The Most Authentic Voices Come from Social Media Micro-Influencers: Q&A with Alice Bell
The official definition of a micro-influencer is someone who has a follower base of anywhere from 2,000 followers up to 50,000 followers on a specific social media channel. When you speak to one though, they may not consider themselves “influencers” even though they have the numbers to back it up.
We talk a lot about how micro-influencers are the new trend in digital marketing, but we have never tried to look at the business experience from the influencer’s perspective. How does a micro-influencer manage their social media account(s)? How do they approach content creation? Is it similar to how we, digital marketers, work or are they playing their own game? What do they value in brand partnerships?
We sat down with Instagram influencer Alice Bell @stalkalice to learn a little more about her experience building her business. Bell recently quit her job as a Fashion Assistant at Vogue to focus on her Instagram-based astrology business once it went viral.
You’ll notice that when asked what being an Instagram influencer meant to her, Bell had a tough time answering. She has gained a genuine following because she has a real talent and is actively sharing her work and passion in an innovative, fun and engaging way -- and people want more. She wasn’t trying to be an influencer. Isn't that the definition of authentic? Read on to learn more about how Bell turned her interest in astrology into a full time Instagram business sensation.
Social Media Today: What does being an Instagram influencer mean to you?
Alice Bell: I don’t think you have to have a lot of followers, but [it’s] being able to sway people to buy something. It gets a pretty bad rep culturally, people view it as not really a job. I don't really know.
SMT: How did you get started on Instagram?
AB: I started out with a fashion blog in college. I really wanted to work in fashion and I went to school in Switzerland so there was no place to intern. So I had to have a blog to have some experience on my resume. That never really took off because there were so many other [fashion] bloggers out there at that time. And then when I turned to astrology, that’s when people started becoming really responsive to my Instagram.
SMT: How did you grow such a large Instagram following? What do you think helped you stand out from the crowd?
AB: I would say working at Vogue helped me get a lot more followers just because it gave me street cred. Then I feel like because no one else is doing in-depth astrology on their Instagram. There are a lot of astrology meme accounts, but as far as taking the time to explain to people what their birth chart is and all that stuff, I haven’t come across anyone else.
SMT: Do you have any background in social media marketing or was this just a hobby that took flight?
AB: I never made the decision to create the Instagram. I kind of just started posting about my life and what I thought was funny, so I just started posting about how I was so obsessed with astrology and [had been] looking at these charts, and people kept wanting to hear more, and I was like maybe I should actually try to do this more regularly. It became a weekly/every few day kind of thing. And it just really picked up and I was like I can start making money off of this and then it went from thereit just happened really fast.
SMT: The big word circling the social media marketing world today is “authenticity.” What are your secrets to always creating engaging and authentic content for your audience?
AB: I think just being true to who you are. I try to include more vulnerable content. When I did that fashion blog [that seemed] fake, [full of] expensive clothes, no one really cared because it didn’t show who I am. I feel like telling more about your problems and what you’re going through emotionally helps people connect with you more.
SMT: What’s an example of something you posted that was vulnerable but got a really good response?
AB: When I talk about my own problems going on in my [astrology] chart people are really responsive. If I talk about how emotional I am or dating problems I have reflected in my chart, I get a lot of response[s] like “oh my gosh that’s me too!”
SMT: How do you make your vulnerabilities relatable? What’s the fine line between too much detail and relatable?
AB: I keep it general. At a certain point, people don’t just want to hear about just your life, they like to see how it relates to them, too. They don’t want to hear me go on and on and on about myself and my situation, they want to know “how can this apply to me?”
SMT: In the same vein, you clearly take the time to personally interact with your audience. How much time to you devote to responding to them, and to what extent do you think that this personalization aspect led to your success?
AB: Probably a few hours every day. I just respond to messages as I get them or else I’ll forget about it. My [followers] buy my orders, so I need to form a relationship with people because it takes me two to three weeks to send out these orders [and they need to trust me throughout that].
SMT: You recently left your job at Vogue to pursue a full time job as an astrologer when your Instagram took off. When and why did you decide to make this change?
AB: It got to the point where I couldn’t go into work anymore because the astrology stuff was so busy, and that’s when I knew I had to quit. I was spending time on Vogue stuff when I could have been devoting my whole attention to the astrology [business].
SMT: How has social media (Instagram in particular) helped you actually grow your business?
AB: Without Instagram I would not have a business. All of my customers come from there and I usually DM with people more than I email with people. I feel like everyone hears about me through Instagram.
SMT: Do you use any analytics tools to track ROI of your social media efforts?
AB: I look at how many people share the Instagram stories and save my posts, but that’s about it.
SMT: Have you collaborated with any brands? How did that process work from your end? Did you enjoy working with them?
AB: I have for events -- with 1stdibs, I did an event for them. And then Susan Alexandra launched astrology themed jewelry at Opening Ceremony and [another] brand launched an astrology candle company. So I went and did readings with them, and then I’m doing more later on in the month. [It was a] really good business decision because it gets my name out there and more and more people find out about me. But events are really stressful to do, they’re just emotionally draining because I have to read [around] 30 charts in 2 hours.
SMT: How would you want to work with brands in the future?
AB: I definitely want to collaborate on astrology themed collections and maybe write product descriptions that are astrologically themed and more in depth when you get the product. I would love to do clothing collaborations.
SMT: What does the future have in store for @stalkalice? As you grow your business, do you plan to continue focusing your efforts on Instagram?
AB: I think for now I’m continuing on Instagram just because it reaches the largest audience; but I also want to get onto YouTube. I was thinking about starting a podcast. Hopefully, I’ll get that on its feet in March. [I’m] just taking baby steps because I’m very overwhelmed right now. I also write a lot of freelance articles (like horoscopes and stuff) so it’s balancing that with the chart orders with starting a podcast. It’s a lot of learning time management. I would love to grow a team one day and have a whole office.