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  • A perfect springboard off the last one, yes, there is a homogeny in the space, yes, everyone's seen the same things, gimmicks, niches often work, it is harder to get widespread huge success, it's harder to grow a niche account to 500,000 followers, but it might be easier to grow it to 20,000 or 30,000 followers and maybe inside of that niche you can become a superstar. This is your classic big fish little pond, but I don't think of it in a negative connotation, and as far as will people be interested in the niche? There's a billion Instagram users, one billion, okay, 30% of them never use it, there's 700 million people logging into the site, you're trying to get a 100,000 followers, you can definitely, doesn't matter what your niche is, my assumption is that there is a following out there that is interested in it, finding that the following can be very difficult.

    Again, as we were saying with using our example of communities and punk, the more niche an interest, the more they guard their communities. I'm a cyclist, Tim's a runner, these are niche small communities that have hierarchies inside them and have rules about how you can dress, what you can wear, in cycling the big differentiator is like shaving your legs or not. These things matter if you show up to a group ride and you have the wrong jersey on and your legs aren't shaved, people look at you and say this person doesn't know what they're doing.

    I think that if you look at the beauty community, or beauty as a community they are probably more accepting, but as you zero into a very small niche in beauty and say, "Okay, I'm just going to speak to this tiny community," I think they generally would be more protective of that community, so it'd be harder for you potentially to come in and get that community to look at you as a leader, because being passionate about something that is weird and different, it's a very specific type of person that involves themselves in those communities and that person is generally quite passionate, quite invested, they love this weird thing that they're into, so I think you have to be that much better to be successful in that niche.

    There's pros and cons of both sides of speaking to the masses and doing something more broad and trying to do it that way and in going into something super niche, I think if you again, your North Star should be what am I passionate about, what are the things I like? If you are a beauty influencer and you're thinking what this isn't really getting me out of bed anymore and what I want to talk about is wood working, then you should fucking talk about wood working, I mean, my feed, again I'm not an influencer by any means, but if you look at a couple years ago I almost exclusively talked about fashion, and then I almost exclusively talked about cycling, and now most of my followers are y'all, my engaged followers are influencers, so more and more I am still documenting my life, but I'm trying to talk about influencers and talk about the space, and weave some of that in because that is who my following is, I do think that you can change and try different things, and just because you built a following one way doesn't mean that those people won't be interested in something else, and you should just do it you're into. If you're super passionate about something I think it'll come off and people will enjoy following that, and if they don't though unfollow you, who fuck cares, go find someone else to follow you that cares about what you have to say. I think end of the day, the goal is to be interesting. You got to ask yourself in what place, in what community, in what vertical can I create the most interesting, entertaining and educational content and do that, do it well, do it consistently, enjoy it.
    Episode #115
    - Campaign Effectiveness, Lookalike Influencers, Niches
  • Yes and no. Annoying, I know. I try and add new interesting diverse different voices into my feed every once in a while. If you're feeling like you're starting to see the same thing then I encourage you to reach out and to try and find new people to follow. I do think the humans have a herd mentality.

    They want to be part of a group. They don't like to go out and do new things that scares people. That's totally understandable that is human nature. I think with that is also the fact that it's gotten harder and harder to grow and be successful on Instagram. I think increasingly people look at what works and they try and do that, how many Kim look-alikes are there in the beauty space, well, Kim has 113 million Instagram followers it's obviously working well for her look, her whole vibe, everything that she's about works, in some ways it makes sense to copy that because if you like Kim you might like a couple people that like Kim, that is how the thinking goes.

    Tessa who we talked about all the time doing really well, it's not crazy that there seem to be thousands of clones because her content is doing exponentially better than other people's, her growth is off the charts right now and so people think I'm just going to copy that and I'll get the same level of success. We've said it many times on the show I really think that is the wrong mentality, I think that going out and trying to copy one of Tessa's photos make sense in so far as it helps you learn how to do that, and I think you can learn from that and try and take something from it and make it your own. I do not think you can copy your way into long-standing success because at some point the world will change, tastes will change the things people want will change, and if your success is not built on an original thought then it probably goes to stand that you won't have the next original thought, and so where you're going to spend your life just chasing people and copying different people.

