When scrolling through your feed on Instagram, it is almost a guarantee that you’ve seen someone who is considered an “influencer.” Someone with chic selfies and impeccable trendsetting abilities that posts about their favorite products, trips to exotic locales, and their best kombucha cafes.
According to InfluencerDB, there are currently over 500,000 active influencers on Instagram alone, and more than 39% of all Instagram accounts have more than 15,000 followers. With more influencers emerging every day, wouldn’t you like to be one of them?
Influencers, at the heart of it, are content creators. They create content to entertain their audiences. Influencers may also be able to monetize their platform to make income or receive free products from brands in exchange for mentioning them on their Instagram feeds.
For a few influencers, paid sponsorships make full-time income. Influencers are able to make connections to their favorite brands, working with them at brand events, or helping to create video content for that brand.
Influencers also have a community of followers at their fingertips that they can share life with. Many micro influencers have said that they feel very connected to their followers as an online community.
In addition to content creation, influencers are also highly motivated to learn their craft. With every post on Instagram, they are working on their photography skills, writing better captions, bettering their engagement rate, and keeping up with the latest trends. They may also be using their platform to further their learning of a specific hobby, like painting or music.
How to Become an Instagram Influencer:
1- Choose a niche.
Remember, you can’t be all things to all people. Finding a unique space/industry to embrace will help you refine your message and have a focused, beautiful Instagram feed. It will also help you create a content strategy and focus in on your personal brand. List your favorite hobbies or interests on a piece of paper to help you narrow down your search.
Many influencers are considered “lifestyle” influencers, but they almost all started with a focus and then slowly expanded to encompass the other areas of their life that their audience was interested in. Some example niches are fashion, food, health/wellness, DIY, home decor, etc. Some of the most successful influencers are very, very niche. There are entire Instagram accounts devoted to decorated beards (@willitbeard), and combining odd photos (@combophoto), just to name a few examples.
2- Research your niche.
This may sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Odds are, if you’ve been on Instagram for a while, you’re probably already following people with these same interests. Take a note of their photography style, any hashtags that are used by these influencers repeatedly, and what is their top-performing content. This will give you some insights into what resonates with your target audience.
3- Set your goals to become an Instagram influencer.
Are you going to post once a week? Once a day? Will you do a photo shoot each Saturday? Setting a schedule or calendar will help you juggle everything else in your life with your Instagram content.
Noting opportunities for good photos with locations already on your calendar will help you get a variety of images to post without having to go out of your way to get the shots.
Determining how often to post will need to change as you evaluate your Instagram’s performance. It will also help you determine how much of a time commitment you’ll need when first starting out.
4- Start posting.
Taking a no-pressure approach and diving right in is the best way to get acclimated to posting on Instagram. Do you like to rely on Instagram filters or photo editing software? Do you like long captions or short? These questions can only be answered once you have started.
Work on getting 10-20 posts together and posted before working on growing your audience or engaging with the community. That way, people who discover you will have something to look at when they visit your feed. Start a conversation with people once you have a feed that can capture their attention.
5- Find your voice.
When you have a few posts on your Instagram, take the time to define your purpose. Some will say that your purpose should be determined before posting anything, but it is important to get your feet wet in order to find out what you want to say with your Instagram. There is a story that only you can tell, so find the details and the uniqueness that you would like to share with the world.
6- Grow your audience.
This step involves discovering the growth tactics that work for you. Many influencers rely on using hashtags to get discovered, but the possibilities are endless. Use the Nametag function to connect with people at in-person, networking events. Be active on Instagram to increase your visibility (commenting, liking, etc.).
Post your Instagram handle on other social media platforms you’re already on. Host a giveaway on your Instagram, requiring people to like and share the post, or tag their friends, in order to gain exposure. Little steps toward growth can make a big impact in your overall follower count.
Note: Beware of shortcuts. Buying followers is a tactic that most businesses are guarding against. If you buy followers, you risk being caught when collaobrating with brands and ruining the relationship for good. Buying followers will also not get the engagement that you need in order to succeed as an influencer.
7- Engage with your community.
It is so, so important to be a good Instagram user as well as an Instagram influencer. Comment on your favorite posts, give likes to great content, and use direct messages for meaningful communication. Be sure that you are interacting with people in your same industry or niche to make great connections with them and to get discovered by their followers.
8- Evaluate and repeat.
This is a continual process of refinement. Use software to track your progress, or use an Instagram Business Profile to discover who is following you, what images are most successful, and what you should be doing differently going forward.
Refer to your statistics often to discover new ways to improve. Your data can help you discover when to post your images in order to receive the highest engagement, what age group likes your content most, and what type of content you should post more. All of these insights will help you create better content, gain more followers, and reach that influencer status even sooner.
Focus on the metrics that have the most meaning to you as an influencer. Look for steady follower growth and engagement. If you notice a dip in engagement, look at your last few posts to see if there’s anything that can be improved. Likes per post should be anywhere from 1-6% of your total followers as a goal.
9- Keep up on the latest trends.
Learning about Instagram is never over. Instagram is always making updates to their platform and each update is an opportunity to learn a new feature, perfect your strategy, and grow your following. Following blogs, Instagram accounts, and other resources can help you stay up-to-date on the latest developments and can assist you in discovering the next successful strategy for your Instagram.
10- Post consistently to become an Instagram influencer.
Those who succeed on Instagram are posting to Instagram … constantly! Add to your Instagram Stories every day, post content to your feed, and leave likes/comments often to better your chances of being discovered and gaining followers. Each post is an opportunity to reach your audience and improve your “Earned Media Value,” which will make you a better candidate for partnerships with brands.
Tips for Great Content Creation:
- Be Authentic and Genuine. There is no substitute for the truth. Share what is meaningful to you because your audience will be able to tell when your heart isn’t in it. Never partner with a brand that you don’t completely love.
Your Instagram should be an authentic and real space to share everything that you’re passionate about, and nothing that you’re not.
- Photography skills are your greatest asset. Learning to shoot amazing raw photos, using basic photo-editing skills, and creating high-quality content every time will establish yourself as an Instagram expert, instead of someone using Instagram as a hobby.
- Hubspot recommends using the “First Principles Thinking” approach. Elon Musk and others pioneered this approach to making decisions, advocating for decision-making apart from successes or failures and instead based solely on studying objective fundamentals. As an influencer, this could be interpreted as being a trailblazer and not letting past failed posts hold you back from creating something unique and 100% you.
- Be Vulnerable, but smart. Forbes says, “opening up about your struggles and fears is tough, but doing so helps your audience connect with you. It humanizes you. Of course, temper that with a good awareness of your brand.
Posting that you struggle with delivering work on time might be ‘honest,’ but it isn’t going to win you any clients. The difficulties you share should be relatable without painting you in a negative light.”
- No Shortcuts! Influencers cannot afford to take the shortcuts that seem easy, but will have lasting repercussions. Buying followers could expose you as a fake later on to a brand or partner. Using images from stock photo websites or “borrowing” content from other users can land you in hot water with copyright laws.
Working with brands you don’t love because of the paycheck or the incentives will break trust with your audience and jeopardize future partnerships by showing insincere recommendations. Not to mention that Instagram now has safeguards in place to block anyone trying to use these deceptive tactics.
The truth is, there’s no magic bullet to becoming a successful Instagram influencer. Influencers have put in the hard work to become valuable to their audience and to consistently post great content. Being an authentic, genuine, and real person on your Instagram will translate to higher engagement, huge follower growth, and opportunities for partnerships. When choosing to become an Instagram influencer, the best first step is to be yourself.