What does it take to join one of the fastest growing categories of brand ambassador and influencer marketing? I asked an up and coming Instagram fitness influencer with over 120,000 followers at the time of this article to anonymously share written tips, tricks, and secrets about becoming a fitness influencer.
At PodSquad, we probably talk to a hundred different influencers in a given day. Our network covers all shapes, sizes, and content types - and brands are continuously looking for fresh talent to fill their expanding need for brand ambassador marketing.
But there's one type of brand ambassador that has been particularly popular in the last year: The fitness influencer. These influencers typically live the life they portray through daily workout and diet regimens. Fitness brand ambassadors are quickly gaining in popularity (and paycheck size) thanks to a growing market for vitamins, protein bars, and gym memberships.
In fact, in 2018 social media interest in the overall health and wellness category grew by 87% according to our data. That means there are more brands than ever looking to engage Instagram fitness influencers to collaborate on products and content.
Let's dive into the content.
What does it take to become a fitness influencer on Instagram?
I started playing around with Instagram in early 2017. All my life I have had body issues including lapsing into mild eating disorders that honestly were probably made worse by spending a lot of time looking at thin models on Instagram. I don't have one of those traditional "Instagram girl" bodies and I never really thought I could turn fitness into a career, let alone on Instagram.
After a major wakeup call I changed my life for the better, and began focusing on eating right and regular exercise. I realized that by building muscle tone and strength through the proper diet, I could keep trim and feel confident while maintaining energy and health at the same time.
That's a tough mental hurdle for a lot of girls to get over, and I credit a lot of that to my good friend who started doing CrossFit and getting really lean. It sounds kind of shallow, but I needed to see another girl my age actually looking better herself for me to realize I was going down the wrong path.
But I had another problem. The various diets and recommendations did not work well for me. I have a gluten allergy, and also do not eat animal-based proteins. That second part is an ethical choice on my part, but one that I strongly believe in and support.
I started to design my own diet, and I documented the process on Instagram. That's when I started to get more Instagram followers and more engagement on my posts. I pretty quickly realized that this could be a thing, and so I started working really hard on growing that following by showcasing my new food inventions.
Basically, I would start each day with a super healthy bowl that also photographed well, and get good pictures of that content. I learned a lot of about photography and eventually bought a nice DSLR and lighting screen to make sure I could get the right shot. I posted recipes pretty much every week on Instagram.
The other thing that I really focus on is daily, health exercise. I'm not the CrossFit type, but I have learned to appreciate high intensity interval training as a core component of my routine. It's intense but helps me maintain the lifestyle that works for me. That's one part I want to stress: You have to create realistic routines. My content on Instagram focuses on working adults who can't always be at the gym at 6am every day. Combined with whole foods-based healthy meals it was a good set of content to promote.
Around early 2018 I accepted my first offer from a brand to represent them on Instagram. The brand sells fitness bars with an incredible focus on clean ingredients and balanced nutrition. It was as if a bar had been made from my brain. That's one important point I want to stress, you can't accept the first offer that comes your way. I started to get offers pretty much right away after crossing 10,000 followers on Instagram, but they were almost always cheap or mismatched brands. I would ask tough questions about ingredients, sourcing, and ethical production. If they couldn't answer then I knew something was up.
My first assignment as a fitness brand ambassador was to introduce a new flavor of bar and integrate it into my meal routine as a full meal replacement. This moment was bittersweet for me, because of my negative past history with eating the idea of skipping a meal hit home. I had a lot of trouble thinking how to approach the content. The last thing I want to do is make girls feel bad about eating or encourage meal skipping.
I worked with the brand's nutritionist to deeply understand what went in to each bar, and how a regular meal replacement would impact a girl's body. The brand nutritionist was amazing, and she even showed me behind the scenes of production as proof points that what went in was both clean and contained real nutrition that would sustain a person through the day.
After this initial hand holding period I had a fresh outlook on the brand. The content that came out of the Instagram campaign was awesome, and to this day I think it's some of my best work. The campaign covered Stories and Posts in both still image and video format. I also integrated the product into my workout routines for pre-workout meals.
I was invited to work with the brand on a regular basis, becoming a legitimate fitness brand ambassador on Instagram. It's really cool to think how far I have come, and while I still have some sensitivities around body issues, Instagram has turned into a positive influence for me. By interacting with other people going through the same problems I once had, I know I'm helping them get to where I am now.
Instagram can be an amazing tool, but I would encourage anything thinking about becoming a fitness influencer to scrutinize brands that make offers. Set some moral guidelines and stick to them, because there are a lot of fakers and people trying to make money above all else out there. Go for what feels right, and try to make sure you always leave people with confidence and motivation to improve their mental and physical selves.