    One, I don't think that would work, two, it doesn't really sound like a huge amount of fun, and so, yes, there are too many people who are looking the same, and no I do not think that that is a hugely unique human problem, I think that is as fairly. Communities do start to look, act talk similar, when I used to be a photographer I was always shocked like every single model wears skinny black jeans, motorcycle boots, a white t-shirt and a black leather coat, it like the store does not allow them to purchase anything else, that community spends a lot of time together and they start to develop a dress code and a way of speaking to each other, in a way of dressing, in a way of carrying themselves and all of that, that helps them identify with that.

    Influencers dress in a certain way, they take photos in a certain way, they go to certain places, it's not crazy I don't. I think you could look at any community and you would probably start to see those similarities, even fringe, there's always that thing that if you're let's say you're part of a Goth movement or you're a punk, or you're super preppy, or you like men’s wear, in all these subsets everyone essentially looks the same, to somebody who is on the outside who doesn't know the nuances, who doesn't know the difference between what a Sex Pistols fan will dress like versus-- give me another punk band.

    Speaker 2: Ramones.

    James: A Ramones fan would dress like, but inside the punk community there probably is a difference between dressing as a Sex Pistols fan and dressing as a Ramones fan, but to the 60-year-old British woman walking down the street they just look like fucking punks. I think it's similar in the influencer space where from the outside that looks like everyone's the same, no one's doing anything interesting, as you get into it a little bit more you start to see the nuance, you start to see things different, but from the outside it looks like Cartier love bracelet and a lot of complicated clothing.

    Again, it's tough because you want to be able to show I'm part of this community, and if you're a punk in London in 1979 you can't show up to a show in a suit and tie and like be accepted into that community, you're going to have to wear leather and ripped up clothes and have a green Mohawk that's just like that's the way you say, "Hey, I'm part of this community." That's why I say that it's not totally a bad thing to copy people for a little while, you don't even have to publish it, but by copying it you can start to understand it, can you live inside of a community for a bit understand it and then know how to be different, I think so. It's going to be hard to, unless you're like just have a totally unique new vision to come in say, I'm part of this community, I'm going to be totally outside of it and change the way everyone feels about it. I think that is harder. As we said, I think a lot of the potential and possibility of growth and success in the space hinges now on looking different, being different, doing something different, trying to be unique and do your own thing.
    Episode #115
    - Campaign Effectiveness, Lookalike Influencers, Niches
  • There are a lot of ways. I'm going to answer this less in the lesson from a lens of a brand person and more how it affects you. Every brand is evaluating the success of that campaign in a different way. If you don't understand the metrics by which they're valuing that campaign it is nearly impossible for you to be successful. Believe we've said this before but when someone briefs you or you talk to the brand and they onboard you for the campaign you got to ask what are your KPIs, Key Performance Indicators?

    What does success look like for you in this campaign? How do I make you look good? If you talking to the person at the branding you said, "Hey I want to make you look good. I want to make sure this looks awesome for you. What does that look like for you? Is it really great engagement? Is it positive comments and a conversation happening in the comments section? Is it the amount of DMs I get? Is it sales? Is it swipe ups? " It could be any number of things but if success for them is swipe ups and you think it's engagement then you could get 10% engagement but not do as well in swipe ups on your Instant Stories and they won't work with you next time.

    You have to ask, one. I think two something I've noticed that sticks with brands is they're looking at all these numbers you know now a lot of our campaigns have 50 100 influencers in them. Certainly, we look for top performers, but we also pull out conversations in the comments that are really product focused and feel organic and natural and feel like oh here's a consumer complementing the product or talking about the product. I know a lot of influencers, you guys getting your comment pods and you guys comment on each other's posts especially sponsored posts and you make product specific comments in the sponsored posts.

    That is so easy to tell what you're doing first of all. When I see an influencer and 15 of their influencer friends have commented on it saying, "Oh my God I love that jacket I have to get that tomorrow." You're not fooling anyone, the brand is going to click through and see that you have 150,000 followers and you're also an influencer. If they're smart they'll say, "Oh they're in a comment pod trying to make each other look good." That's one thing. Two, if you are someone that has conversations about product happening in the comments section it is something that brands look out for.

    It is something they kind of focus on and pull out, so anytime that you have that that is good. In general, ask them what success looks like and try and optimize for that. If they say, "Oh yes. Well, we're focused on engagement but we also want sales and we want swipe ups and we want really beautiful editorial content." It's okay to push back and say, I can try and do all those things, but I really want to know what we called a keystone KPI. I really want to know what is the one thing you absolutely need. Is it beautiful content? Is it swipe ups? Is it sales?

