of this career path make it appealing to young professionals. Among the primary benefits they enjoy, not being strapped down at a 9-to-5 job is a major one. Following that, being self-employed allows them to have full creative control over their brand and business.
On the other hand, many influencers do not want to turn their hobbies into their primary profession. To be an established influencer, it does not only require hard work and dedication but also business intelligence. The same individual driving the creative content creation is also responsible for establishing business collaborations, landing corporate sponsorships, and managing finances. There is also the issue of experiencing a ‘social media burnout’, where one is no longer posting because it is fun, exciting or fulfilling, but because it is a paid project and they have made a commitment. Canadian social media influencer Julia Weber says “I always recommend this path if someone is really passionate about it. That is what will keep you going through the challenges and long hours.”
Monetizing Content & Promoting Brands
Social media influencers are now becoming a major point of advertisement and product promotion by small and large businesses all across the world. Depending on the size of the fan base, instagram influencers can make money in various ways; creating sponsored content, affiliate marketing, and consulting are some important deeds. Both Kabir and Weber believe that, for influencers, one of the best ways to earn is by working with brands, whether it is a famous one or a newbie in the market. Generally, the work is done through paid promotions.
Influencers with a smaller following may begin by receiving free samples from brands to review their products. The payment is then in the form of those free gifts and samples. However, more professional influencers with a broader and loyal following are less likely to accept free samples and payment for the free marketing. Weber has partnered with businesses such as Ford, TELUS, Destination Canada among others.
Influencers who play their cards right, are able to negotiate the price of each piece of content (image or video) posted on their platform to review and promote a product. This is where consistency in the quality of content and dealing professionally with brands becomes extremely important. Kabir had the opportunity to working with brands like BobbyBrown, Innisfree Australia, Miniso Australia, Bodyshop Bangladesh, pixibeauty, Neutrogena, Daniel wellington and BYS among others.
Establishing yourself as a brand
In the beginning, an influencer may find it difficult to collaborate with brands. This is where the quality of content, engagement with followers and the overall size of the follower-base comes into play. Initially working for smaller brands and local businesses is a great way to build a client portfolio.
Staying true to the brand and being somewhat genuine in the reviews helps keep brand loyalty to the influencer account. Without a meaningful connection with followers, where they can believe in the reviews, the views may not translate to sales for the collaborating brand.
How To Get Major Brands To Collaborate
Making innovative and engaging content goes a long way to prove to larger companies that you an influencer can keep things fresh and catch the viewers’ attention no matter how many times it has been done before. In order to work with prominent brands, influencers usually have to reach out to them (and not the other way around). Influencers typically need to email them personally, with a strong portfolio and set up a meeting. It is important that the influencer works with businesses whose products and services are relevant as well as something the influencer would actually use or avail themselves.
On another note, our interviewees emphasize on the importance of being careful when partnering with very new brands and potential scams. It is important to do your research and treat everything like a business, which means that no paperwork means no deal. Many of these ‘scammy’ brands talk a good talk, but never follow through. So, it is important to avoid entertaining these companies out of mere excitement, because influencers have been known to end up losing time, money, and resources.
Consistency is key
Once an account takes off and the followers keep snowballing in number, it is of great importance to continue to engage with the growing number of comments and messages. Just because an account is now more well-recognized, influencers cannot take a break without risking the loss of traction. Regular stories, still images, partnerships, engaging content and replying to comments and direct messages are some of the regular tasks that can never be stopped if one is to make it to the top and stay there.
Like any business or academic credential needed to begin a job, there is some degree of investment needed to become a social media influencer. This can be anything from investing in a high quality camera, paying a small fee to professionally edit your photos, or making sure your feed looks aesthetically pleasing to the audience’s eye. Many influencers who are not adept at photo editing can even take a course or learn with free online resources about the best ways to capture the most powerful images and videos, make them attractive for the right type of target audience, and ensure it is appropriate for the platform being used. Some influencers work solely within the digital confines of instagram, while others expand to an actual business or website which is then supported and promoted by the original account.
As a career path, however, much of the learning and investment to become a social media influencer comes in the form of time and effort put in by the individual. Learning about the algorithm of a given platform, being able to manipulate the correct hashtags to pull target followers, and other little tips and tricks are not often found in a university course or textbook. Must of it is based on researching competitors and successful people in that industry, and coming up with innovative strategies on their own.
Finding your story
Kabir integrates her personal life into her brand identity, and her loyal followers love her for this personal touch. She has found a unique way of remaining genuine yet glamorous in her digital identity and fully supports the idea of social media influencers being a full-time career option.
The first step a beginner should take is to find something that they are good at, be it fashion, food, fitness, travel, design or anything else. It is completely okay to experiment with a few choices when just starting out, but eventually narrowing down on a niche will be essential to establish your unique style and story. Once the brand is situated within a comfortable niche, an influencer can then focus on generating the best content possible.
Explore a few pages of people who post content that are similar to yours. Pinterest is a great resource to gain inspiration and develop new ideas for how you want your page to look. It might not look as good as you imagined it the first time, but you can always edit, delete, and repost until you’re satisfied.
As a travel influencer, Weber offers advice on safe and practical travel planning through her content as well. She emphasizes on the importance of having travel insurance to help absorb the financial burden in case anything goes wrong. She recommended research to select the most fulfilling travel activities on a budget. Having visited 25 countries and travel blogging since 2015, Weber has now chosen her niche in promoting her local city of Ottawa on her platform titled littlemissottawa. Picking a niche, she explains, is very important to help you stand out in the crowd among thousands of other influencers, and giving you the necessary momentum. Finding a unique way to tell a common story is what can help an influencer leave a lasting mark in the branding landscape. She ends the interview by saying “Don’t underestimate where your hobbies can take you.”