So You’re Influential… Now What?

Mar
28th

“So, what are you gonna do with your Instagram?”

I was sat in an airport lounge with a girl I had just met on a recent press trip, and we had plopped down at the gate to wait for our respective flights home – me to Toronto, her to the West Coast. She was young and sweet and naive, but had a great sense of style, and her Instagram celebrity was taking off – after just one year of documenting her daily style, she was sitting close to 100k Instagram followers (all organic).

“Uhhh…. whaddya mean?” she responded absently, disengaged in the conversation as her eyes scanned the lounge for the perfect spot to take an airport outfit pic (well-lit, not too many people, but obvious we’re at the airport, ya know?). She found a spot and I snapped a few pics of her being ‘natural’ and ‘in the moment’, and when we got back to our seats with our Starbucks in tow, I asked her the question again.

“You know, what are you gonna do with this audience you have? Like, what’s next for you?” She looked at me a bit puzzled before shrugging and mumbling, “I dunno, I haven’t really thought about it,” then looked back at her phone to edit her photo before we got on the plane.

Fair enough. A year later and this same influencer is now closing in on 450k Instagram followers, her blog taking a backseat as she dedicates all of her efforts to the social sharing platform instead. Every day she posts one or more street style photos of herself to her Instagram profile, promoting the brands she wears and the campaigns they’re running, usually with a simple caption that reads, “Friday vibes” or “Casual neutrals”.

Her content is harmless and pretty and no doubt aesthetically pleasing, but at its core is also consumer-driven and hasn’t changed much save for a better photographer. She’s sitting with a massive audience of people at her fingertips, but isn’t really saying, well, anything at all. And as I sit here now with my coffee in hand and scroll through my Instagram feed, I realize she’s actually the norm – that we’re amassing huge audiences of followers without offering up much more than ‘latergrams’ of our lunch or a photo of our purse du jour.

So it got me thinking… as ‘influencers’, what are we actually doing with our influence?

__________

The truth is, not a whole lot.

The blogging and influencer market has reached a point of over-saturation. The more we post about “blogger mail” and glamorize the perks of the industry, the more saturated the market becomes – but the quality of content isn’t growing with it. Instead, we have an influx of people starting blogs and investing in Instagram not because they’re passionate about community or content creation, but to be part of that inner circle and get in on those same perks.

As bloggers and social creators, we influence peoples’ decisions every day with our content – what to buy, where to eat, who to follow. And working with brands on sponsored content can be fantastic if it’s a natural fit – it can actually lead to some pretty stellar content that’s organic and authentic to your personal brand and voice.

But that’s not sustainable.

If you want to live past the Instagram age, actually keep your audience captivated amidst the noise and evolution of social media, you have to have something to say. You have to stand out. There has to be more to you, whether it’s leveraging that audience to launch your own business or using your platform to talk about issues that are important to you.

And I’ll be the first to say it – having an audience of 450k people and not saying anything of value is a wasted opportunity. Hell, even having an audience of 2000 people. You have a powerful ability to educate, influence change and empower others. You have an audience of people that you could speak to about your OWN brand, rather than always lining the pockets of others. You have the ability to shed light on social issues, to make people feel part of a community and to encourage others to join the discussion.

Okay, sure, sometimes we just like to post a pretty picture of a coffeecup because the latte art is freaking fabulous or post a selfie because we are looking shit hot that day. Ain’t nothing wrong with that – I get it, and I do it.

But let’s at least SAY SOMETHING, guys. Talk about the friend you met with over that coffee who inspired your next project. Post that selfie with a caption about self love. Share that pic of your new coat and give props to the designer for featuring women of colour in their advertising. Post that snap of your new shoes and talk about how your morning run helps with your anxiety. Share an image of your breakfast and let me know how eating clean has changed your lifestyle.

Think about what your voice can do. How far your platform can reach. Have some purpose behind the content you create and what you say about it.

Because if we have audiences of thousands of followers who are fully engaged in the content we produce, and we say nothing more about our photos than ‘Friday vibes’ and ‘Coffee time’… what the hell are we doing this for?


