Since influencer marketing is projected to be worth between $5-10 billion by 2020, it’s no surprise that the most aspirational millennial career is to be an influencer. In fact, two-thirds of 18-35 year olds would be more likely to take a job if it offered round-the-world travel opportunities as this is a cost effective way of boosting their Instagram feeds, according to a survey of 1000 UK adults by Europe’s largest sports retailer Decathlon.

But competition is fierce.

With influencers making anywhere from $500 to $30,000 for a single Instagram post promoting a brand or product, followers, engagement (likes and comments), and quality of content has never been more at stake.

People follow influencers because of the quality and content of their posts, but they stay for the community that they cultivate

Author Brittany Hennessy of Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media says having over 1 million+ followers can leave you expecting around around $7,500 and up per Instagram post, with brands spending around  $25,000 to $100,000 on influencer marketing this year alone.

So, what are you waiting for? If you’re on the brink of influencer domination, here’s what you need to focus on for those #InstagramGoals.

Stay Authentic

According to Social Strategist Charlotte Willcocks from Impero, the power shift will continue to move from brands to influencers as brands increasingly try to vie for an authentic connection to certain targeted audiences. “This means that seeing influencer marketing as a collaborative endeavour has never been more important,” Wilcocks says.

The influencer landscape will also evolve as we head closer to ‘pretty blogger feed’ saturation

“However, I do believe that the influencer landscape will also evolve as we head closer to ‘pretty blogger feed’ saturation so there will be a shift towards influencers that add value to the social media space through art, music or opinion – above and beyond looking cute holding a product.

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“It really all comes down to adding value – whether that’s through making sure that branded content is broken up with personal pieces or through physical engagement within comments, direct messages or likes,” says Wilcocks. “Followers want to know about your life and not just feel like you’re selling to them constantly.”

Keep engaged with your audience

90% of marketers have said that they use engagement rates to measure the success of their influencer marketing campaigns so it’s important to stay connected.

“Engagement with followers is key,” says Wilcocks. “People follow influencers because of the quality and content of their posts, but they stay for the community that they cultivate. Influencers are real people and it’s important that this shows through in their engagement with followers.

‘I interact a lot with my followers and also other influencers to give them some support’

“Influencers can engage with their followers by responding to positive comments on their posts, answering questions in their DMs, and by using the new Q&A function in IG Stories. Additionally, keeping the feed authentic by sharing real life moments as well as branded content reminds followers that these influencers are people too.”

Cécile Blaireau from the Frenchie Mummy agrees: “I tend to focus on my engagement. I interact a lot with my followers and also other influencers to give them some support. And the quality of my pics is super important too. I always try my best to get the best quality of posts. I also think it matters to have constant fresh content. It is important to be visible at all times!”

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Keep consistent

Social Media Influencer Josh Clayden says content is key. “Make sure you’re posting your own content and make sure that you’re in the images 80% of the time,” he says. “Try not to follow trends unless relevant, just do you and don’t worry about what people may comment, it means they’re paying attention. Just keep at it, don’t give up and keep consistent. You aren’t going to build up your profile if you’re posting here and there, you need to have a plan and a schedule. Get people to expect your content not guess when it’s going to be published.”

Keep the right balance

“Successful accounts usually have a mixture of images of people and surroundings – influencers and celebrities are successful on Instagram because they portray the right balance of the aspirational yet authentic lifestyle of them as a person and how they live,” reveals Wilcocks. “They also ensure that everything including locations, products and clothing are tagged correctly so they are providing the value of discovery for their community.”

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Stay snappy with captions

“Try and keep them within the ‘see more’ parameters,” advises Wilcocks. “You only have a second to keep someone’s attention so don’t make them work too hard for it. Also make sure you develop your own tone of voice especially when posting about personal life vs. doing branded posts. They should sound like they’re coming from the same person.”

‘I approach it like old-school Twitter and try to keep captions to 140 characters or less’

While Manager of Global Social Media Strategy at Zebra Technologies, Sally-Anne Kaminski says to keep captions short and to the point, with some emoji usage (but don’t go overboard!) “If someone is scrolling quickly through their feed, they don’t want to read long, wordy captions. I approach it like old-school Twitter and try to keep captions to 140 characters or less.”

Show something new

“This will depend on the tone of the account but becoming a window into culture and society within your community is a great place to start,” advises Wilcocks. “Think about female empowerment or mindfulness as they are both focuses currently popular within female blogging communities.”

Don’t overuse hashtags

Use the maximum of 30 on Instagram and make use of BETA comments (when you add hashtags into the first comment on a post rather than in the caption).

But, if it’s a sponsored post, #ad must appear in the caption rather than a beta comment. (Confusing, we know.) Use a mixture of popular and niche hashtags to increase chances of appearing in as many ‘top’ galleries as possible.

Keep it niche

“Focus first on content and finding your niche in the Instagram game,” says Wilcocks. “What sets you apart from others, and why should people follow you? Once you have discovered your place in the influencer world, then work on developing quality content and tapping into the key hashtags that your target audience is already using.

Tapping into niche hashtags like #UKblogger, for example, gives you a better chance of being noticed

“Find where your target audience ‘lives’ on Instagram and set out to own that space. It’s very hard for people to find influencers if they start by using custom hashtags from the beginning so tapping into niche hashtags like #UKblogger, for example, gives you a better chance of being noticed.”

Emilie Tabor, founder & CMO of IMA Influencer Marketing Agency reveals that the use of micro influencers [accounts with 30,000 or fewer followers] will continue to rise “as brands have only just begun to reap the benefits of using these influencers to tap into niche audiences.”

And seeing as there will be a crackdown of profiles that use fake followings and engagements across all social platforms, now’s never been a better time to find your own voice. More transparency means more space.  

Stay vigilant

“There are also health checks you can put in place to ensure optimum account impact,” says Wilcocks. “Keep an eye on your follower ratios, ensuring that people you follow are following you back and unfollow those who are not biting. You can also make sure you are quick off the mark when it comes to utilizing new channel updates such as new features within stories [and IGTV].”

Don’t use bots

“Avoid using bots – people think that having more followers is key, but the reason to work with influencers is authenticity and their connection to a real audience. Brands are increasingly leaning towards micro influencers as they tend to have a higher engagement rate and a community of real people surrounding them.

Figure out which brands you would like to work with realistically, and as a goal, and ensure your images and captions would be on par with what these brands would share

“Worry less about the number of followers and more about the quality of your content,” instructs Wilcocks. “If you want to be an influencer, then think long-term when it comes to your content. This means figuring out which brands you would like to work with realistically, and as a goal, and ensure your images and captions would be on par with what these brands would share on their feed – for example, if you are looking to work with a mainstream brand, avoid risqué images and overuse of profanities as these things may take you out of the running for potential brand partnerships.”

Stay in touch with your analytics

“Pay attention to your post-level analytics,” says Kaminski. “Give your followers more of what they’re engaging with and less of what they’re not. This is so important to do now, in order to stay ahead of the ever-changing news feed algorithms that deliver content.”

Be shoppable

Brands will invest in more long-term ambassador programmes with influencers, making these collaborations with influencers more authentic, so keep posting about any new buys and keep everything available now.

The use of shoppable content will accelerate the customer journey as influencers will be able to lead customers to buying intention in fewer clicks.