The Problem With Being An Instagrammer

Dec
13th

instagrammer

The formula for becoming an online influencer has always been easy (and for the most part, relatively free):

  1. Start a blog.
  2. Build a community on social media to create awareness of that blog.
  3. Work with like-minded brands to create content for your blog and turn it into a business.

Sound familiar?

For some of you, yes, but for others, it’s a slightly skewed version. Because in the past few years, the formula has been changing. People are bypassing the way of the blog and heading straight for social (particularly Instagram) as a means to build their brand. For some, they actively set out to grow their Instagram account into a business, while for others, it’s something that happens over time (they gain a following, then realize they have influence). Some of these Instagrammers are attracting massive followings – hundreds of thousands, sometimes even millions – building an entire personal brand on one platform alone. They’re models, photographers, writers, interior designers, make-up artists, fashionistas – you name it. They invest time and money in the channel, sometimes buying their followers or joining comment pods to increase engagement and fool brands. Yep, being an Instagrammer has become a business in and of itself, and can be quite a lucrative one at that.

But there’s just one simple problem with being an Instagrammer…

To put it bluntly – you don’t own shit.

That’s right. That account you’ve grown, those followers you have, that engagement you’ve collected – none of it is yours. Sure, those photos are yours, but Instagram could get sued tomorrow and shut down. It could go the way of MySpace (no hate, MySpace) and vanish into the abyss. Someone could flag your account and it could go bye-bye. Or the Zuck could get rid of the channel for something newer and shinier. And then what? Where is that personal brand you’ve spent so much time growing? How do you tap in to an audience that you no longer have access to? How did you go from having immense influence to having absolutely none?

A little depressing when you think about it, huh?

But really, I’m not here to rain on anyone’s parade (or ‘piss on anyone’s chips’, as Damien would say). In fact, I applaud anyone who has put in the time and hustle to build a personal brand, on Instagram or any other channel – I know from experience that it’s not an easy feat. It takes a helluva lot of time, heaps of creativity and endless focus. It’s also my favourite social channel and the one that I spend the most time growing. All I’m saying is:

Don’t put all of your eggs in one Instagram basket.

Instead, use social media as a means to drive traffic and awareness to something you own. Launch a blog, an online store for your art prints or a content hub of all your workout videos – a place that isn’t owned by fickle Silicon Valley types always looking to reinvent and move on to the next big thing. And once you’ve built that online space, your very own little corner of the internet that no one can take away from you, do these three things to develop a broader, deeper, and more engaged online influence:

 

Build a newsletter database.

Once you’ve launched your site, focus on growing newsletter subscribers. Not only are e-newsletters a great way to send steady traffic to your site, but you actually own that database of e-mails and can tap into that audience whenever you want – no one’s going to shut-down GMail (hell, even Hotmail’s still around). That database is golden – imagine having 30,000 subscribers that will ALWAYS be served your content straight to their inbox, not just a random selection of them based on an algorithm?

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Expand your social media focus.

Like I said, social media plays a massive part in being an online influencer – there’s no denying that and there’s no reason not to make it a key component in building your brand. But instead of investing all of your efforts into just one channel (and having no say in the future of that channel), choose 2-3 channels that you’re set on growing and that make sense for your brand. If your content is heavy on visuals, look to both Instagram and Pinterest as growth and brand awareness channels. If your content is more service-driven or informative, focus on Faceboook and Twitter, which are great for shareable posts and driving traffic.

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Create a 3-year plan.

If being an online influencer is a business for you, treat it as such. Develop a plan that outlines where you are now and where you’d like to be in three years’ time (and how you plan on getting there). Your plan should include growth strategy, but also expansion strategy – how will your brand evolve over time to not only stay relevant, but attract new audiences as new forms of social media pop up?

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This post is just the first of many I plan to do on the topic of online influence – it’s growing at a rapid rate and will only continue to expand and evolve, so it’s a conversation we need to be having. As bloggers and content creators, what should we be doing with our online influence? If you can buy your influence, how can brands and followers tell if it’s genuine? When is the Instagram bubble going to burst from oversaturation and what’s next?

So to all my bloggers, Instagrammers and leisurely social media users alike – let me know what you think and feel free to suggest any points of interest you’d like me to explore further on this topic.  Share your thoughts, rants or fist pumps in the comments below!


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  • Katie says:

    Yes, yes, yes. I am one of those leisurely users, but I follow a lot of ‘Instagrammers’ and have always been curious about how they make money and what they would do If Instagram wasn’t around! Some great points.

  • Renee says:

    Fist pump.

    Sound advice!

  • Diala says:

    This post is golden. Can’t wait to read more about it on TRL.xx

  • Didier Young says:

    Thank you for sharing is! Simply having Instagram as a business platform is definitely a scary though! Starting a blog was scary too but I am glad I did it. I can’t wait to read the other posts in the series!

    -Didier
    http://www.didieryhc.com

    • Lauren | This Renegade Love says:

      Cheers friend :). Your blog is fab and you should be proud of it! Always scary to start something new, but worth it if you work hard at it.

  • Megan says:

    This is all very true! Who knows what will happen to IG and when the next BIG social platform will present itself. Love it!

  • Brad says:

    Great post with solid advice. Purpose and planning if Instagram is leveraged to build brand equity.

  • I absolutely love this so so so much ans 100% agree with every single word and it’s why I can stress enough to do something outside of IG. Most of the fitness instagrammers are starting to fall into the same trap and I’m like wait whaaa, hold on. Don’t!! Build something greater for you!

