When Mikayla Iverson started her professional Instagram page in August 2018, she had no idea that in less than a year she would have more than 83,000 followers. When it comes to being a social media influencer, Iverson has the tips, tricks and know-how to making it big online. Her journey hasn’t been easy, but she says the payoff has been worth it.
At first, Iverson said she didn’t want to get her hopes up about “making it big” because she knew it would be hard. As a model, actress, wife and mother, she said her life was already insane. However, she said, “My acting career is really successful and I want to be able to take it to that next step, and so in order to do that, I needed to be able to have some traction on social media as well.”
Adam Durfee, a BYU professor who runs the Y-Digital lab and specializes in social media and online marketing, said, “Influencers on social media tend to be people who have garnered a larger-than-average following based on a particular niche; travel, food, health, etc.” These influencers, he said, are typically local people who the public know and trust. This is different from celebrities who use their fame as opposed to their expertise in a specific niche.
Iverson recalled that the hardest part about becoming a social media influencer was just doing it. “I knew that I was going to look stupid. The way our society is, you’re going to look and you’re going to feel stupid, and that’s just the harsh truth of it,” she said. For the first few months, Iverson said she worked really hard without seeing any results, even investing in an expensive camera. In November 2018, she said she’d reached about 2,400 followers and simply felt burned out.
“I didn’t know if I could do it anymore,” she said. “It was too much work.” On top of that, she was getting plenty of backlash.
“A lot of people I knew didn’t follow me when I first started,” she said. “When you do anything, sometimes I think the people who are supposed to be your biggest supporters support you the least.” Even now, she said, many of her friends and family don’t follow her on Instagram.
With no support and no results, she was ready to give up on becoming an influencer. Then she had a revelation.
“I got my headshots done and the guy that took my picture posted them on his Instagram,” Iverson said, “That single photo of my head got like 5,000 likes. He didn’t have a lot of followers either, so I tried to figure out what it was.” The secret, as it turned out, was hashtags.
Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags on a regular post and up to 10 hashtags on a story. Once Iverson discovered how much hashtags can influence a post, she began researching specific hashtags and the number of uses each of those hashtags had. She found out that each hashtag is tied to a specific niche and then realized that one of her niches is being a redhead. From there, her Instagram took off.
Now, spending about 40 minutes a day on her Instagram, Iverson said her page is supporting their family in a very real way.
“I have to give a disclaimer that I don’t really like Instagram if I’m being honest,” Iverson admitted. “I don’t really like social media in general, which is probably pretty weird hearing that from a social media influencer.” Despite this, Iverson has been able to make a career out of her Instagram while furthering her acting career and being home with her daughter.
As an influencer, Iverson represents products and brands from her page. She explained that companies usually reach out and negotiate a rate, then she creates content with or based around that company’s products. “I think a lot of influencers are doing it wrong,” Iverson said, “Because there’s a lot of great websites out there where you can work with real, legit companies that have products that you use every day.” For example, she said she just finished working with Amazon and will start working with Cliff Bar. Websites such as Mavrck.co connect businesses with influencers, which is how Iverson has gotten her bigger deals, she said.
Durfee explained that from a marketing standpoint, people like Iverson are of high value because they hold power over the purchasing influence.
“People don’t believe this, but you can start making money with as little as 1,000 followers,” Iverson said. “Your influence has value. And as long as you stick to your guns and realize that you have value, it might only be at first like $10, whatever you’re comfortable with, but you have value no matter what. If companies are going to get exposure and advertisement out of you liking a product, then you deserve something back for that. That’s why I say anybody’s an influencer.”
In order to make money, Iverson also gave a few tips that have helped her increase her following.
“When people ask me how to grow their Instagram,” Iverson said, “I suggest using a preset to edit their photos.” Iverson bought a color scheme preset, though she says people could also make their own in Lightroom so that all her posts and images flow together in a pleasing way. She also suggests using comments to build a following and create strong relationships with others. When someone comments, reply sincerely to that comment and comment back on one of their photos. “Comments are a gift,” she explained. “It’s important to become real friends with your followers instead of being a fake follower.”
Iverson firmly believes that people should do what they love, even when it’s hard. After initial months of difficulty, Iverson has arrived at a place where she can pick her own schedule, be with her family, enjoy acting and modeling and be creative on social media while making money. She concluded by saying that if people would take that leap and do what they love, the world would be a better place.
Though Instagram is a common platform for influencers, Youtube provides similar opportunities.
Chase Kaylor is working to turn his love of Star Wars from a hobby into a way to make money on YouTube using his background in film. Because more than 400 hours of video content is uploaded to YouTube every minute, Kaylor said consistency is vital.
“In order to get any attention on a platform that is so saturated like YouTube, you really have to be creating content all the time — content that will not only capture the attention of viewers but will also capture the attention of YouTube itself,” he said. “When YouTube sees that you’re putting in an effort and you’re doing it constantly, that’s when they start bumping you up and start showing your channel to people who don’t subscribe to you.”
Unlike Iverson, Kaylor is in the beginning stages of his social media ventures with his channel Beyond the Reel Pod. “It’s pretty hard to get yourself out there. It almost 100% relies on online word of mouth,” Kaylor said.
With so many people seeking to be social media influencers, will the trend last?
Durfee said he doesn’t think so, but that many will disagree with him.
“A lot of marketers will tell you that influencers are the future of social media marketing,” he said. “I think that the idea that we share everything about ourselves online to anyone who’s willing to look is a finite concept.”
As Durfee suggested, marketers disagree with his thinking. According to Buisness Insider Intelligence, based on Mediakix data, the influencer marketing industry is on track to be worth up to $15 billion by 2022, up from as much as $8 billion in 2019.
Their research also shows that “every social platform attracts influencers to some degree, but Instagram is the gold standard for the group. Nearly four in five (79%) brands predominantly tap Instagram for influencer campaigns, compared with Facebook (46%), YouTube (36%), Twitter (24%), and LinkedIn (12%).”
Only time and trends will tell what happens with the world of social media influencers. For now, the market is hot and opportunities are available with every like, follow and share.