8 Tips for Becoming a Successful Instagram Influencer
Becoming a successful Instagram influencer isn’t easy, and it’s no secret that Instagram is a very different platform in 2020 than it was just a few years ago.
Long gone are the days when getting featured on a larger profile would grant you hundreds of thousands of new followers.
Posting a 3-word caption and seeing consistent growth? It doesn’t fly anymore. The old follow-unfollow “hack”? We don’t know her. 👋
To help you make it big (without any sketchy strategies) we asked travel influencer and social media educator Christina Galbato to share her top tips to succeed as an influencer in 2020!
How to Become an Instagram Influencer & Succeed in 2020
What’s important to remember is that while growth is more of an uphill battle these days, it’s still more than possible.
And what’s even more encouraging is that you don’t need hundreds of thousands of followers to succeed as an Instagram influencer in 2020 because brands are getting more and more attuned to the power of micro-influencers.
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So, whether you’re just starting on your Instagram influencer journey or you’re needing some tips on how to take your Instagram game to the next level, follow the 8 strategies I outline in this post and you’ll be well on your way to…
✔️Fostering an engaged community
✔️Landing collaborations left and right
✔️Building your influencer empire
Ready to get started? Take our free 30-minute Influencer Marketing 101 course with Gretta van Riel. Watch it here:
Become an Instagram Influencer Tip #1: Identify Your Niche and Content Pillars
Picture this: you’re scrolling through Instagram’s Explore page and you come across a beautiful travel image. Since you love to travel and are always looking for more inspiration to jet set, you visit the profile.
The likelihood of you following a page that is filled with equally stunning travel imagery is much higher than if the page was filled with random images of a dog, a family, selfies, beauty products and flowers.
When people come to your page, they want to know what they can expect by following you and feel confident that they will consistently receive that type of content. Because of this, niching down is absolutely vital because it will help you grow your audience faster.
Identifying one specific topic to post about can oftentimes be really difficult, though. We are all multi-faceted with many interests, so it can be strange to post only about travel, fashion or wellness, for example.
Here are some questions to ask yourself that will lead you to your niche:
- What am I most passionate about?
- What am I most knowledgeable about?
- What could I happily create consistent content about for a year without making a dime?
Once you have your overall niche established, you’ll need to nail down 3-4 content pillars to get more clear on the type of content you’ll post on your Instagram. These content pillars are smaller, more specific topics that fall under your broader niche.
Here are examples of other influencers’ content pillars:
Beauty, street style, and luxury fashion:
Travel, fashion, and interior design:
Once you have those pillars established, it’ll be a lot simpler to create content because you can rotate between your content pillars every day.
For example, if I were a fashion influencer and my content pillars were street style, jewelry, and beauty, my week of Instagram images could look something like this:
- Monday: street style (workwear outfit)
- Tuesday: close up of gold chains on neck
- Wednesday: street style (casual outfit)
- Thursday: street style (evening wear)
- Friday: favorite lipsticks flat lay
- Saturday: street style (weekend outfit)
- Sunday: street style (weekend outfit)
TIP: Plan out your content on Later! It’s my favorite way to visualize my feed, ensure consistency, and make sure I’m posting content from all my content pillars.
With Later’s visual planner, you can schedule your upcoming posts to your calendar, then simply drag-and-drop your images into the order that works best for your grid!
Design, curate, and plan your feed for free with Later!
Become an Instagram Influencer Tip #2: Stay Consistent
A few years ago, it was possible to post sporadically and grow consistently. But in 2020, 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. Whether it’s posting every day of the week or just Monday through Friday, set a posting schedule and commit to it. Your audience will want to know when they can expect to see new content from you.
Regardless of what schedule you commit to for feed posts, I recommend showing up on Instagram Stories every single day.
Instagram Stories are becoming increasingly more important and it’s become the norm to spend more time watching stories rather than scrolling the Instagram feed!
One of the hardest parts about staying consistent and showing up every day is that you may not have enough content or may not take the time to plan ahead.
Dedicate 1-2 days of the week to head out with a friend, photographer or tripod and shoot the next week of content!
Prior to shoot day, I recommend making a list of all the shots you want to get and any outfits or props you’ll need to bring for them. Remember to take photos for all of your content pillars.
Become an Instagram Influencer Tip #3: Write Meaningful Captions
The data from Fohr and Later’s recent study shows that average caption length has more than doubled since 2016.
And it’s no wonder: Users are wanting more out of the influencers they follow than a pretty photo and a cute 4-word caption.
Captions are a great opportunity to spark conversation and start forming meaningful connections with your community. They’re also a perfect place to provide value and inspiration to your audience.
