It’s no secret that Instagram is a different platform for influencers today than it was a few years ago.
Long gone are the days when posting a pretty photo and 3-word caption would lead to massive growth.
But with the right tools and strategies, aspiring creators can still tap into a goldmine business — the influencer marketing industry is set to hit $15 billion by 2022.
In this blog post, social media strategist Christina Galbato shares her top tips for becoming a successful Instagram influencer in 2021:
How to Become an Instagram Influencer in 2021
While massive growth on Instagram is more of an uphill battle in 2021, it isn’t impossible.
And as more brands discover the value of Nano and Micro influencers, you don’t need millions of followers to land big brand collaborations.
In fact, Later x Fohr’s Influencer Marketing Report shows that Nano and Micro influencers have the highest engagement rate on average.
With this in mind, here are 8 strategies to take your influencer career to the next level:
- Identify Your Niche and Content Pillars
- Master Short Form Video Content
- Be Consistent
- Write Meaningful Captions
- Focus on Building Community
- Learn About Your Audience
- Optimize Your Bio and Profile
- Build Your Network and Nail Your Brand Pitch
Whether you’re just starting on your Instagram influencer journey or already have thousands of followers, these strategies will help you:
- Foster an engaged community
- Land collaborations left and right
- Build your influencer empire
Preview your Instagram posts before you post with Later’s free Visual Planner — now available on mobile! You’ll be one step closer to creating the ultimate Instagram feed!
Instagram Influencer Tip #1: Identify Your Niche and Content Pillars
The more focused and niched you are in the beginning, the easier you’ll be able to grow a community who trusts and loves your content.
Why? It’s better to be an expert on a few things than to be a jack-of-all-trades.
But identifying only one or two topics to post about can be tricky — we’re multi-faceted people with many interests.
So, here are some questions to help you discover your niche:
- What am I most passionate about?
- What am I most knowledgeable about?
- What could I happily create content for without making a dime?
Once you have your overall niche established, you can focus on your content pillars — 3 to 5 sub-topics topics you’ll consistently create content for.
If you’re a travel blogger, your content pillars could include vacation tips, lifestyle, and social media insights.
Or, your content pillars could be personal wellness, entrepreneurship, and intentional living, like Lisa Linh:
Once you have those pillars established, it’ll be a lot simpler to create content for Instagram.
And you’ll be able to build a consistent content calendar for the month — no more last-minute scrambling!
Need more content pillars and calendar-building tips? Watch this free video workshop:
Instagram Influencer Tip #2: Master Short-Form Video and Post Reels
The popularity of short-form video has skyrocketed in the last year with the rise of TikTok and the introduction of Instagram Reels.
Mastering short-form video and posting Reels consistently can lead to massive growth and engagement on Instagram. Here are 5 top tips:
- Just start. For many creators who have spent their entire careers shooting photos for social media, the pressure to learn short-form video can be nerve-wracking, but the best way to get better at something is to practice. What you create won’t be “perfect” at first, but through practice, you’ll find your groove and enjoy the process.
- Research. In order to create engaging Reels, dedicate 15 minutes per day researching what others are creating. This will allow you to keep up with trending videos and get inspired by the videos others in your niche are creating.
- Make sure your Reels serve a purpose. Every video you post should be either educational, inspirational, and/or relatable within your niche.
- Open with a hook. In order to gain views and maximize the reach of your Reels, you need to “stop the scroll” by starting your Reels with some type of hook. You can do this in a variety of ways. First, through a visual hook, like wearing bright lipstick or a patterned top. Second, through text that calls out your audience’s problem or desire. For example, if you are a fashion influencer, text at the beginning can say “6 ways to style a white top for Spring.” Third, you can use movement, like jumping toward the camera or waving at the camera at the beginning.
- Batch your Reels. Since Instagram is prioritizing Reels so heavily within the algorithm, consistently posting Reels will positively impact your account and the performance of all of your content. In order to stay consistent with your Reels, batch them in advance for the next week!
TIP: Keep a spreadsheet of all the ideas you have, select 5-7 that you want to post the next week, and then shoot them all in one day.
Instagram Influencer Tip #3: Be Consistent
A few years ago, it was possible to post sporadically and grow consistently. But in 2021, it’s a different story.
If you want to see growth on Instagram and stay top of mind with your followers, it is vital to be consistent.
As far as feed posts go, pick a schedule and commit to it so your audience knows when to expect new content from you.
And for Instagram Stories, try showing up every day. Yes, every day.
Instagram Stories are becoming increasingly more important as it’s become the norm to spend more time watching stories than scrolling the Instagram feed.
