All You Need to Know to Be an Effective Instagram Influencer

Spoiler alert: you don’t need 10,000 followers to make money.

For anyone who wants to turn Instagram into a lucrative side-hustle, the only thing that matters is how you wield your influence. It does not come down to follower count, comment to like ratio, or whether you’ve gone viral. The only question you need to concern yourself with is, “How am I using my Instagram to earn money?”

I remember when I hit the most exciting milestone on Instagram.

It wasn’t the number of followers, likes, or comments. My account was nothing other than the product of a lot of hard work. I didn’t do a big collaboration or get featured by anyone big.

All that happened was that a brand sent me free stuff in exchange for promoting it on my Instagram page.

I was officially an “influencer.”

Influencer: the individual whose effect on the purchase decision is in some way significant or authoritative. — Cambridge English Dictionary

This was what I’d been working for as long as I’d started thinking about running an Instagram account. It was the first step to making my dream job — being a stay-at-home cat-mom/blogger — reality.

It took me ten months to get to that first milestone. But the second time was a lot faster.

Here’s what I learned.

1. Follower numbers are not a real milestone.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

If you look into becoming an influencer, you’ll see people quoting all kinds of numbers of followers you need in order to be a “Real Influencer.”

Some people say 5,000, some people say 10,000, but all of them are touted as being some kind of magic number. Once you hit that number of followers, brands will see you as a “Real Influencer” and flock to collaborate with you.

The truth is anyone can be an influencer from around 1,000 followers, or perhaps even less. I did it with 2,500 followers but I wish I’d tried to start sooner.

Remember, the point of being an influencer is to sell people stuff. Brands used to focus on bigger Instagram stars (like Kylie Jenner) because as they had the biggest following and therefore the biggest chance for one of their followers to see their idol consuming something, and want to consume it too.

But stars like Kylie Jenner have relatively low engagement.

What’s engagement?

Engagement is calculated as the number of likes + number of comments, dividedby total number of followers.

The Kylie Jenners of the world may get three million likes — but with over 120,000,000 followers, that’s only 2.5% engagement. The relevance is low.

People like me, with less than 10,000 followers, tend to have around a 10% engagement rate. Our community interacts with us much more.

And we’re much cheaper. I was happy to promote this brand for free products.

It’s a win for marketers, to reach their ideal customer effectively and cheaply. So next time you’re thinking you’re not a real influencer because you don’t have 10,000 followers, remember that as long as you have a connection with your audience, no matter how small or large that audience is, you are valuable to brands.

2. Tell brands why they should work with you.

Photo by Tom Plouff on Unsplash

Ideally, of course, I would have thousands of brands messaging me, clamoring to collaborate.

Spoiler alert: I don’t.

Instead, I have to reach out to them.

I found brands of cat treats, cat toys, cat food, all kinds of cat paraphernalia on Instagram. I carefully crafted a message, laying out my offer.

The ingredients of the message:

  • The reasons we were a great fit
  • My proposed post
  • My follower demographic information

That’s all I needed. I sent a message out to a few brands my cats loved and sat back to wait.

Within a few hours, a brand got back to me, asking for my address to send me some new stuff from their Christmas line.

Once you know your worth and can explain to brands why they want to work for you, you’ll be surprised how ready they are to listen.

3. Stick to your audience’s needs.

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

The reason this tactic worked so well is that I put a lot of research into my outreach. My proposed campaign made sense to brands.

My audience demographics were perfect for the brands I messaged. The brands were on Instagram, so messaging them via that medium was a good method. They weren’t too big, but they weren’t too small either — the perfect size for an account of my follower count.

Most importantly, they sold products I think my audience would love. I looked into brands that would see my audience as their ideal customer.

I know my audience well. I’ve interacted with many of them, and at such a small number of followers, I’ve built a real community. What that means to brands looking for influencers, is that my audience is willing to trust me and respect my opinions on products. That’s lucrative for them — and later down the road, for me.

What’s the takeaway?

After the first time I reached out to a brand successfully, I was thrilled. This was the first step down the journey of being a stay-at-home cat-mom/blogger.

It took me ten months to get to that point. But I did the same thing again just one week later.

Once you get your methods down pat, you can easily start to expand and grow. And who knows? Maybe soon, someone will actually pay me money to post a cute picture of my cats.

Astrid and Chumbo on Instagram

Biology MSc. Psychology nerd. She/her. Get my FREE 5-day Medium Starter Kit to make money writing about what you love:

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