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Instagram influencers get a lot of criticism, but they also get a lot of money and opportunities in the real world – if they’re good at their jobs. You need a lot of followers to get to a good level, but there’s more to it than that. Do you want brand deals? Do you want a nice blue tick? You need to keep your followers happy as you grow their ranks. Here is how.

Don’t try to be wrong

Yes, you can edit your photos or post skits with made-up plots, but you still have to look real. It’s a fine line, but it’s what your followers want.

“I’m looking for authenticity with an influencer. I like to follow people who don’t excuse themselves, people who are easy to identify with and who are still down to earth despite having a huge following, ”said T’yanna Angeline, a 23-year-old drama student Brooklyn that keeps up with online trendsetters.

Wajeeh Mahmood, also known as Wajeeh West, a 26-year-old New Yorker with 139,000 followers on the platform, agreed, “When you start posting content that is real to you, you begin to see what your followers are into and what they want most. Much of it is just experimenting. “

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Mahmood posts about his real life experiences and interests – “Fashion, school advice, brown moms and how crazy they are” – then monitors engagement to see what his followers enjoy most.

Even if your interests and contributions are niche, there is a market for them, so don’t force yourself to fake investing in something with broader appeal. That will only turn off potential followers who can sense when you’re looking for something you don’t care about. Angeline, for example, is fed up with influencers posting ads for things like flat-belly tea. They know that they are unlikely to drink it or care about anything other than the money they are getting, and that is why she is “not interested” in them.

“I want to feel like they belong to me,” said Adrienne Charlotte, a 31-year-old in Brooklyn who doesn’t follow typical fashion influencers but loves those who post about home improvement. “I prefer to feel some connection with them, but since I live in a studio in NYC, there is a desire for a home of my own that I could improve.”

Embrace trial and error

Mahmood adhered to two main points in his advice on Instagram success: post what you love and experiment. Much.

Even if you are the hottest, trendiest person in the world it is going to take real work.

Check out your engagements. Study your metrics. Some of your posts are going to suck, and some of them are going to get very few views and likes. Instead of getting discouraged, compare those who do well to those who do well. Find out what the difference is, then post more content that gets good engagement. Even if you are the hottest, trendiest person in the world it is going to take real work. This is what the critics who make fun of influencers lack: Successful influencers work hard. The biggest brands you know hire entire companies to manage their social media. It’s a science and an industry in itself.

Since you already know that you need to be real and true to yourself, pull back the curtain and post how much work is actually put into your pictures, stories, videos, roles and life. Angeline said she’d love to see more of this from the influencers she follows.

“Transparency about influencers’ lives is something I think would give them some peace of mind and give followers some insight into the work they are putting into their social media presence,” she said.

Post regularly and make sure you take the time to do it. First of all, if you want to make money, treat it like a job. You will spend a lot of time staging and taking photos, editing them, interacting with followers, monitoring engagements, and reaching and responding to employees. Plan to invest time in this endeavor.

Be nice to your audience

We heard from two followers and an influencer about the importance of being sincere and relatable, but of course there are also high-follower accounts who post more ambitious than achievable content.

While it’s fun to take a look at closet tours by wealthy kids from time to time or peek inside a private jet, it’s not fun to indulge in. Your followers are what drive your engagement. In a way, once you start monetizing your content, you work for them. Show a little respect to your bosses.

“I think influencers should treat their followers the way they would like someone they admired to treat them,” said Angeline, who has had positive interactions with some influencers herself. “I’m not saying I will interact with everyone, but be sure to make it known that support is valued and give away small freebies or go live for questions and answers. These are just little things to acknowledge the followers and also to remind them that even though they are an influencer, at the end of the day we are all human. “

Charlotte added, “I think influencers should interact with their followers, but I don’t often feel the need to contact them myself. I’m a bit of an introvert so I don’t want to feel pressured into interacting with my followers all the time [if I were an influencer]. All I need is to get an insight into their life. “

You don’t have to reply to every comment, but you can drop a like here and there and just be friendly.

The niceness doesn’t stop with your followers either. When you get a trademark deal, follow it. TikTok is full of horror stories of small businesses sending free goods to influencers on condition that those influencers post about them just to get the poster to haunt the goods upon receipt. Do not do that. Treat everyone you encounter, from fellow influencers to your followers to brand spokesmen, with respect.

Network, collaborate and experiment

There is a lot to learn from influencer royalty, the Kardashian clan. For example, the sisters always post promos for each other’s brands or work together on double starts. Kourtney and Khloé Kardashian have created fragrances with Sister Kim’s perfume line, and all three and sister Kendall Jenner have done collaborations for Kylie Jenner’s makeup line, for example. They all, of course, post about their collective efforts.

Say what you say about the Kardashian-Jenners – even if “what you say” may be a little tired at this point – they know how to encourage engagement and make profits. Nobody is an island and no influencer is a solo act. Remember it.

Mahmood hit social media in middle and high school, but his presence only really took off when he hooked up with a new group of friends in Los Angeles. They were “actually big on YouTube and still killing it,” he said. They taught him the ropes and he ran away with it.

Beyond the value of networking, there is another lesson in this story: there is an advantage to cross-platform integration and marketing. When you do skits on TikTok or makeup tutorials on YouTube that are gaining traction, remind your followers to check out your Instagram.

Instagram also offers plenty of tools to help you build your following in-app. Mahmood pointed out that every Instagram user has access to grid posts, story posts, reels, lives, and IGTV posts. Not only that, he said, but the app wants you to use it so if you use all of the features consistently, you will satisfy the algorithm. While the algorithm is mysterious, it determines whether people who don’t follow you will see your content on the Explore page, so do what Mahmood says here.

Go now, be brave, don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself in public for the perfect shot, thank your followers every now and then and prepare for the inevitability of your first PR box or branding deal .