How to Become a Sneaker Influencer, Get Free Shoes and Get Paid

The world spends more time on the internet than ever before. Screen time has been off the charts, whether it’s toddlers watching a movie on their iPads or a teenager scrolling through their phone to ensure they are avoiding actual social interaction. This digital era also changed the way we make purchases, transforming e-commerce into a leading marketplace.

However, one demographic has embraced e-commerce and social media more than others: millennials. The 30- and early 40-somethings found their way onto social media and began creating content like never before.

TikTok was thrust to the forefront after previously being placed squarely in the back of our brains, if on our minds at all, and thought of merely as an app where people do silly dances. Social media has become a viable source for news and info at warp speed. That immediacy and the enormous amount of attention being paid to who is doing what and where has changed marketing and boosted influencers from a taboo pipe dream to a lucrative career choice.

So what exactly is an influencer? In its most basic definition, the definition of influence is the capacity to affect the thoughts and behaviors of people, places or things. Therefore, an influencer is someone who has the ability to sway the ideas of a brand or company and the behaviors — chiefly buying behaviors — of its customers and potential customers. Now, people are being paid hefty salaries and signing major deals to push products from their social media platforms.

The sneaker world has always been ahead of the game when it came to having social media presence. Sneaker blogs with news, notes and stories dedicated to sneaker lovers became popular in the early 2000s. Personalities and fans both derived from the onset of these spaces.

With the invention and subsequent explosion of social media, even more personalities were given life. Instagram and YouTube shows allowed the once “if you know you know” society of sneaker lovers to be spotlighted. The back alley conversations of NikeTalk forums were now being held publicly for all to see in Instagram comments and Twitter posts, which also caught the attention of brands. The conversations, images and arguments actually helped boost the sales and popularity of certain shoes.

Partnerships were formed and the influencer market began to skyrocket and the sneaker game was changed forever. But it still begs the questions: How does one become a sneaker influencer? What does it mean, exactly? Finally, how does one get paid for being an influencer?

Nebraska-born, Houston-based sneaker influencer Tausha Sanders — known as “TaushaQuan” on Instagram — shared some insights. Sanders began her career as an intern at Karmaloop and is the founder of HerGrails, a company that hosts sneaker experiences tailored toward women that helps empower, inform and highlight those in the industry.

“We curate a space where women feel comfortable and aim to attract new and old enthusiasts into the ever-growing sneaker market,” Saunders said of her business that recently celebrated its third anniversary.

Though having done business with the likes of Jordan Brand and Foot Locker, Saunders considers herself an “accidental influencer.” “It’s still so funny to hear people say that I’m an influencer. I for sure did not set out to be one,” Sanders said about her current status.

Becoming a sneaker influencer is doable, but is not a particularly easy thing to intentionally do. Algorithms aside, it’s incredibly difficult to predict what will go viral or when it will do so. We’ve seen stories of a video or picture that was previously posted without much fanfare being resuscitated as a viral sensation. Even in those instances, one must have a strategy to be viewed as a viable influencer.

That is step one.

Find a niche

What do you want to be known for in the sneaker world? That is the main question to answer when beginning the journey to becoming an influencer. Lean into what you know and are passionate about.

Since you’re obviously going to have to own a large amount of sneakers, Sanders advised those trying to become an influencer to, “Wear what you like to wear. I cannot say this enough. What I like, is what I like.”

Also, contrary to what may be an accepted belief, Sanders said, “You don’t need hype shoes to be a sneaker influencer. I wear [Nike] AF1’s and Puma Suedes almost every day.”

Be Consistent

Once you decide what your niche is, you must post regularly to stay in the hearts and minds of your current followers and gain enough traction to garner the attention of new followers. That never happens if your content is infrequent. The discipline of consistency is necessary for those dog days of content creation.

Sanders said one of the cons of being an influencer is “trying to keep up with all the trends and current happenings. Some days you don’t feel like being creative and getting dressed up and making content but if you don’t then essentially you could be losing out on money and opportunities.”

Be the Expert

Your niche is decided. You have a consistent post schedule. Now the question to be answered is: What are you sharing with your followers? Posting just for the sake of posting does not set you apart from any other Instagram profile. If you want to be influential in your niche, people must feel that you are a source of information.

Create a Business Profile

Instagram is fun. Taking and posting pictures is fun. Learning how to create a quality reel is fun. However, if you want your social media to become a business for you, your profile should reflect that. The analytics and audience detail that are captured by a business profile is invaluable to your ability to negotiate your value as an influencer. The data is what companies want to see.

Understand What You’re Being Paid To Do

Some companies will want you to shoot and edit your own content around their product. Some companies will want to use your name, image and likeness in an ad they create. There are also opportunities for paid posts, event attendance, speaking engagements and the pinnacle of influence: collaboration.

Any of these income opportunities come with a level of expectation of you. Make sure you know who you are aligning with, how they plan to use your content and how you are profiting from it.

Influencers, as a whole, are not a new phenomenon. Whether they went by tastemakers, culture enthusiasts or critics, personalities have always been called on to help manipulate the consumer market. In recent years, however, the game has simply changed its entry point.

When asked for one last bit of advice for aspiring sneaker influencers, Sanders confirmed that there is no exact science to it. The explicit advice she can give is to “Just be genuine and authentic. Especially in the sneaker industry, we can spot someone faking the funk a mile away.”

If you want to be paid for what you do, you have to do what you do and do it well. That’s the influence.

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