The Biz of Influence
Photography by Meg Niemann | @MSNPhotography
Questions from my panel with the Six Degrees Society Team
1. Let’s start from the very beginning, what is an influencer? According to Influencer Marketing Hub, "An influencer is an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of his/her authority, knowledge, position or relationship with his/her audience. As well as an individual who has a following in a particular niche, which they actively engage with. The size of the following depends on the size of the niche. It is important to note that these individuals are not simply marketing tools, but rather social relationship assets with which brands can collaborate to achieve their marketing objectives.” At what point do you each think you went from a blogger to an influencer? Was there a certain moment you recall?
I was definitely surprised that everything unfolded organically, rather than with an intentional plan. I think that those who want to become influencers have to have some type of related experience underneath that goal. I feel like being an influencer sort of chose me after my interests, which flowed from acting, to costumes, to fashion, and then add in my passion for sharing things with others and mix that with social media – and boom!
2. Tell us what it was like in the early days. Would you reach out to brands? How did you get your name out there?
Earlier on, the only way to really get on a company's radar was to reach out. I just started focusing on brands that I found appealing and sent them cover letters/emails that showed positivity, good vibes, and a strong connection with the brand. Everything started there, and, like any other business, you edit your approach as you get more experience, confidence, and better understand your value.
3. Each of you have well over 10k Instagram followers which in this day in age is a currency of its own. At what number of followers did you notice brands reaching out to you rather than you reaching out to brands?
That’s a really good question, and it's true – followers are a currency. I think that as companies saw that I worked with brands of good quality and produced positive results, they would reach out. So I’d say it’s partly follower volume, but ultimately it's about the brand wanting a representative who captures what their company stands for and what their unique goals are. I don’t think there’s a magic number when it comes to followers, but I do think there’s an importance in knowing who resonates well with a particular brand.
4. Kate- what was your breaking point from getting free product from brands to charging for posting about the brands? Do you have any metrics to support the conversion of the product?
Well, initially I started receiving free products and when the volume slowly increased, I realized that the time spent on photographing and posting was increasing and getting hard to manage. So I began to research what the average cost of fees were for promoting brands and realized this was an opportunity to set up different terms when free products arrived. Essentially, I realized this was its own business.
As for metrics, this is like any other business. The more followers you have, the more valuable your posts become because your engagement and reach increases. Still, there are times when you don't focus on income and consider the opportunity, the relationship building, and what is being asked of you. For example, when I had 10K followers, that's a lower ask than at 80K+ followers. But it's not always a neat formula. I much prefer when companies offer their amount rather than when they ask me so I can take a moment to think about how reasonable the situation or ask is.
5. For each of you, how has being an influencer changed the way you look at business? How do you measure your worth with your brand?
I never thought business would be this enjoyable and have so much diversity and variety in the day-to-day. Even though there's a heavy social piece, you need to constantly remind yourself that this is your job, not a party. So when I think about worth, it can be tough to measure because it's not all income based. Sometimes I value my brand by the enriching connections I've established, or the increased quality of brands I've been fortunate enough to associate with, or the way my followers connect amongst themselves and then new exposures that occur and so on. You're always reminded that your success lies in the way you interact with followers and value the products you're sharing with them.
6. What are the biggest challenges you’ve had with your business and biggest accomplishments?
I'd say the biggest challenges are shifting from saying yes to everything to trying to pick and choose what best aligns with my brand and vision. Keeping balance between work and play is important and can be difficult at times, especially when you're doing so many work events that are very social in nature. So, setting boundaries and knowing what is work and what is play is something that needs ongoing attention. Among my biggest accomplishments, I'd say I’ve most enjoyed watching my business slowly but surely grow. A huge part of that has been meeting so many encouraging, kind-spirited people and, of course, being involved in the social media community. There's enough for everyone, so the key is to stay positive and open to all opportunities that come your way.
7. What advice do you have for those hoping to become influencers themselves? What are key differentiators to consider?
The key here is to focus more on figuring out what you love, what interests you most, and seeing where that takes you. Some careers are linear with a clear path. But this type of job can take you places you might not have seen coming, whether it’s appearances, or photo shoots, or any variation really. Most people who become influencers are not really thinking about becoming one, sure they use social media to promote their brand, but the emphasis is more on following your interests and seeing where that leads. It’s really magical if you think about it. To be able to do what you love every day and share that with the world – but it also takes a lot of dedication and hard work.
8. If social media was to disappear tomorrow, what would you be doing with your life?
Well, that would be an interesting day for us all! I think it would force me to focus on what this is all really about: connecting with people, helping companies get their messages out, and celebrating entrepreneurship. So I guess I'd have to hit the pavement and find a way to do this old school somehow!