Confessions of a Social Media Influencer

How can I get free stuff? How do I get to be an ambassador for something? I get TONS of questions about being a "social media influencer". From product reviews to ambassadorships. So I want to answer some of those questions in order to help others and also to give some perspective on just what exactly it means to be a social media "influencer."

If you take nothing else from this post, there's one thing that I try to explain to friends and followers: an influencer is basically like a part-time job. All the perks you see come with a fair amount of work involved. You'll need to craft high-quality images/video, usually you'll need a blog, and you'll need to be pretty social media savvy.

Think of it like this: these companies "hire" an influencer (not always with money, but with some sort of incentive) to help their marketing efforts by producing content for them. The takeaway? Nothing is "FREE". Work is involved. And that work isn't for everyone. But I personally enjoy it!

Take 100+ photos. Get 1 good one.

My marketing background has helped me learn everything I needed to make a decent "influencer", but I'm by no means a "big deal" on social media. I only have a fraction of the following as most. But I do genuinely enjoy engaging with others on social media. While yes, I do get excited when a post gets lots of views/likes/comments, for me being on social media isn't always a numbers game.

I enjoy sharing what I've learned: whether it is about training, a product, or a race. And I've also sought out advice from others. The online running community is an endless reservoir of knowledge, motivation and inspiration. Tapping into that makes the possibilities and resources endless!

Am I a "social media influencer"? By definition, sure. Do I consider myself a big-shot? Not at all! There are many more people that would be MY definition of a social media influencer. People I look up to and seek inspiration and advice from on social. If social media influencers had a family-style hierarchy I'd feel I was more the "big brother" versus the "father figure". I know a bit, but not a lot.

There are many definitions of a social media influencer, but I like this one the best:

"Influencers are normal people, who are often connected to key roles of media outlets, consumer groups, industry associations or community tribes. ... Such individuals are not simply marketing tools, but social relationship assets."

Sure, influencers get paid. But it's not always with money, or even large sums of money. And it's never JUST about your number of followers. It's about building a relationship with a company, a brand, or group of people. That's what I love most about what I do on social media: building relationships with everyone from fellow runners, to brands and races that I love learning more about. 

I've learned a lot over the last few years that's helped me grow into a better influencer and build stronger relationships. So I'm going to share a few things now in hopes to help others!

Large following on social media = free stuff. FALSE. 
Let's debunk that one right out of the gate. Sure brands and companies look for a large following before reaching out to an influencer. But they're looking for a number of other things as well. When a company is scrolling through your profile, here's just some of what they look for:
  • Do you fit the brand's tone/style/mission? 
  • Is your content high-quality? (I'll touch more on this one later)
  • Are you engaging with your followers? (i.e. do you respond to comments, etc)
  • What's your niche? Are you a mommy blogger? A trail runner? Someone who runs with their dog?
Just because you have a large following doesn't mean you align with a particular brand. And if your Instagram is full of just selfies and Garmin pics, they will keep looking. They want someone genuine and unique.

Now, when these brands reach out to influencers, they're usually looking to expand their SEO, their reviews on their website, their social media awareness, or a variety of those things. But as I mentioned, it does require some work. You've got to put some thought into it to stand out.

How to I become an ambassador?
Lots of brands, races, and more have ambassador opportunities. But they're looking for someone who uses their product and is familiar with their brand. Like the above, they want someone who is a good fit, not just someone with a high number of followers.

I recommend researching the products you already use and find out if they even have an ambassador program. Keep an eye open for when they open applications for ambassadors and in the meantime, feature them in a photo every now and again, tag them and start building that relationship early. Don't HARASS them with a post every day, but just enough so when you eventually apply, they'll say "Hey, this guy/gal definitely is familiar with our product and would be a great representative for us!"

The work is definitely less involved when it comes to being an ambassador, but each program's requirements are little different. Also, my philosophy is always to go above and beyond for the company's I love and care about so I always try to exceed expectations.

I wrote a whole thing about what it means to be an ambassador over on the Orange Mud blog, to read more on ambassador programs, go check it out here.

Paid Posts
This one is a little tougher without a somewhat substantial following. Regardless, you'll have to start with third party companies. They're sort of the "middle man". These companies get paid to organize the campaigns for brands. A brand pays them, you apply to the campaign, if selected you'll post specific content, and if approved, the third party company will pay you.

Companies I've worked with and recommend are Social Native, Freestak (mostly UK based),, and The Shelf.

Keep in mind, this also comes with much more work. A "good photo" doesn't quite cut it. When creating a #ad or paid #sponsored post for a brand, you'll have very specific requirements you'll have to meet. Lighting, background, surroundings, and more all play major roles in your content. Remember, your image/video has to be approved before you get paid.

I love doing these not just for the extra payment at the end, but like I mentioned, I have a marketing background and I love seeing the unique campaigns brands will come up with. I also really love getting creative and trying new shots or techniques. While it's work, it's a lot of fun (to me)!

Getting the right shot takes a lot of work.
Thankfully I recruit my partner for help.
"Instagram husbands". It's a thing. LOL

Do I have to have a blog?
Not for every opportunity, no. But it definitely doesn't hurt and more often than not it can be the tipping point on a company's decision on whether or not they want to reach out to you. For me, it's a creative outlet. It's yet another way I can work my creative muscles and have fun doing it.

You don't have to necessarily pay for a website either. There are sites like wordpress and blogspot that will allow you to host a blog. Use whatever niche you have or can think of to make your blog stand out.

Have more questions that I didn't answer? 
Please ask away and drop them in the comments below. I plan on doing another post on this sort of thing so stay tuned for more. I hope you enjoyed reading it and learned something new! Have a fantastic day!


  1. Thank you for sharing such valuable and helpful information and knowledge! This gives us more insights and inspiration. Looking forward to seeing more updates from you.

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