“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?