I debuted my alter ego last June after graduating from college and leaving the judgment of my friends behind, and I haven’t looked back since. To be fair, the title of this post is a little misleading – I’ve actually started blogs before that I maintained for a few months before my embarrassment got the best of me and I deleted them. I also had YouTube channels that I deactivated through the years – one even had over 50 videos! The Wisconsinista and all of its blog, Instagram, and YouTube glory, however, is here to stay (for as long as I live in Wisconsin, anyway).
Needless to say, I have learned so much about being a content creator since writing my first blog post (which you can read here). Now that I have more than rudimentary knowledge about influencer marketing, travel blogging, and pursuing the digital nomad lifestyle, I want to share it with you! While I’m far from being an expert, I’ve watched enough YouTube videos, researched enough hashtags, and learned enough HTML to have some insight on the topic for someone who didn’t major in marketing. Read on for my biggest takeaways from my first year as a content creator.
Go Public or Go Home
I was afraid to make my Instagram public and switch to a business account. Since the content from my personal account had already laid the foundation for my personal brand, I never had plans to create a separate account for content creation. This definitely increased the vulnerability I felt during the initial transition to being a “public figure,” since all of my friends and family were following my every move.
Did they think I was going public and using hashtags just to increase how many followers I had? It was of course about something completely different, but who could’ve known at the beginning?
People in your personal life may be quick to judge at first, but they are more than welcome to hit the unfollow button if your new online presence bothers them without any harm done to you. Analytics are critical for your brand’s success and making the transition to a public business account helps to solidify your presence as a content creator.
Find Your Niche, but be Well-Rounded
Finding your niche (in other words, finding what your “specialty” is when it comes to content creation) is, in fact, a really important piece of advice to embrace. Every blogger, brand, and Buzzfeed listicle will mention establishing your niche amongst their top tips for becoming an online influencer, but if anything, it’s not mentioned enough.
If you want to create travel content, for example, you need to figure out what kind of travel content you can consistently create or have already so that you don’t run out of things to write and post about. I am passionate about exploring new places in my home state, so Wisconsin travel is a great niche for me. You might focus on a region of travel like I did, the type of traveler you are (i.e. solo female traveler or travel couple), or certain types of travel (family-friendly or wheelchair accessible).
What those listicles don’t always tell you, though, is to be well-rounded within that niche. Show off your personality and what you can offer brands through a partnership that others can’t. I might be better catered to a partnership with a lakeside cabin rental than a fancy hotel downtown because my content has mostly natural backdrops and because I’m always on the water! This is where your creativity comes in: what makes you uniquely you?!
Grow Your Community – Not Your Followers
Starting from zero followers seems pretty daunting, but every influencer before you did the same. While the key might appear to be raising that number as quickly as possible, there’s actually way more to it than that. While it might slow your quantitative growth in the beginning, connecting with other content creators in your niche or with similar interests will help you create an engaged community and look at your followers as friends and fans instead of names on a list.
If you hope to pursue content creation as a side-hustle or career, then yes, it will still feel like work sometimes (because it is), but you can make that work way more fun (and easier, honestly) by having a supportive network of people in your industry.
You probably love social media already if you’re hoping to work in the field, so why not remind yourself and others that it’s meant to be enjoyed! Your successful entrepreneur self will thank you later!
Make Your Content Valuable and it will be Worth Something
Have you ever thought it was kind of silly, even easy, that people get paid just to post a picture on Instagram? While there is so much more behind-the-scenes work to content creation than that, the reason people get paid to create social media content is because it has value – a lot of value, depending on who you are. Virtually all of us use social media everyday, and if you’ve ever questioned how commercials pay for themselves, just think how much higher the return is on influencer marketing advertisements!
Influencers become influencers because the photos they take have such a distinct personality, even prestige, that they can’t be created by just anyone. Maybe it’s the quality of the photography and editing itself, but ever since the public backlash of the ‘highlight reel’ began, personal branding – in whatever form – can help an influencer stand out.
I actually landed my first paid collaboration recently thanks to my love for water skiing – a women’s fashion company was looking to debut their new wetsuit design and my pitch to wear and photograph it while swivel skiing was something they wouldn’t easily be able to recreate themselves. Embrace and emphasize your unique skills and knowledge, as they will help you stand out from the crowd and increase the value of your content!
Learn How to Make the First Move
Don’t just make the first move – learn how to make the first move. This means reaching out to brands for collaborations before they reach out to you, but continuing to hone your pitches, prices, and pictures each time. You’ll probably find that most of your emails never get a response, while others might offer a firm no. You’ll also probably look back on your first pitch emails and cringe (I know I have!)
Know that just because you don’t have a “job” (collaboration) to work on every day doesn’t mean you don’t have a job to work at every day. Creating content that isn’t sponsored lets you focus on what you want the foundation of your brand to be and lets you better connect with your followers and create that engaged community I mentioned before.
Above all, strive to do work that improves the quality of other peoples’ days and lives, whether by introducing them to products they could benefit from or showcasing a new destination that will inspire them to travel, while also improving the quality of your own life by putting money in your pocket and helping you gain financial independence. That was a long sentence to finish with, but I string it all together because content creation should be mutually beneficial – as an ecologist might say, you should have mutualistic relationship with your followers. You both should benefit from the content you create!