The Rise Of The Influencer

Nina and Ellie

When I lost my pet-sitting agency to COVID last year, I turned my attention to my Instagram account which was in comparison to most, is in its infancy.  I had previously been posting in the lifestyle niche, but in truth posing in various outfits felt awkward and I found myself posting less, and therefore my presence on the platform dwindled.

Losing a business that you have built up over twenty-three years can be soul-destroying and with my husband suffering from Multiple Sclerosis I needed to find another revenue source.  It was time to revisit my Instagram account, only this time I would be concentrating on the industry that was familiar to me and that was the pet sector.

The rise of technology has given experts in their field, the ability to wield influence and to affect the buying habits of others.  I had already worked with some the of top pet brands utilising my blog to pen reviews of their products, so with that experience, I changed the name of my Instagram account and When Nina Met Ellie was born.

Ellie came into my life just three months before Covid struck, so you could call her a ‘lockdown puppy’.  She was born on a puppy farm in Ireland and found her way to rescue after her right ear had been ripped in half. No doubt this had rendered her unsellable and when her photograph hit the rescue site, I had been the first to apply for her.  Following our home check, we were on our way to Wales to collect her and within a few weeks of her settling into our home, I just knew she was destined for Instagram stardom.

As an experienced blogger, I was aware that consumers were expressing a preference for ‘authentic’ trusted opinions for real pet owners rather than directly from the brands.  With my experience of working within the pet industry, I set out to find products that I personally would buy and not just those who offered the most lucrative deals.

Gone are the days when you need hundreds of thousands of followers to be a successful Influencer since brands are now getting more attuned to the power of micro-influencers and their rate of engagement.  The brands that I work with are looking for authenticity and the relationship Influencers have with their audiences while looking to build and invest in long-term relationships.  I have seen some Influencers content be deleted after a few days, whereas the content that we create is never removed.

I also like to periodically ask my followers what interests them, and which products, attire or services would they like Ellie and me to explore. My interests may not always be shared by my followers and I feel that it is important to cultivate that interaction to remain current.

I also like to engage with the brands that Ellie and I work with, in order to best understand their brief.  Although I have signed with some Agencies, communication can sometimes be diluted when the connection is broken and there is no option to speak directly to the brand. I always endeavour to create content that aligns with the brand remit and reputation and some companies will choose to vet any content before it goes live on my platform.

So, what makes a successful Influencer?  Since I am relatively new, I can only offer my humble opinion and suggest that for me, having a fresh and informative bio helped greatly, as was having a good clear picture for your bio.  If you are trying to command authority and create an engaged audience, you need to explain clearly what you do and what people can expect if they follow you. I also try to make my grid aesthetically pleasing and invite engagement with a call to action.

Recent changes to the Instagram algorithm have made it increasingly difficult to get your posts seen and at times I have been extremely disillusioned. Recently my follower count has both plummeted and risen in equal measures. I also think that audiences trust in Influencers has eroded somewhat as the market has become saturated.  I am, however, passionate about the products, attire and services that my little rescue dog Ellie and I promote since I refuse to sell my soul to the devil and be money-driven, which is why I will never promote or post anything that I would not buy myself or recommend.  Trust is a two-way street and needs equal participation from both Influencer and follower to be successful.  How To Make Your Dog Famous, and Influencer Spotlight makes for interesting reading.

By Nina Cole