Ask an Influencer: How I Started Creating Content
Hey guys! My name is Evan. I’m a full-time college student and a lifestyle influencer from Fargo, North Dakota.
I started creating and sharing content as a hobby two summers ago, after learning the basics of photography from my parents. In the beginning, I was mostly snapping pictures of the beautiful landscape around me as well as my lovely friends, who eventually encouraged me to get in front of the camera.
Once I started getting more comfortable being the subject of my online content, I decided to take photography more seriously and look towards the business side of social media. Since then, I’ve been able to work with some amazing companies across the nation and even around the world!
Today, I want to share with you my journey to becoming a content creator and give you a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like building your own brand on social media. Let’s get started.
How I started gaining followers
Once my photography started picking up steam, I began collaborating with creators who already had a bigger following. Luckily, I was already friends with a creator who had around 8,000 followers at the time. We ran around looking for cool photoshoot locations and tested out different poses, lighting, and the like. Not only was it fun to work with a friend, but it also allowed me to get in front of another creator’s audience.
To take it one step further, I reached out to all the photographers in my area and asked them to collaborate with me, regardless of the size of their following. I realized community was everything. Building a strong network of creators meant that we could help each other create the best content, introduce each other to our respective audiences, and support each other’s work.
But don’t get me wrong — building a following is not easy at all. Especially with Instagram’s algorithm, it’s hard to get discovered by a fresh set of eyes if you’re not being proactive about making new connections. You need to put yourself out there and make some friends in the social media world.
How I started pitching to brands
Generally, when you don’t have a huge following, you need to send out a lot of emails to catch a brand’s attention. My initial method was to create a one-page document that acted as a “media kit” and send it to the brands I wanted to work with. I didn’t tailor it to each brand, so naturally I wasn’t getting the responses I wanted.
I decided it was time to take a different approach. I made a 10-page PowerPoint presentation and included slides with my audience demographic, engagement rate, reach, and other statistics. But even more important than these metrics was personalization. I customized each deck to the brands I was reaching out to, and incorporated things like:
- My background (where I’m from, why I started creating content, etc.)
- Specific reasons for wanting to work with that brand
- How the brand’s message or mission aligns with my goals
- Creative campaign ideas
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get many responses at first — it’s all part of the process. Instead, try to make more personal relationships with the people behind the brands. When you establish a deeper connection, they respond more positively.
How I create high-quality content
Here are my top three pieces of advice for creating high-quality content.
Tip #1 — Learn the basics. You don’t always need an expensive camera to create high-quality content. In fact, I used to use my phone to shoot my content. It’s really all about knowing how to maneuver the device you have.
That being said, learn the fundamentals of photography. Knowing how to work with certain lighting and using the appropriate settings can really change a photo. I even taught my friends, so that they could shoot high-quality photos of me.
Tip #2 — Don’t fake what you’re doing. Make sure you have a good time and wear an outfit you’re comfortable in. More often than not, it shows when you’re feeling uncomfortable or doing something unnatural.
Tip #3 — Become an expert at scheduling. I don’t ever want to become a walking billboard. So for every brand partnership, I try to have two or three “regular” lifestyle posts. And in order to have a good ratio of regular content and sponsored content, you need to plan accordingly. When I know I have a deadline with a company I’m working with, I’ll work extra hard to create some of my own non-sponsored content in between. If you only post #ads, you may risk losing the authenticity factor with your followers.
How I build long-term brand partnerships
I love developing ongoing partnerships with brands that align well with my personal values. It makes it 10 times easier to pitch ideas and work together, because they trust that I’ll deliver high-quality content that is in-line with the goal of their campaign.
So, how do you get a brand to trust you?
Tip #1 — Make sure to produce high-quality content for all your brand partners. This may seem obvious, but good content lays the groundwork for any successful campaign. This way, brands can even repurpose your content for other marketing channels and extract more value out of the collaboration.
Tip #2 — Create safe content. Posting borderline content can put the brand’s reputation at stake. I always make sure that my content is clean and “PG,” so that I don’t run into any trouble down the line. Brands don’t want any surprises when working with influencers!
Tip #3 — Authenticity is everything. Be genuine to yourself and your followers when you’re promoting a product. Your audience trusts you to be honest about the products you’re loving, and they’ll see right through you if you’re selling something you likely wouldn’t use. This hurts your personal brand, as well as the companies you’re working with, because neither party will see fruitful results.
I hope this has helped you learn the first steps to becoming an influencer, and I hope you are inspired to start creating your own content. If a boy from a small North Dakota town can do it, you can too!