How to Become a Successful ‘Influencer’ on Instagram

There is so much press about Instagram “influencers” making big money — and I suspect many people out there are trying to figure out how to get on that bandwagon. How can someone become an influencer and try to land gigs with companies looking to build an influencer campaign?

According to data from the influencer marketing measurement company Instascreener, there has been an 83 percent year-over-year growth in influencer marketing spend in the U.S. and Canada. But that stat doesn’t tell the story of who today’s influencers are, if and how they’re really making money, and how someone interested in becoming an influencer can get started.

“A lot of people look at their favorite influencers and think: ‘I can do that’ — it looks simple,” says Lily Stern, social media analyst at, a sister site to FitSmallBusiness. “They begin their journey of becoming an influencer by following what their role model is doing. The problem is your role model is already established, already has a following, is already partnering with brands and already posting the content you’re posting.”

Rich Anand, founder and COO of Evolvez Agency, LLC, says there is “absolutely” an opportunity to make money as an influencer,” especially with the rise of the Gen-Z and their digital tendencies.

“There are some brands — like the clothing brand Revolve — that have grown to where they are solely based on influencer campaigns, primarily on Instagram,” Anand explains. “People prefer realistic to idealistic, and they like to be engaged by ‘real people.’ Traditional ads are fading in popularity, and effectiveness for that matter, so brands are employing Instagram influencers to promote their products or services to their audience.”

So how can someone who wants to be an influencer get started?

–Find your niche. It should be something you’re really good at, and outside the over-saturated beauty/lifestyle content on Instagram, Stern stresses.

“Having a niche lets you grow your following with specific hashtags related to your content. It also attracts followers who are interested in that specific content,” she says. “Even if you only have 5,000 followers, as long as they’re 5,000 followers interested in your specific niche, a company within that niche will want to partner with you. After all, why pay a typical lifestyle influencer with 100,000 followers who might only have 3 percent of that audience interested in a company’s niche product, when they could pay you, who has 5,000 followers specifically interested in the topic related to their product?”

–Tap social media tools. Anand suggests using social media management tools like Hootsuite to auto-schedule posts. “However, beware of bots. Although they get your following up for cheap, your engagement will be low, which will hurt your chances with a company,” he cautions. Anand also suggests checking out social media influencer tools like Socialbakers that help companies locate influencers specific to the audience they want to target.

–Take control. “Influencers can take control and understand their audience demographics, as well as engagement rates, and from there they can either direct message the relevant companies on Instagram or connect with their social media team on LinkedIn to see if there is any mutual interest,” Anand says. “Early on, influencers need to control the ‘sales process’ and initiate conversations with the brand they advocate and are willing to promote on their pages.”

(Article written by Kathleen Furore)