Great title right? Wish I could say I came up with it. This is actually the name of a fabulous panel I attended at General Assembly in Austin hosted by Planoly. Panelist included Austin’s queen bee foodie Jane Ko and recent NYC transplant, business owner and all around fabulousness Paola Mathe’. I must admit I thought I was going to finally learn how to use Planoly (an Instagram scheduling tool), but instead I left inspired and head full of thoughts about my brand and business. I’ll learn Planoly another day, pearls of influencer wisdom are much more rare.
Both speakers, as well as the moderator Priscilla Castro, were eloquent and gracious with their genuine insight on Instagram and being an influencer. I furiously scribbled notes the entire panel. One of my favorite take aways was from Paola of the blog Finding Paola about not getting boxed in. You can see the whole segment in the Facebook Live video I’ll post below, but in a nut shell she reminded us to not get lost in what the people want and get yourself boxed in. In other words if you randomly posted an Instagram picture of your cat that went viral that does not mean you need to use your cat in every single photo or become a self proclaimed cat lady when really your passion is dogs. Get it? Do it for you and not for the likes and that will show through.
The bit about the box all really comes back to a word I keep hearing AGAIN and AGAIN in reference to 2018 – transparency. Anyone can create a bright and shiny picture with enough filters and Lightroom pre-sets but from time to time let down the veil and show us what your life is really like. Be authentic. You don’t need to go public with every detail of your inner personal life, but do share from time to time the things that really make you YOU. Get great at storytelling. Panelist reminded us that yes people want to see pretty pictures, but they also read your captions. If they are following you they want to know about you. Going live is another great way to do that.
I realize going live or any form of video can be nerve wracking for some people. Flashbacks to speech classes in college or your day to give the pledge in grade school. However, if there was one skill that I recommend learning for your business in 2018 it is video and in particular live video. Jane from A Taste of KoKo mentioned during the panel that getting comfortable in front of the camera was a natural progression of her growing process as an influencer. Paola also reminded attendees that you don’t HAVE to be in front of the camera. You could film something as you talk if that is more comfortable for you. Both of these made me think of the HBO documentary “Becoming Warren Buffet”. In the documentary Mr. Buffet talks about all the classes he has taken, accolades he has won, mentors he has had and then says attending Toastmasters in order to hone is public speaking skills was the most important one of all.
Another topic that came up during the panel was how to work with brands as an influencer. Given these women are in the double and triple digit range in Instagram followers, but both mentioned micro-influencers. Whether you are macro or micro the main take away was to always work with brands that seem authentic to you and to know your worth. No matter how much the payout is, would you actually use that brand? Are you doing so many campaigns that photo after photo is sponsored? When you get approached by brands Paola suggested being very upfront with companies asking questions like “why am I here and why did you choose me”. If affiliate marketing is still something that is blowing your mind, Planoly has some great content all about the topic.
The life of an Instagram influencer may seem easy and nothing more than luck, however after listening to this panel I know there is a lot of hard work that goes into cultivating that following. There were mentions of surveys and scouring over data. Rather than obsessing over the best time to post, the perfect hash tag to use and which nail polish to wear in your flat lay – focus on the message and content. Let your gut lead the way and you will stay on track to what is authentic and right for you and your brand on Instagram and social media in general.