11 Steps to Becoming an Instagram Influencer

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Influencer marketing isn’t just a buzzword; it’s quickly becoming one of the most effective strategies for brands to connect with advertising-weary audiences. According to one study, nearly 95% of marketers who employ an influencer marketing program believe it is effective.

Younger audience members are eschewing traditional advertisements, preferring content that depicts life and brands in more realistic and relatable ways. As a result, influencers like the Hadid and Jenner sisters, Logan Paul and the “Beauty Boys” are able to offer brands rare access to coveted audiences. Similarly, influencers like Gary Vaynerchuk and Guy Kawasaki help business-oriented brands appeal to senior executives.

These influencers have created notable Instagram followings and strong personal brands, which attract the attention of companies. You too can become a successful Instagram influencer by following these 11 steps.

1. Identify an underserved and passionate audience.

It would, of course, be challenging to become the next fashion idol or beauty influencer. Those markets are saturated with Instagram influencers who have amassed large, passionate followings. However, it is possible that you can quickly become an influencer among an underserved niche population of users.

Begin by thinking about your areas of expertise. What are you an expert in that few others are? Then conduct keyword or hashtag searches to see if others are passionate about this subject, or some variation of it.

For example, there are a number of well-known marketing influencers already operating on Instagram. However, there are fewer B2B marketing influencers on Instagram and even fewer B2B enterprise marketing influencers. While there are few niche influencers for the topics mentioned, there are thousands of Instagram users who are likely interested in mastering these topics.

2. Become a great storyteller.

As an influencer, your personality and your ability to tell a good story are your greatest assets.

Gary Vaynerchuk is an influencer who knows how to tell compelling stories. He creates visually compelling Instagram content and uses the captions to elaborate on the meaning behind the photo or video. In the example above, Vaynerchuk offers advice for entrepreneurs who are hunting for successful business relationships.

3. Learn from other successful influencers.

There are countless successful influencers you can learn from. If you select an underserved target audience, these influencers aren’t competitors; rather, they’re potential mentors.

Follow influencers whom you respect on Instagram to learn how they create content and stories that engage followers. Learn how other influencers work with brands in ways that add value to a shared audience, rather than making followers feel as though an influencer has “sold out.”

Better yet, reach out directly to influencers after following their work for a while. Many influencers will be willing to offer advice if you are polite and persistent.

4. Master the target audience’s area of interest.

Whether the area of interest is makeup, business or computer programming, your target audience will often expect that you are a master of the subject in question. While becoming a true expert might take longer than you’d like, it is important that you constantly improve your knowledge with regard to your niche.

Some influencers are able to successfully create content about their quest to become more knowledgeable. In the example above, a software engineering influencer who goes by the name Codergirl shares that she is teaching herself more about data science. The post earned over 2,000 likes and many encouraging comments from engaged followers.

5. Create uniquely compelling content.

According to one study, about 95 million new photos and videos are shared on Instagram each day. As an Instagram influencer, it’s your job to create uniquely compelling content that stands out from the torrent flooding followers’ feeds. To create great content, be sure to vary mediums and formats. Sharing a mix of content styles will help to keep your profile fresh and engaging.

6. Understand how Instagram algorithms work.

There are a number of Instagram algorithms that can make or break your hopes of becoming an influencer. Mastering these algorithms can help you to quickly grow your audience while engaging existing followers.

You should recognize that the Instagram feed is not purely chronological. Rather, Instagram tends to order content based on the likelihood that the follower will engage with the content. Content that is potentially more compelling is placed higher in the feed. A similar system is in place when determining what content reaches the Explore tab.

As an influencer, ensuring that existing followers engage with content can be an effective way to increase your presence on the platform. That’s because Instagram uses engagement as a key factor in placing content throughout the platform.

7. Build relationships with brands.

If you are interested in becoming an influencer who works with brands to create compelling content, it is never too early to start building brand relationships. Start by researching the brands that are attempting to appeal to your niche audience.

You can do this by interviewing a few of your followers to understand what brands they are interested in and whether they relate to your area of expertise. Additionally, you should read publications like AdAge and AdWeek to see how brands are adopting their marketing strategy over time.

Armed with this information, you can begin reaching out to social media or partnership marketers at the brands in question to discuss opportunities for collaboration.

8. Compile and monitor Instagram analytics.

Instagram analytics can help you determine what content is most likely to resonate with your target audience. Detailed analytics can also help you to pitch potential clients by giving brands insights into your audience demographics, growth and engagement.

Use an Instagram analytics tool, such as Owlmetrics, to track data on engagement, growth, competitor behavior and optimal post time. This information can dramatically accelerate your success as an influencer.

9. Consider a multichannel approach.

Instagram is a great first channel to launch a personal brand. However, we live in a multi-platform world. Your followers are likely using other platforms like YouTube, Medium or Facebook, and it is important that you create content for these platforms as well.

Many Instagram influencers will tease content on Instagram and publish long-form pieces on one or more of the platforms mentioned above. This is a great way of using a multichannel approach to meaningfully engage with followers on their platform of choice.

10. Embrace behind-the-scenes content.

Behind-the-scenes content is a great way to build deeper relationships with followers. After all, social media platforms are inherently personal, and followers love to learn what people actually do in their day-to-day lives.

Logan Paul is a Generation Z influencer who uses Instagram to share behind-the-scenes content, which is one reason why he has nearly 15 million followers today. In the example above, Paul shares his gratitude and excitement at achieving a milestone on YouTube.

11. Think like a media company.

Content is what enables influencers to connect with followers. Given this reality, it is a good idea to start thinking like a media company.

Consider how content can be used to connect with audience members across channels. Develop preplanned content pieces with story arcs that keep followers engaged over a long period of time. Think about how to create content that is related across channels, while remaining unique.

Once you have developed an engaged following, you can then form brand partnerships (just as media companies do) to bring brands closer to your followers in a way that adds value to both parties. 

Conclusion

Becoming an Instagram influencer will take time, dedication and plenty of trial and error. To begin, identify an underserved niche audience that is hungry for content. Then develop your ability to create rich content with a compelling narrative. Consider learning from other influencers to determine best practices, and don’t forget to invest in an Instagram analytics platform along the way.

About the author

David Epstein

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