Ask an Influencer: The Truth About the Social Media Industry
Agnes here. I’m an LA-based ballerina, photographer, and a blogger at http://www.artsyagnes.com. I created my Instagram account way back in 2012 — the days before IG stories took over and sponsored posts were few and far between. I started working with brands in early 2015. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to build my following and collaborate with some amazing brands like Amazon, Starbucks, and Reebok.
For me, being an influencer means sharing my lifestyle, passions, and tips with people who relate to me, and through that, I know I have the ability to direct the trends, purchases, and daily choices of my audience. That’s why I try to genuinely interact with my followers and provide actual value through my content, whether it’s sponsored or not. After all, influencer marketing works because of the relationship influencers strive to build with their audience through authentic content and close interaction.
Today, I’ll share my experiences in building my life on social media—I’ll “spill the tea” about working in this industry. We’ll discuss everything from misconceptions about influencers to some things I wish brands knew before working with influencers.
Let’s get right into it!
Not every stereotype about being an influencer is true.
There’s more to being an influencer than receiving free products or getting dressed up and attending elaborate parties. It’s true — there are plenty of fun events where we learn more about brands and meet other influencers. But, believe it or not, it takes real time and effort to create engaging content that resonates with our audiences.
People often underestimate the amount of time and skill it takes for influencers to deliver polished work that will meet a brand’s requests and deadlines. From signing contracts to following brand guidelines, influencers have to communicate clearly with companies and have the photography and editing skills to create high-quality content.
I won’t lie, having been in this business since 2012, it’s been challenging at times to create fresh sponsored content while building my personal brand and creating the content I want to make for myself and my audience. However, I always go back to my mission of providing value through my platform. It always puts me back on track to find new inspiration.
When it comes to the social media industry, the three A’s are the key to success.
1. Audience engagement. Anyone who goes on my Instagram for even a few moments can tell you that I’m passionate about being socially responsible and maintaining a plant-based diet. Because my content represents these lifestyle choices, I have been fortunate enough to build a niche audience that has stayed engaged with me through the years. I’ll touch more on this later.
2. Authenticity. In general, it’s extremely important for influencers to be genuine, honest, and consistent to build trust with their audience. Do you have a passion? Share it! Odds are you’ll attract a community of people who share similar interests. Similarly, brands need to work with influencers who have real influence over their audience.
3. Alignment with the brand. For me, it’s all about brand alignment. I’m very selective about the brands I work with because I love to feature brands who are in line with my lifestyle. Because of that, brands that are eco-conscious, sustainable, and socially responsible are the ones I naturally gravitate toward.
In fact, one of my favorite collaborations was with a sustainable brand called Toko Toko. We created a series of images based on a typical day in my life and incorporated their products. The project was so unique, and I deeply resonated with the brand’s mission. This ended up being a really successful campaign!
There is such a thing as too many #ads.
Here’s the deal, influencers. Too many sponsored posts could actually hurt your own brand identity. There’s a fine line between promoting products you believe in and coming off as a walking advertisement. If every single post on your Instagram is an #ad, your audience will start to feel like your content is inauthentic. Why? Because to the average person, it seems like you’ll write rave reviews about nearly any product you’re offered payment for.
So, find a good balance and be very selective about the brands you choose to partner with. In between sponsored posts, make sure to provide your regular content with real-life updates, outfit inspiration, recipes, or whatever it may be that your followers resonate with. This will ensure that you’re maintaining the authenticity of your feed.
And brands, make sure you’re working with influencers who have a healthy balance of sponsored and organic content. Their audience is much more likely to engage with your brand if they aren’t being oversaturated with ads.
Brands need to vet influencers properly.
Recently, the influencer marketing industry has been under fire for ongoing fraudulent activity. And here’s the truth: it’s easy to inflate numbers on social media. Metrics such as likes, comments, and followers can be bought with the simple click of a button. So brands, make sure you’re looking beyond the surface to determine the authenticity of influencers’ engagement rates.
For instance, if an influencer has thousands of comments but they’re all emojis, their followers are most likely not invested in the content. On the other hand, there are influencers who might be getting less than 100 comments, but they’re actually conversing with their audience. And to me, this goes a much longer way.
Well, there it is — the truth about the social media industry. I hope I was able to debunk some false assumptions about influencers and that you learned a thing or two about this ever-changing space.