How to be an Instagram Influencer in 2021

How to be an Instagram Influencer in 2021

It’s no secret a LOT of people are looking to become an Influencer on Instagram nowadays.

People can say anything they want about Instagram and Influencers, but you know what? I am SOLD on the concept, and have been for a long time! Why?

Because influencers are basically a modern concept of a small business. They are independent contractors and make money on their own terms. Some of the more popular ways to make money from their influence are -

- Collaborating with brands on content
- Affiliate sales through swipe-ups
- Even designing products to sell to their audience. 

I’m super passionate about Instagram being a place for women, in particular, to make money online! Haters will say that Influencers do nothing all day but post selfies. But I say being a social media Influencer is a legit career path. 

Sorry, but if you’re getting paid $5,000, $10,000, $20,000 every month? Honey, that’s a JOB. And I am all in.

Now I hate to brag, but I do know a little bit about being an influencer (I’ve been working with brands, and making a living for 2 years with my Instagram!) And if you’re here, you might be interested in becoming an influencer too! If that's the case, I’ve got a few secrets to spill!

So I’ve put together this list of Instagram tips to help you get started on your path to becoming an Influencer! These tips will help you to attract your ideal audience, so that you can eventually collaborate with brands and get PAID. Just like I do!

Whether you're a micro-influencer, or have 100k, there is always room to learn.

So let’s get into it!


NYC influencer and blogger

Phase 1 - Your Content

Influencer Tip #1- Take great photos

It all starts and ends with the photo… it’s what the platform was built on after all! Taking great photos that really resonate with your audience is the key to getting started in the Influencer game.

It’s true that Instagram is favoring video more nowadays (we’ll talk about that in a bit!) Still… I firmly believe that for a healthy account, photos should be at the foundation. Especially if you’re planning to work with brands (99% of the time, they will request feed posts with a photo.)

Now here's the million dollar question… what’s a great photo? Believe it or not, there’s no simple answer to that! 

What makes “great photo” can be subjective, specially within each niche. And there are a LOT of different niches out there, whose audiences all have a different definition of what that “great photo” is. 

Here are some examples of different accounts that I’ve seen pull in 30k likes regularly-

  • Comedy accounts with pics taken in their messy bedrooms
  • Meme accounts that only do reposts (no original content), with grainy photos that you can barely see
  • Chanel-clad SAHM’s who use the same pose, angles, and facial expression in every one of their photos
  • Travel and fashion bloggers whose content is just one jaw-dropping destination after another, edited to perfection
  • Teens with unedited photos taken at purposefully awkward angles
  • Beauty bloggers who post selfie after selfie, no variation except for a different eyeshadow color

The point is, taking the perfect photos have much more to do with knowing your audience, what kind of photos they expect and putting your own spin on it. Each niche has a different pathway to influencing its audience. Just figure out what yours is and go from there!


Influencer Tip #2- Your Edit

Your editing plays a HUGE role in making a great feed. In fact, I’d say editing is almost more important sometimes than having the best photo to work with. I can’t count the number of times I’ve made a sub-par photo come alive with a simple tweak of the exposure, shadows, and clarity tools.

Most people that have developed a specific editing style use presets. Presets give your photos a similar look by applying adjustments to the exposure, saturation, contrast, etc. So if you always want your photos to have a pink tint, you can find a preset to give you that effect!

INFLUENCER TIP- Most professional bloggers and Influencers I know use Lightroom to edit their photos. I use the desktop AND mobile versions to edit my photos… I believe the mobile version is free!

If you aren’t into Lightroom, a lot of people also use apps to get their desired look! These photo editing apps have similar features that allow you to adjust your photos. Though I like Lightroom because it gives you a lot more control, using apps is also a great place to start.

Also, some apps have really fun effects you can add to your photos. I personally have used apps to give my photos graininess, dust, light leaks, and more.

Influencer Tip #3- Captivating Captions

The photo is what draws them in, but the caption is what makes them stay! 

Now again- what is it that makes a “good” caption? And the answer to that again is- it depends! The fact is, good captions hinge on what kind of audience you have, and what niche you are in. And when thinking about it through the lens of your audience, the best captions deliver value to them. 

Now, I hear this phrase tossed around a lot... "Give your audience value." But what does that actually MEAN?? 

I define it as the following things-
  • Inspiring
  • Entertaining
  • Educational
You've got to think to yourself- why does my audience care about what I'm going to post? What do they get out of it? It needs to be something they can relate to or enjoy!

In case you're wondering, I give a COMPLETE breakdown of the best ways to relate to and reach your audience in my guide, Influencer 101!


Influencer Tip #4- Do video. Then do MORE video!

If you’re looking for the #1 way to grow on Instagram this year, there’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it… you HAVE to be doing video. That is- stories, IGTV, and ESPECIALLY Reels.

In 2020, Instagram came out with Reels, their direct competitor to Tiktok. Video was already trending for years as the #1 way to engage your audience. But when it became clear that Tiktok was THE new platform to beat, that sealed the deal. 

Now Instagram wants to take back all the eyeballs that it's been losing with Tiktok. And that's why they are favoring video content, and specifically Reels.

Also, you might have noticed that since Tiktok rose in popularity and Reels came out.... your reach and engagement are way down. EVERYONE I talk to says that their stats are down as much as 50-80%

Now… is it possible that Instagram might be throttling reach on purpose? Absolutely. They want us to buy ads, and they’re not good at hiding it (it's the same play they've been using with Facebook for years.)

But it's also because our culture and the way we consume content has shifted. Tiktok let the genie out of the bottle, and now people are used to its super-sharable, highly addicting and unfiltered content. 