    You can't do all of those things in one post realistically. You can push back on a brand that is asking for too much and say I don't know, I can't do that. It shouldn't be the first time I heard it and I think they'll respect you more if you do push back.
    Episode #115
    - Campaign Effectiveness, Lookalike Influencers, Niches
  • This happens to us in sales all the time. Part of being in sales is that people will say they want to do things and then they don't. That is not because they don't like you, that is not because they've decided to go work with someone else, that is probably because they spoke too soon and now it's not happening and they feel really awkward or it is because they-- The budget got pulled, whatever it might be.

    Now you hope that you have relationships with brands and partners that allow them to come to you and say, "Hey, I know I said this is happening. I'm so sorry it's not." We've had to do that to influencers before. It is a shitty thing to do, but it is the right thing to do. If you're emailing a brand about let's say you-- They said, "Okay, great, let's do the deal." You email them, they're not getting back. You're like, "Hey, when is the product shipping?" They're not getting back. They're not getting back.

    I would follow up to a point and when it feels like-- Let's say they were going to ship a product on the 15th and it gets to be the 20th and you haven't heard from them, I would just send something that says, "Hey, I assume this is no longer happening because I haven't heard from you. Totally understand that things change. Yes, I'm going to operate under the assumption that this is no longer happening. Hope to work with you in the future."

    I think what you don't want to do is get so upset, because you getting upset is not going to change anything unless you signed a contract and you feel like you want to extract money out of them because of that binding contract and the the kill fee. Fine. If you want to do that, do that. It's kind of annoying, but whatever. If you haven't created content yet and they've ghosted you, there should be no kill fee one and two. It's not that big of a deal. It is annoying.

    What you don't want to do is create a situation where they feel so bad or awkward that they never want to email you again. I think if you can give them an easy out, they will often the next time be like, "I'm going to make it up to this person. The next deal I get, I'm going to this person because they were super chill about this thing happening and I want to do right by them." That's going to do you so much better than stomping your feet, telling them this is wrong, telling you're going to have a lawyer and making them feel terrible, or just constantly emailing them to a point where they're like, "I can't, I can't. I feel like this relationship is ruined over this and I can't go to them for something else."

    I've been there in a situation where I pissed someone off and I felt like the next time something came up, I couldn't work with them because they were so upset that I was like, "Oh, I'm not going to go there. I'm not going to poke the bear." Be gracious. Now, if you've created the work, if you've shopped the product, and you haven't posted it yet and they ghost you, I do think that there is a-- Or they ghost you for a bit and then they say, "Hey, this isn't happening." I think you have a case to have a 20 percent kill fee or something. They're paying you a thousand bucks for them to give you $200 for creating the content.

    Now, it's going to be essentially impossible for you to get that without having that in your contract. You might consider putting kill fees in your contract. Again, kill fee predicated on you actually creating the content and shooting it and doing all that. That assumes a lot of times I've paid a photographer, I've paid a videographer, I've paid for hair and makeup whatever it might be.

    Speaker 2: What is a kill fee?

    James: A kill fee is essentially something that you put in a contract, where if the party that's paying-- If the brand pulls out and you've created the content, you get a certain portion of that money, no matter what, even without posting it. Again, it protects you if you have to pay a photographer. If you did a two-day shoot, you missed other deals that it makes it so that even if you don't post it, you get some money if they back out. It would be very rare for a brand to have someone shoot content and then back out. I don't think it's massively important, but if you want to be careful, most big influencers probably have kill fees in their contracts.

    If you've shot and posted and now they're ghosting you on the invoice, bring the full fucking fury of the good Lord Jesus down on them. Just do not stop. If they owe you money, be fucking relentless. Because if someone's not paying you, it's probably because they're running out of money or they don't have a lot of money. As they get money, the person they're paying first is the one that's the most annoying.

    If someone hasn't paid you and they owe you money, don't stop. Just be relentless. If you live in New York City, there's also a-- I don't know if influencers actually fall into this, but there is a freelancer's law now where if a brand doesn't pay you for 90 days or something, New York City will allow you to sue them and automatically judge in your favor and you get 150% of the invoice or something.
    Look up, I don't know the actual particulars, but it's this new law that New York has passed that protects freelancers from being taken advantage of by big corporations. You might want to look at that. Know your rights. Know when to threatened legal action. I also found with big brands, if they have an accounting department, I would stop bothering my rep or the person I worked with and start bothering accounting and call accounting directly.

