4 Ways Influencers Can Start Building a Business with Longevity
Last September, Instagram had one of its beloved day-long outages and a terrifying thought crossed my mind: “What if Instagram disappeared tomorrow?”
The honest answer to that question (“my entire business would fall apart”) sent me into pure panic. I realized that, although the chances of Instagram actually disappearing anytime were slim to none, I wasn't willing to gamble. I needed to get smart.
Since then, my attention has shifted. I am no longer entirely focused on growing my Instagram following; I'm happy with the wonderful audience I've built. I am more focused on growing a business that extends beyond myself, that has longevity and that could survive (and THRIVE) without Instagram. I have miles to go, but I've also come miles, gained an incredible amount of knowledge and have a newfound sense of purpose.
Thinking beyond Instagram is not just a good idea for that unrealistic “what if” scenario, but it's also how you will begin increasing your impact and income.
So, I'll ask you the same question.
“Be honest with yourself. If Instagram disappeared tomorrow, what would happen to your business?“
Here are four ways you can begin moving toward an answer that doesn't begin with “F*CK!“:
DIVERSIFY YOUR PLATFORMS
Instagram remains one of the most powerful social media platforms to build a business on and there's enormous financial opportunity for influencers on the ‘gram. But I don't need to remind you of the frustrating algorithm changes that limit reach – you already hear that alarm bell loud and clear every day, yelling that we do not have direct, predictable control over Instagram, its algorithm and how many people our content is shown to.
If you are not putting time and effort into growing and maintaining another social platform and your blog, consider this your wake-up call.
Start creating content consistently and growing your YouTube subscribers. Grow your Facebook page's audience. Make a content calendar and get consistent with blog posts. Master SEO and get your Pinterest strategy on lock to grow your readership. The best part about already having a following on Instagram is that you can direct your audience to those other platforms!
Not only does diversifying your platforms give you more security, it also allows you to negotiate larger, more high-paid brand deals.
For example, let's say a brand approaches you interested in organizing a partnership on Instagram. While you know they're initially only interested in two Instagram posts, you could present them with a couple of packages – the highest priced one being two Instagram posts and a YouTube video. They choose that package vs. the package with only two Instagram posts.
Et voila! You just landed more money than if you just had an Instagram account.
BUILD THAT EMAIL LIST
Arguably more important than growing a social media following is growing your email list. You've heard it everywhere, but I'll say it louder for those in the back: You do not own social followers, but you do own your email list.
Email list subscribers are also more engaged and more loyal to your brand. Think about it – doesn't it feel more intimate and meaningful giving someone your personal email that they can contact you directly at vs. merely following someone on social media?
Admittedly, building my email list is not something I've put much work into up until the last 6 months. But since putting the work in, I've grown my email list 5x, and the thought of social media disappearing tomorrow (God forbid) suddenly doesn't seem like the end of the world because I have tens of thousands I can reach elsewhere.
If you don't know the first thing about growing an email list, I'll show you the basic steps behind one of the best ways to get new subscribers: creating a freebie.
Discover what your audience most desires and most struggles with. If you're creating a freebie, you want to make sure you are creating something your followers actually want. The reason for this is self-explanatory – you want as many people to be interested so that your email list can grow as much as possible.
Finding out what your audience most wants to learn from you is as simple as asking them on Stories or in a caption. Let's go with the example that you're a beauty influencer. Post a video on Stories asking what your followers most struggle with when it comes to makeup. Make sure to throw that question sticker on there so people can send you their feedback!
Create a value-packed freebie. Continuing with the same example, you create a 1 hr. video tutorial on eyeshadow application techniques & best practices because most people who responded to your Story said they struggle with eyeshadow.
Set up the tech & systems to make freebie delivery easy. You want the video to automatically be delivered when someone enters their name & email. I've seen people offer freebies before and MANUALLY send it out to all the people who entered their email… *eyeroll* This is supposed to be passive and effortless!
So, you'll want to set up a lead page – the page where someone will enter their information (example below). I recommend LeadPages.
Set up a mail delivery system that will automatically add the person to your email list, tag their email accordingly & send them the freebie when they submit their information. I suggest ConvertKit or ActiveCampaign as your email marketing service, and recommend using Google and your chosen service's help forum to figure out how to make the tagging and delivery happen.
Promote the sh*t out of the freebie. Post it on Stories, post it on Facebook, promote it in Instagram captions. Get people to click the link to your lead page and give you your email. Write a blog post called “The best eyeshadow palettes of 2019” and at the bottom, promote your freebie!
GET AUTHENTIC & PERSONAL
When people connect with you as a person, they like and trust you. They follow your recommendations and they support you in any venture.
Being authentic, personal and down-to-Earth is an enormous part of what will help you make connections and grow a personal brand & business that transcends a single social media platform. People no longer want to see perfection, narcissism and fake-ness (for lack of a better word) fill their feed; they want a real person they can relate to and connect with.
- Show up on Stories more. Post less curated Stories and start talking candidly to the camera more. And if this feels incredibly awkward to you, do it more. Push yourself and do it more. With practice, you will improve, find your voice and feel more comfortable. I know this from personal experience… If you saw my Stories a year ago vs. my Stories today, there is a world of difference.
- Go live on Instagram. Make a date with your followers – maybe once a month or once week, you make a promise to go live. Going live is an awesome opportunity to interact in real-time with your followers, answer questions and get feedback. It will greatly improve your relationship with your community.
- Be known for a couple of things. Some of the most engaging influencers that I follow are known for something outside of their immediately obvious niche. For example, Ashley from @EverydayPursuits does “coffee talks” on her Stories every morning and Lauryn from @TheSkinnyConfidential shows how she makes a different coffee drink every morning. These little things aren't serious and don't relate to the topics that Ashley and Lauryn post about, but do make their audiences connect with them more and look forward to certain things on their pages.
DIVERSIFY YOUR BUSINESS
If you asked 100 influencers of varying following sizes how they make their income, you would find maybe 10 that respond with “oh, only from brand collaborations.” Most influencers have multiple streams of income, so that they are never fully reliant on Instagram as their only way of making money.
If you're one of the few that doesn't already have another income stream, it's time to diversify!
Evaluate your interests and think about what you might be able to offer others. Some examples:
- Take on social media management clients
- Create and sell a physical product that makes sense for your brand
- Create and sell a digital product that makes sense for your brand
- Create content (photos and/or videos) for brands' use
For more ways you can make income online and spice up your income streams, check out my guide to 9 remote jobs! In addition to providing you killer ideas for bringing in more moolah, the guide also gives some helpful resources to learn new skills and an idea of how much you can expect to bring in with each job.
See how I promoted that freebie? 😉
And now… I would love to hear from YOU!
What do you think is vital for influencers to do outside of Instagram? How have you personally structured your business for longevity?
And more importantly, what would you like to learn more about from me?