100k... and Still Haven't Made It (ugh)

Every couple of weeks our founder @kylehjelmeseth shares musings with our exclusive talent roster that he thinks will give them big ideas to think about. Generally the topics come from the firm’s work with each influencer, and what he’s hearing at the top of the industry. Here is one of those musings, reformatted for our friends and followers:

This week...the idea that I hit 100k and still haven't made it.

100k seemed to be the benchmark of when a blogger would be able to make a decent "wage" off their Instagram postings for a good 3-4 years. Lately it has felt more and more like 100k is not quite the mark anymore. 200k isn't the bar. Hell, even a million followers isn't guaranteed sponsorships. Money isn't raining from the sky like it should be, right? Perhaps the bar has moved -- but, why would that be? A few observations:

Lately it has felt more and more like 100k is not quite the mark anymore. 200k isn't the bar. Hell, even a million followers isn't guaranteed sponsorships.

image via @stellasimona

  • The beginning is now the middle: What I mean by this is the timeline of influencer marketing, and how it affects influencers now. At first, when the idea was new and there were less "influencers" around (next point), dollars were being thrown in the air. For a visual, truly the market was like throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what would stick. Many of the influencers we manage started during this time, and really almost any brand would work with almost anyone, in some capacity.

    Now we're not so much in the middle, but at least brands are past throwing it all out there. There are a lot of pros and cons we could discuss about this fact, as to why this is a good thing, and why it hurts. Plainly, brands are being more choosey about who they will partner with, as they kind of gave away the power of their brands to whomever would post about them in the last few years. Instead of everyone, it's just a few more perfect fits.

  • Saturation of the market: As mentioned above, saturation is crowding the marketing and crowding out opportunity. When we started this firm in the space there were several thousand bloggers...what would be ubiquitously called influencers soon enough. Now there are several MILLION. That said, saturation means that those who will stay relevant need to have a unique sales proposition. If you know basic economics then you know we'll see this bubble of influencer marketing burst, soon. Soon something will dramatically change about influencer marketing...I don't know exactly what it'll be, but I have my hunches ;-)

  • Engagement: At first it was followers that mattered, which is how 100k became the initial bar (it used to be 20k, haha!). Times have changed though, as brands and agencies have realized that it's not the count that matters as much as how active your particular community is with you. 100k is still the bar, but they don't just want 100k anymore...they want an engaged hundred thousand people hanging on your every word and image. Last year 2% engagement (2,000 likes + comments per 100k following) was what kept most brands happy. Anything above this was BANANAS good. Now it's 3%, and as brands get choosier expect this will go up. 

    If you are an influencer and your engagement isn't high, then who are you really influencing?

How to solve for these concerns:

  1. Being in the Middle: The truth is that you should be just as choosey as the brands are becoming. Know who you want to work with and why. Be ahead of the curve by noting what brands are most interesting to you. Who do you already love? By focusing on what relationships you want, instead of who may or may not come to you, you won't ever feel as though you're stretching to make something happen AND you'll start relationships that will pay off as they grow.

  2. Saturation: Welp, we can't stop the tide, right? Stopping the rolling tide of saturation isn't the point...figuring out how to swim in your lane is. Just like every business out there, you've got to innovate and differentiate your story to rise above. There might be 100 cups of coffee out there, but I only trust Nespresso...and I know why. Know what makes you special, innovate and point out how you are different, and you'll rise above.

  3. Engagement: This is the new bar, impossible to surmount, you have to meet it head on. Engagement comes from actions that are...you guessed it...engaging! Bring the image alive with a caption that begs a question, or shares an idea for people to try. Post your thoughts, feelings and emotions via Instagram Stories -- and ask for honest feedback from your followings. Your content is one part of the equation, and the way you share it and everything else going on in your life is the other. People have formed a community around you, now it's time to feed the curiosities, the imaginations, the dreams and hopes of that community.

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…focusing on what relationships you want, instead of who may or may not come to you, you won't ever feel as though you're stretching to make something happen…

Image via @mybelonging

100k is just a stepping stone, but the journey is what matters to people. Short cutting the journey only lessens the chance people will care about your destination! Our firm’s goal is to help our talent figure out how to approach their favorite brands, how to understand their unique voice, and to coach their engagement up.

It’s time to get busy!