When I was a little girl, I always dreamed of becoming a social media influencer when I grew up. Hopefully you can sense the sarcasm in that statement since social media didn’t even exist back in my day (I’m 30 now so I can talk like that ;)) There’s no way I could have even imagined this being my future a few years ago, much less when I was a child. In fact, I don’t think I even knew what it meant to be an influencer until I had already become one. If you aren’t familiar with the term, a social media influencer is basically just how it sounds–someone who uses their social media presence to work with and promote brands.
Because I have had multiple people reach out to me for advice on growing their Instagram, I wanted to share how I got to where I am now, the benefits that come along with it, and how I choose my collaborations. I also wanted to share a few thoughts I had on the subject. And later this week or early next week, I’ll be sharing tips on how to improve your Instagram feed and how to grow your following.
How I became an Instagram Influencer
Almost 6 years ago to the day, when my 3rd baby was a tiny little newborn, I joined Instagram. For your viewing pleasure: my first Instagram photo (in all it’s bad lighting, grainy glory.)
When I first joined, I never put any thought into any of my posts. I just posted what I wanted, when I wanted. My pictures were awful and the editing I did was even worse. But by the time my first daughter was born, I had become interested in photography. I purchased a DSLR and spent time learning about what makes a good photo. I also took an online course, Snapshop, from a blogger that I admired (and still do) to learn more about iPhone photography. Over the next couple of years, I took the time to improve my photography and editing.
It wasn’t until 3.5 years after I initially joined Instagram before I began to see growth. I probably had around 220 followers at this point and I wasn’t setting out to gain any. But over the course of a few weeks/months, multiple photos of mine were reposted to larger accounts and I began to slowly see growth.
Fast forward 6 months, when I probably had around 1,000 followers. This is the point that I got my first collaboration request. I couldn’t believe it! Someone wanted to send me free product in return for pictures. This was a new company starting out so they were looking to get their name out. I quickly agreed and this was the start of my new “gig” as an Instagram influencer.
When I received the items, I could tell this shop was new and the product quality was not amazing. But because I had already agreed, I took the pictures and promoted the shop. I didn’t like promoting a product that I wasn’t completely happy with. And it still bothers me that I did. This experience, along with a few others, are what have helped shape my philosophy on what collaborations I will agree to, so I will share more about that in a minute.
I spent yet another year and a half working on improving my feed. I learned more about the style of photography and editing I liked (and currently still seeking to learn/grow.) And I spent more time working on how my feed looked overall. This past summer I had about 10k followers, all gained organically (meaning that I didn’t buy followers.)
Then, of course, our pregnancy announcement went viral. Within 24 hours, I had gained 36k followers…with more trickling in over the next days/weeks. There were times that I wanted to hide and make my Instagram private because we were attacked with hateful comments from across the internet. But I left it public and now I’m currently sitting at 53k+. Though some of the people reposting our photo did it with cruel intentions, sometimes I laugh and think about how the joke’s on them because it has provided me with opportunities that I may have never had.
The benefits of a Social Media Influencer
As I already shared, the initial benefits of becoming an influencer is free product. Shops started reaching out to me to take pictures of their products. They would send me free items, I would photograph them and share them on my Instagram, linking to the shop. And if they loved the photos, sometimes the pictures would be shared on their feeds (which in return gives more exposure and leads to more followers.)
Because my niche is motherhood/babies, the majority of items I receive revolve around that. Being a mom for 9 years and having 6 children has definitely made me well informed of products in this category so it makes me a good fit to review these items.
Only within the past couple months have I been offered monetary compensation in addition to free product. I never imagined that I would be paid to post pictures of items that I love. But it has truly been so amazing for our family. Though I don’t make any kind of substantial income, I hope to eventually be able to use the money to help contribute to our family and make the burden lighter on my husband.
Though I’m probably making it sound easy, it is still work. Not only do I have to remain organized, but even the creativity aspect can be work sometimes. Also working with lighting, weather, and kids who don’t always feel like being in a picture. So while it is fun work, it is definitely still work.
