To drive for Uber, you need a car. To list on Airbnb, you need a spare room. To become an “influencer,” all you need is your personality and a social media account.
Micro-influencers, social users whose followers range between 10,000 and 50,000, on average, can earn a few hundred dollars per post. Although they exist on every social media platform, they generally earn the most on Instagram, where influencer marketing agency Mediakix found nearly 70% of marketers planned to spend the most on content this year.
Making It as a Micro-Influencer
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a Kardashian to get noticed on social media. Many of my friends and acquaintances have grown their Instagram followings from zero to five and six figures in under a year, often by investing less than two hours each day.
Intrigued? Here are five tips to build or grow your own following:
1. Brand yourself.
Take stock of your existing interests and areas of expertise. Don’t force it—if you don’t like going to the beach, don’t pretend to be a surfer—but do think about what interest or hobby you can capitalize on.
What if you find traction in an area other than your passion? Don’t sweat it. Stanford researchers argue that “follow your passion” is actually poor career advice because it prevents people from pursuing unfamiliar fields. New passions are developed, not discovered.
Plus, exploring small and overlapping interest areas is what makes you unique as a micro-influencer. Your particular mix of skills and experiences is what attracts users and potential brand partners. Marketers value genuine support, and followers can tell if you’re acting authentically or not.
2. Put quality over quantity.
As tempting as it can be to focus on your follower-to-following ratio, it’s not a good way to measure your worth as an influencer. In fact, your value as a micro-influencer rests on the fact that you don’t have millions of followers. The engagement you elicit from your followers depends on your relatable image.
Instead of trying to increase your follower figure, focus on the quality of those relationships. Comment thoughtfully whenever a follower tags you. Post images and videos that show you interacting with real people in everyday circumstances. Explain your strategy to brands by pointing out that the ratio of likes and comments to followers peaks when an account has around 1,000 followers.
3. Embrace video.
There’s a reason platforms from Facebook to Instagram have added video features: Animated video producer Wyzowl notes social media video viewership has increased by double or triple digits in recent years, and Twitter videos are six times more likely to be retweeted than photo-based tweets.
Some activities lend themselves better to video than others. If you’re a whitewater rafter, for instance, you’ll have no problem coming up with exciting clips. What if you like to play chess or read novels? Get creative: Dress up as a chess piece and go dancing. Take a trip to your favorite book settings. Read while riding a unicycle.
4. Be generous.
Don’t give away so many gifts that you can’t make money as a micro-influencer, but be on the lookout for opportunities to give and share. The easiest, least expensive thing to give is information. If you’re a backpacker, post a checklist for two-, three- and five-day trips. Personal shoutouts are another free tactic: When a follower tags you in a post of their own, publicly thank or joke with them from your account.
When is a gift or product sample appropriate? Save those costly, time-consuming acts for serious favors. If another camping influencer talks you up, for instance, you might send a handwritten note on a scrap of tent fabric. Try to put strings on gifts that benefit both parties: A head-to-head tasting with another influencer in the craft beer space might be a good reason to send a 12 pack.
5. Tell great stories.
Human beings are hardwired for storytelling. That’s why it’s not enough to just post a photo of a product and hope your followers will fill in the blanks. Don’t be too on the nose, either: Saying, “I like this product, and you should, too,” comes across as stiff and overly promotional. Your followers won’t take you seriously, and potential brand partners won’t find your content to be worth their investment.
What do the best stories have in common? Studies show that they’re simplistic in their phrasings, show clear cause and effect, and describe relatable sensory experiences. If you post a Thanksgiving video of your baby brother getting mashed potatoes on the ceiling, for example, you might start by describing how sticky they were or how hard he flung them.
Don’t expect micro-influencing to replace your full-time job, but don’t underestimate your potential, either. Once you’ve attracted a few hundred followers organically, try sharing a few product suggestions. If they’re successful, email each brand’s marketing team and tell them how much you like their product. When those marketers search your account, they’ll see loyal followers and authentic recommendations.
What’s next? If the brand’s marketers don’t offer an influencer gig, be proactive. Ask whether they’d appreciate your help promoting the product further. If so, ask for a per-post fee in the $100 range. If not, move on; there’s plenty of companies trying to get attention on social media.
The bottom line? You don’t need fame or a fancy title to make money online. In fact, not being famous might just be the secret weapon you need to get ahead.
Image by Lepusinensis/Shutterstock.com
Brittany Hodak is co-founder of The Superfan Company, an entertainment agency that helps brands and celebrities identify, engage and retain their most important customers. She’s been mentioned as one of the top sales motivational speakers in the industry. You can book Brittany to speak at BrittanyHodak.com.