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Fifth time here and Tulum remains one of my favorite places in the world. 🌴 Save this post if you want recs for a future trip 👇🏼 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ STAY: You can stay either in the town of Tulum, which is about a 10 min drive from the beach or splurge on a hotel in Tulum Beach, a road that runs for miles right along the shore. My fave places to stay in Tulum Beach are… ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ✨ @lavalisetulum: The beachfront hotel I stayed at last week. With less than 10 rooms and the sand right outside your room, La Valise is heaven on Earth. My NYC anxiety literally disappeared the second I stepped on property. It's a very low-key, beautifully rustic hotel and the staff is fantastic; they somehow all know your name within hour 1. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ✨ @papayaplayaproject: PPP is an absolutely stunnnning hotel with a variety of accommodation options, from a small cabana to large sprawling casas with pools on the roof. (the pools overlook the top of the jungle and it's beautiful) Whether you stay here or not, try to make it to one of their Full Moon parties. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ EAT: ✨ @posadamargherita: Yummy Italian food on the beach ✨ @grupo.gitano: Mezcal and tacos in the jungle under a disco ball ✨ @casajaguar_tulum: Rustic restaurant in the jungle and yummy fish & meat dishes. ✨ @nutulum: La Valise's dinner restaurant! Super delicious and innovative dishes set in the jungle with lots of candles. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ DO: ✨ Cenotes. There are thousands and thousands of beautiful swimming holes located in the Yucatan Peninsula, all connected with an underground cave system. 😱Swimming and snorkeling in them is a must. My faves are Dos Ojos, Suytun, Sac Aktun and Oxman. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ✨ Chichen Itza: This massive pyramid built by the Mayans is a must-see. It's about 2 hours from Tulum. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ✨ Tulum ruins: If you don't have time to get to Chichen Itza, you can see incredible ruins right in Tulum! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ✨ Beach time: Of course. The beaches in Tulum are beautiful. My fave way to spend the day in Tulum is on the beach, passionfruit margarita in hand. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Any Q's about Tulum?
My favorite kind of longer-form caption is the microblogging caption, which I’d encourage you to start incorporating into your Instagram strategy as much as you can! A microblogging caption is exactly what it sounds like: a mini blog post.
For example, if you’re a food Instagram influencer, your microblogging caption could be about the 5 superfoods you need to add to your smoothies and why.
If you’re a travel influencer, a microblogging caption might outline the 10 best things to do as a visitor in Bali.
Here are examples of great captions from influencers in different niches:
Sarah Nicole Landry, @thebirdspapaya:
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What really makes us confident, anyways? Because it’s a common question and often a seemingly exterior expression. So I’ve been doing this thing lately where I rechannel my thoughts around where confidence stems from. Often, historically, I will get extra dressed up, spend more time on my hair or wear that bold lipstick and think “these are the things that make me confident”. But here’s where I’m flipping the switch… Instead of: “My hair looks good so I feel good” I say: “I’m so glad I spent some extra time on me today, that feels good” Instead of: “Red lipstick makes me feel fierce” I say: “I feel fierce and wearing something bold really reflects it” Instead of: “These clothes make me look amazing” I say: “I am amazing, and these clothes are a great accessory to that” Why even bother with these flips of switches? Like, does it even matter or make a difference? Well, I’ve been doing it for a while. Playing with my thoughts and trying to rewire them and rework the way i speak into myself. The difference is that those feelings of confidence, fierceness and amazingness are no longer are tethered to external factors, giving them credit. Therefore the removal of said things does not remove those feelings. How I choose to represent that each day is entirely a choice, often a reflection, sometimes a celebration, but I am actively working towards it no longer being the deciding factor in who I am or how I feel. So when my hairs undone, my face is washed, my clothes laying on the floor because I’m that kinda person, I am still me. Fierce, confident, amazing.
