The social media landscape has allowed people to live vicariously through the lives of others, especially with the rising popularity of Instagram.
Through Insta-stories, pictures and videos, Instagram has evolved into a money-making machine with many brands opting to collaborate with influencers, who are known as content creators and Key Opinion Leaders (KOL).
The Internet Users Survey 2017 by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) revealed that:
- 9% considered the internet as a main source of information.
- 1% out of 21.9million social media users in 2016 were Instagram users.
In 2016, a survey by research consultancy Kantar TNS found that Malaysians were the most active users on Instagram within the Asia Pacific region. Thus, advertisers are inching away from traditional media as the public are turning to digital platforms to make their decisions.
What’s even more surprising is that, 48% of internet users aged between 55 and 65 were active on Instagram (adorably known as Insta-Gran).
Furthermore, agencies are expanding job searches to fit roles such as a social media manager, whose daily tasks include managing social media pages for brands.
But if you are considering joining the Insta-ranks, be warned, it’s not as easy as snapping a picture and hitting the upload button.
Hence, before you start your journey to social media fame, here are five things you need to know about Instagram stardom.
1. Follower count is king for cash
The industry is measured in followers, because the more people you have under your influence, the more brands will want (to pay) you.
However, there is no streamlined rates for influencers because this is ultimately decided by the influencer themselves. In brief, rates are decided based on the number of followers – the more followers you have, the more leverage you have to negotiate your worth.
The rates vary depending on who you are looking at and can range anywhere from RM150 up to RM2,000!
Here’s a comparison of actual rates we’ve obtained from an industry insider.
Package (Instagram + Facebook):
A static post refers to a picture post and as shown, there is no streamlined rate.
Even though influencer D has more followers than influencer B, he/she charges 25% less. The most probable reason for this, is that their platform on Instagram isn’t as marketable as his/her blog, which he/she charges RM1,800 per post.
So, how do you determine how much to charge? Well this should depend on your follower count, if you have more than 10,000 followers you can follow the average benchmark, which would be around RM600.
According to another industry source, newcomers usually charge between RM150 and RM300, and those with a massive following can negotiate their rates up to thousands.
However, even if the rates have been set, it could differ once you negotiate with a sponsor – they might state their budget and you will have to work around that.
If you are just starting out and are still trying to find a reasonable rate (should you be approached by a brand), you can use an Instagram money calculator, which factors in engagement rates and follower counts to determine your worth.
2. Engagement trumps follower count
Brands who are looking to endorse influencers are most likely to check their engagement, which refers to likes and comments.
When a sponsor does engage with an influencer, they will record how many comments and likes each post garnered.
One of the reasons for this is for them to gauge whether the influencer is worth the money and also, to uncover if their followers are bought or bots. Yes, the existence of fake followers are very much real, so much so that there is website such as FakeCheck.co, which vets an Instagram profile for fake followers.
Such websites will take account of social engagement, by checking factors such as growth in followers, like and comment ratios and so forth.
Generally, the engagement should be at least 10% of their follower count. For example, an influencer with 10,000 followers should get at least 1,000 comments or likes.
Also, engagement benefits the influencer as high engagement means you can negotiate your worth.
3. Hashtags drive discovery (and trouble)
Hashtags aren’t just for humour, it is used as a tool to maximise an influencer’s growth and reach.
If you notice, some posts are flooded with an array of hashtags. This is because it can bring people to their profile (better known as discovery), especially through trending and popular hashtags such as #ootd (outfit of the day).
However, there has been talk about an “Instagram Shadowban”, which is basically when Instagram makes an account invisible if they have gone against the community rules and regulations.
Being shadow-banned is not a good thing if you are trying to make it in the influencer world, as your posts are hidden from being discovered even if you’ve used a hashtag. What’s even more unfortunate is that, Instagram will not notify you and you might see a dip in your engagement.
The shadowban isn’t an issue Instagram has clarified or spoken out about, but here’s what we know so far for you to understand what not to do:
- Spamming the feed – if you are constantly posting pictures on Instagram, you could be shadowbanned as spammy accounts are a no-no, especially if you’ve used hashtags.