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  • Sabrina says:

    First of all, I love this post. Well all your posts for that matter, and Secondly thanks reminding me that I need to add more substance to my posts and start a conversation or share a story.
    Thanks for inspiring me, always!

    • Lauren | This Renegade Love says:

      Cheers Sabrina! xo

      I think your posts are beautiful and the ones I get the most out of are the ones you share a little insight into yourself or how you made the food or the people you shared it with. Your blog posts are great! I love the recipes with the storytelling intros 🙂

  • Jen says:

    Love this so much! It kind of irks me whenever I see “advice” for Instagram like, “Keep captions short, just a few words will do.” I sit here screaming “No! Tell a story whenever you can!” Of course you don’t always need an essay with a photo, but I love when people show who they are through what they tell you on top of a gorgeous photo. When I was first starting my business account, I struggled with how much to put in the captions, and then I realized, the photo and the moment I took it will tell me exactly how much I need to put in it.

    • Lauren | This Renegade Love says:

      Yeah, I hate that advice too – you’re just contributing to an audience that can’t be bother absorbing information (which is sad).

      I find that as long as the copy is engaging, people will read the whole thing. My followers now know that if there’s a lot of copy there, I’ve got somethin’ to say. 🙂

  • Amazing post, Lauren. I 100% agree with this post and sometimes I wonder how 2000 posts of lipstick and fresh kicks can make someone ‘influential’. As always, awesome writing and great insight into the whole world of blogging.

  • Jen says:

    Love this! I always get sad when I see advice like, “Keep captions short, just a couple of words will do.” I love a genuine story with a gorgeous photo. I struggled with that in my very first stages (still evolving, but doing much better than I was), and I realized every photo and moment the photo was taken will tell me exactly what story to tell with each post. People being people is what makes social media beautiful!

  • So well said!!! I want to give you a high-five, a handshake and a hug. Great post!!

  • You always, always hit the nail on the head! This post couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I’ve been mulling over the word ‘influencer’ over and over the last two weeks, trying to pin down authenticity and having an actual voice/purpose/impact with the things that we put out.

    • Lauren | This Renegade Love says:

      Thanks Karuna! It’s definitely a buzzword created by brands and agencies, and it makes me cringe to use it as a self-reference haha. But when you think of the word, it’s a powerful one. And I think that we don’t consider that enough – how much impact we have on opinions and feelings and knowledge. Why not use this platform for good? Nothing is more appealing to me than a beautifully captured photo with a well-considered caption to go along with it 🙂

  • Diala says:

    Substance over everything else. We leave in a society that is over saturated with perfection and not too much realness. Our platforms need our voice.
    Loved this post!

    • Lauren | This Renegade Love says:

      That’s why I love your content – you show delicious food and beautiful places around the world, but tell a story or describe the food in your caption. Adore you!

  • Such a great post Lauren. You are so right, as an “influencer” you have the audience and can really make a difference in someones’ life. Thanks for the reminder to be authentic and create a community 😉

  • Randa says:

    Very well said! I think most of us who are considered “influencers” go through the waves of “what am I doing with all of this??” and then sometimes the paycheque takes a backseat to authenticity and purpose. You’ve inspired me to be more purposeful with my posts and you’re doing a great job with yours!

    Keep it up chica.

  • leslie rossi says:

    I’m in disbelief that she doesn’t take the opportunity to grow her blog or influence her audience a bit more than “Friday vibes” (insert eye roll here from me)

    great post as always!
    Leslie

    • Lauren | This Renegade Love says:

      Haha, agreed Leslie. And the thing is, I don’t think everyone needs to have a stance on a social issue or get political, but when every post is basically an ad and every photo basically looks the same, there’s nothing there for me – there’s no artistic value. It’s beautiful and clearly people love looking at her style and I can’t knock that, but if you’re not thinking how that translates past Instagram, well, you’re in trouble.

