This post covers the ins and outs of being a creator/influencer for those who follow and wonder how it all works AND those looking to start or learn more! This is a mix of industry regulations and my personal opinions – everyone is different, so take it for what it’s worth! Feel free to reach out to me with any questions.
What’s the proper title? Blogger, influencer, creator?
I prefer creator as I am in a mix of industries between my interiors and brand work. The only thing I will say is that blogger gets misused as many creators don’t have a blog, just Instagram and/or Tiktok.
What is the difference between an affiliate link, a paid partnership/collaboration, and gifting?
An affiliate link is a custom link that tracks a purchase through cookies to kick back a commission to the creator. Anyone that clicks that link, stays in that browser window, and makes a purchase will enable the commission at no cost to the buyer. Commissions range between 1%-25% depending on the retailer. A popular platform for affiliate links is rewardStyle, due to their expertise and wide variety of retailers they work with. On the other hand, some brands have their own affiliate programs that provide commissions.
A paid partnership or collaboration is a set agreement or “campaign” between the creator and a brand. To promote a product or set of products, the two work together to set a creative direction, number of posts per platform, and potential rights to images. They are typically paid and the amount is negotiated between the two parties. If they aren’t paid, that is what is referred to as “gifted” or “exchange” a post for product.
How do followers know if a post is an ad?
Per the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), a creator legally has to disclose when a post is paid or gifted, in a clear, explicit manor. Brands will have different requirements, but you can end up in some deep sh*t for not writing #ad, ad, gifted, sponsored, partner, etc.
Things like writing (A.D) or (A D), hiding stickers behind things in stories or in small, hard to read fonts is cheating the system and in turn cheating your following.
You can read more about the Social Media Disclosures here.
How do brand partnerships form?
To be honest, I need to spend more time here, but I am lucky that my blog and social efforts have led to 80% of my partnerships coming to me vs. reaching out to a brand. Brands will reach out via my blog or email and rarely through my IG DM’s. More later on the importance of a blog, but this is one reason! The rest have formed by emailing or dming a brand, pitching an idea and my value OR utilizing platforms that connect me to campaigns.
To pitch yourself or navigate a conversation around this, you should have some insights on hand around your following (demographics, counts, engagement rate, clicks, and more), your difference / brand position, and pricing.
Do you actually like/use the brands/products you promote?
Speaking for myself, I would never promote something I don’t think is worth the price, up to my quality standards, wouldn’t buy on my own, doesn’t match my style, or is a brand that misaligns with my viewpoints. Everything I promote, I continue to use after the post(s)! I would like to say the same for all creators, but being 100% honest, I definitely see posts that are off-brand and seem ingenuine based on the product, the effort behind the post, etc. My advice is to really dig into why you follow someone and as a creator, ask yourself some questions before just saying yes to the money!
Do I need to have a blog?
There are mixed opinions here, but I am a firm believer of YES. Please keep reading after this statement…while it’s seemingly unlikely, platforms like Instagram may up and disappear one day. More likely, an account can be hacked, or the platform changes its purpose. You then have zero control of your content. I hate to scare you, but it is scary.
A blog is a platform you own – your domain, your website. You can easily repurpose your content in the future and more importantly, provides much more insight and data to grow your brand. Utilizing tools within your platform or Google Analytics helps to define, connect and grow your audience/content PLUS provides the ability to share that with brands. Lastly, SEO (aka people finding you on the internet) is extremely helpful to increase your reach.
Beyond a blog, I recommend utilizing Pinterest as 1. it’s an easy workflow to work into your posting schedule and 2. the results are beyond worth the effort – most of my traffic comes from Pinterest, fun fact! I recommend looking into some Pinterest best practices, but starting out with pinning a few times a week and linking back to your blog will certainly help.
TLDR; just being on Instagram is extremely limiting you and your efforts!
How Can I easily start a blog?
Right here! I offer full service branding and blog design & setup, so you can easily begin. Learn more about my offerings, experience and get started here.
Do I need to have a lot of money to start?
No! I actually really dislike this rumor that I often hear, in that successful creators got lucky because they started with a ton of money to make it happen. You don’t need to be rich to share authentic content. You don’t need to buy new things weekly to keep at this. It doesn’t have to be the latest and greatest. You can read more about starting and growing an authentic following on my deep dive post here.
How long does it take to make money?
This varies for everyone, of course, but I’d say that you can start applying to platforms and reaching out to brands even at 1,000 followers. Quality over quantity (followers) is huge when it comes to converting followers into buyers. I won’t get into numbers, but a little over two years in, after I started posting consistently, I started seeing significant monthly income right at the year and a half mark. It takes a lot of hard work to put out thoughtful content that varies and resonates, but that hard work includes just reaching and doing it! Testing the waters is the only way to grow and once I felt like I truly knew what my purpose was and stuck to a dedicated, planned content schedule, my income nearly tripled. From there, choosing how much you want to balance affiliate linked posts and paid campaigns will determine your income. As your brand scales, consider selling a product in your niche!
Should I be hyper focused on growing my follower count?
When it comes to follower count, you should be focused on authenticity. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued or stressed about this throughout my career. However, as soon as I let go of comparing or trying to reach a number in a timeframe, I was able to be more creative and reach more people!
To make sure your following is authentic, the first thing you can do today is go in and remove followers. Simply go to your account, click your following, and you’ll see a remove button next to every account. I do this daily, which makes it easier! To identify inauthentic accounts, look for accounts with odd user names containing numbers or fake words, no profile photo or one that is pulled off google, no posts, no followers, or are following thousands of accounts.
You can read more about starting and growing an authentic following on my post here.
Do giveaways and follow groups work?
I don’t mean to offend any other creators, but I highly advise against giveaway loops and follow groups. They do provide instant followers, but think about their intentions – they aren’t pressing follow for you when there is something else in it for them. Usually, they’ll even unfollow afterwards, let alone authentically engage.
Being in a follow inspiration group, comment pod, or group share is another way to cheat the system. While most intentions are probably good, its engagement that is based on self promotion vs. sharing your own content. When you’re doing it daily, or multiple times a week, your account becomes that vs. sharing authentic content that inspires others.
So, what can you do if you’re interested in cross promoting? Exactly that! I do a bi-weekly story share of accounts I found recently, without even telling them I am doing so. This sometimes results in them sharing you as well, but should not be an expectation. You can also reach out to an account on an individual basis and ask to share one another.
TLDR; it’s ok to occasionally engage in this, but not frequently. Don’t lose sight of creative content and become an account that just shares others for self promotion in return.
Any unique advice?
Don’t be a carbon copy. It’s kinda crazy to see how many accounts look exactly the same and I often read about creators having their content literally copied/stolen. It’s easy to scroll for inspiration or hop onto a trend, but take that popular product and make it your own. Stand out. Being different is actually going to get you ahead! Don’t worry about fitting into a box – more importantly, focus on what makes you different. That difference will instantly draw people in. Don’t be afraid to define your value and then be consistent, but creative! I know I’ve linked to this post a few times, but I talk a lot more about this here.