By Meeta Vengapally
When I began my journey on Instagram, I had no idea that one day I would become a “top influencer.” In the beginning, companies reached out to me to review their products, seeing as I was CEO of the startup Garnysh.
From there, things took on a life of their own, and now I have over 194,000 followers on Instagram, and counting. More than 500 brands have approached me for sponsorship and promotions, including Target, Bumble Bizz, Amazon, Fresh Beauty, and Sephora.
Would you like to know my 10 key steps to becoming an Instagram influencer? Read on.
1. What’s your Instagram niche?
It sounds clichéd, but this is vital. Not only should you examine what you’re passionate about, but you also need to be honest with yourself about what you’re good at.
Sports, cooking, beauty, art, interior decorating? Do you love making funky sushi dishes? Maybe you can create some bomb hairstyles that no one has seen before. Whatever it is, that’s your niche. For me, beauty and fitness were an instant fit, and being a mom of two kids in the entertainment industry only expanded my horizons.
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While you’re throwing yourself into Instagram, go ahead and create a blog. This will strengthen your brand.
2. Instagram analytics (sigh)
It may sound boring, but you’re going to need an Instagram Business Account to read those analytics. Learn about Instagram Insights. It gives you all the demographic data that you need about who follows you. You can also track profile views and audience activity times.
Since you have your niche, you’re not posting things randomly, but strategically. What posts are your followers loving? Which ones create less interest? All of this will help you build your status on Instagram.
I have to be honest, not everyone loves analytics—I think it’s fascinating. While starting out, learning this for yourself is going to put you at an advantage.
3. Focus on your Instagram bio
You know what it’s like when you’re applying for new jobs, slaving over your CV and resume. That’s the same kind of precision you need when writing your Instagram bio.
Don’t worry, you only have 150 characters to work with, but that short paragraph is your pitch. It’s the introduction to your brand, what you’re about, and what it is you seek to do. Your bio should capture the essence of who you are. Be sure to hook up a link in your bio if you have a website or blog.
4. It’s all about Instagram aesthetics
Have you noticed that when you’re surfing Instagram you always tap on the photos with a cool or interesting aesthetic? This vibe can come across in many different ways.
Learn how to take great photos. If you don’t know how to do this yet, start learning! Have the cash to hire a good team? I suggest that you do that. Most influencers focus on a color scheme so that their photos are cohesive—it becomes their signature palate. While you don’t have to do this, it does make your posts easily recognizable. My posts don’t all look the same, but I go for a similar feel: glamorous but down-to-earth; sassy but still authentic.
Don’t worry about being or looking perfect. Focus on professionalism, good quality, and a solid vibe.
5. Don’t forget your Instagram captions
The photos engage your followers, but the short captions speak a thousand words. Don’t ignore this small but significant element. You’re not writing a sonnet. This is haiku. The captions make a brand seem interesting and real. This is your voice talking to your followers, so show some personality.
Start by asking yourself, What is my brand’s voice? You know your niche, you know your aesthetic, but how are you speaking? Are you chill, feisty, fun, humorous? Your language and tone are as interesting as your images. Pick a voice that speaks to you and remain consistent.
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6. Select great Instagram hashtags
#InfluencerLifeGoals. Did you know that hashtags can increase your following on Instagram? Posts with hashtags lead to more engagement and views.
Say you’re reviewing a new skin-care brand from Sephora. Do you think that post will be found with the hashtag #skincare? No! You need to be specific and you need to use many hashtags to ensure that post gets seen. For instance: #SephoraWatermelonMask, #SplurgingAtSephora, #BestUnderEyeCream. You get the gist.
Aim for between 5 and 30 hashtags for every post—somewhere in the middle works for me. You also want to avoid placing too many hashtags. Find your magic number. Also, never be afraid to see what hashtags other influencers are using. Instagram Insights will tell you how your hashtags are performing.
7. Create an Instagram posting schedule
I can’t emphasize this enough: you must consistently post new content and determine your optimal posting frequency. Top influencers will post 1.5 times a day, studies suggest. You don’t have to do this—I certainly don’t and have still found success. When you frequently engage, you stay relevant to your followers. A lot of this comes down to Instagram’s algorithm. If your weekly frequency goes down, you’ll be ranked lower on the algorithm, meaning you show up less.
I find the best way to organize my time and schedule is to have a day each week where I take several photos and plan with my team when these posts will go out. You can try a scheduling tool like Sked Social. No matter how you schedule your posts, be consistent in everything you do.
8. Your Instagram followers want to hear from you
Have you ever reached out to a favorite influencer and heard back from them? If you have, you know what an amazing feeling that is.
At the end of the day, Instagram is a social platform, and interacting with your followers creates excitement and loyalty. Reach out to other influencers, comment on posts that are relevant to your brand, and keep your presence strong on Instagram. When you leave comments, you jump-start relationships and conversations; replying to comments that others leave on your posts can be fun and gratifying.
Taking the time to network and communicate with your followers on Instagram is essential to being an influencer. Always thank people for their support.
9. Do you reach out to brands, or do they come to you?
It’s a good question, and it depends. I was in a lucky position. I had brands coming to me from the get-go, and they still do. If you’re not the CEO of a company, you might want to consider taking all the steps I’ve mentioned: choosing your niche, finding your voice, being consistent with posts—until you have thousands of followers under your belt.
Once you have achieved this, it’s possible to reach out to brands. You want to get your account on their radar. Send them a DM or contact them via email; use brand-related hashtags in your posts. And don’t be afraid of rejection. It’s impossible to avoid when you’re finding your feet.
10. Own your influence
Did you know that top influencers can make thousands of dollars per post? An influencer is a trendsetter, a trusted expert, and a valued online personality. In fact, in today’s modern world, major brands actually can’t compete with influencers. Thanks to social media, a CoverGirl ad with a popular celebrity isn’t as powerful as it used to be. People want to see something real.
When major brands, or even smaller brands, partner with influencers, they create a larger net that reaches the online community in a way that traditional advertising can’t. This is also a wonderful avenue for brands to get the word out about new products.
Don’t write your Instagram presence off as a hobby. Embrace your power.
To become a successful Instagram influencer, you need passion. My passion for Instagram shows through in my posts, and it resonates with my followers as well as the companies I partner with. I single-handedly took my passion for taking pics and selfies, and turned that into a business where I now get paid to do what I love.
My journey on Instagram started as a side-hustle and is now a full-blown business—something I’ve added to my list of entrepreneurial accomplishments. My content is personal, and spending a few minutes on my page gives you a very clear idea of who I am as a woman, mother, and CEO.
Meeta Vengapally is the Founder & CEO of Garnysh, a Silicon Valley-based fitness and technology company that uses real-time tracking and motivation to support fitness goals. Meeta is also a top influencer on social media, empowering women, entrepreneurs, and organizations of all types. Thus far, she is a spokesperson for over 500 brands and growing. Follow Meeta on Instagram to become part of her motivational and positive community, and read a profile of Meeta Vengapally on Forbes.
This article was originally published on AllBusiness.com. Photo courtesy of Meeta Vengapally.