    If your rep stopped emailing you, just call information and say, "Hey, I want to talk to someone. I want to talk to the marketing director. I want to talk to the CMO, I want to talk to the person in accounting. I want to talk to the CFO." I once had a major multi-multi, multibillion-dollar organization that I felt I had wronged four card. I'm legally not allowed to say who. I emailed their CEO every day for 15 days, and eventually someone got back to me and they figured it out.

    If you're persistent, you can usually get things done. Yes. I think if you posted the work, if you've done the work and you've posted it and now they're saying they don't pay you. They are in breach of contract. They are essentially breaking the law or at least breaking that contract. They owe you that fucking money. You did the work, they owe you money. There's no way to get around that. If they feel like they don't want to pay you, that's a brand you will never work with again anyway, that bridge is burned. Now, if something happens before you post, again, it's generally probably not the fault of the person that you work with.

    These things change and someone will be like, "Cool, you got 50 grand, go do this project." They'll onboard a hundred influencers or something. Then a week later the CEO will be like, "No, actually we don't have that money now, we needed it somewhere else or whatever." Cancel all those contracts. It's generally not them trying to be terrible. It's just that these things happen in business. I wouldn't burn a bridge over that, but I would burn a bridge if I did the work and nobody paid me.
    Episode #114
    - How to Stop Losing Followers, Editorial Content, Brands Ghosting
  • First of all I would say, if you have not seen Margo&Me's video, I would watch that. We talked a lot about that. If you have not seen Jamie Beck's Drink With James, I would go back and watch those. Those, we touched on this a decent amount and those women are more eloquent than I could be on the subject and so I encourage you if you haven't seen those episodes to go back and see them.

    I 100% think brands value editorial content, I think also if that's something that you want to do, you have to convince them why they should do this. I think that editorial content can come at the price of engagements sometimes, that a piece of beautiful editorial won't get as good an engagement as something that is more off the cuff, an iPhone and feels more natural. It doesn't mean it's not the right thing to do it just means not as many people are going to like it and so I think you have to figure out what this piece of content is supposed to do. Is it supposed to elevate a brand and make a brand seem really special?

    Can you make a brand feel really special with an iPhone photo? Can you create a story with an iPhone photo? Can you create mystery and intrigue and all of that with an iPhone photo? Probably not. Can you sell a shitload of moisturizer with an iPhone photo? Yes, you probably can do that. Can you tell an authentic real story with an iPhone photo or video? Absolutely. You just have to think about what is the brand and what makes sense for you to be-- what is the medium best suited for that brand and for the message that they're trying to get across and do that. It's okay if you're super elevated, if you're Margo&Me and everything you shoot is elevated.

    It's okay to say no to a brand that doesn't want that. It's okay to say that, "I don't do that and I don't think that my feed is right for your product." Trust me, brands appreciate that, you're not going to piss anyone off by respectfully declining a deal because it doesn't fit within your aesthetic and what you do. Do brands want more editorial, less editorial? Brands want what does well and brands ideally want you and they want your point of view. We talk about Tessa [sic] a lot and her show. She's really doing well right now, she's working with a shitload of brands.

    Her vibe and energy is, you can see it's spreading to other influencers. Everything she does is incredibly editorial. Brands like to work with her because of that. Are they working with Michelle from @michelletakeaim less because they're working with Tessa? Probably not. You could have a campaign where both of them get to create something and it makes sense for both of them. I think brands should want you and your point of view and that just goes back to the fundamental thing that we talk about in this space, which is you have to have a point of view.

    You have to have some form of differentiation. You have to have a thing that you do that makes you you and makes you different or you're not going to be able to sell what you do to anyone, it doesn't matter. I will also say that just shooting something with a DSLR does not make it an editorial. Even if it's a $7,000 camera setup, that is not editorial, that is just a nice camera. If you're just shooting normal photos with a nice camera, I'm not sure the value is really there. Editorial is scouting locations, pulling looks, creating a storyboard, shooting something that tells that story. That is editorial. Editorial is not a nice camera.

