Interview on influence, growing your following, and social media marketing in 2019
How did you grow your following on social media? Have you ever bought fake followers for Instagram? Have you ever bought something because an influencer advertised it?
Spilling my answers to ALL of the above in this post in this completely transparent blog post.
1. How did you get started as an influencer?
Hmm, I’m not sure if I’d call myself an “influencer,” mainly because I don’t prefer that term - however, I know it is a current standard in the marketing industry so I appreciate you calling me one! :)
I started my travel blog, Go Seek Explore (goseekexplore.com), in May 2014 exactly one year and a day after graduating college. I had studied abroad for six weeks in Florence, Italy after my sophomore year which was my first time overseas - and I loved it.
My first year out of school I had a major itch to travel and continue exploring Europe, so I applied for a competitive position working as tour guide and social media manager at a study abroad company based in Italy…and months after interviewing, I landed the role!
I also worked for an education company that summer after college in Washington, DC and New York working with international students before moving to Italy for six months. Meeting these students from all over the world further expanded my worldview and how every country and culture deserves to be explored.
After returning from Italy I couldn’t stop thinking about travel and how I could continue seeing the world. I also used to have a personal style blog I did for fun in college, and I wrote a post called “10 Reasons Why You Should Travel After College” and shared it on my personal Facebook page. Not only did it get dozens of likes and shares, I was then flooded with messages and comments from people asking how they too could find ways to work + travel, or even simple questions about traveling.
So I created my travel blog to help answer these questions and fuel my creative side…and have been blogging ever since!
2. What made you want to become an influencer?
For me it was never about gaining followers just to look popular or to get sponsors. I hardly used Instagram when I started blogging (I also had a Windows Phone which didn’t even have the Instagram app…I know, shocker! I was so happy when I got a new phone that had Instagram)!
Honestly, I’ve always loved creative work and feel this inner pull to not just create for myself, but to use the content I put out to help or inspire people. Reading emails or direct messages from people who say my content has helped them - whether it is from my blog, Instagram, book, or elsewhere - is incredibly rewarding. I’m feel happy and blessed that I now get to call this one of my jobs!
3. How many people, on average, see your posts? How many take actions?
This depends on the platform. For my website, I’ll get around 15,000 pageviews per month, though the number tends to increase in the summer, when more people are planning travel. I feel like people are regularly digesting micro-content these days (example: Instagram Stories) instead of consistently reading long-form posts on their favorite blogs, but I do see the number rising generally. A majority of my traffic comes from Google and Pinterest.
I have an email list of over 3,400+ people where I send out weekly #MotivationMonday emails, as well as some free digital downloads that help people set clear goals or learn how to get started working around the world.
The email list serves as a place to nurture my audience and provide consistent free value, but it also has strategic funnels in place to guide them toward purchasing my book, Lightroom presets, or online programs. My blog is a business, and I do my best to earn money in a way that provides valuable products or programs my audience will love.
On Instagram I currently have 14,800 followers and have been getting a 5-8% engagement rate, which I am happy with! Growing Instagram has taken me a while, as I just hit the coveted “10k” mark last August after 4+ years of blogging, but it has been worth it as this platform is great for building your brand and finding new people in your targeted audience.
4. Do you have any opinions on social media marketing (is it good or harmful)?
Social media marketing is wonderful! We are blessed to live in an age where the internet and technology allows us to connect with people around the world, instantly. 99% of businesses should be marketing via social media and if they haven’t gotten started, they should or they’ll get left behind.
You can be incredibly targeted with both organic and paid content and naturally use the various social networks in a different context to match the “mood” of the user when they’re on it. It’s brilliant and social media marketing is only getting stronger and more necessary.
5. Have you ever bought anything because an influencer advertised it?
View this post on Instagram
We all have to-do lists, but what about to-be lists? To be present, grateful, loving, accepting, and joyful ⭐️ What do you think? . Also ➡️ SWIPE to see one of the most beautiful sunsets from our balcony!! . 😎 wearing my @diffeyewear sunnies today; they are an awesome brand that donates a pair of reading glasses with every purchase made! They’re currently doing a buy one get one free event for a few more days 😎 Love supporting businesses doing good things in the the world 🌎 . . 📷 by @cristinatoscan #diffday #diffpartner #dominicanrepublic #ootdfashion
Yes! All. The. Time! When you follow your favorite bloggers and influencers online, you trust them because you can either relate to them and/or you aspire to be more like them.
