Follow me @zainrizafit
I know it might seem a bit ridiculous for me with my whole 42 subscribers on Youtube and 5k Instagram followers to be covering this topic, as if I’d have any kind of authority on this subject. However, as a large consumer of social media for nearly a decade, I feel like I can talk about the subject, at least from an outsider’s perspective.
What really prompted me to make this video though is when I found myself not necessarily obsessing over likes but rather becoming acutely aware that I really cared about them. Personally I care about the likes, comments and shares because the higher the engagement on your posts, the better ranked your post is by Instagram, thus the higher the chances of your post making the explore page, which is what you should aspire for if you’re trying to grow your account, because that’s how you go viral and that’s how you grow the fastest.
Why do followers even matter? Easy question, I know. I’m just trying create a little bit of context here. Once you hit around 10k followers, it becomes a lot easier to approach people for work, and once you go past roughly 20k followers, people tend to approach you for work and past 30k, it becomes a lot easier to sell your own products and services.
Checking the numbers has so far always been strictly business. I won’t lie I’m pursuing this influencer thing for my business and my career. At this point, the likes, comments and shares, followers are my KPIs essentially. However, it goes without saying that you need to take the emotion out of it, when it comes to analysing these numbers.
If you’re the star of your content, you need to detach yourself emotionally from the numbers. When you allow the numbers to dictate your self-worth, that’s when social media and being instafamous is toxic. Granted it is such a fine line, which is why I need to constantly remind myself that if something I produce doesn’t perform as well as I hoped, it’s not because I suck but because the content itself sucked. It just means I have to work on my craft. I have to create more value for my audience. I have to be more educational. I have to be more engaging. (Then, again, sometimes things don't stick for whatever reason, but that's a different argument for a different blog post.)
But then, you get another problem, in that, in chasing the numbers you produce content that serves to only please your audience, or to please an algorithm and you start to create content that’s untrue to yourself, and you then start to literally lose your own identity. I was even considering making one of those comparison videos in an attempt to play the algorithm and get the views up.
I decided on this video because my mission has always been to provide content of substance. Content that actually means something, whether it helps you progress further in your lifting, or to make you smile, or to encourage you to actually start your own business, I always try to make a genuine, immediate positive impact. Posting a half-naked picture of yourself and then captioning it with ‘chase your dreams’ or ‘surround yourself with people who lift you’ is not valuable in my eyes.
I’ve followed tons of people online who’ve admitted to feeling seriously depressed because of this very thing. There are so many people who I used to follow who don’t create anything anymore and have stopped altogether because of this loss of identity. It’s draining.
You get stuck in two minds: do you create content regardless because you’re indebted to your followers, because without them, you’d be nothing or do you stay true to yourself, even if means upsetting some of your following?
It honestly can mess with your head. On top of that, there’s the constant pressure to make something weekly or even daily. I, as a consumer, exert that pressure as well. I constantly want my favourite creators to put out new videos. I sometimes get annoyed when they miss an upload. How crazy is that?
Which begs the question. Is it really worth it? Becoming social media famous and all. You know, risking losing your identity.
The other big issue I’ve found to be true of being insta-famous is the loss of trust and generally becoming fake/ dealing with fake people.
For example, there’s this girl who goes to my gym. I see her all the time. I don’t talk to her but I know she has nearly a million followers on Instagram. She’s unbelievably influential. She could literally mention something about some new toothpaste in passing and it’d sell out in a few days.
I bring her up because, I don’t know if it’s just in my head, but she seems to be on edge all the time at the gym. Like she gets in the gym, does her workout, head down the entire time, then straight back out. I mean that sounds like 99% of people going to the gym. But she sometimes seems startled if someone asks her something as harmless as if the bench next to her is free.
I know, most girls, to be fair, instinctively have their heads down and a massive fuck-off plastered on their foreheads because men are trash, but I just can’t help but think that, if I had nearly a million followers, I’d be so wary of who I spoke to and their intentions.
I’d constantly have in the back of my mind, "are they talking to me because they want me to promote something for them? Is this person just my friend because I have a massive following?" This means you only really hang out with other people with massive followings. Then, you ask yourself, would this person be my friend if I lost my followers? Would they still be my friend if my brand, my content lost relevancy?