    I think that those things get interchanged a lot where people say, "Oh, I do more editorial content." I go to the feed and it's like, "No, you shoot with the 5D Mark IV and a 50 millimeter 1.2. You don't do editorial content." There is a difference and you can shoot editorial content on an iPhone, too. You can shoot editorial on any camera, but shooting on a nice camera does not editorial make.
    Episode #114
    - How to Stop Losing Followers, Editorial Content, Brands Ghosting
  • Great question, first of all we looked at data on this. Over half the influencers on the platform month over month are losing, not gaining followers. The reason for that generally is that every single time we post, people will unfollow you, that is natural, that's just going to happen. The forgot they followed you, they forgot they didn't like you, they're sick of you, they didn't mean to follow you in the first place, whatever it might be.

    They think your trip to Positano was annoying. It used to be before stories that you would post, lets say 50 to 100 times a month, now with stories sometimes people are posting 3, 4, 600 times a month and so that is a lot more opportunities for people to unfollow you. People's feeds are also full and they're trying to clean them out. One, if you're losing following, you're not alone, this is happening to over half the influencers on the platform currently, today. It is more common to be losing followers than gaining them at this point.

    Something that I think isn't discussed enough is how to keep followers. We talk all the time about how to gain followers but if you look at a big influencer, they may be gaining 20,000 followers a month and losing 18,000 a month. If they took that 18,000 a month down to 9,000, now they would be gaining 11,000 followers a month instead of 2,000 and I think that we weight our attentions so much on, "How do I get the next follower?" instead of, "Am I providing value and retaining my old follower." I just had breakfast recently with Grace Atwood and we were having a conversation.

    She said that this summer she's really gone back to focusing on her followers, interacting with them, engaging with them, trying to build a community inside of her feed with her followers and that has been massively helpful to her. One, they just get excited about it again. Remember, you worked so hard to get these followers and then the second you get them I feel like people just forget about them. They say the goal is to get the follower and then I'm totally forgetting about them, but once they follow you, that's where the real work starts.

    Then you have to provide value, then you have to make sure that you're entertaining, entertain people, educate them or enrich their lives in some way. If you're not doing that, why would they follow you. If they don't find you entertaining, if they don't find what you're talking about educational and they're learning things from you, if their lives aren't better by following you, they will unfollow you. If you're losing followers, think about how to keep those other followers, engage with them, reply to comments back, reply to DMs, put the work in to make sure that those followers are feeling taken care of.

    Shoot more creative projects, I just saw this week Sai from @scoutthecity and Brooklyn Blonde and Krystal Bick were out shooting a personal project with Caroline Herera in the streets and on the subway. I saw the week before that that they went to a Yankees game in gowns. They're just doing this stuff for fun, they're just shooting creative fun projects, go back to that. I think we talked about this last week, but I'll say it again. If your feed has gotten to be 50% sponsored, think about if you were watching an eight episode series on Netflix and four of them were advertisements. That would be infuriating.

    Go back and fall back in love with doing this. Fall back in love with fashion or beauty or whatever it was that you talked about. Take a step back from sponsored posts. Take a step back from hustling to try and figure out, "How can I make more money, how can I gain more followers? Why is this influncer gaining followers and I'm not? I think they're buying followers, this is so unfair, I hate everything, everything is terrible."

    Just step back from all of that and say, "I have an audience who has chosen to follow me," and that is rare. Most people have just their friends and family and a bunch of bots following them. "I have an audience that is interested in what I have to say," lets put some thought into what I am saying and lets make sure that those people feel like they're glad that they follow you and they see that post, they're excited and they're going to read it and they're going to stop. They're just not going to blow on by because they assume it's another ad.

    I know this is semi hypocritical to say as someone who runs a company that makes its money off doing sponsored content, but these are things we look at. We look at what percentage of your feed is sponsored. We look at how much you're engaging with that audience, we look to try and understand if you have influence over that audience or you're just speaking to them and trying to make money off of them. You want to be, not like a parasite to your audience, just taking things from them but you want to be giving things back to them. Ask yourself the hard questions if you're doing enough to keep your audience happy and keep them there.

