How to be an Influencer: 3 Ways to Engage and Grow an Audience

This is #4 out of a 4 part mini series I've been wanting to share about how anyone can be a Personal Brand and Influencer. You can read about how Authenticity is important, serving a purpose on social and the importance of consistency are all pillars of being an Influencer.

Hi, my name is Sam- also known as 'Sam is Home' to my +100k followers on Instagram. I've always been documenting life through the lens of my interests in fashion, flatlays and my home which has been Hong Kong for the past 9 years. To most industry people- the PR and advertising agencies- I'm called a 'KOL', 'Influencer' or 'Instagrammer' (insert puke emoji) but I'm not here to debate, so for simplicity's sake I'll call myself an "Influencer". But really, all I am here is to share my personal insight in how to build brand in this digital age:

What to Do When You Get a Comment that's not from your Mom

Great, now you've set up your puppy adoption blog or started a 30 minute cooking series for the busy millenial on Youtube, putting out the work in the digital sphere and have a content creation schedule. So far, no likes and comments except from your mom and a couple of her aunties but suddenly, one day, you see a comment under that pic you took of a sunset at Venice Beach from @travelwanderer201: "how cold is it in LA during December?"

What do you do?


1. Beginner: Easy Tips to Grow your Following if You're Starting Out

If you're sitting around, waiting for some essay-length, insightful, heartfelt comment from one of your followers before you respond and been ignoring all the seemingly 'frivolous' ones, you'll never build engagement and a following. Consider your real life relationships- they all started off with a casual meetup and small talk! Everyone knows not to start off by talking about politics or religion in the first 10 minutes of knowing someone (unless it's a church fellowship gathering or a political rally). Respond to even the most obvious comments- I get TONS of questions that people could easily find out if they just used Google Search. Instead, they chose to ask me and I assume it's because:

1. They trust my opinion (and therefore don't think Google- which is automated- is accurate)

2. They just want to talk, be acknowledged and for me to know them.

Along with being a personal brand also comes the responsibility of engaging with people and that requires constantly dialoguing in comments and DMs and tweaking your content. Ultimately creating conversations and listening to your audience will allow you change your work organically as customers/followers respond to your work.

Match their level of engagement. If Pamela comments with a slew of heart emojis, I'll respond back with a 'thanks' or a slew of emojis in return. If Don then responds with a long heartfelt comment about how much he appreciated my advice for freelancers, I'll respond back with an equally long-winded one echoing his thoughts. Don't BS. Don't spam. Don't demand a follow for follow.

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2. Advanced/Intermediate: Utilize ALL of Instagram's Social Tools

In Instagram 1.0 that meant meetups and photo walks. Urban photographers and enthusiasts in Hong Kong would gather together at Instagram Pier hosted by a couple of Influencers and tour around Sheung Wan taking photos together.

Nowadays, photo walks are less common but Instagram has an amazing set of tools for Business accounts to help you create conversations that can be as dynamic as meeting in person. There is the basic Direct Messenger (DM) but consider Polls, 'Ask me Anything' stickers, sharing knowledge and tips on Stories, Story Highlights, # communities, before/afters and share other people's stories that you are tagged in.

One of my favourite analytic tools is seeing the number of 'sends and saves'- this tells you what people are bookmarking and sharing to others through private messages. That means your content is something people are archiving or sending to others. This is a huge indicator that your content is engaging and it helps me to know what my audience would like to see more of.

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3. Mastered That? Now Listen to your Audience and Respond

Now repeat! I'm always looking to tweak my content according to the response. If you're consistently creating content, this can help you to see what your audience engages with whether through likes, saves and comments. If you wanna shake it up, do a giveaway! But make sure you know what your audience wants and make it something authentic (preferably you've also experienced the 'prize' yourself so you can vouch for it). While Giveaways should be done occasionally, always make Stories about everything- you'll be surprised level of engagement on ordinary things that people pick up on over fancy hotel room tours etc. Going back to my first article on Authenticity, people like to see the ordinary as much as they love fancy trips and travel photos.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and hit me up on my Instagram if this helped you!