How I Became an Accidental Influencer and How You Can Become One Too

The Accidental Influencer

I’m just a tad obsessed with the Accidental Icon. I love how this social worker/college professor turned Icon took the online fashion world by storm. I would like to think that our paths are just a tiny bit similar. I’m a school counselor by trade (I’ve worked as an in-home counselor for adolescents and their families but mostly as a school counselor). I’ve also taught college classes, although I am not quite professor status. I am also far from Icon status, but I love her story and how she was mistaken for a fashion icon and just went with it. My story isn’t quite as glamorous (i’ll add a “yet” to that and a wink to the Universe) but I actually stumbled on Influencing by accident myself.

For those who may not be familiar with the term, influencers are social media marketers. They can be celebrities, experts in their fields, or just every day people with a strong online community. They share products or attend events and share those experiences with their friends and followers on social media. Instagram is one of the biggest forums for influencers. I myself have discovered brands or purchased products while scrolling through my IG feed.

I first came to Instagram by way of a friend who convinced me that it would be a great way to build a community and continue conversations with those who had read my book or might be interested in reading it. Funny thing is I rarely talk about the book as this have evolved into so much more.

Remember why you started

At the core, my desire has always been to inspire people- mostly women and young girls but really anyone. I honed in on single moms for a while because even though I’m married, when I started my book I was one.  But single mom or not, I found out that my audience wasn’t as much of a niche as I thought. Turns out all women want to learn how to goal set, dress well (for real… not like models, although they are pretty fabulous) organize their home and so on. So as my audience grew so did I. And I eventually even outgrew my first IG handle @singlemomchic. I eventually landed on the @therealchiclife handle, also by accident, when I  was moaning on and on about needing a new name and about how another one I wanted was taken. My husband was half listening to my first world problem. When I asked him if he was paying attention, he quickly said “Yes, I am listening. You said the real chic life is taken.” Umm no… but I like the sound of that… Thanks honey!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that O, The Oprah Magazine had a large role in my becoming an influencer. They don’t ask me to write about them by the way, but so much of my story is wrapped into my work with them that sometimes it’s hard not to. So the Cliffs Notes version if you are new here is that I applied to become an O Mag Insider. I knew nothing about Influencing.  All that I did know was that I had the desire to inspire, so when they asked if I was someone who wanted to try new things and have my voice heard by millions… I said “Yes, please!”  and hit the submit button. You can read more about that here.

Working as an Insider put me in touch with some really big brands, so I didn’t actually start out from scratch the way most influencers probably do. And, because O Mag knew what they are doing, even when I didn’t, I was actually paired with brands that were a perfect fit for me. So while my path may be accidental, I have picked up some wisdom along the way. If you are looking to become an Influencer (content creator is the preferred term now) here are few things I would keep in mind.

The Do’s and Don’ts

Keep it as authentic as possible-I always try to keep in mind why I started. My goal is to connect with women and hopefully spread a little inspiration and encouragement along the way. For me, I focus on Fashion, Beauty and Life Advice so my posts should always fall into that area. I also always strive to tell my truth. So I share stories and antidotes from my own life to draw the comparison or simply tell a story. If I don’t love something I don’t post about it. Jumping online to bash a company isn’t my style but silence speaks volumes. I want to be the person that when I say it’s good you can believe it. I always struggled with celebrity endorsements, because even though I might really like the celebrity I never trusted their endorsement of a product. Except for O… because, well she doesn’t need to fake it. You need to figure out what your message is and make sure that resonates with what you post. If I posted about motor oil no one would believe that I really have a strong opinion about which oil is best.  I barely even know where it goes. So I stick to my lane. Make sure you figure out yours.

Be selective-Which brings me to my next point. It is okay to say no. I think many big brands will have more respect for you if you aren’t posting about everything under the sun and your audience definitely will. I recently drafted a reply email that explains to those looking to collaborate that although we are flattered by every collab offer we receive, we are also very selective about current and future endeavors to maintain our authenticity… I never ignore a request because, well…manners, but I also don’t have a problem saying no.

Always post to your audience, not to the brand-Okay, this might sound weird as I know the idea is to score long-term collabs or recurring offers from brands and of course you want the brand to be pleased by your results, but I only think of my audience. I think about the person reading my post or looking at my picture.  Why is she/he on this ride with us? I want them to feel some sort of joy or get some sort of inspiration. I know many people think all of this is superficial, but for me, it isn’t! When I get private messages saying “your comment or post keeps me going, or you IG story from Mexico makes me want to tackle my fear of flying, or your posts make me believe I can do anything!” That is where the satisfaction for me lies. Ultimately if your friends and followers are happy the brand will benefit as well. It’s a win-win!

Likes are good but comments are better-Remember that you want to know your audience and they need to know you. Anyone can scroll through IG mindlessly double tapping, but to take the time to comment…that shows commitment. When your RL or SM followers want to know more about what you posted or want to shop a sale you talked about that is where the engagement is. Also, make sure you are commenting back. Never be so big that you forget to be kind. No one is there to worship me or you!  They are there to be a part of our community. If brands wanted celebrities they’d hire them. They choose you because you are real… so be real.

Make sure you have organic content-speaking of being real…make sure that every single post or story isn’t sponsored. I’m sorry but I think that’s a little lame. Tell me about your kids, about your vacation, about your birthday celebration. That’s what makes social media marketing unique and so much fun. And that’s what would make me keep coming back to your page. Which leads me to my final thought.

Think about what you would want to see-Your audience should be a reflection of you. Put yourself in their shoes when you post and always, always remember why you started. Trust me it can get a little murky on this journey. But if your heart is in the right place it will be a wonderful ride!

I need to make sure I reiterate that this is my way of influencing but there are tons of other influencers who do it differently and are very successful. So my real advice would be do what feels right! You can’t go wrong with that.

If you have tips or even questions about influencing/content creating please leave them below.

Until Next Post,

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*Outfit pictured above is sponsored by Chico’s



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Tonya Parker is a counselor, author and certified life coach who believes in helping women look and feel their best! Ambassador for O, The Oprah Magazine and author of Single Mom Chic

6 thoughts on “How I Became an Accidental Influencer and How You Can Become One Too

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