How I make decisions about collaborations
I already kind of touched on this but when I got my first few requests to collaborate, I accepted a lot of the requests without putting much thought into it. It was easy to take a picture and get free products in return. However, after the first few collaborations and realizing that I didn’t feel good about promoting items I wasn’t in love with, I had to re-evaluate how I was doing things.
Authenticity is super important to me. I want people to be able to come to my feed and trust that no matter what I’m posting, whether sponsored or not, I believe in it 100%. I now subconsciously run through a list of questions in my mind before taking on any new project.
1) Am I interested?
This may sound like an obvious one but the first thing I do is look and see if the product/company is something I am interested in promoting. I am trying to become more organized and have set up email folders so I can easily sort them into “interested,” “maybe,” or “not interested.”
2) Is it a good fit?
Sometimes it can be tempting to take on a project just because someone is offering something for free or offering money. There are a lot of times that I may actually be interested in the shop’s products, but overall it just seems very out of place for my feed.
3) Do I feel good about supporting the company?
Not only do I have to like what they’re selling, I have to like the company itself and truly be supportive of them and their values. A lot of times, I’m already a customer or follower of the company I’m working with. Other times, when it’s a new-to-me company, I do my research to make sure we share the same values and that the company has overall good reviews.
4) Will it benefit my followers/readers?
Listen, I’m not doing all these collaborations just to benefit myself. When I find something I really love, I find joy in sharing it with others. I’ve always been that way. So when someone approaches me about working together, I want to make sure that it’s something that all of YOU will be interested in too.
5) Is it worth it?
My husband is always trying to get me to realize my worth. And I have to admit that that part is pretty difficult for me. But I do understand to a degree. Sometimes what people are asking for is just not worth it–they are just asking too much for what I get in return. I try to decide if the time/effort that I’m putting towards a project is worth what I am receiving.
6) How will I feature this item authentically?
Almost always, before even agreeing to collaborate, I try to imagine the photo I will be taking. I want sponsored posts to blend in with the rest of my feed. If I’m having a hard time imaging how I could do that, I just don’t take the job.
My thoughts on being an Instagram Influencer
First of all, I’ll say that this is pretty much a dream “job” for me. I’m able to stay home with my children, homeschool them, and I’m paid (in products and money) to take pictures of my family–something I would be doing with or without the “paid” part. I feel very blessed and so very undeserving. I have no idea where things will go from here but I’m hoping to be able to continue to grow and earn more as time goes on.
However, I’m sure there are some people who don’t like the whole idea of it. I actually used to be one of those people to some degree. I would see someone’s sponsored post and think “they’re just doing it for the money.” And I know some people really are. But I would hope that I have built up enough trust with my followers for them to know that that’s not who I am.
I don’t take this all lightly. As I’ve already outlined, I put a lot of thought into every single post. I want to remain authentic, even if I’m getting paid. It is also more important to me to remain authentic and share our family with everyone who has been so kind to us than for me to essentially make my page into constant advertising. I would rather decline jobs than make you feel like you’re constantly being sold to.
Now instead of rolling my eyes when I see someone post something sponsored, I try to be supportive and engage as I see fit. Because really, we’re all just trying to make the best of our opportunities and spend more time with our families.
I really wouldn’t even be in this position with out all of YOU! So thank you so much for following along! I’ve already said it but I feel so undeserving. There are so many accounts out there that are so much more deserving than mine, yet you all still come back to support me time and time again. Thank you so much! I hope this post shows my heart behind everything that I post and that you can continue to trust that I am always being completely genuine. You are all the best!
Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll share some tips on improving your feed and growing your Instagram!
(You can now find that post HERE!)
P.S. If you’re a shop that has reached out to me with no response, it could be one of three reasons. 1) I didn’t find it to be a good fit. 2) I didn’t want to take on too much (for example, I get a TON of requests from shops that sell bows/headbands. I have missed out on collaborating with some really amazing shops just because I felt too overwhelmed to take on more.) 3) I misplaced your email or your direct message on Instagram disappeared before I could respond. I’m working on becoming better organized! Feel free to reach out again!