Haha no you’re not. Nor will you ever be. How can I become an influencer though? I’ve had this question come my way more frequently than usual as of late. Because I work in social media many of my contacts feel that I’m well placed to advise them on the matter. Sorry to disappoint, but there is no secret sauce to being organically followed by a quarter million people. I’ve observed these influencer wannabes fall into a number of categories. Here they are a few in no particular order.
The new stay-at-home-mom
I feel for this one. I really do. She’s had a baby or two in recent months/years and discovered that maintaining a regular 9-to-5 punch in, punch out style job is just not worth it. Nor is it necessary in the digital age we’ve found ourselves in. No one physically needs to be sitting a desk job in 2019. She counts reading The Cut and Refinery29 amongst her hobbies and follows a number of cool mommy bloggers and thinks, “Hey, I can do that too!”
But you can’t. Do you know what it takes to make a meaningful presence for yourself on social? You have to set up shoots, choose products to feature in quirky and unique ways, collaborate with your competition and maybe if you manage to reach 100k+ followers can you be paid for some of this hard work. And even then you have to have a great deal of natural talent when it comes to styling and food economy (that’s being able to style food – no I’m not kidding), not to mention a love of analytics and the people skills to deal with the humans that come along with being an influencer (talent agents, brand managers, other influencers). Trust me when I say it’s not worth your time. These are the years to give to your little one at home and I’m sure s/he/ze would not appreciate you constantly looking at your phone, running off ow.ly reports when you should be putting your love into mashing organic yams. If that sounds condescending it’s certainly not meant to be. I’d find that much more fulfilling any day than advising most of my clients on their digital presences.
The former boardroom hotshot
This one may seem hyper-specific but hear me out. My landlord lives off in Asia. He also owns my central London flat. His wife and I have developed somewhat of a professional relationship. She’s the programme director for a very prominent think tank and they run conferences around the world. When in London I had the chance to attend in return for some consulting advice about her social media presence.
Generally I don’t advise on executive/influencer strategy. Mainly because there isn’t one. Sure you can offer advice on feed consistency, tone of voice and other standard branding principles, but beyond that – and in my experience most individuals, unlike brands, don’t want to keep their consultant on retainer – it’s on the influencer’s natural talent to make their accounts work. And most aspiring influencers have no idea what they’re doing. There are no shortcuts or tips and tricks to gaining followers. And as a consultant I certainly would not want to be held to those metrics.
Anyways, back to the former boardroom hotshot. She’s a bit like the stay at home mom, in that she gave up her career for kids/took a backseat to her husband’s career. The only difference is that she did it begrudgingly and is going stir-crazy because of it. It’s a logical conclusion to come to that becoming an influencer is low hanging fruit to fill her time and the void that was left by leaving her high-flying career behind. The truth is, 1. It’s not low hanging fruit because the market is oversaturated and 2. Becoming an influencer is frivolous (I say this even working in the field) and it will not fill a void of any sort. If anything, it will create new ones in the form of measurable insecurities.
The almost-there influencer
I have a dear friend that is genuinely very talented. She’s got what it takes to be an influencer, namely an aesthetic, style and taste to covet. She started a blog a few years ago and came to me looking for a name. In one shot we chose an apt one and she’s run with it ever since. She was a late adopter to Instagram – perhaps this has held her back ever so slightly, but not in the eyes of brands and her collaborators. She has been featured in Vogue (the American one, obviously) and has over 100k in followers to prove it.
Since finding Insta-(semi)fame, she’s become quite unavailable. She lives in a city where I have a number of close relations and any time I’m in town we struggle to meet up. The reason being, she’s always “collaborating” (aka taking photos with other influencers). I’m wise to the game and know that with her following there’s not much of a monetary pay-off (crazy right? You really have to have upward of 250k to make any meaningful cash), so any activity is purely to advance her current status.
That’s unfortunate. Don’t get to the point where your influencer “career” of likes and comments overrides human interaction in real life. At one point she also began to be harassed by anonymous family members. They would create fake Facebook profiles and spew hate and vitriol about her across the platform. I don’t know enough about the situation to further comment, but jealousy will more than certainly rear its ugly head as soon as your following becomes meaningful. All for what? Strangers to send you heart-eye and sparkle emojis.
Fame is tricky. Beyond the short-lived ego boost (and if you’re lucky, slim pay-off), there really isn’t much more to it. A much more fulfilling career awaits you in DIY anyway.