The complete guide to becoming an Instagram influencer

A few years ago, the prospect of monetizing Instagram as an influencer felt like a strange and foreign concept. 

However, with the open mindset of the Millennial, the need for unique and exciting content, a desire to connect with people who love the same things as you do and the community that expands beyond your immediate location,  means Instagram influencers are our modern day gurus.

Do your friends come to you for fashion advice, travel hacks, or date night ideas? Are you always capturing a wonderful moment on camera and longing to share it with a community that understands you?

Then it sounds like you have what it takes to create something great on Instagram. The complete guide to becoming an Instagram influencer is here to show you that with a bit of dedication, you could be the star of everyone’s newsfeed!

In this article we will teach you:

  • What is an Instagram influencer?
  • How to become an Instagram influencer
  • How does an Instagram influencer get paid?

What is an Instagram influencer?

We have heard the term thrown around, and chances are you follow some of them, but what exactly is an Instagram influencer?

Instagram influencers have built a relationship with their audience on the Instagram platform, based on trust and credibility. As they are perceived to be authentic in their niche, they can guide their fans through inspiration and set themselves up as a point of authority. Brands make use of Instagram marketing to harness an influencer’s established community to grow their brand awareness and increase their sales.

You don’t have to be paid to be an influencer, you simply have to influence the behaviors of others. But many have turned their impact into income by organizing paid partnerships with brands.

Studies have shown that Millennials in particular are more likely to make purchasing decisions based on the influencers they follow and the positive brand experiences from their community.

How to become an Instagram influencer

Set your niche and hone in on your content pillars

This is the most important step to setting yourself up as an Instagram influencer. Ask yourself, ‘What do I do, that no one else does better?’ Pick something you are passionate about, as passion fuels your purpose. For instance, if travel gets you smiling and you love figuring out the best hacks, this passion will translate to your followers and get them excited about this topic too.

Once you have established your niche, narrow in on a few key ‘content pillars.’ These are broad categories that you think you can split your main niche into. For example, if you are opting for travel hacks, you could then center your content around locations, transportation, packing products and local recommendations.

When you have determined your content pillars, find your inspiration. You might already be brimming with ideas. Look to other influencers in similar niches. What are they doing, and how can you set yourself apart? You can even search on other platforms like Pinterest to spark creative ideas. 

Be yourself

Gone are the days where users were ok with seeing photoshopped images and celebrities pouting on their screens. People want to connect with real people.

Be authentic. Aim to be as open and transparent with your followers as you can, as people on the internet are primed to recognize fake or misleading content. If you are honest and passionate about something, this will translate to your audience.

This also applies to buying followers. Not only can Instagram notice this and block or even delete your account, but other followers can see it too. If you have a huge following but no engagement on your posts, smart brands won’t want to work with you. With dedication and a commitment to your brand, you can easily grow your followers in a truly authentic way.

Your best face forward

One of the first things potential followers will see is your profile picture. This draws them in. Our recommendation is to avoid using a logo and opt for your face instead. People are on Instagram primarily and want to connect with another person, and so they want to see what that person looks like. Incorporating pictures of yourself into your feed and stories, even if that is not your primary content style, will make your fans feel more connected to you as an individual. This assists in building a relationship of trust.

The second thing your followers will see is your bio, so this is important. Ensure it has a key statement explaining what your page is about, then keep it original. Do you have an exciting new recipe to reveal or a collaboration you are working on? Let people know what you plan on getting up to. This will allow Instagram users to gauge whether your content is something they’re interested in.

Finally, make use of relevant hashtags, link in bio, and emojis to keep your bio fresh, searchable and engaging.

A professional tip is to offer up a freebie. Having a link to a downloadable PDF or infographic with a valuable offering will entice followers and make them feel as though the connection has a value to it.

Planning the ultimate Instagram grid

Once you have refined your niche, found your inspiration and set up a great profile, you need to populate amazing content. This is where planning becomes your most important ally. Ensure your newsfeed is well thought out and flows consistently. Stick to a content style guide, using the same font and color scheme throughout your posts.

It is also helpful to consider the color schemes in your photos to tie the grid together. This can be with the colors you use within the photos or by applying similar filters or editing presets to create a coherent theme.

You can utilize planning tools such as Later, Buffer or Hootsuite to plan ahead. Some use grid planning features so you can see how your posts will look when placed together. By planning out your posts in advance, you can ensure your posts are well thought out and curated to align with your niche and style.

Stand out

Instagram is a visual platform, after all. You don’t want to blend in with the crowd, you want to stand out.

While it’s important to do some research, let yourself be inspired by other creators, but don’t copy them. In an already heavily-saturated market, this won’t make your followers engage with you and some may even unfollow, which we hope to avoid. Like we said, be yourself in what you create and you’ll stand out from the crowd.

Build your community

Every powerful Instagram influencer has a strong community supporting them. Like any good relationship, it takes some nurturing and TLC. Make use of ‘call to actions’ in your Instagram Stories and on your posts. Take polls and ask your followers questions that encourage them to comment. Boosting the engagement on your page is vital.