I guess the whole trusting thing and dealing with fake people applies to being successful in general really. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in.
Another thing I fear, is becoming fake myself. I see meet-and-greets on my Instagram and I can’t help but think would this influencer genuinely be giving this fan the time of day had it not been for the fact that this fan waited an hour to see them and the fan bought all their merch.
(I know for the most part, it is a mutually beneficial relationship; the influencer produces content that enhances the fan’s life, by educating and inspiring or whatever, and in return, the influencer can pay their bills.)
Let’s put it another way. It’s like the relationship between a client and a personal trainer. I see those daily and I always think to myself, "would the personal trainer give this client the time of day, if their client stopped paying for his/her services?" Most of the time, I’d say, "no." I think this especially when these trainers post Whatsapp screenshots of the banter they have with their clients on their Instagram stories. Is this necessarily bad? I don’t know. Now, I feel like this about personal trainers who say have 20-30 clients a year. To be honest, I have no idea how clients a PT has on average. Let’s say it’s 20 or 30 a year.
Now, to put it into perspective, a top fitness influencer with 100s of thousands of followers, if not millions, might do, say, 3 or 4 meet-and-greets a year, if not more, meeting and talking to hundreds of people at each. In the space of a few years they’ll meet with literally thousands of people. When you meet so many fans, I think you inevitably, involuntarily, value each fan less and less. It’s like tinder, isn’t it. When you’re presented with an almost unlimited number of potential suitors, people become disposable. Of course, I hope I’m completely wrong about this. I just can’t help but think, as a fan, does this person genuinely care about me? Would they like me less if I hadn’t bought all their merch? Or is that fair enough?
I guess the real reason for this video, is for myself, to remind myself to stay grounded. To remind myself that you’re never too important to be nice to someone. When you become an entrepreneur, it becomes easy to justify being dishonest if it means you gain from it.
I want to remind myself to stay true to myself, to be good to other people, to be a person of genuine value, to be honest and have integrity.
To give my final thoughts on my initial questions, is being instafamous worth it? Is it toxic? I would say, yes, it’s worth it and, no, it’s not toxic, provided you keep a lot of things in check. I choose to remain positive and hopeful about it.
In order to keep your sanity in this game, you need to keep yourself grounded. Make sure you have people to give you reality checks. And I guess, with time, you inevitably become better and better at sussing out who’s genuine and who’s full of shit.
These questions have always fascinated me- especially when I see how alienating it can be being an influencer.
I want to discuss these questions because having an online presence is so, so important if you want to survive in business today. Knowing how to build an online following has become an essential part of any business. It’s a non-negotiable nowadays. You have to have some sort of social media presence or at least know how to do it well. Nowadays, dentists, lawyers, estate agents have Instagram pages. Think about it. If you were going to choose between 2 restaurants for dinner, you’d choose the one with a better Instagram? Would you not? Would you more likely buy a pair of shoes you saw in passing on the tube or the pair of shoes you see everyday worn by your favourite fitness influencer as they smash through a workout in their Instagram stories?
You know you would you be more swayed by your favourite influencer, with whom you have an emotional connection, not that tube ad you see in the corner of your eye as you rush for the exit.
I used to really look down on social media. I only started using Instagram maybe three years ago. I used to cringe and think, "who cares about your stupid avocado toast?" I used to think the whole sharing of every minute detail of one’s life was so mindless, so dull. Like seriously, why are you telling the world that you’ve run out of milk? But, now, I get it. I disagree with A LOT of it, but I still get it.
My opinion of social media has changed completely. Nowadays, the only people who think influencers are stupid, pointless, talentless, cringe are the ones who don’t understand the power of an online following, and they don’t understand how businesses from now on will rely predominantly on a strong, engaged online following.
Traditional forms of marketing are dying. They are becoming less and less relevant. Today, if you want to have a successful business of ANY kind, you will have no choice but to learn how to grow a loyal, engaged online following. If not, you will be paying someone else to do it for you. It’s only going to get more and more expensive.
I’m arguing that it is possible to be successful online, whilst maintaining your sanity and integrity. It just involves learning to be really street-wise as well. I hope you stay with me on my journey. I promise when I do get a chance to do a meet-and-greet, I will be genuinely grateful.
Anyway, that’s all from me.
FOLLOW ME @zainrizafit