- Hashtag overload – some hashtags, even if they aren’t explicit, could be banned if others have posted inappropriate content with the hashtag. Additionally, you could also be subjected to a ban if you’ve overused a certain hashtag. Hence, your picture will not show up in discovery, which in turn affects your engagement rate.
- Reported by other users – if you have violated the community guidelines and other users have hit the report button on you, Instagram could disable your account or shadow ban it without you knowing.
- A bot problem – users using software to hike up follower counts or any software that goes against the Insta-rules, will be shadowbanned as bots tend to spam accounts.
One way to know if you have been shadow-banned is if your picture does not show up in discovery even when you’ve used a hashtag.
Thus, if you are using hashtags, don’t overflood your caption with it and make sure your profile is made public because there is no discovery for private profiles.
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4. Content creation is key
This is the foundation of gaining followers and getting engagement with the masses. There are many ways you can get people interested, sometimes, being a mother with cute kids can also make the cut because people like what they can relate to.
There are also those who have tapped into a specific market such as fitness (@hnshshrl) or food (@kenhuntsfood). Moreover, some influencers have banked in on the unexpected, such as @leeeeming, who gained 16,700 followers, by being a vintage pin up model.
Whatever content you dive into, the way you present it matters. If you check out our local influencers, their pictures are easy on the eyes and are nicely set out.
To get you started, here are the three popular content types you will come across (and get inspired by).
The flat lay
This is when all the items of interest are laid out and placed closely together. The angle of a picture is taken directly above the items. There is even an Instagram profile which posts flat lays (@flatlays).
*image from @flatlays Instagram
Everyone loves to look at food, especially when you’ve got food with multiple textures and colours. Food photos taken from angles such as the one below, are easy on the eyes and look delicious even through the screen.
The quick video
You may have noticed the rising trend of quick instructional videos, such as cooking or beauty videos which only take a minute to understand. There is a demand for such videos as people want to learn new things quickly.
5. Timing is imperative
The time you post could determine how much traction you bring to your picture or video. However, to determine what time you should post, you must be consistent.
Doing this, you can compare what time gets you the most likes and just keep your posts to these time intervals each day.
Additionally, you can also check your profile’s insights by clicking on the right corner of your profile. This will give you access to impressions (number of times your post has been seen), reach and profile visits – you can read further about accessing your Instagram insights on the Facebook business help page.
However, there are applications you can download which finds your timing for you, such as Buffer, which even sends you reminders of when it’s time to post.
Is this a potential side hustle?
Contrary to popular belief, gaining the “Instafamous” status is actually hard work. It is possible to do it part-time while having a stable job, but how far you can go depends on your commitment and content strategy.
However, this isn’t something you should quit your job for because, as we’ve mentioned above, the competition is fierce.
If you are ready to snap awesome pictures on the daily, make videos, track your engagement and find out what your followers love, then start it as a hobby – not as a job – to avoid the disappointment.
Regardless, if you are willing to attempt it, here is what you need for your Insta-starter kit:
- Make your profile public: this goes without saying but we’ll say it anyway – no private mode if you want to be discovered.
- Picture quality: Instagram is all about the visuals and no one likes blurry, bad quality pictures. Hence, invest in a camera or start using your phone’s camera and play around with the filters. Additionally you can also use other applications to edit your pictures (example: vscocam)
- Set a theme: to make your profile appealing to potential followers, set a colour theme for your profile and ensure each post sticks to the theme.
- Make videos: try making a video and track the reach – if it works, keep on at it. You can pick one of your hobbies, such as cooking, makeup or something different such as knitting to teach people new skills!
- Edit carefully: this should go with your theme, once you set your theme, take down how you filter and streamline your editing skills throughout all your posts.
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However, don’t expect brands to be approaching you left and right, especially if you are new at this – like we said, it takes a lot of time before you gain followers and brands start taking notice of you.
So, as a side hustle, it depends on your marketability, but we don’t recommend jumping into it full-time, especially if you have less than 1,000 followers. It’s best you build up your Instagram repertoire before you consider being a full-time influencer.
Regardless, if you are keen, give it a try, you never know where you could go with this!