Navigating Social Media As A Micro Influencer: Late Nights & Finding My Voice
To influence or not to influence, to share or not to share, to continue or to give up, these are the questions that run through my mind as I navigate through the saturated space of social media.
By Racheal Bola-Keji
Being an influencer is not easy and it remains a fairly new work phenomenon. Although it's often underestimated by some, who are still yet to understand the craft, it’s undeniable that it has become of great benefit to both businesses and individual brands.
It's true what they say, anyone can be an influencer, and in some way, we all have influence. But being a social media influencer can come with the baggage of imposter syndrome, the pressure to please others, and being online 24/7.
So it's not a surprise when I hear some people say they can't handle the weight of being an influencer - the truth is it can be a lot to carry.
I recently interviewed Zimbabwean travel vlogger, Tanaka Travels, who has a following of 14K on Instagram and a youtube video reaching thousands of views a month. She's managed to bag brand deal after brand deal all while working a 9-5.
We discussed a variety of topics - from her journey to becoming an influencer, common misconceptions and the mental strain of being in the 'public eye' all the time.
Here I Break Down What I Learnt From Her And Provide My Own Analysis
Q: Why did you want to become a travel influencer?
Tanaka Travels: “For me, it was my friends and my manager that prompted me to start a travel blog in March 2017. I have always loved travelling and capturing my experiences, so I created my website. Travel can be affordable and being a student at the time, that is what I wanted to highlight.
Deciding whether or not to get into the social media space is definitely the most exciting experience - saying 'yes this is what I want to do' and going for it, is the precedent of the start up. Creating the page, coming up with a brand name, and the support from friends pushes you to go full swing.
However after that initial excitement comes the refining stage - figuring out your niche, the aesthetics of your socials, and the type of content you want to create.
This stage is just as important as the first decision because it's all about forming your social media presence and figuring out what your area of expertise is.
Q: Do you think having a niche market helped you grow on social media?
Answer: “Absolutely! I feel like it is important to focus on what your strengths and weaknesses are. For me of course I love to travel, but more specifically budget travelling. That is what I am good at so I choose to focus on those two things. Also spreading yourself thin can reduce the quality of your content so you won’t find me trying to be a skin care expert.”
Finding your voice can be tricky as an influencer but evidently it's all about being true to yourself and following what you are passionate about. The desire to be everything at once: a fashion, skincare, motivational, fitness influencer can be tempting but quality content comes from having a niche. Being a micro influencer, this is something I learnt quite early on and adapted to quickly.
Tanaka speaks on having a love for budget travelling and staying focused on emulating that within her content. Although influencing has sadly become heavily linked to revenue, to me, influencing should be more than that.
The genuinity of influencing is being lost to financial gain, when it should be about wanting to aid and assist the community.
People may think that influencing is just about posting pictures, but there is so much backstage hassle that isn’t broadcasted.
What many don’t see is the preparation behind the content: the setup, the late-night editing, the strategic marketing and so forth. Regardless, people tend to judge influencer’s from a lack of knowledge and understanding.
What are misconceptions you hear the most about influencing?
Answer : “You just dress up and take a picture… A lot of thought goes into my location and outfit, it is all about creating a visual experience. So to downplay it as you just waking up and taking a picture is like no! Another misconception is that the assumption that I go everywhere for free or like influencers are entitled. Some of the places that I do post or share, I have actually paid for that experience. I think overall people just think that it is an easy way of life but it is not, it is time consuming.”
Just like Tanaka mentions, the overall process of creating is more intricate and detailed than just clicking an upload button. It requires creative vision, time and a lot of energy.
It is also very intriguing to see the amount of opinions and misconceptions anchored on the influencing space alone. This isn’t usually the case when it comes to the 9-5 work space but then again influencing is still a new phenomenon. However, the quickness to judge and label it as an ‘easy’ job is one that needs to be reversed with a greater understanding.
The Influencing Space: Competition and Uniqueness
When you walk into any work space, there is always going to be progressive competition and this is no difference in the influencing space. Sure.. everyone can win but the reality is that not everyone wins. The overload of influencers makes it almost impossible for everyone to win, everyone is fitting for a spot at 10k, 100k or even 1m followers.
Don’t get me wrong, with hard work and dedication, anyone can make it as an influencer but regardless the fight for visibility remains true. This is an element of influencing that heavily increased due to Covid 19 and the pandemic. There was a rise of individuality and uniqueness- everyone ‘stepped up their game’, expanded their territory and brought a newness to content creation.
Q: Do you feel like you have to stand out more or do things in a different way because of how saturated the influencing space has become?
Answer: With the pandemic, it became much harder to navigate in terms of travel and standing out. I felt all over the place, I thought like: what am I going to do now? It became harder because the premise of my page is travel and style, so I had to focus more on style and loads of throwbacks of different travel. But one thing I always stand on is to be authentic to yourself.
There was a huge rise of everyone wanting to become an influencer so that was another thing. But I don’t see anyone as competition because there is enough space for everyone to win! All in all, it was just a weird time navigating the influencer space.
With the pandemic, authenticity and uniqueness was an element of influencing that was heightened because the dynamics of creating shifted drastically. Influencers could no longer casually go outside and take pictures, or meet up with photographers and videographers. It was a weird time of independence and adaptation. But whilst figuring out a new creative strategy, there was still pressure to remain consistent and be an influence during the tough times. The mental load of being an influencer is one that is often ignored and pushed aside.
Q: Being an influencer, how did you cope mentally during the pandemic?
Answer: Being an influencer, you have to be happy and in a good space for your content to emulate what you want it to. So my faith has really been very important in keeping me in a good space, and helped me in terms of coping. I also reignited my love for fitness. When I was mentally drained, having that release through a run or jog really helped.
The pandemic really taught me how to give myself grace. The tough times felt like they were lasting forever but I told myself that it is okay to have an off day. We live in a society where if you are not showing people that you are making moves then you are not doing anything at all, so saying it is okay I am resting today is essential.
Influencers are humans too. We also have feelings, issues, burnouts and still have to prioritise our mental health. This can be hard for full time influencers because if you don't create, you don’t get paid but prioritising self still remains important.
Be true to yourself, have a niche market, stay consistent, be creative, are the main tips given to achieve influence success. But it is important to remember that the process is not always going to be a quick win.
To influence or not to influence, to share or not to share, to continue or to give up is all dependent on the mental capacity to keep going despite the downfalls and slow progression. As a micro influencer, this is the hardest part for me but like Tanaka mentions it’s okay to have off days. I have been able to find my voice in the ups and downs.
Despite the start up, the misconceptions and the competitiveness to me, gaining my voice has been the most rewarding part of my journey so far. I may be a micro influencer, but I still have the ability to instill change through my creativity and that is truly where the power of influencing lies.