I recently picked up some adorable fall dresses at Torrid and couldn’t wait to show them off. However, since nobody is hosting parties or heading out on the town these days, I enlisted a friend to snap some cute shots so I could post them on Instagram like a real influencer. The photos received tons of likes and comments, not to mention Torrid’s social media crew even messaged me to compliment my pictures.
All of that left me asking one question: How does someone become “an influencer?”
I wanted to find out, so I reached out to my friend Laura Templeton, founder of SafetyNet: Your Mental Health Resource. She developed a mental health app, social media presence, and community to help others struggling with their own issues. She is also a director for Future Shakers Initiative, a non-profit with focus on youth and community development. I learned so much through our interview, so I wanted to share it with the world.
How long have you participated with IG?
“I started my Instagram account in 2013. However, I didn’t start growing it and using it for marketing until 2017.”
What was your goal when you began your account?
“Initially, I just wanted to share photos from my life and of my cat. In 2017, my goal changed to growth, marketing, and personal branding. The goal was to gain followers and, more importantly, build a community. I was creating a suicide prevention app and needed to build a mental health community surrounding me and my brand.”
What have you learned about social media?
“It has incredible marketing power! I learned that authenticity, consistency, and shareability are the most important pillars of growth strategy. In fact, I’d argue that your engagement is far more important than the number of followers you have. If you have high engagement, it suggests people care about what you have to offer; your audience believes you deliver valuable content and it inspires them to interact. Social media is the most interactive marketing platform that exists. Building a community on your social media platforms inevitable leads to lifelong loyalty.
I’ve also learned it takes a very long time to grow your account organically. It’s worth the investment though.”
What was life like before? What’s it like now?
“I didn’t pay much attention to social media before. I used it for strictly personal reasons. I rarely spent much time on it. I also was struggling financially for years before and while I built my social media account.
Today, my life is better for two reasons. [For starters,] I have help[ed] thousands of people through sharing my story, resources, skills, and offering a safe space for them to share their own stories. I’ve built this amazing mental health community and have made lasting friendships I’d not have if it wasn’t for my platform.
[Furthermore,] this journey of building a social media platform has taught me so much that I was able to start my own digital marketing and copywriting company. I’ve been growing my business for three years and it’s now at this point where I can rely on it completely without needing additional streams of income to survive. This is life-changing for me because I can’t work a regular 9-to-5 job. Before starting my business, I [lived off] disability, which means I often chose between dinner or a bus ride because I was so tight on funds. Because of my business and ultimately my social media journey, I won’t ever be in this position again. I am immensely grateful for this every single day.”
How much time do you spend on content? How do you choose your content?
“When I was growing my account I posted every single day at noon without fail. Due to my own mental health issues and having to balance content with running a steadily growing business, it’s been a lot to manage so I’ve fallen behind on content. When I do post content, I don’t spend very much time planning it. I write from my heart and honestly, I prioritize authenticity. If I feel like posting about something then I do.”
Did you aim to have 10k followers?
“Yes, I did! This was the ultimate goal. But I didn’t run ads. I posted every day at noon, engaged with as many people as possible, and used growth hack strategies to achieve follower goals. When I first started growing my account, I subscribed to a growth hack automation program, which helped grow a few thousand followers. However, I found their targeting methods were inaccurate so I [eventually] unsubscribed.
What’s your advice to someone who wants to create a purposeful social media presence?
“Stay authentic, post consistently, engage with everyone in your niche and on your page, and most importantly: evoke emotion.”
I learned a lot through my conversation with Laura, but my biggest takeaways were:
- Engagement is more important that follower count
- Influencers can use their power to help others instead of selling appetite suppressant lollipops.
- While official influencers make money and have big followings, a true influencer is someone who makes a difference in the lives of others.
I might not have over 10k followers, but I make a difference. Through my writing and my social media, I advocate for others — and that’s a big deal. I don’t back down when it gets hard. I say the things we aren’t supposed to say. I think that’s really what being an influencer is all about, though: influencing others and making a difference in our world.