I realize this post sounds controversial, (honestly it was this title or "why to not pimp out your Instagram") but before you scoff at the title, hear me out! I promise I have a few thought-provoking points. Don't believe me? Read on aspiring influencer (I'm here to help) 🤗
What triggered this blog post idea was an email that landed in my inbox. It was the same cookie-cutter email I've received countless times. It was from a social media marketing agency saying how much they loved my feed and that I would be a great fit for their agency to create content for clients.
Flattering! At first. But when you read on most of these agencies require you make a profile, apply for each opportunity at creating sponsored content, make you pay for the product (but they so generously offer a discount code) and then expect you to excitedly share about it with all your followers and give them a discount code to buy as well. Oh and if they like what you shared you might be entered to win a prize. But compensated? HAH, no.
Lol I sound bitter right? It's just because I've had this offer sent to me sooo many times! And as a photographer that's frustrating. Because my business is providing a service where I carefully analyze a brand, plan the art direction, source props, scour over Pinterest for hair/makeup/outfit/posing/composition inspo, style then shoot content to be exactly in line with a company's brand messaging and retouch the photos to look swoon-worthy (<-- that's a real word, maybe? We're just gonna go with it😝)
BUT YEAH. Basically what I'm saying is each project takes a lot of time, I put in a lot of hours refining my skill set, I spent a lot of money on education and equipment. So it's a slap in the face when companies reach out with this "amazing" opportunity.
I don't care at this point, I just immediately delete the email right after I unsubscribe from their mailing list (because they also automatically subscribe you to their newsletter.. which is illegal). BUT what I realized is that other people may fall for these "opportunities" which I truly think exploit the creators.😔
I think the reason micro-influencer agencies exist is because they play off the fact that everyone would love to be considered an "influencer" so they know people will do all this unpaid work (and still pay for the product) just for the "status" of being an influencer.
Well guess what!? EVERYONE is an influencer! So stop falling for these schemes, you are already there. And what I mean is that everyone has influence over someone. Maybe it's just your close friends and family, 20 coworkers at your office or 100,000 people on social media.
When I first heard this it was revolutionary to me 🙌 (ok maybe revolutionary is a little strong of a word choice) but seriously guys, WE ARE ALL INFLUENCERS. (And actually this isn't new, it's also known as 'word of mouth marketing')
What you do with your influence is up to you, but please don't waste or abuse it. Read on for my 4 reasons why you should decide to not be paid to be an influencer.
Reason #1: Less Credibility
This reason is pretty straightforward, you are less credible when you share dumb products no one cares about.🤦♂️ It is especially detrimental if you share a product that is low quality/poorly made and your audience tries it and hates it... You are loosing your audience's interest and trust by doing this, which is the MOST important thing to have (that's what the brands want from YOU).
And unfortunately when it comes time to share something you do love and would 100% recommend, your audience won't believe you. This in return will result in less sales for the brand you are working with and most likely fewer opportunities to work with them in the future.
Reason #2: Diluting Your Brand Message
What do you stand for and want to promote? That's your brand message! Some products may make sense to promote because they go along well with your brand message.
For example a health and wellness influencer whose brand message is to make time for wellbeing in our busy lives, would be a good fit for the app Headspace, a guided meditation app that is great for beginners. That partnership is a perfect match!
What doesn't make sense? A fashion influencer whose brand message is to take for risks in your wardrobe that partners with a fast food brand. It's just completely unrelated. Unless that influencer eats McDonalds on the reg, it's diluting her message. (this may seem far fetched but I have seen fashion influencers do sponsored posts for McDonalds)
People can see through inauthentic content and can spot an ad a mile away. But when you choose to work with brands that are very in line with your brand and message, it feels less like an ad and more like a recommendation from a friend.
Reason #3: Inauthentic Brand Voice
When doing sponsored posts you censor yourself to some extent. You would never share your honest opinion if you didn't like a product you were paid to promote.
Also in your copy maybe you can't use profanity, or write how you normally talk (which is more conversational and not perfect and professional) because the brand doesn't like it, or you want to show your silly, outrageous, vulnerable or scandalous side but feel you can't.
I think "influencers" portray perfect and aspirational because they are worried if they show their real insecurities or problems brands wont take them seriously. Honestly I think that! I worry that my audience or clients won't take me seriously either. But I'm trying to not let that stop me from, well.. being authentically me.
By censoring ourselves for the sake of appeasing a brand we are hurting our authentic brand message and ability to connect with our people. People want to get to know the real you, and your honest opinion, not consume a curated photo paired with a scripted caption you were paid to post.
Reason #4: Financially not worth it
Is $50 of product worth it to pimp out your instagram & audience? I understand when you’re a celeb and getting paid bankkkk for a sponsored post. But if the amount is enough to cover your next grocery bill then you're selling out when you should be HOLDING out.
Why should you hold out? Imagine that you have a finite of sponsored content to share in your life, (because you really can only keep "selling" to your audience so often before they tire of it) cash out now and don’t get paid well. Or hold out while building your audience and get paid MUCH better down the road.
Julie Solomon, online marketing expert and host of the Influencer Podcast, talks about herself and her clients signing huge brand campaigns (we are talking $250,000 campaigns) with small to medium sized audiences. Proving you don't need a million followers to monetize.
It's hard to feel good about holding out because you might think "what if this is it? What if I don't grow to be that big?" Change your thinking! Decide you aren't going to stop EVER. This is your mission, it's your destiny. Just because it isn't here yet doesn't mean it won't be. BE PATIENT.
In my opinion, micro-influencer campaigns are great for brands and agencies, but aren't good for budding influencers. However I do have good news! There are other ways to monetize when you have a small audience that isn't sharing sponsored content.
Read part two, 4 Ways to Monetize Your Blog without Sponsored Content!