Perhaps you are posting about your favorite sustainable makeup brand. You could ask your followers if they have tried it or to leave a comment letting you know their favorites. Not only does this help the Instagram algorithm pick up that your content is worthy of being pushed to the top of the feed, but it also allows for you to get to know your audience better.

It’s important to remember that this should not be a one-sided effort. Instagram is an engagement and community tool, so you have to be active in the community. Ensure you reply to every comment possible, like all comments and reply to DMs.  Seek out and comment on other influencer’s content. Make your name and profile as visible as you can make it.

Diversify

Yes, this article is all about becoming the next great Instagram influencer of 2020, but diversifying is important, as you can bring in followers from other platforms.

Ensure your profile is set up as a business profile, which will be linked to a Facebook page. Depending on your chosen niche, you can diversify on numerous platforms including, but not limited to, Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit.

Each platform can be more suited to a certain style of content, but there is certainly the possibility to shake up the standard content style of these platforms to stand out. Having said this, it is important to consider the type of audience across and the varying formats of each network. Don’t simply copy and paste the exact same content, as this can irritate your audience and create barriers to authentic connection.

By diversifying your profile you can connect with a wider audience, as well as network yourself effectively. This is important if you wish to make an income as an influencer; after all, this is a business.

Brand connections

It’s wonderful to be sharing your passion with a community, but if you’re reading this article we assume that monetizing your passion is your ultimate goal. Once you begin to build up your Instagram community, you can create an account with ShareASale and begin reaching out to brands.

Pro tip – be as thorough and detailed as possible in your profile, as well as have a prepared ‘media kit’ ready, should a brand request one. This should include things like:

  1. Social handles and website links
  2. Your audience size and engagement rates
  3. Audience information like location and demographics
  4. Examples of your content
  5. Any brands you may have successfully worked with in the past
  6. Your expected rates

ShareASale manages influencer marketing campaigns and help to connect brands with vetted influencers. By putting yourself on our radar, we can help you work towards paid promotions with a huge range of global advertisers.

It’s important to align yourself with brands that serve your niche and not simply apply for every campaign that crosses your path. Though it’s important to get paid, we reiterate that being authentic and working with brands you trust or believe in will translate over to your audience.

Know your boundaries

Though we recommend you be as transparent as possible with your audience, this does not mean you owe them every aspect of your life. You should never feel obligated to post anything that goes against your core values.

It is important to establish what you are willing to share and not share with the world. By setting your boundaries, you can communicate with brands and your audience while still honoring your core values.

Measure your metrics and adjust

One of the perks of using a business account is the ability to measure your metrics. Use those insights to truly understand your audience. Get to know them: where are they from? What do they seem to like the most?

By analyzing this data you are able to pivot your content plan if needed, and you can truly offer your audience content they will love. Being flexible and having the ability to evolve is a key factor in staying relevant. Don’t allow your content to stagnate.

How does an Instagram influencer get paid?

Now that we have covered how to become an inspiring Instagram influencer. An important topic to tackle is ‘how does an Instagram influencer get paid?’

Historically, the higher your follower count was, the higher your earning potential could be. Though high follower counts could be what some brands are looking for in an influencer, this is simply a vanity metric if it can’t be backed up by quality engagement.

If you are a micro-influencer (10,000 followers or less), you will most likely start out by working with GAP (gift as payment). Brands will offer you a free gift of their product in exchange for one or several posts. This is a great way to get your foot in the door, get the hang of promoting content and assess your audience’s response to brand partnerships. This also allows you to align with brands that you can develop a long term relationship with.

Eventually, when your audience begins to expand, you can start to monetize those posts.

Brands may reach out to you directly, but it is best to go through a dedicated influencer network or affiliate channel that will assist both you and the advertiser in managing the entire Instagram influencer marketing campaign. Networks such as ShareASale will protect you, providing a framework to negotiate the rates and provide a level of support and security. The influencer budget will be calculated based on engagement, reach and impressions.

ShareASale can also help both sides of the partnership accurately track data to be able to forge the best path to success.

Putting together a price list or packages to offer brands will help you set your fee and keep it fair. One thing to note is your production costs. You need to factor in your costs for the perfect post: travel expenses, props, location fees, etc. Remember that your Instagram feed is your business, so bear this in mind when putting your price lists together.

Aside from paid promotional Instagram content, you can also pair up for partnerships such as:

  • Travel partnerships – Travel brands may offer you a hotel stay, flights and/or expenses in exchange for posting all about it.
  • Event promotion and sponsorship – You receive invitations to exclusive influencer-only events promoting brands or products.

A final note

As one of the most used social media platforms in the world, Instagram is highly populated with creators. Don’t let this deter you, but keep in mind that it is not a place you’ll likely find overnight success. Building an engaged audience takes consistency and time.

Instagram can be a lot of fun and a great engagement tool. It’s also a great place to be creative and express yourself.

Building a community which spans the globe is incredibly rewarding and can be financially rewarding too, if you put together a solid strategy on how to get there.

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