How to become an Henfluencer, but not Instantly!

“Influencers” are the buzzword of the year, but it’s no longer a term we look at with admiration. And the true influencers of the henna community would never in a million years refer to themselves as such. But to desire recognition and respect is human, and you can make that happen! So check out my top ten tips, but be prepared to do the hard work. Success is never instant, no matter what the clickbait tells you.

It all begins with respecting yourself - What does that mean? Respecting yourself is not being ashamed of who you are, what you look like, or what level of skill you have. Be grateful for where you are in your henna journey, but be humble enough to know where you could use improvement. If you respect yourself, you won’t have to copy others to be be successful, and copying rarely leads to success anyway.

Take a moment to review your motivations.

Take a moment to review your motivations.

Consider why you want to be an influencer - Do you just want to spread the good word about safe and natural henna? Is it something you want to monetize, with brand deals and collaborations? Do you want to get invited to teach at conferences, or work at destination weddings? Or maybe you want to sell supplies or crafts and use your fan base to get leads? Or do you just finally want to be a “cool kid” and get lots of likes and follows? Let’s face it, most of us henna artists were anything but cool growing up. ;) Whatever your motivations, I do hope you’ll use the force for good.

Unfollow 90% of other henna artists - If you want to do truly unique work, look for inspiration outside of the henna community. No one wants to see your knock-off of another artist’s work. We want to see what happens when you create from your heart, or see what happens when you get inspired by that piece of architecture you saw on vacation, or the scarf your mom gave you, the border of a vintage saree, a tile in a restaurant, a tree, a snowflake, a fibonacci sequence. If you have to copy someone else’s model, YOU are being influenced, not being an influencer. By the way, you might prefer different terminology. Maybe industry leader? Community leader? Trendsetter? Renegade? Not all “influence” is about brand deals and green juice.

But sometimes there is green juice too.

But sometimes there is green juice too.

Do great work - Make unique art, photograph it well. Easier said than done sometimes. There are only a few artists whose henna is so exceptional they can photograph it on a dirty paper towel and garner thousands of likes. That’s probably not you though, sorry. Think of your henna as a piece of art that deserves a beautiful frame. Don’t metaphorically duct-tape your art to the wall. Presentation matters. And please ditch the turquoise color theme, don’t we think that’s been done enough already?

See? I told you we have enough turquoise.

See? I told you we have enough turquoise.

For fuck’s sake, speak in your own voice - Are you polite and sophisticated? Or irreverent and love to swear like a sailor? Where do your special interests lie? Are you design oriented? Chemistry oriented? Do you do intuitive henna? Whatever your personality and specialty, just be you. Your IG captions are a great place to go a little deeper, so write like you still use LiveJournal (I might be dating myself here). Don’t just say “I did this henna on my hand last night”. Tell your story, share your challenges, share a solution, share your inspiration sources. And trust that you’ll attract people who will enjoy your voice. Instagram has over a billion active users, surely there is a market for what you’re offering.

Authenticity is key

Authenticity is key

Don’t just share your highlight reel - If you want to establish real trust and engagement with your audience, you’ll need to share your fails and bloopers too. They don’t detract from your credibility, in fact, they add to it! They show that you are honest and transparent and accountable, and of course everyone breathes a sigh of relief when they realize their favorite Insta-personality is only human. Yes, I once tried microwaving a henna cone to thaw it, and as you might have expected, it had a nasty blow out. A movie would not be interesting if it were just a collection of beautiful and happy moments (we have YouTube kitten videos for that) , it also needs rain, mud, loss, conflicts, love triangles, tough choices and bad hair days. I do however recommend keeping ugly photos to a minimum on your main feed, but go ahead and post that bedhead in your Story!

Folks, don’t try this at home.

Folks, don’t try this at home.

Engage with your fans - This seems like a no brainer, but I’m always shocked at how few people actually reply to comments. As a bare minimum, say “thank you” or use a comment as an opportunity to offer deeper explanations, or begin a conversation. Not only do comments boost your post visibility, they also help you establish a relationship with potential clients or collaborators. And gosh, you might actually make a real life friend too!

Reply to every comment!

Reply to every comment!

Collaborate with other small businesses - Reach out to businesses that are complementary to yours. Get professional photos with models, hair and makeup, or at a well known, beautiful or unique location, etc.. and then submit the photos to magazines, blogs, or entertainment news sites like Buzzfeed. Write an accompanying article or interview to go with your images. All of those publications NEED content, so you can usually be listed for free. Remember that there is more to life than just being Insta-famous, and you can “influence” for free across other platforms! Imagine if Instagram suddenly shut down, do you have a back-up plan? Future-proof yourself.

Stop, collaborate and listen.

Stop, collaborate and listen.

Be consistent and patient - This time I don’t mean just posting the same style of image all the time, but post and engage consistently. Your influencer status won’t happen overnight. It can take 3-6 months of everyday effort to even begin to see growth. Beware of anyone who tells you about “instant” fixes or says “make money instantly with these tricks”. Popularity growth takes a lot of effort and time. It takes dedication, for example responding to all the comments even when you don’t feel like it, or coordinating a photographer, model, and makeup artist (sometimes it feels like herding cats). It can feel frustrating when you’re doing all the things and haven’t seen the changes start. But I promise, if you give it time, and everything you’ve got, you will see success. There truly is no such thing as instant results, and you should never trust anyone who says there is. Do the work.

Ok, work harder AND smarter, but you get the idea.

Ok, work harder AND smarter, but you get the idea.

Experiment - No one said you have to do the same thing all the time. Maybe you hurt your shoulder and have to stop doing henna. Shoot, now what you going to offer your 60k followers!? Well if you have stayed true to yourself, and have been speaking in your own unique voice, your followers aren’t there for just a henna pic. They’re there for you. They’re invested in you in some way. They want to see your successes, and yes they want to see your failures too (human, remember?). If you’ve developed a relationship with them, they’re going to stick around for your new venture into mixed-species taxidermy or vegan cheesemaking or cryptocurrency or whatever. And if they move on, that’s ok too. The point is, develop your personality, and the content can be anything.

That time I designed metallic tattoos.

That time I designed metallic tattoos.

Bonus Round - Invest in your education. I don’t mean going back to university, but having a continuing desire to learn is something you’ll see in the most successful people. Attend conferences, retreats, or workshops. Apprentice with a master, get a mentor or coach. If there is an aspect of your business you are having a particularly hard time with, consider taking a class on it. Whether it’s marketing, web-design, photography, flower arranging, bridal dress-up, there’s a class for that!

Get offline and go learn something new!

Get offline and go learn something new!