One of the hardest parts about showing up every day is not having enough content or time to plan ahead.
Solution? Content batching.
Dedicate 1-2 days of the week to create graphics, film Instagram Reels, or take photos at home for the upcoming week.
And prior to shoot day, make a list of all the shots you want to get and any outfits or props you’ll need. Remember to take photos for all of your content pillars!
With Later’s Instagram scheduling tools, you can plan your content weeks in advance — saving you tons of time.
Instagram Influencer Tip #4: Write Meaningful Captions
According to Later and Fohr’s The State of Influencer Marketing in 2020 report, the average caption length has more than doubled since 2016.
And it’s no wonder. In 2021, users expect more out of influencers than a pretty photo and short caption.
Captions are a great opportunity to spark conversation, provide value, and form meaningful connections with your community.
One trend to try is the “microblogging caption” — which is like a mini blog post.
For example, if you’re a food Instagram influencer, your microblogging caption could cover 5 superfoods you need to add to your smoothies and why.
If you’re a fashion influencer, a microblogging caption might outline tips for restyling a piece:
Influencers like Sarah Nicole Landry (@thebirdspapaya) and Nabela Noor (@nabela) have used the “microblogging caption” strategy to grow on Instagram with authentic posts about self-love and beauty:
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when writing your captions:
- Make the first line eye-catching enough to encourage users to stop scrolling. Some examples include “The ultimate guide to…”, “5 things you should know about…”, “The real truth about…”, “Anyone else feel like…?”, or “Do you know how to…?”
- End your captions with a CTA (call-to-action). It could be a question, an invitation to share, or an ask for advice.
- Make your caption easy to read. There’s nothing worse than a long caption that is only one paragraph — so break it up!
- Use some fun, on-brand emojis. This will make them more visually exciting, but remember to make sure the format is accessible-friendly.
While growth and engagement rates are important metrics to be mindful of, influencers should also focus on the quality of the community they are cultivating.
When you’re hyper-focused on breadth, you might have a very large audience, but one that doesn’t necessarily trust your advice because you haven’t spent the time building it.
In comparison, when you’re hyper-focused on depth, you’ll have an audience that trusts your recommendations, buys the products you recommend, and follows you to other platforms.
No matter what stage you’re at in your Instagram influencer career, building relationships within your community is the single most important thing you can do.
Here are two top tips for community-building:
#1: Have Conversations
After posting on your feed, stay on the app for at least 30 minutes responding to comments. And go back later in the day to respond to the rest.
When you receive DMs, always be sure to respond and strike up a genuine conversation. Sending voice notes adds a personal touch too (and saves your fingers!).
#2: Encourage Your Audience to Speak to Each Other (Not Just to You!)
You can do this by encouraging your audience to engage with one another in the comments of a post.
In my Her Life By Design podcast, luxury travel influencer Lindsay Silberman gives actionable pointers on how to crowdsource from your community, ask for their opinions, and get them to “share with the class”:
You can listen to the full podcast here.
Instagram Influencer Tip #6: Learn About Your Audience
Do you know more about your audience than basic demographic information?
Do you know the brands your followers love, the jobs they have, their struggles, and goals?
To succeed as an Instagram influencer, knowing everything about the people who follow you will help you create content that resonates — and ultimately performs well.
The quickest way to get a snapshot of your audience demographics (such as age and location) is through your Instagram’s native analytics dashboard:
But for more in-depth analytics, Later’s Instagram Analytics tool gives you a visual overview of how your content is performing.
And it lets you track up to 3 months worth of Instagram posts and stories so you can see what performs best (and should keep creating!).
Learning about your audience will also help you ensure that you collaborate with brands who they’ll love and might buy from.
Plus, if you want to create a product one day (an online course, a clothing line, or a digital product), knowing your audience’s interests, desires, and struggles will be helpful in ensuring you won’t launch to crickets.
Aside from learning about your audience through private DM conversations, these are some techniques to learn more about your community:
#1: Spark Conversations in Comments
Use your captions as an opportunity to ask your followers to tell you about themselves in the comments!
#2: Post Polls on Instagram Stories
The poll sticker makes it easy for someone to vote and participate.
Some questions you might ask (that, of course, should be tweaked to your profile and niche specifically):
- Do you have a 9 to 5 job?
- Do you like when I post travel tips or social media tips?
- Do you want to turn your blog into a business?
#3: Make a Survey on Typeform or Google Forms
Creating a survey for your audience is a great way to ask questions that require longer answers, like “What’s your favorite thing about following me?” or “What do you wish I posted about more?”