    If you're losing followers, yes you can try and work harder, if month over month you're losing followers, yes, you can try and work harder to gain more to make sure the delta is positive and not negative, but similarly you can just say, "I'm going to just focus on not losing as many," and do that. Don't despair, but get to work.
    Episode #114
    - How to Stop Losing Followers, Editorial Content, Brands Ghosting
  • Interesting question, one we haven't had before. We've talked about going from a different country and coming to America and try and grow an American audience, but let's say you are known as a Nashville influencer. How do you get beyond that? The temptation would be to try and look like you're not from that city. I think the temptation would be to try and copy what the big influencers are doing and make your feed look like everyone else.

    I personally don't love that as a solution to the problem of gaining a larger following outside of your local city. You do need to create content that makes sense for people that don't live there. If let's say you're a food influencer and all you do is talk about Nashville food, okay, it is going to be difficult for you to probably grow an audience outside of that or outside of people who just love Nashville and want to hear about Nashville food.

    If you're a style influencer, I would think that being in Nashville is something that you could use to your advantage because increasingly, feeds are just Positano, New York, and LA right now. Being from a different place could give you a leg up as far as visually because people aren't used to it. Show the things about your city that make it interesting. I think putting together on your highlights like travel guides to that city.

    If you live in a place that has tourism, helping people coming to the city know how to navigate it is a nice easy in for people who aren't in the space being known as someone that's like, "If you go to Nashville, you've got to follow this person." I'm saying I think one strategy is double down that you're from a different place. Double down on that. Use the fact that you're not from LA or New York to your advantage.

    Now the other side of that coin is if you look at Happily Grey, if you look at Fashioned Chic Styling, if you look at Fashion Jackson, in order, they are in Nashville, San Diego, and Dallas. All of their photos look like they're in New York City. Every single day, their photos look like they're in New York. They shoot in the cities, they shoot against brick buildings. They are indistinguishable from New York. They make it look like they're in a big city. They're not. That works really well for them.

    I think that you can totally not take my advice as well and try and make your content look like it could be in any city. I guess I'll walk back on that statement a bit and say those influencers don't try and make it look like they're in New York, they just make it look like they're generically in a city. Happily Grey is more of a lifestyle influencer now, but certainly, Fashion Jackson and Fashioned Chic Styling are just style influencers. They post outfits every day. That's all they do, so the background doesn't really matter.

    What matters is their style. I think it just is also about why do people care about you. You're able to build a following in a local market. Why? What is the reason people are following you and how do you scale that out to the entire country? If you can't, if you're just known as a local influencer, that's not so bad. You can just be the biggest influencer in your area and as influencer programs start to spread out and as brands look to work across the country.

    If you are in Omaha, Nebraska, and you are the Omaha, Nebraska influencer, you'll still get a lot of work because again, as brands scale the stuff out nationwide, they'll be looking for the best of the best of Omaha. If you're known as that, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Now are you going to get the New York City deals, are you going to go on all the big influencer trips? Maybe not as much, but you can definitely build a nice career and come off of being the best in your local area.
    Episode #113
    - Reaching a Larger Audience, Transitioning to Getting Paid, Hashtags
  • I don't think it's dead. I think it's not as useful as it was before. I'm speaking from personal experience here. I don't click on a lot of hashtags in Instagram, but I'm not sure if that is the behavior of a more normal Instagram user. I think when people are in Instagram, they want to go through their feed. If they want to expand their feed, they're probably going to explore. They're not probably clicking on hashtags.

    I think hashtags are helpful in event coverage, Veuve Clicquot, obviously. During one of their polo matches, I think people do sometimes go to that hashtag. I think that in certain situations, it can be helpful. I think if you are attending an event, if you are part of some cultural thing that you feel like people would want more information about, hashtags can work. If you have a niche thing that you're covering, hashtag's going to work.

    Think about things that people are really passionate about. If they said, "I'm hungry for more influencers talking about natural hairstyles and how to care for and style natural hair," the hashtags surrounding that world would drive a lot of interest because there's so much passion, and there's such a thirst for knowledge in that specific space. Whereas hashtag style, hashtag OOTD, I don't think that is doing anything anymore.

    If you're using a hashtag, I would have it around a thing that people are really passionate about and are searching for more information on. Hashtags used to be, again, a place for you to-- They were just like the way the internet organized itself. I think they've been abused to a point now where the more mass ones aren't helpful. I don't think that dot, dot, dot, 35 hashtags is really helpful and is doing anything because chances are, those hashtags don't have a lot to do with what you're posting about.