Compared to that, a simple photo might not have the same effect on people anymore... 

But that said, don't worry! Instagram still has almost 1 billion users, most of whom still love seeing your photos every day! It's just that we've now got to diversify a little bit.

So fire up that camera and show your audience what you got!


Phase II- Finding Your People

Influencer Tip #5- Master Hashtags

Having a great hashtag strategy is a must if you're looking to level up your Instagram account!

Now, at the moment, hashtags might feel a little frustrating to you, and I get it.

Instagram has been pushing out updates and playing around with the functionality of hashtags for at least the past year. And every time they do this, it messes with the current algorithms they have in place, that you've learned to work with. And the result is declining reach every time there's a change.

And you know what? That's super annoying!

BUT. Even with all the new tweaks, and even if your reach has dropped for the moment, the fact is this… hashtags still work, guys!

Listen. Your goal is to grow organically, right? Well, growth can't happen unless you're constantly reaching new people. 

The fact is, hashtags is one of the only proven, ORGANIC ways to be reaching new audiences on the platform, hands down. So if that's the case, why would you want to leave all that potential reach on table?

Even though hashtags have gone through some changes, it doesn't mean they don't work anymore. They just require some dedication to adapting and learning the new thingst that work for you. So don’t give up on them just yet. It only takes a couple minutes per day to do hashtag research, and it's so worth it.

Influencer Tip #6- Follow, Like Comment

This is old advice, but it’s as relevant as ever. Especially if you’re newer to Instagram, you’re going to want to follow, like, and comment on similar accounts to get noticed. Why is this? A couple of reasons!

  • First off- if you have a newer or inactive profile, odds are nobody’s going to know about it. When you're first starting out, organic discovery methods like ranking in hashtags or hitting explore will be an uphill battle. That's because it takes an initial boost of engagement for Instagram to see that your post is rank-worthy. So you need to FLC in order to get your base of people going!
  • The other thing is- community! I can’t tell you how many great connections I’ve made through being comment-buddies with people on Instagram! This also leads to real-world connections and opportunities.

Check out my guide Influencer 101, for an in-depth strategy for the best ways to follow, like and comment to get more followers and engagement!

Influencer tip #7- Build Platforms Outside of Instagram

This is a trend that I’ve been noticing for the past few years. Often, accounts with the best engagement fall into one of three categories-

  • OG accounts who blew up during Instagram’s golden era of growth, continue to be favored by the algorithm, and are really great at keeping up with new trends.
  • Super new accounts who offer a really fresh take on their niche.
  • Accounts that have a REALLY strong following on one or several other platforms.

What I started to realize, was that if you’re not an OG or an Instagram prodigy, accounts with strong presences on other platforms such as Youtube or Tiktok, or a popular blog have developed a super loyal tribe of die-hard fans. Then they leverage all their audiences together to win at Instagram.

For some reason, Instagram doesn’t like when people are ONLY trying to be famous on Instagram. Think about a more traditional celebrity like Justin Bieber or Ariana Grande. Do they have a big following JUST on Instagram? No! They have a big following everywhere because they have a widely known public profile.

The algorithm favors these accounts because it means that they have credibility outside of Instagram, where it’s still super easy to buy likes and followers for numbers.

When there’s an uptick in traffic to your account coming in from large sources like Youtube, Instagram sees you as having a more widespread “celebrity” status. The impressions start coming in from cross-promoting on that platform, and the algorithm says “wow, this person must be SOMEBODY.”

Okay... so what does all this mean for you? 

It means that you could EXPONENTIALLY increase your audience potential if you build several platforms together. Even having a small following on another platform can help tremendously!

So think about an audience you already have, or could see yourself building. Could it be a Facebook group, email list, or Tiktok with a few thousand followers. Then roll them into your current Instagram strategy!


Phase III- Working with Brands

NOW we’re getting to the juicy part! When it comes down to it, this is the reason you want to be an influencer, right? You want great swag, invitations to amazing trips and events, and to get paid for all the hard work you just did. (The cache of being associated with the brands that you love would be nice too!)

This is totally possible once you’ve mastered all of the above tips I gave you, plus all the steps in my guide Influencer 101. Once you’re ready, here are the three ways that you’ll be able to work with brands-
  • Apply for opportunities on platforms
  • Field emails from brands
  • Pitch brands directly

Lucky for you, I have an entire course on pitching and working with brands!

This course takes you through absolutely EVERYTHING you need to know about working with brands- from the first email to the last campaign report.

Now I can’t give away what's in the course. So if I had one piece of advice to give you about it, it would be this-

Don’t work with brands that aren’t aligned with your vision!

This is the #1 mistake I see people make.

Say you’re a high-fashion influencer that starts all of a sudden promoting Wal-mart clothing. Now there’s nothing wrong with Wal-mart. However, your followers have only ever seen you in head-to-toe Gucci looks.

To them, posting about a lower-budget brand would be incongruous with what they’ve come to expect. Therefore, you’ve lost their trust. And that is exactly what you DON’T want. Your followers depend on you. So if they feel like they can’t trust you anymore, you’ve lost the game before it’s even started.

So instead, parse your opportunities carefully. Be honest with yourself. Is that $250 check really worth selling out your followers for? Is it worth losing credibility in their eyes?

To learn even MORE about being an influencer, get my FREE guide Influencer 101 here, and my pitching course Dream Collab here!


Thanks loves. Hope you have a wonderful day!!

♥♥♥ Follow me on Instagram!  @chantillysongs

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