TIP: Completing a survey is fairly time-consuming so remember to provide an incentive. For example, everyone who completes the survey is entered into a giveaway.
Instagram Influencer Tip #7: Optimize Your Bio and Profile
One of the most common complaints from new Instagram influencers is that brands aren’t coming to them and, most of the time, it’s because their page isn’t properly optimized.
Here are some things you can do to make sure potential brand partners know you’re open for business:
#1: Create a Business or Creator Profile
This is vital for brands to see you as a potential partner, and to get access to helpful features like Instagram analytics, Branded content tools, and Saved Replies.
Plus, you’ll have more contact button options to add to your Instagram profile.
You can switch your profile by going to Settings > Account > Switch to Business Account.
#2: Highlight Your Niche and Target Audience
A strong Instagram bio explains what you do and who you’re for in a few short sentences or bullet points.
Think of it as a mini pitch showing brands who you are, who your community is made up of, and the type of content you like to create.
#3: Be Strategic With Your Content
Post content that the brands you want to work with want to see.
For example, if you are a luxury travel Instagram influencer wanting to land collaborations with the likes of Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons, you should already be posting that type of content.
Instagram Influencer Tip #8: Build Your Network and Nail Your Brand Pitch
If you want 2021 to be the year you start getting brand collaborations, you need to put yourself out there.
Creating consistent content and building a community on Instagram without networking with brands is kind of like winking at a guy in complete darkness… they aren’t going to notice.
Here are some top tips for pitching to brands and landing your next collaboration:
#1: Get on Instagram Influencer Marketing Platforms
Check out platforms like Fohr, Collectively, and Popular Pays.
After setting up your profile, you’ll be contacted if one of the platforms’ brands sees you as a good fit for one of their campaigns.
#2: Research PR Firms and Introduce Yourself
PR firms are agencies that represent a variety of brands and organize their influencer marketing campaigns.
Use Google to find PR firms that represent brands in your niche and introduce yourself via email!
Ask to be kept on their radar for future opportunities and if possible, organize a casual coffee or phone chat so they can put a face to the name.
#3: Create and Send Your Media Kit
Whenever you pitch a brand, be sure to send along your media kit! Make sure it has the following things:
- Your social handles and website
- Audience size on all platforms
- Audience demographics (age, gender, location)
- Examples of content you’ve produced in the past. Depending on the brand you’re pitching, you might switch these images up.
- A list of brands you’ve worked with in the past (if any)
#4: Share a Verified Analytics Report
Along with your media kit, don’t forget to share an Instagram analytics report!
This is a professional (and verified) way to present your key performance metrics.
Brands find these reports helpful in determining your credibility and whether you’d be the right fit for their campaign.
Luckily, Later’s Instagram Performance Report includes insights like profile statistics, top performing posts, and more.
Create a sharable Instagram performance report with Later — available on all Growth and Advanced plans.
Bonus Tip: Diversify Your Platforms
No influencer should rely completely on Instagram.
Why? Because you don’t own your audience on a third-party platform, and you never know what could happen to your account.
It’s also a missed revenue opportunity.
By growing an audience on another platform, you increase the amount that you can get paid for brand collaborations.
For instance, if a brand approaches you to create a few Instagram posts, you could add in a blog post and increase the rate significantly.
What other platforms should you be on? It all depends on your interests and strengths, and which platform is best suited to your niche.
If you’re good on camera, YouTube or TikTok might be the perfect place for you.
Are you well-spoken or enjoy interviewing people? Consider creating a podcast.
Love longform writing? Set up a blog.
Building your email list is also incredibly important because it is the only audience you truly “own” that doesn’t rely on the existence of a platform.
Here’s how to build your email list:
- Brainstorm: What is your audience struggling with? What do they want to learn or get from you? Maybe it’s a video tutorial with relaxing yoga flows, a PDF packing list, or a guide with 10 ways to style a blazer.
- Create a freebie: It could be in PDF, video, or template format.
- Set up an opt-in page: Similar to this one, where people enter their email address to get your freebie. There is some tech work needed for this, but it’s nothing Google University can’t teach you. Look into LeadPages for building opt-in pages, and ActiveCampaign or MailChimp for email marketing.
- Promote your freebie on all your social channels: Explain the transformation or results people will get by consuming your freebie, and link to your opt-in page.
Hopefully, these tips have given you some inspiration and insight to improve your social strategy as an Instagram influencer.
Remember success doesn’t happen overnight, but with consistency and commitment to your social channels, you’ll soon see a return in your efforts.
For more actionable tips about influencer marketing and creating a career online, check out Christina’s podcast Her Life By Design.
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