    I think it's a case of overuse that leads to a diminishment in value. I think when they were less used, they were really valuable. Now that they're used a lot, they're just not super valuable. If you're going to use it, try and make it more niche. What's the organizational backbone of the internet now? I think Instagram's explorer page isn't really-- I don't think it's really based on-- I just don't know how they build it. I don't think it's based on hashtags.

    I see a lot of influencer content because I follow a lot of influencers, but I see a lot of cycling contents as well because I follow cyclists, but I don't think the cyclists I follow are self-identifying the cyclists. I bet Instagram is looking at tagged brands and things like that to figure out, "You follow cyclists? I'm going to serve you more cycling contents." I think the brands that you tag, the things that you talk about, the way that you talk about them, Instagram is probably using those more for explorer than they are hashtags.

    My ending point with hashtags is, I do know Instagram is pushing them that you can follow hashtags now. It is something that they would like to make a bigger thing. Jumping on a well-followed hashtag may not be a bad idea. I don't have a huge amount of experience on this so if you do, jump in the comments and let us know. I think it's not a huge driver of attention anymore.
    Episode #113
    - Reaching a Larger Audience, Transitioning to Getting Paid, Hashtags
  • This is something that comes up even in our relationships with our clients where they say, "Okay, we want to work with 50 influencers for this campaign. These 10 influencers that we want to work with, we already have a relationship with and we don't pay them, or we pay them a reduced fee. Can we honor the pre-existing relationship that we have with that influencer?"

    It is hard to transition something from free to paid. Once you give something away for free, it can be difficult to move that to paid. We've talked a lot before about being strategic in the free work that you do for brands to leverage that into paid work with other brands, and that is certainly a good strategy. If you're working with a brand, and let's say you've worked with them for a year, and you've always worked with them for free, I think that you could be very-- I think in most cases, just pure honesty is the best way to go.

    I think if you wrote that brand and you said, "Hey, I really love working with you all. I really appreciate the support that you've given me and the fact that you were there before other brands were. As you know, my account has more than doubled over the last year. That means that my ability to make money off this has grown quite a bit, and so those posts that I'm giving away have become quite a bit more valuable.

    I'm also you know trying to support myself and do this full-time as a job, and it's getting harder and harder to do that if I'm not getting paid for the post that I do. Now I know that we have an existing relationship, I know that that relationship is based on working for product. I would love to know if there's a way for me to transition that into making money off of this.

    I want to be fair to you, I want to be fair to the support that you've given over the last year or so, but I also need to start prioritizing partnerships with brands that are paying me. I would love to talk about this on the phone or meet up in person, whatever it might be. Let me know if you're free." If you're very honest there-- Laying something out like that, what are they going to say? They can say, "No, there's no budget," or, "We can talk about paying you."

    You've made it very clear that what you want us- I think get across is like, one, thank you for supporting me. Thank you for the last year of partnerships. While it's easy to be like, "I did this big favor." In some ways, you did. You gave them free posts, but that was an agreement that you all entered into. You felt good about it, brand felt good about it, so I think always nice to start with gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. Gratitude will get you a long way.

    Just to say, "Thank you. I appreciate it. As you know, things have changed," and then you speak to them about facts that nobody can deny. "I was here, now I'm here. I was at 20,000. Now I'm at 100,000. Again, I so appreciate you working with me when I was at 20,000 followers when nobody else would. That's something I won't forget. Now I'm at 100,000 followers, and you know my situation is different. Thus, I'm wondering if we can change this relationship as well."

    Another thing is, I wouldn't necessarily jump them up to the same price that you are charging new brands that are coming in for the first time. Reward their loyalty with a little bit lower price. First, you can just say, "I really would like to try and move this into a paid relationship. Can we talk about the feasibility of that?" It's a conversation. You have a relationship. What you absolutely cannot do, the worst thing you can do is email and say, "Hey, thanks so much for reaching out about your new line.

    It looks great. I now don't work for free. Thank you," like absolutely fucking worst thing you can do. You need to re-frame. If that brand reached out to you and says-- Let's say you've worked with them for five times for free and they reach out the sixth time, "Hey, I want to send you something. What's your size? How are you doing? Your trip to Positano looked great," that's when you need to re-frame that conversation and say, "Oh my gosh, this looks amazing, blah blah blah." Explain yourself. Gratitude, explanation, ask.