Quigley Goode, @officiallyquigley:
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BEST WINTER LIP COLORS 👇🏻👇🏻👇🏻 I’ve compiled my favorite shades that I’ve been rocking this season in my latest blog post! Even though LA is basically summer year long, I still like to switch it up and wear different colors during the chillier months of the year. Here are my top shades: 1. YSL Rouge Volupté Shine Lipstick in Red Cassandre 2. Mac Matte Lipstick in Chili 3. Shiseido Modern Matte Powder Lipstick in Selfie (PICTURED ABOVE) 4. ColourPop Ultra Matte Liquid Lipstick in More Better Head to my blog (link in bio) if you want to see the last two shades, for links and descriptions! Xo, Quigs #lipcolor #lipstick #makeuptips
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Positano magic ✨ Is Positano on your bucket list? SAVE this post for reference! GETTING THERE: Fly into Naples or take a train there from Rome. From Naples, take the train to Sorrento (around €4). From Sorrento, take the bus to Positano (€2-3). ACCOMMODATION: This is where you either make or break your budget. There are a few ways to find accommodation on a budget, however. BUDGET: Brikette Hostel (around $40/night for a dorm bed) MID-RANGE: You can find Airbnbs for around $150 if you book very far in advance and stay during the shoulder seasons. LUXURY: There are tonsss of luxury options in Positano. If you have the cash, I'd recommend @lesirenuse (where this was taken) or @hotelposeidonpositano. GETTING AROUND: You're going to be walking a TON in Positano so get ready. The whole town was built on the side of a mountain so prepare for sore calves and lots of sweat. There is a local bus that runs all day that you can take if you're too tired to walk. EAT/DRINK: We were on a pretty tight budget in Positano so we found a few very cheap eats. La Zagara bakery has cheap pastries and sandwiches. Remember to eat at the bar if you don't want to pay extra for table service. Our other favorite was Ristorante C'era Una Volta — €5+ pizzas, €2 beer, and €8ish for pasta dishes. This is definitely the only restaurant in Positano with these prices. THINGS TO DO: Relax on one of the beaches — Spaggia Grande or Spaggia di Fornillo. Take a boat tour. Do one of the many hikes around the cliffs. Drink aperol spritz at happy hour. Take a twilight dip when the sun goes down and all the buildings start to light up. Take the bus or ferry to one of the other towns on the Amalfi coast. There you have it — a mini-guide to visiting Positano. Let me know if you have any questions!
There are a few things to keep in mind when writing your captions. The first is that when scrolling on Instagram, you aren’t able to see an entire caption without pressing “more.”
This means what you lead your caption with is incredibly important. That first line needs to be eye-catching enough to scroll-stop and to encourage users to click and read. Some examples of this might be:
- The ultimate guide to…
- 5 things you need to know about…
- The best restaurants in…
- The best Instagram spots in…
- The real truth about…
- Anyone else feel like….?
- Do you want to know the secret to…?
- Do you know how to …?
- 5 ways to master…
- The #1 best way to…
- Ever wondered…
Second, end your captions with a call-to-action. This is where you invite your audience to chime in in the comments and start a conversation with you related to the caption.
This call-to-action could be a question, an invitation to share, or an ask for advice.
Lastly, make sure your caption is easy & fun to read. There’s nothing worse than a long caption that is constrained to one paragraph, so break your paragraphs up.
The key to this is making sure that at the end of each paragraph, there is no extra space before pressing enter. And to get a break between paragraphs, just copy and paste the space between these brackets [ ] I promise there’s something there! 👏
TIP: If you schedule and auto publish your posts with Later, your line breaks will remain! No fiddly editing required!
And be sure to throw some fun, on-brand emojis in your captions to make them more visually exciting!
Become an Instagram Influencer Tip #4: Focus on Building Community
While follower growth and engagement rate are important metrics to be mindful of, influencers should be focusing equally — if not more — on the quality of the community they are cultivating with their audience.
In other words, strike a balance between focusing on depth and breadth.
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.
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 of my best tips for building community:
After posting on your feed, stick around on the app for at least 30 minutes after you’ve posted 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!).
Get Your Audience Talking To Each Other
One way to do this is by asking your audience to engage with one another in the comments of a post.
She gives actionable pointers on how to use crowdsourcing to build community. You can listen to the full podcast here.
Become an Instagram Influencer Tip #5: Learn About Your Audience
Do you know more about your audience than basic demographic information? Do you know the kinds of brands your followers love, the jobs they have, their struggles & goals?
To succeed as an Instagram influencer, you truly need to know everything about the people following you because it will help you create content that they resonate with and that therefore performs well.
It will help you ensure that you take on the right kind of collaborations with brands that resonate with your audience and that your followers might buy from.
If you want to create a product of your own one day (an online course, a clothing line, a digital product), knowing what your audience’s interests, desires, and struggles are will be incredibly helpful in ensuring you won’t launch to crickets.
Aside from learning about your audience through private DM conversations, these are some of my favorite techniques I use to learn more about my community:
Spark conversation in comments:
Use your captions as an opportunity to ask your followers to tell you about themselves in the comments!