    • Lauren | This Renegade Love says:

      Cheers Joanne! It’s soooo important to have something that will always be yours, that through all the changes in social media, you can drive people to.

  • Danica says:

    Just curious what your thoughts our on those who use apps to grow their Instagram? For instance you can pick a hashtag say #canadianblogger and the app will randomly like other IG accounts for you using the same hashtag. I’ve had some discussions with other friends where they’ve become increasingly frustrated because so many IG accounts are using apps now to grow there following which sometimes feels so authentic.

    Great post!!

    • Lauren | This Renegade Love says:

      Hi Danica! The whole paid app thing is really interesting – I actually don’t mind the ones that ‘like’ photos that have to do with their own account (like I know a friend of mine who is really into fitness and Nike, and she uses one to like photos tagged #nikecanada). They’re paying more for awareness than paying for a fake following or engagement. What I really don’t like are these ‘comment pods’ – groups that people join where they are required to comment on each member’s photos and they will do the same in return. Seems harmless at first, but it’s a way to fool brands into thinking they have more influence than they actually do. Brands see a person has a lot of engagement, when really it’s just other bloggers saying things like ‘Cute!’ and ‘Need this!’ because they’re required to in order to stay in the group.

  • Neelam says:

    Great post Lauren! Such a timely reminder. It’s so easy to get caught up in the numbers and loose sight of why you started or what you’re creating. Can’t wait for more on this topic!
    xx
    Neelam
    http://patternsandprosecco.com

  • On point Lauren. As someone new to this world, I value these posts. Very helpful!

  • Dominique says:

    Some really great and VALID points. I just use IG leisurely but recently noticed that there are only a select few Instagrammers with blogs actually worth bookmarking and taking the time to read so it’s crazy to think about all those other individuals who are pulling in the cash.

    • Lauren | This Renegade Love says:

      Thanks Dominique! It’ll be interesting to see what happens when everyone moves on to something else (which they inevitably will).

  • Kate says:

    Yes, yes, yes! I am on the cusp of starting my blog (with related social media accounts), so this is really timely. The 3 year plan piece advice is solid. I have little patience, and have high (read: somewhat unrealistic) expectations at times (great combo, right), so this reminder to slow it down and think of it in a more long-term manner is exactly what I needed to hear (read?). Would love to pick your brain, so let me know if you are game for that (I’m a fellow Torontonian).

  • Daniel says:

    Agreed! And it’s not easy to get people from Instagram to other places.

    • Lauren | This Renegade Love says:

      No, sir, it is not lol. Even though Instagram is my best channel for brand awareness, I get most of my traffic through Facebook, because it’s so easily clickable. Gotta spread that social love! 🙂

  • Lauren says:

    Love this article. I really admire how real you are when it comes to talking about anything and everything. I’m just trying to grow my brand and it’s so easily to get caught up in growing Instagram first and letting everything else follow. This is a nice reality check that, yes Instagram is a great tool for growth, but focusing on what you own is what you need to focus most on and put time into growing!

    • Lauren | This Renegade Love says:

      Thanks so much, Lauren! I try to keep it real whenever I can ;). Yep, Instagram can suck you right in (and also drive you crazy as you see what everyone else is doing and start comparing yourself to them). But when you’re on your blog, in your own little space, you’re also entirely focused on doing what YOU’re doing instead of anyone else.

  • Kayla says:

    This is super interesting and something I’ve been thinking about a lot as I’ve seen the influencer scene in NYC shift from bloggers to instagrammers — it scares me to put all my eggs in one basket and I LOVE blogging because I actually enjoy the process of writing. But I’ve had to roll with the punches, focus on instagram and building engagement there since that’s where the opportunities, community and yes money are right now…

    • Lauren | This Renegade Love says:

      Thanks for reading, Kayla! I totally agree that right now the money is in Instagram because it’s the hot thing at the moment (and you absolutely should grow that channel!). But I think it’s important to grow that channel as a means to push content to a space that you own. Keep growing that Instagram audience, but also keep letting them know you have a blog with awesome content as well!

  • Bibi says:

    Great post and info, as I’m thinking of expanding my own social media sites. My difficulty comes with determining what content should be posted on what platform. I’m told simply copy and pasting everything across the board is a no-no.

  • So on point, I loved reading this. It’s so easy to get caught up in instagram, but lately I just feel it’s getting more and more fake! Definitely good to focus on something you own, and that’s a big goal of mine for 2017

    XO Erin

  • I’m in a couple of comment pods which are part of groups I am in – one for food and travel specialists (with 52 members in total and 15 in the pod) and one for travel influences (around the same size). They work well for me because we are all friends anyway (I know some of the members in each in real life as well as online). The third pod I joined was one of the posse groups and I found it quite uncomfortable, so I’ve abandoned ship! And I definitely agree about having a multi-platform approach – social media channels are so transient!

  • Yasmin says:

    Thank you for breaking this down! As a new blogger, I often feel pressured to only focus on Instagram and Facebook to post content but neglect my blog! Thanks for your in-depth assessment.

    Yasmin

  • Ciara says:

    These are such good points! I think it’s so important to have both a blog and an Instagram account as an influencer, but I had never thought about what would happen to people who were solely Instagram based if something were to happen to the app. Very helpful article. Thanks so much for sharing!!

    Ciara
    http://www.ciarasalloum.com

  • Alma says:

    Fist pump!

    I was about to write something similar for my blog as I’m currently doing an “Own your blog” series. I’ll definitely be quoting you from time to time as this felt like it was literally said out of my mouth. Love it!

    thealmachronicle.com

    xx