Thanks to the internet and the prominence of social media and other online platforms (such as YouTube), it’s become easier than ever for people to start a hustle on the side while they labor at their day jobs. For many, that means peddling goods on digital storefronts ranging from Instagram, to Amazon and everything in between.
For some, however, it means becoming an online personality with thousands (if not millions) of followers, a micro-celebrity in their own right. With a large online following comes not only online ad revenue, but also opportunities for brand sponsorship and more.
As the saying goes, “If you build it, they will come,” though this isn’t always the case. The internet and the world of content creation is an odd beast, one that many still struggle to fully understand and navigate especially for those just getting started.
For those influencers beginning their journeys, here are 5 mistakes to avoid after you’ve picked your niche and online identity.
1. Not having a plan
In our previous Influencer Beginner Guide suggesting tips for new content creators to follow, we highlighted the importance of consistency when it comes to capitalizing on the algorithms of digital platforms like YouTube and Instagram and building a dedicated following.
Not creating a schedule for content creation and posting will only set you up for failure. Sure, you can wing it early on, but if you’re really serious about growing your online presence, you’ll benefit greatly from having a plan and sticking to it. Additionally, if you publicize your posting schedule, like when you’ll release new episodes of your YouTube vlog series, fans will know when to expect your content ahead of time, and will more likely tune in.
2. Uploading lazy or off-topic posts
Starting out, you might be stumped to come up with a new post idea for your page. In a moment of weakness (or laziness, or both) you might decide a badly lit selfie will suffice for the day, bringing nothing of value to your followers and acting as a blemish on your Instagram page of carefully framed and lighted images.
This becomes doubly troubling when a brand pays you to market their product and you do the bare minimum to market it, making you both look like a sellout in front of your audience while also selling a brand short, potentially jeopardizing your future relationship with them.
Looking to collaborate with a brand? Here are 5 things to ask yourself before accepting a sponsorship deal.
3. Overloading your posts with hashtags
A common mistake beginners make is to flood their posts with hashtags, many of which are not relevant to their audience or niche. This was especially common during the early days Instagram, but consensus on this practice has soured over the years.
Today, you are better off sticking with a few relevant and timely hashtags that will help your post be found by those who will benefit from it the most, i.e. people who are more likely to become followers.
4. Using bots to artificially inflate followers
After your first few months in the influencer business, you might find that your followers are not increasing as much as you’d like them to. For many content creators, this is often the point where they decide to take the plunge and opt for buying bot followers. While not illegal in the traditional sense, it does go against the Terms and Conditions of a social media platform like Instagram, which means you also run the risk of having your account shut down. If you have thousands of fake followers with only a handful of active, engaging users, the algorithm will be led to believe that your content is low quality because not many are engaging with it. We haven’t even taken into account how brands will perceive your online persona if they discover your follower count is fake.
Surely, there are benefits to buying fake followers, but in the long run, you’re better off without them.
5. Acting entitled with brands and professionals, both big and small
At this point, influencers carry a bad rep amid the general zeitgeist. We often hear of endless embarrassing reports of influencers asking for free products and services in exchange for sharing a brand’s product or service on their pages, often for zero effort. No one likes a beggar, and should your egregious behavior be exposed to the public, you’ll need a PR miracle to recover.
But it’s not only big brands that suffer from this treatment by online personalities – even small time professionals like photographers, videographers, local businesses and others have been the target of cheapskate influencers. You’ll often hear of influencers seeking small time photographers’ services for nothing but ‘exposure,’ or even going as far as asking charities for hand me outs.
If you want to approach a brand to collaborate together as an up-and-coming online persona, produce a detailed framework of how you plan to publicize their product or service, while backing your plan with concrete data like engagement numbers. Prove to a marketer that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re serious about your collaboration, and you will both likely walk away happy.