  • Abby says:

    Well said. Think of the massive amount of power that could be harnessed for something good if influencers did as you describe

    • Lauren | This Renegade Love says:

      Yes! And it doesn’t need to be shoved down our throats… just something of substance every now and then. Aesthetic attracts a following, substance builds loyalty.

  • First visit here. Saw your link at Kim Six Fix. I agree totally. I graduated Journalism school in college. I have had my blog for a long time. I don’t have very much money: divorced, disabled, not young anymore. I write about everyday life here in my one bedroom apartment, my precious dogs, social issues, gardening on my patio and decorating on a strict budget. I don’t do Instagram at all. Above everything else, it is about the readers for me. I blog every single day and those people are very important to me. Love what you said!
    Brenda

  • Hmmm… not only do I emphatically disagree, but I find this viewpoint almost offensive. As a designer who worked in the fashion industry for 25 years, the notion that sharing a fashion aesthetic is not a worthwhile artistic endeavor in and of itself is incredibly reductive. Telling a visual story can be equally as compelling as literary commentary, and frankly, just because one is good at fashion styling (or any other artistic endeavor) doesn’t mean their views on other life matters are worthy of influence. Visual artists can be merely visual artists without being required to add ‘pseudo life coach’ to their art to make it mean something. Y’know, art for art’s sake. And yes, fashion is most definitely art.

    • Lauren | This Renegade Love says:

      Hi Lory,

      Thanks for your comment – I always appreciate when someone shares a different point of view (and does so without hiding behind anonymity!).

      I absolutely agree with your opinion of art for art’s sake – I started my career at an interior design mag, so I’m all about beautiful design and can appreciate a well-thought out aesthetic. But I also feel as though art should aim to do more than fish for likes and engagement and brand interest – it should aim to push boundaries, be original and evoke emotion. I follow plenty of fashion influencers whose style isn’t even necessarily my own and don’t even WRITE captions, but are so original in what they do that I still get something out of it. I appreciate it as an art form. But the majority don’t do that… images are just turning into carbon copies of everything else that’s being put out there.

      And god knows I do not need to hear everyone’s rants on the world, and there’s no need to develop yourself into a ‘pseudo life coach’ (I like that one!), but the point I was trying to make is that if we’re doing this as a business, if our ‘art form’ is then sponsored by brands and all we’re doing is selling products being worn/featured, when does it go from being art and turn into simply advertising? Where the brands then get approval on the ‘art’ that you share with your audience? And that if you want to live past this age of navel-gazing and Instagram likes, there will have to be something about you that stands out, and that’s having something of value to say – whether it’s through your originality of style or your words. It doesn’t have to be profound – a style blogger can make a comment on her blog about why she styled two pieces together, why the colours work, how to style high/low, etc.

      Basically, I encourage influencers to use their influence more than just selling products. Have some substance.

      • Lauren, I read your reply last week but was on vacation and am just now getting back to it. Love your reply and 100% agree with you. When it really comes down to it, what you’re essentially saying is, content creators should create quality content and we all should hold each other to high standards. I couldn’t agree more, but the one thing to keep in mind is that in all fields (music, fashion, literature, etc), what’s appealing to the masses is never top quality. It’s a shame, but it’s a fact of life. So, yeah, even in blogging, there’s such a thing as ‘pop bloggers’… 😉

        Btw, really glad to have found your site! Love the article about sponsored posts, as well.

  • Maca says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this post and I gotta say, I’m a total fan of everything you do, it’s simply perfection.
    Can’t wait to meet you in person and have a suppa long coffee date together.
    xo,
    Maca

    http://www.heymaca.ca

  • Nicky says:

    If you aren’t already, I think you should be selling yourself to advertisers and brands (in the form of a workshop for example) as the person to help them figure out where they should be spending their social dollars. These companies are often run by boomers and GenX managers who would benefit from your knowledge. As you well know, often these companies throw money at influencers but fail to realize the very people they are paying have bought followers and are operating in a less than professional (imo) manner. Or maybe I’m just old and nobody gives a shit.