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It seems like there’s a stereotype that all entrepreneurs start their days at 5 am and my 10 am-riser self is like “…what? 🙄” Part of me knows that the only thing that matters is what you actually ACHIEVE during your waking hours, regardless of what those hours are, but the other part of me would love to be an early riser. Seems like a cool club of very zen people 💆🏽♀️ I asked you all yesterday on Stories how you reformed night owls became morning people (literally have never received more responses to a Story 😅) and wanted to share the top responses I got! Seems like a lot of you also struggle with the whole getting to bed before 3 am thing… 🤪😴 ⠀ 1) 📖 Read Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod 2) 💆🏽♀️ Turn off technology an hour before getting into bed and create a relaxing environment in your room (with a book, lavender essential oils, etc.) 3) ⏰ Do it gradually – shift your bedtime and wakeup times 30 mins. earlier every week 4) ☀️ Use a sunlight alarm clock 5) 🥥 Plan something in the morning that you’re excited to get up for (could be as simple as having ingredients for your fave breakfast) ⠀ Any other hardcore night owls out there looking to make a change? 🦉
Host Polls on Instagram Stories:
The poll feature is one of my favorites because it’s quick and simple 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 live in the U.S.?
- Are you older or younger than 25?
- Do you have a 9 to 5 job?
- Do you travel more or less than 3x a year?
- Do you like it when I post scenery or hotels more?
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?”
One thing to keep in mind in asking your audience to complete a survey is that it is fairly time-consuming. You need to provide an incentive. For example, everyone who completes the survey is entered into a giveaway.
Become an Instagram Influencer Tip #6: Set Yourself up for Brands to Approach You
One of the most common complaints I hear from new Instagram influencers is that brands aren’t coming to them and, most of the time, it’s because their page isn’t set up in a way that will attract them!
Here are some things you can do to make sure that potential brand partners know that you’re open for business:
Make sure you have a business profile:
This is vital not only for brands to see you as a potential partner, but also because it will open up vital features like Instagram Analytics (and the ability to auto publish your posts with later).
Analytics help you see what is and isn’t working to improve future content and share stats with brands.
You can switch your profile by going to Settings -> Account -> Switch to Business Account.
Make your email address visible:
Either have your email address visible in your bio or accessible via the “email” button on your Business profile.
Be Strategic With Your Content:
Post the kind of content that the brands you want to work with would want to see!
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!
Become an Instagram Influencer Tip #7: Network, Network, Network
If you want 2020 to be the year you finally 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 you.
Here are some tips to land your next collaboration:
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.
Research PR Firms and Make Introductions:
Public Relations firms are agencies that represent a variety of brands and organize their influencer marketing campaigns. Use Google to find public relations firms that represent brands in your niche.
Introduce yourself via email without any ask or intention of working with one of their brands and ask to be kept on the radar for future opportunities. If you’re located in the same city as one of these agencies, organize a coffee date, and if not, a phone chat.
On my podcast Her Life By Design, I spoke with a Senior Social Media Strategist from one of the top luxury PR agencies about how Instagram influencers can start forming relationships with PR professionals and our conversation has so many great insights. You can listen in here.
Create and send your media kit:
Whenever you pitch a brand or make an introduction, be sure to send along your media kit! When building 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 imagery you’ve produced in the past to give them an idea of the kind of content you’d create to advertise them. 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)
Become an Instagram Influencer Tip #8: Diversify Your Platforms
No influencer should rely completely on Instagram. Not only is this risky because you don’t “own” your audience on a 3rd party platform and can’t control the algorithm’s whims, it’s also a missed revenue opportunity.
By growing an audience on another platform, you are increasing the amount that you can get paid for brand collaborations.
For instance, if a brand approaches you to contract a few Instagram posts, you could add in a blog post and promotion to your email list and increase the rate significantly.
Which other platforms should you be on? It all depends on what your interests and strengths are, and which platform is best suited to your niche.
If you’re good on camera and are in a niche where communicating visually is vital, YouTube might be the perfect place for you. Have something of value to communicate and are well-spoken? Think about a podcast! Have you always loved writing? Look into setting up a WordPress blog!
Building your email list is also incredibly important because that is the only audience that you truly “own” and that doesn’t rely on the existence of a platform.
Here are some initial steps to follow to build your list:
- Think about what you know about your audience: What are they struggling with? What do they want to learn or get from you? Maybe it’s a video tutorial walking through the best yoga flows to help with relaxation, a PDF packing list or a guide with 10 ways to style a blazer for Fall.
- Create that freebie: It could be in PDF, video or template format.
- Set up an opt-in page: Similar to this one, that will allow people to enter their email addresses to get the freebie. There is some tech work that will need to be done here to ensure that once they enter their email address they are sent the guide, but it’s nothing Google University can’t teach you. I like LeadPages for building opt-in pages and ActiveCampaign or MailChimp for email marketing.
- Start promoting your freebie on all your social channels: Explaining the transformation or results people will get by consuming your freebie, and linking them to your opt-in page.
- Watch your list grow!
Hopefully, these top tips have given you some inspiration and insight to kick off 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 start to see a return in your efforts!
For more actionable tips about how to succeed as an influencer and create a career online, check out my podcast Her Life By Design!