    "Thank you so much. Here's the new situation we're in. Can we talk about changing our relationship?" Don't just say, "I don't work for free anymore." I had an influencer recently- I'm very good friends with turned down speaking at the conference because they just needed to make money and they did it in a way that was super gracious, 100% made sense. She was just like, "Listen, I am so taxed with all of the requests coming in and all of the work that I'm doing that I really-- I love you, you know that. I can't work for free.

    I hope you understand that. If you had any budget, you know I would be there." I 100% understood, and was like, "Totally hear you. I don't have budget now. You've explained yourself, I understand it. You've explained it in a way that makes sense. You've expressed gratitude. We're totally good." Just be a normal human, be kind, and don't throw it back in people's face. I do think you can transition that relationship, but it starts with you being candid and honest.

    When do you have that conversation? You have that conversation when it doesn't feel fun anymore to be working for the brand for free, when you feel like, "This isn't worth my time. This doesn't feel right. I don't feel like this is a balanced relationship anymore." That is when you have the conversation. Also, it is totally fine to continue to work for brands for free in perpetuity.

    If you love that brand and they don't have budget, which most luxury brands don't and you want to work for them or keep working with them, keep working with them. There is no problem in that. I think that honestly, I went through again the other day and I was doing some calculations. More and more, I'm seeing 40%, 50% of the feed sponsored that is way too much.

    You cannot have 50% of your fucking feed sponsored. Imagine if you watched a 30-minute show and it was 15 minutes of commercials. There's no fucking way you get through it, no way. Or more apt, imagine a show that was eight episodes long, and four of them were sponsored by a brand and about a brand. Would you watch that season? No. No fucking way, you would. It's too much.
    Episode #113
    - Reaching a Larger Audience, Transitioning to Getting Paid, Hashtags
  • This is a clever question. One that I don't think we've answered before in our 112 episodes. I've been thinking about it, it was on the board last week, and I didn't answer it. I've been thinking a little about it, and I think that, frustratingly, they're all really hard. Getting from zero to a K is like, you have to get people that don't know you. I think you're just learning and trying to figure it out.

    1 to 10, I think is really-really hard because that's where you have to start to be consistent. You have to do all of these things, and you have to have the mental shift to be-- It can be embarrassing to be actively trying to grow an audience, if you're at 2,000 followers because people like your friends, it's not a thing yet.
    You're not an influencer with 200K, and all your friends think that's super cool and you're getting invited to all this shit and they love it. It's like, "How did you, do you see what Tim's doing? Is it kind of weird, he's trying to be an influencer. Oh, you're trying to be an influencer." I have heard that conversation 50 times of people. Just like normal people talking about their friends who were trying to make a go of it.

    I think the 1 to 10 is tough from a personal standpoint of just being like, this is what I want to do and this is where I want-- This is something I'm interested in, and I am going to go for this because to get from 1 to 10, you have to act like you have a 100K in some ways. You have to be consistent, you have to be doing all this stuff, you have to be acting like an influencer, but you don't have the following yet to back it up.

    It can feel ridiculous, and it can feel a waste of your time. I think it is really hard in that 1 to 10 to keep going because you don't have that big following, you're not getting brand deals, you're not getting free clothes, you're not getting anything. It feels, wow, this is so much work for almost no benefit. That's really hard. I think getting to 100K is just flat-out hard. See now, especially today. There are a lot of amazing influencers that I love, that I follow, who I follow, started following a year ago and they're at 40K, and they're at 50K now.

    It is slow going out there. It's hard to grow. Anyone who can go from starting an Instagram account in the last couple of years and over 100K now, I tip my hat to you because there is something special there. I do think that getting to that 100K is probably less about tactics and doing everything right, as it is about just having a really unique point of view that is in sync with where popular culture is and riding that wave.

    I think, in some ways, you're less responsible for it than getting from 1 to 10. I find that most people who have a big following, it's just kind of took off for them at some point. Usually, that's between that 10 and 100K. Frustratingly, they're all very difficult in their own way getting from a hundred to a million, 100 to 150. It's all really hard and I hope these episodes in some way are helpful to you all because I know there's not a huge amount of advice out there on how to do this. I feel for you. I've had an Instagram account for eight years, and it's a 22,000, so I know this isn't easy.
    Episode #112
    - Hardest Growth Number to Reach, Email Lists, Event Etiquette
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