There are two types of Instagram influencers: content creators, and content curators.
Most of the time, it's the content creators that catch all the limelight. These are the influencers who have built audiences around their unique creations, personality, talents, voice, or even just the fact that their face is perfectly symmetrical and their selfies garner and unfathomable amount of Likes.
What most people forget, however, when talking about how to build a massive audience on Instagram, is the possibility of being a content curator instead. A curator (no different than someone who selects the art that appears in a museum) is someone who, instead of creating things themselves, shares things they feel people would be interested in seeing. A curator's talent is in creating a highlight reel, so to speak. They are who you follow when you want the "best of" a certain type of content.
Content curation accounts have just as much opportunity to become as big as the content creators whose faces constantly appear on Instagram's Discover page--and they are part of almost every single content niche. Even big brands like @bmw have turned to the content curation method by sourcing photos from car fanatics and brilliant photographers (and giving them credit in the captions) instead of shooting all their own original content.
Curation is the single best way to turn yourself into an influencer without necessarily needing to be a full-time creator. For example: If you want funny memes, you follow @nochill. When you want news (Millennial style), you follow @jerrynews. And for healthy meals you can cook yourself, @healthyfitnessmeals.
Food is one of the categories where content curation works exceedingly well. From fitness models to restaurant foodies, chefs to stay-at-home moms who want to share their favorite recipes, food has always been one of Instagram's most popular categories, and arguably one of the most engaging types of content on the Internet. People love to see cheese melting on a burger, fresh avocados sprinkled with sea salt, pancakes dripping with maple syrup, and the bright vibrant colors that come with a top-down photo of a summer picnic table with plates of healthy fruits and vegetables.
For example, I was chatting with Rena Awada, the creator behind the massively popular foodie Instagram account, @healthyfitnessmeals, about how she was able to build such a loyal following. She is what's called a content curator, which means in addition to sharing her own recipes from time to time, she scours Instagram for the best recipes and the best photos and then shares them on her page--that way, she doesn't have to always be creating things herself.
The strategy has served her well. Her Instagram page boasts over 3.5M followers.
I asked her how she decided to position herself as a content curator in the food space, and how others could do the same, and she said, "I'm a mother of 5, which means I hardly have any time to myself," laughing a bit. "It's a constant juggling act, and as a mom you're always eating on the run. When I decided I wanted to start eating more healthfully, I started looking around Instagram for healthy recipes and wasn't able to find much--this was about two years ago. So I thought, well, I'm probably not the only person who is looking for something like this, and I was right. There is a huge demand for people who want to eat things that taste good, and are also healthy for them too. But like I said, I'm a mom, so I don't have the luxury of being able to create new recipes all day, every day. So instead, I would just share the recipes I loved, and thought other people would love to."
She went on to explain that the process of building a loyal Instagram following, whether you're a creator or a curator, requires patience--really no different than if you were to create all your own content. Her biggest regret, actually, is not having started sooner (despite the fact that she now runs one of the most popular foodie pages on Instagram).
Whether you're an individual with a specific hobby or passion, or you're a big brand that feels swamped by the demands of constantly having to create original content on a daily basis, then you should consider going the content curation route. This way, you can share the things you want to share (that are uniquely "you"), but you can keep your audience engaged on a daily basis by publishing other people's content and giving credit where credit is due.
"That's the biggest piece of advice I would give other content curators," said Awada. "Just remember that you're sharing other people's content, which they worked hard to create. Reach out to them, let them know you want to share their work with your audience, and of course tag them in the caption as the original creator. This is exposure for them, so most people will be more than happy to have you share on their behalf. But it's just a nice gesture--and may even allow you to build your personal network in the process."