How Many Influencers Does It Take to Change a Lightbulb?
Too many to follow!
Ok bad joke aside, being an influencer is more involved than just having a nice smile and being charming. Influencing is a heavily calculated business.
Knowledge of the influencer world can benefit your own social media presence, whether or not you’d like to be paid to partner or promote content and products.
What is an Influencer Anyways?
In 2019, unlikely as it may seem, you can make a living by being charismatic, strategic, and lucky on social media (mostly on Instagram).
Influencers are people who post on social media using endorsements, product placements, and partnerships with brands. In a Vox article earlier this year, journalists reported that smaller scale, non-celebrity influencers can typically earn between $30,000 to $100,000 in a year.
While celebrity-branded partnerships are not a new idea, the advent of the “lifestyle” influencer is relatively new. These influencers are essentially their own businesses. They work to show their day-to-day life through photos and videos in a way that involves and engages the viewer.
Influencers are the digital second cousin to “word-of-mouth” advertising. Influencers are effective because they present authentically and are knowable, thus trustworthy. They are real people, living their mundane or exceptional everyday lives and building follower confidence and trust.
Followers are along for the ride, interacting, commenting, liking photos and clips, and then modeling or internalizing influencer consumer behaviors and habits.
Some influencers have their own line of products. Some offer promo codes to new users for various products and services. Other influencers make appearances at events (2019’s Met Gala included a bevy of YouTube personalities and influencers) and then post content about their experiences.
Influencing is about being personal and humanized, but having targeted marketing. If you are a clever self-promoter with a personal brand and you capitalize on your follower base, you are an influencer.
Is it Easy to Become an Influencer?
While it may look easy to be an influencer ... the answer to this question? Absolutely not.
To be considered a “micro-influencer” you need to have at least 3,000 followers. Most self-starting Instagram influencers fall into the “nano” or “micro” influencing category. How many followers do you have?
With more than 95 million photos being posted on Instagram daily, it’s hard to stand out if you are angling to be an influencer. Many influencers need to try for years before being picked up by sponsors and gaining enough credibility to make any money.
In response to the thousands of people attempting to make money influencing and the literal millions of photos and posts to outperform, marketing trends are embracing influencer marketing. There are even companies that represent influencers, posting profiles with past sponsors listed, engagement stats, and per-post pricing.
If you want to be an artist influencer, read on. More importantly, if want to learn from influencers to have a savvier social media presence, keep on reading!
Using Instagram with a Purpose
Influencers are people who have, well influence. Scratch that… influencers don’t just have influence, they cultivate it. You can too.
What do you want to do with your social media presence? Clarify your social media and marketing goals. Use Instagram wisely. Put in some initial work, and then let Instagram work for you.
Choosing an Account Type
Start with the basics.
What type of account do you have? Is your account type serving your business needs?
Some artists have art-only Instagram accounts and keep a separate personal account (or don’t have one!). Other artists blend the personal and professional on their account. Some artists use a business account.
There is no one right way to go about presenting yourself on Instagram. Each account type has pros and cons, think through which makes the most sense for you to have.
And for goodness sake, make your account public!
Deciding on Your Content Approach
An account where you post art-related things is considered a professional account. You are presenting yourself as a career artist.
The pros of this type of account? Your content is easy to create. You know exactly what you are posting about (art, sales, events, your process). Your followers are also potential customers, you have a built-in niche audience of people who are interested in your work and in you.
An account with a combination of your art and personal content allows you to connect to your followers in a more intimate way. While an artist only account is strictly professional, this type of blended account can work to your business advantage as well.
Think back to influencers. They blend their day-to-day life with their work, product placement, and endorsements. You can easily attach yourself to your work with this type of account. However, make sure that your posted content is cohesive. Remember, you are showcasing your work not just your private life.
If you choose to blend the personal and the professional, think about different features on Instagram that can help you mediate your two “identities.” If you are posting purely personal and maybe private content, filter for “close friends” when you post using stories.
You can get personal on a strictly-business account as well. Post occasionally about what is important to you. Share a backstory to part of your art career, or highlight something you care about that is also related to your art.
Using a Business Account
If you aren’t already using one, turn your Instagram account into a business account!
Using a business account allows you to see analytics, create ads, add a “contact button,” and, if you gain over 10,000 followers, create live links in stories that will help you drive more business to your website or Artwork Archive platform.
If you want to pitch yourself as an influencer or partner to a brand, a business profile will allow you to show your engagement data and prove yourself as “influential.”
With business account analytics, you are able to see your reach, how people found your account (from hashtags, from your profile, etc.), and the number of likes, shares, saves, and comments.
Crafting Your Bio, and Why it Matters
Your bio on your Instagram account is like a business card plus, it should deliver a quick powerful punch of information and be reader-friendly.
This is the place for you to succinctly introduce yourself, add a link to a website or contact, and give a taste of your brand and aesthetic. Instagram allows you up to 150 characters for a bio. At most, that’s a sentence of text.
So, get to the point. Include your name, what you do, your contact info, and gallery/other association. Make it simple, but make it align with you. Don’t be afraid to add an element of the personal into your bio, maybe throw in an emoji—take a leaf from the influencers and remember that personality and human touch drive business and engagement.
Influencing in the Arts
So we know there are tons of influencers out there selling face moisturizer, drinking their sponsored paleo, keto, or alkaline smoothies. But what does influencing in the art world look like?
There are a few heavy hitters on the art scene who have managed to cross over to mainstream appeal, like MET curator Kimberly Drew.
Sure, there are galleries with large followings and even accounts for gallery enthusiasts like Gary Yeh, who amassed over 94k followers by going to art openings around the world and posting artist interviews.
What does being an actual artist and an influencer look like?
It’s up to you! You’re the artist. You’re the one thinking about how to add influencer marketing to your docket. How would partnerships or collaborations best serve you?
Artists with large scale visibility often partner with brands to collaborate on different product lines and then post about their line and its umbrella company. Brian Donnelly (KAWS) is a visual artist who teams up with the brand Uniqlo to create pop-art-cartoon clothing.
However, you don’t need a line of clothing to influence.
Artist influencer marketing can be as small scale as partnering with local businesses, designing a label line or poster for a local brewery, or cross-promoting an art district’s open studio night.
Think about influencer marketing more broadly.
You can turn any sort of commission into influencer marketing when you make a promotional deal with your employer and post to promote their business/product as well as yours.
Adopting an Influencer Mentality
Use an influencer mentality and start small by cross-promoting yourself, talking to potential sponsors, and continuing to market yourself and your work.
Remember that your online success is also dependent on your offline efforts. Create relationships, online and offline, with the people you want to combine efforts with.
Think about the people you admire and want to work with. Follow them on Instagram. Develop online art crushes and let them know you like their work!
Want to work with a supplier or framer? Tag and mention them when you are using their products. This could be any time you use an art supply or material that you particularly like, go to a new gallery or read an article on a blog that you enjoy.art supplies, galleries, or art blogs).
Self-promotion and relationship building could be as little effort as making sure to tag all other artists at a group show in a story or post. Those artists (if they are savvy), might repost or include your story in their story.
You’ve just reached a new audience of people. An audience that already likes art and will probably like yours.