A few days ago after a shoot and a hangout shesh with my photographer, I wrote a scathing post about businesses and how they choose to work influencers; I mean I was downright harsh to say the least. The conversation in general was about how some brands are blinded by the numbers of influencers and forget to do a deep dive into their actual influence. I also touched on influencers and taking advantage of that but that’s another post for another day! The post was suppose to go live on Monday and I went back and forth with posting it until I decided that it was not the right tone and my message may get lost in my pension for the work “shit” lol! Now I still have the post in my draft box and I may at some point down the line post it, but I’ve decided for today to soften the tone and hope it sparks meaningful conversation.
As a creative, I’m paid to create content for brands that will entice my audience to purchase their product, evoke a feeling or even start a meaningful conversation about a topic. For a creative person, it is the best job in the world. Though I have a tiny tribe compared to other influencers, I’ve been able to land some really awesome collaborations and opportunities that have put me on the radar of brands who may not have otherwise looked my way. Small disclaimer: I only work with brands that fit my personal brand and make sense for me. I don’t promote a company that I would never spend my hard earned dollars on or push a message that I don’t agree with. Many of these brands that I’ve been lucky enough to work with would have never given me that second glance because of my Instagram numbers. It’s honestly the first thing many brands look to when wanting to work with an influencer, how many Instagram numbers do they have. For someone like me; I have just under 1,050, it’s assumed I have little to no influence and I’m dismissed. I can’t tell you the number of NO’s I’ve gotten pitching to brands because all they are focused on is numbers. We live in a numbers game society and your worth is measured by that and in this creative space it can have you going through a wide range of emotions. It was not until I stopped putting my focus on numbers and gaining them did I actually gain the opportunities I have now. For any blogger reading this post, screw the follower count, the likes on a post and focus on creating content that makes you happy and serves the people who are already in your tribe. They follow you for a reason and if you are constantly creating content for the masses, they will leave. That bit of advice is courtesy of This Renegade Love and of you are not following her you should! Slowly brands are looking toward influencers that are doing just that to represent their brands, I am proof of it.
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My message to businesses is be sure you are looking into the influence of the influencers you choose to work with. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game; they have 20k, 60k, 80k, 100k followers so that must mean they can “influence” hundreds of people to buy into my message. This thinking will often have brands miss the entire point of hiring an influencer in the first place. It’s not about HOW many eyes you can get on your product, it’s about the RIGHT eyes you can get on your product. Would you rather have 500 people like a picture and 5 buy or 50 like the picture and 10 buy? I know what I would want! Real influence is less about how many people like it but about what emotion can you invoke to get them to buy it, that’s a skill anyone can do regardless of a number.
Let me break down the anatomy of an Instagram post as I see it and how it relates to influence.
- The Picture: You are walking down the street during Christmas time, giving a quick glance at all of the displays until you come across a display so amazing you stop dead in your tracks! You stand there in awe for a few moments taking it all in; it reminds you of Christmas at your grandparents house. Everyone by the fireplace drinking hot cocoa while listening to Grandpa read a story with the tree twinkling in the background. As you smile a little and go to walk away, you spot a blue sweater with a little snowman on it and you know you need to have it. It reminds you of one you had as a child. You scan the display for a price tag as you make your way into the store to purchase the item. This is how an Instagram photo should be; so enticing that it makes people stop the mindless “scroll and double tap” and become in awe of the photo wanting more information.
- The Caption: In your scan for the price tag, you come across a sign that tells a story of Christmas past. It instantly evokes such fond memories of your childhood, you can actually see yourself in that blue sweater with the little snowman sneaking candy canes off the tree and sipping hot cocoa by the fire while Grandpas tell a story. You are ever more determined to get that sweater but still can’t find the price tag so you walk into the store. This is how an Instagram caption should be; not just a “Hey this sweater is 49.99 and you can shop it with Like To Know It” but creating a conversation that can evoke a feeling.
- The Conversation: You make your way into the store hunting down the first sales associate you see. You tell her the story of your childhood Christmas spend at your grandparents and how the sweater in the display brought those memories back to life for you. She in return tells you a few Christmas memories of her own and you two have a fond time traveling down memory lane; all the while she is getting your size and walking you toward the register to check out. This is how the chatter in the comments below should be; it’s the most important part. It’s where a influencer and her tribe talk and share a good laugh and fun memories. This is where the REAL influence happens.
I used Instagram as the example since its the platform that both business and influencers focus on the most The amount of money that is spend on that platform is in the hundreds of millions and when you want to launch a product or service, many brands turn to Instagram. But the formula can be also used on a blog just as effectively. Last year I worked with Relay Foods; now Door to Door Organics, creating a post about their online grocery service. Instead of just talking about the service, how great it was and how my readers should try it, I turned it into a conversation about my busy life and how Relay helped make it a bit easier. It sill had visual appeal to catch the eye of my readers but a relatable story that made them think about their own busy lives and maybe giving Relay a try. The Instagram post I created to promote the post was filled with genuine conversation with my tribe and a few folks signed up! That’s the power of influence!
But in order to cultivate that influence, an influencer has to first build a relationship with their tribe and that is where its important to study posts; Instagram or otherwise that have nothing to do with pushing something. Are they taking the time to have genuine conversations with their tribe without the whole, “Take these 100 steps to shop my look!” or “Hey you buy this!”? Are they asking them how they feel, sharing a funny story, giving advice or sharing an uplifting word or are they constantly pushing something. I’m less likely to buy into a persons pitch if all they do it pitch, but that’s just me. It’s important for brands to understand that influence has nothing to do with the number of followers one has but how I connect with the ones I have. I’m lucky I have some dope ass ones who have become friends. There is so much more I could say, but I will leave it here. Look for a post in the next few weeks that will talk about my views on the responsibility of influencers in this space and how we can keep our integrity. And for the record, this post was just some food for thought and not a dressing down of brands, just my point of view.
If you have any thoughts, I would love to hear them!
Photos by Sandy Swagger Jones