It’s normal to hear the cliche, two are better than one, but this statement has been proven true among influencers in the last five years. Growing followership and influence on social media is not an easy feat, and with changing algorithms, it’s even more difficult.
Social media has become the top cultural influence on society. More people, especially Gen Z and Millennial generations, depend on social media platforms for their information, advice, and counsel, especially as regards lifestyle and fashion choices. This reality has placed social media influencers on a pedestal as some of the most relevant figures in modern culture.
The biggest question that influencers and aspiring influencers have to answer consistently is, “Can we still grow a healthy following organically in the age of changing algorithms?”
Renowned supermodel Stefanie Gurzanski seems to think that this is possible. In her words, “Value is king, the first step to doing it organically is finding your audience and determining what they consider as value. Then you have to create content around that and dish it out consistently. When all is said and done, you need help from others as well.”
As a supermodel, Stefanie Gurzanski, who is more popularly known as Baby G, has featured on the cover of some of the world’s most prestigious magazines like Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Elle. She has also stunned at many of the world’s most prestigious fashion shows and red carpets. However, one of her most significant accomplishments has been turning that success into a digital media empire and becoming an Instagram influencer with millions of extremely loyal followers.
Stefanie believes that collaboration is one of the most powerful keys to growing followership in a world where algorithms are becoming more demanding. In this article, Stefanie shares why she thinks collaboration is so important.
According to Instagram, the main rule about Instagram algorithms is that not one but many algorithms influence a user’s Instagram experience. Different AI algorithms analyze user behavior on the different parts of the app; reels, feeds, and explore. All these algorithms work together to determine what we see or not see on Instagram.
The Instagram model is more or less the same on Facebook, Titok, and youtube, where various AI algorithms are used to achieve these exact results.
According to Stefanie, “Instagram has been a bit more transparent about how their algorithms function and this has helped influencers build systems around their brands that help them get the most out of the platform. What I have found is that the key ingredient that enables us to get the best out of all the algorithms is collaboration.”
Adam Mosseri has taken his time to summarize how the Instagram algorithm functions in a post. Four key factors influence the Instagram algorithm for feed posts.
- First, the algorithm considers the basic information about the post; Is it a photo or a video? When was it posted? How many likes does it have?
- Secondly, it considers the information about the poster; How interesting does the user find them to be? How often does the user engage with their content?
- The third factor is the user’s activity; is the user a heavy video-watcher, or does the user prefer other kinds of content?
- The final factor is the user’s interaction history; does the user typically engage with the poster’s posts by liking or commenting?
In summary, on Instagram feeds, the algorithm would typically show a user posts from creators who create the kind of content they typically engage with, and who they have previously engaged with or tend to engage with frequently. On reels and explore, Instagram goes further by showing users the content they think they will like based on their previous activity.
Stefanie explains it with a more straightforward example;
“I am coming up on the two million followers mark and one thing that is readily noticeable is that many of these followers found me because they initially followed other supermodels who do what I do. Likewise, when my followers consistently engage with my pictures and videos, they are also likely to see posts from similar creators who do what I do on their explore page or their reels. Now imagine what we can achieve as influencers if we become more intentional about giving and getting this exposure. The results are simply stunning.”
Collaboration as a Powerful Tool For Exposure
Since 2016, when Instagram made these changes to its algorithm, collaboration has become perhaps the most effective tool for exposure. Creators collaborate in different ways, but the end goal is the same, and the results are similar.
Live broadcasts by Sponsored Influencers have become a thing. 82% of audiences prefer live video from influencers and brands to other generic content, which has made live videos both the present and the future of video content.
Since Instagram launched its new feature, which enables creators and users to go live with a friend remotely, influencers have used this feature to invite other creators on their platform for live broadcasts. Content ranges from talk shows to casual conversations, and the results have been favorable so far.
“Live videos have such an engagement boosting effect,” Stefanie explains. “The algorithms give live videos more exposure, so when influencers can link up via this feature, it helps the algorithm make the connection between their two sets of audiences. This can easily grow the platforms of both influencers by exposing them to new audiences.”
Hosting Account takeovers is another powerful collaborative tool that creators use to force the algorithm to give more exposure to their content.
An account takeover is a strategy where an influencer can surrender their account to another influencer for some time, either by posting only content from that influencer or giving the influencer access to their platforms to post directly.
The basic idea is to create a feeling that that influencer is in charge for that period. This is a powerful way that influencers use to expose their work and brands to other influencers’ audiences. The results are usually remarkable as the algorithm is forced to make that connection.
Collaborating with Aspiring Influencers is also becoming more popular. Stefanie recently launched the Baby G Mag, a subscription-based platform where other creatives can be featured and grow their own platforms.
She explains why she thinks this strategy is helpful; “With all the algorithm changes, it has become difficult to grow organically today than it was a few years ago. So, I built Baby G Mag specifically for other girls who want to grow their brand, make money, and can be seen by a guaranteed amount of paying customers. Right now we are collating with other magazines as well. Playboy Mexico has already seen us as an interesting platform to collaborate with in just our first few weeks.”
While many influencers are looking to connect with influencers with bigger platforms, Stefanie realizes that collaborating with up-and-coming influencers is a win-win. It exposes her to new audiences as these smaller influencers usually have a smaller but fiercely loyal audience. It is also her way of helping these influencers grow faster and gain more influence.
User-Generated Content (UGC) is also becoming stronger among influencers. 85% of users find visual UGC more influential than brand photos or videos. It also drives 6.9-times-higher engagement than generic content.
UGC is a form of collaboration that Influencers build with their followers. This is effective because followers tend to engage with UGCs at a higher rate. Since the algorithm gives more exposure to posts and platforms with more engagement, the Influencer’s platforms usually get seen way more. It’s a win-win for most influencers.
Influencer Pods are becoming robust as well. Some influencers have decided that the best way to link their audiences is to create pods of influencers. These pods usually have 10-15 influencers from within their industry who engage authentically with each other’s content; they share, like, and leave thoughtful comments on their most recent posts.
Many see pods as a way to skew the system and game the algorithm, but so far, no social media platform has cracked down on them yet.
Stefanie believes that collaboration in whatever shape or form it comes is the key to consistent growth as influencers;
“In my case, my fame didn’t necessarily come from social media, but I have been able to maintain it on social media by continuing with the things I became famous for. My merchandise, my videos, and my photos are what people value about my brand, and so I remain consistent. However, I also believe that helping others rise has helped me rise even more. Collaboration will probably always be a successful route to go even if the algorithms change again, because it is at the heart of what social media is trying to do, which is to connect people and to help people discover other relevant people. It’s a silver bullet by every standard.”
Stefanie’s points are valid; at the heart of most social media platforms is a desire to connect people and increase engagement. Their money-making structures are built around these same values. So it is likely that finding valuable ways to collaborate will always win in the end, and It’s difficult to have any problems with it whatsoever.