I also like how (a majority) of influencers share honest opinions about products and whether or not it actually works for them.
Word-of-mouth is the best form of marketing and people who trust a brand are more likely to buy, so if you trust the influencer (you could even say they’re like a salesperson) then you’re more likely to buy it.
6. How did you get the following you had today?
Years of consistent growth, even though it was super slow in the beginning as I was blogging on the side for years! For my blog, Pinterest has been huge. Knowing how to use Pinterest strategically can really help boost your traffic, following, and grow your email list. I now focus almost primarily on Pinterest for businesses as a freelancer through my creative agency because it’s so awesome.
For Instagram, again, a lot of consistency. I’ve focused on improving my photography, photo editing, and really putting work into my captions so I can provide value for my audience. Not only does it help them, but seeing people send my posts to their friends means a lot and helps it grow. Hashtags have helped too.
For more behind-the-scenes stuff, I’ve done a couple giveaways that helped grow my numbers faster and have also used an app that engages with targeted users in my niche that I think would be interested in my content and/or products. However, I have not done a giveaway or used the engagement app for a while.
7. If you care to share, do you have any opinions on influencers who buy their followers, as opposed to a more steady gaining?
It’s a cheap way to get started. Do you really want to build your brand and platform and be talking to an empty room? But a lot of people did it when they got started. Years ago I don’t think it mattered as much, but now as brands increasingly build Instagram Marketing into their budgets and work with influencers, they can see through fake followers a mile away.
As someone who does freelance work with brands for social media, it’s very easy to spot, though people are getting savvier about hiding it. On the business side I’ve heard of some businesses just buying 1,000 or so Instagram followers to get started to help them seem a little more credible. I don’t think that is so bad, but to each their own.
Personally, I’ve never bought followers (if I did, I’d have a wayyyy bigger following, haha)! Sometimes I honestly wonder if I had bought a small amount followers when Instagram were new, if I’d have grown faster. I’m not sure. I’m glad that I know that 100% of my audience is real though.
Since I am playing the long-game - and have huge goals regarding more books, programs, and impact - I aim to grow my numbers for the following reasons:
I want to reach as many targeted people in my niche that I think will find my content useful, as these people are prospective customers or even can act as “ambassadors” (meaning if they truly love and connect with my content, they’ll share it naturally with their network which means my message spreads more)
To be totally honest, brands who partner with travel bloggers constantly look at your Instagram following now almost more than any other platform. If you want to work with quality brands in your niche, you've got to play by their rules. It’s the current reality. And whether it should be the only metric they go off of or not, your Instagram followers play a huge role in brands working with you. So while I could *say* I care less about the follower count, I really do see it as a tool to not only reach more people, but to connect with quality brands in the travel and lifestyle categories that I think my audience would be interested in! :)
For those new to social media who want to grow their personal brand on Instagram, I highly recommend using hashtags and doing giveaways! Those have really helped me.
An engagement app is talked about both positively and negatively among people as everyone has their own opinions. Honestly I only used one app a while back and it did help me reach more amazing souls that I’d actually want to connect with anyways.
Some people do “comment pods” (a direct message group of about 8-15 people) where they comment on each other’s posts. I haven’t done that in years because they’re time consuming and don’t think they’re as effective as they used to be, though I still hear of people using them today to help boost their initial post engagement.
Again - to each their own with how they choose to grow their audience!
For businesses new to Instagram, word around the block is that Instagram Story Ads are a great way to reach more people and build your initial following. And making sure your feed and aesthetic looks cohesive and is aligned with your brand.
Also, knowing how Instagram, like any social network, is different, and people go on Instagram for a different reason than they do for Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or YouTube.
Understand that, and you’re steps ahead of so many businesses who publish content on Instagram that doesn’t make sense for the context of the platform.
8. What is the responsibility of an influencer?
This really depends on what their brand is built on. For many influencers, they are showing their personal lives and building a personal brand. I don’t think they really have “responsibility.” I do think influencers need to be aware that no matter what their follower count is, there are many potential instant viewers on the internet and to only share messages that align with their personal values.
9. Do you see yourself in this field in 5 years? 10? 30?
Yes, in some form or another, I plan to be using the power of social media, the internet, or whatever form of marketing I can use to share positive messages with the world. :)