Year 3 — As always, Ara

Time flies when you’re having fun — we are officially 3 whole years into the making of As Always, Ara! I truthfully haven’t felt as confident with where my brand stands as I do now, sitting here today, typing out this very blog post. I feel like I’ve learned more about the influencer industry, growing my brand, and who I am this past year than I have the last 2 years combined. I really focused this year on turning my hobby into a profitable job, but a lot had to happen before I could do so. While last year I shared how I got started, I’m here for my annual check-up to share exactly what I’ve learned with you about growth.

I wanted to start out with some stats from this year: I’ve had a 10% growth since just last November and if you go back to my anniversary blog post last year and look under stats, I didn’t even mention an engagement rate! (This year, I learned how important that is!) While my engagement rate increased significantly, it’s important for me to add that I’ve only gained roughly under 500 followers since this time last year, but that growth happened over the course of the last 3 months!

At this time last year, I was losing followers by the day and not growing in any way. I looked good, felt good, and was trying my hardest with creating good content. I would excuse it to the fact that Instagram was changing their algorithms and there was nothing I could do. Is there anything worse than wanting something so bad and actually putting in the hard-work for no results?

Then one day, in the beginning of a summer pandemic, I came across Tori Webb’s (@toriwebb) Instagram. Which, I guess you could say, was the beginning of my huge shift. I completely obsessed over her originality, creativity, and colorful feed! But I also realized that like me, she was a micro-influencer (under 10K followers at the time) growing really quickly and organically. I knew that because she had posted updates whenever reaching small milestones such as 5k, 8k, and even 10k followers in a matter of weeks with amazing engagement! I thought this type of growth in the days of changing algorithms was virtually impossible, luckily for me, she created IGTV’s with tips on exactly how to do what she was doing!

Yeah, I listened to them all that night, they were so insightful! The main thing she said that that stuck out to me was, instead of focusing so hard on growing your community and engaging in engagement pods, focus on the community you DO have and engage with their content!! You follow these people for a reason — go show them you support them by liking, commenting and saving their photos, but be genuine about it! They just might return that same genuine support for your content.

And guess what? They did! I left the 1 engagement pod I was still apart of that forced people to be fake and like and comment on my photo, and started engaging with those on my feed that I was following because I truly loved their content. I began seeing that my own engagement on my content was increasing massively! Then the craziest thing started happening — I began growing a community. Those girls that created content I genuinely loved to support, began genuinely supporting my content as well. We became friends. We chatted through DM’s. We shared each other’s pages to our stories. We shared fellow creators we liked with each other. I grew a small community. And then, I found my niche.

I realized that the people I loved following and engaging with on a daily basis were exactly the type of creator I was yearning to be myself. That is, content creators! I understood then that I was over-creating for the style influencer I was trying so hard to be, and that’s why it wasn’t working out for me. I was confusing my audience that wanted fashion posts with my content.

The typical style influencer loves a brand new outfit to share in their bedroom mirror or in front of a plain wall. I followed so many amazing women who I thought killed it doing so, but that wasn’t me. Despite sometimes sharing outfits in front of colored walls, I was driving to be more creative and feature my outfits in a way that got people excited. So, basically I would have random pops of a Tezza-esque creative post that didn’t exactly match my feed. My content was all over the place. You couldn’t tell from looking at my page what I was trying to do! So I followed my heart and that led me to focus on content creating, just as the people I loved to follow were doing.

I’m not kidding when I say that was the turning point for me with it all. I was still creating content as a fashion influencer, but you could tell that my page was focused on featuring it creatively. I became excited again to create content and began creating more to be able to post more often! As I spent more time on creating and sourcing content, I soon found there are communities upon communities that are specifically for content creators! From fashion and beauty, to fitness and health — these communities are everywhere and these creators are SO SUPPORTIVE and ready to help!

A lot of content creators also have their own community hashtags that you can use when you become inspired by their work and want to recreate their photo in your own way, and that’s a great way to find new fellow creators you’ll love to engage with! I began finding new creators through those communities that I loved enough to follow and I would engage with them too. I would even check their comments under their photos to see fellow creators doing the same thing, and if I loved their content, I would go give them a follow and begin engaging with them!

Keeping in mind to support those you already follow, combined with finding new creators and supporting them as well, it became a recipe for success. Gone are the days of posting a photo, logging off for an hour, and logging back on to check your post. GO ENGAGE after posting!! The returned love on my content was refreshing and overwhelming! And that engagement is how you gain those collaborations and campaigns that make it possible to keep the dream alive.

A high engagement rate on your posts means you’ve not only built a community with your followers, but they listen to what you have to say! And that impact on a platform will get you a LOT further in obtaining brand campaigns than treating your followers as just a number. That’s why it’s so important to never buy your followers!! Worrying about your follower count is so last year — these days, you cannot base an influencer’s value on follower count.

So what’s an engagement rate? Essentially your engagement rate is the amount of likes and comments you get on one post. This is what brands see (on top of your follower count) when they’re looking for potential partnerships. Because engagement rates are so important, many brands are opting to work with micro-influencers because their average engagement rate is typically higher than macro-influencers — they have more of a one-on-one connection with their smaller audience.

If you’re unsure of how to check your engagement rate, or what yours even is, there are many ways to do so. However, a great website that will calculate that for you is socialblade.com. It will also tell you your average likes and comments, as well as how many followers you’ve gained in the last two weeks and your daily average follower count.

Increasing your engagement rate and learning how to engage with your audience goes hand-in-hand with growing your platform and gaining campaigns that turn your passion into a job!

I say it every year, but even now I’m still learning and growing every day. Success doesn’t happen overnight ya’ll. Looking back on last years update, I have come leaps and bounds from that naive influencer and have become knowledgeable on how to grow my brand and passion into a business. That’s a nearly indescribable feeling.

I’m so proud of how far my blog has come today and where it has the potential to go, and I want to thank each and every one of you that’s been here since the beginning or just now deciding to follow along — I’m so glad you’re here, I truly wouldn’t have come this far without you! I just know there are so many great things happening in year 3 for As Always, Ara, some of which are already in the works!

While it’s SO. EASY. to become discouraged when you’re first starting and compare your beginning to other’s middles. You just have to remember that literally every single influencer you look up to right now was once a beginner too. Some of those major influencers were half-decades into the making before they found success. Don’t give up on your dreams, sis. Be patient, consistently put in the work, and ENGAGE!

As always,

Ara

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