Hrabren Bankov, or Marketing Harry as he goes online, has already built a successful social media marketing business and has grown a strong online presence himself. By age 14 he already started on the path to success gaining social media marketing skills and experience on the platform Fiverr. At just age 17 the Bulgarian started his own social media marketing agency, Brave Social Media Marketing, after interning at a social media agency for 6 months. Through his agency he has worked with international brands such as UNICEF and has grown his own Instagram following to over 72,000 followers. I caught up with Harry to shoot him some quick-fire questions about growing online and taking your social media to the next level. So, let’s get into it!
1. What advice would you give to someone just starting out on growing their social media?
“When I was 18 I set out to read 100 books in a year. I was reading for a couple of hours every day as well as listening to audiobooks whenever I could. My motivation for doing it was that I felt that it was the best way to gain knowledge and improve my skills but I don’t recommend it. The issue was that I quickly forgot a lot of the information I had read and found the reading was keeping me busy rather than being productive.
“Now, I place a lot more value on learning through doing and through failing.
“For us young people in particular I think failing is really important and we shouldn’t be scared of it. From age 14 to 18 I was only failing, but these failures during those 4 years were what helped me learn and grow and eventually dominate from age 18 to now.
“Early on I had a lot of sleepless nights and I really struggled to generate income from my agency but it was okay, I was only 17 and still living with my mother so I had a safety net that allowed me to be fearless in my pursuit of success.”
2. Where do you think most people go wrong when it comes to growing their social media?
“I recently shared a graph on my LinkedIn about when most people give up on social media. Often, people will target growth on a specific social media for two weeks or maybe a month and if they don’t find success in that time they will give up. What people don’t realise is that if they just stuck at it for a bit longer they would find the growth they are looking for.
“When I first decided I would really try and grow my Instagram I decided I would post everyday for a 100 days. The aim wasn’t to grow followers but to experiment with different post styles and content to see what works. In the end, it went even better than I could have imagined as in those 100 days I gained over 25,000 followers.
“I think persistence is key when it comes to social media. You have to be willing to keep trying and experimenting until you find what works.”
3. Do you think the phrase ‘quality not quantity’ applies when it comes to social media growth?
“Often you’ll hear people use the phrase quality over quantity however I think for some it’s just an excuse for not properly committing to growing their social media. It’s also important to note that quality can mean different things to different people. What you might regard as quality might not be the same as what your followers think.
“I think for a lot of people, they want to post to their Instagram more but they are only looking to make perfect posts. The bottom line is that perfect posts and perfect Instagram accounts don’t exist, even if they did people wouldn’t like them because they wouldn’t represent how things really are and be relatable.”
4. At what point do you think someone goes from having a following on Instagram to being an influencer?
“I think it depends on what your end goal is. If you simply want to monetise your following on Instagram you need less followers than you might think. If your plan is actually to have an impact and to influence your followers to support a certain cause or change their habits then that’s a completely different kettle of fish.”
5. How do influencers influence?
“Getting to a point where you can actually influence people and their habits or choices is very difficult. First you need to gain their trust, you can’t change someone’s mind if they don’t trust you. To build that trust you need to be relatable, that means being open about your own views and building your own brand in a way that chimes with the very people you’re trying to connect with. It’s also important to really commit to a certain niche or community you want to target. Don’t try and build a brand that appeals to everyone, you’ll end up appealing to no one. Instead, find your niche and focus on it.”
6. How can you make money from your Instagram?
“When it comes to making money from your following on Instagram it’s actually pretty simple. You need to figure out three things. Firstly, you need to figure out what the demand is – what is it that your followers want that you could supply them with? Maybe they really want beauty tips or to find out how to look like their favourite celebrities, for example. Next, you need to figure out if and how you can supply that demand – can you give them what they want? Finally, you need to enjoy the process. Becoming an influencer and making money is not easy and it takes a lot of commitment and hard work, things you’ll only put in if it’s something you enjoy and believe in.
“It’s worth bearing in mind that if you look at your Instagram following and don’t think there’s a clear answer to the first two questions then think about how you could target a new following instead – one that is more coherent and that you can supply the needs for.”
7. Are influencer agencies worth joining?
“As a person who has used influencer agencies as a client before I definitely think they can have value. Brands do use them and if you aren’t someone who’s necessarily that well connected or doesn’t have the luxury of a team behind you then they can be a good way for securing brand deals.
“I would say that from an influencer point of view it’s important to be wary however. There are stories of influencers being taken advantage of when it comes to things like the fine print and charges. I would say to shop around and go somewhere that’s trusted and has a good track record. I personally have used Social Bakery on more than one occasion and was very impressed.”
8. Is influencing the future?
I think that Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn will be around for a very long time. I honestly could see YouTube taking the place of television, already a lot of people are using YouTube to stream on their TVs.
As for influencing in general I believe that developing a personal brand is going to become more and more necessary and personal brands will become even more popular. I think we’ll see more Elon Musks and Steve Jobs i.e. more brands where a person is an integral part of its image and marketing.
9. Is TikTok around to stay?
“I think the fundamental idea behind TikTok, very short form video content, is around to stay. Attention spans have been going down for years and TikTok plays right into this.
“That being said, TikTok is currently a high risk, high reward social media platform. It’s numbers are crazy however whether TikTok is the final evolution of this kind of media platform who knows. Some people didn’t think Vine would ever cease to exist but it did.
“Whether or not it’s here in another five years though doesn’t really matter, the skills that influencers will be getting from it will still be valuable and can be brought with them onto the next platform.”
10. How do you stand out from the crowd online?
“This is a question that I get a lot that I think has an easier answer than you might think. Ultimately, we are all different. We’re all unique with different perspectives, backgrounds and ways of looking at things. To become an influencer you don’t have to have a superpower, you simply need to be somebody that people can connect to and relate to online.
“I called my marketing Brave Social Media Marketing because my name means brave in Croatian and I want my brand to be associated with bravery and getting results. It is just a little part of what makes up my personal brand but the point is that it’s important to not waste little things like that when it comes to developing your own personal brand.
“It’s also important to have a clear message and direction. That might not come easy and only comes with repetition and practice. It also comes from being social on social media and figuring out what kind of person you are and what you have to offer.”
11. Why is influencer marketing appealing to brands?
“Influencer marketing is appealing to brands because it helps make the brand relatable and allows them to communicate to their customers and potential customers in a very personal, and quite literally, human way.
“Earlier I talked about brands that are connected to people – like Elon Musk to Tesla and Jeff Bezos to Amazon. The reason why these guys are so important for their brands is that they make their brand relatable and something people can connect to. For example Elon Musk is a very innovative guy and this reflects on Tesla. When people think of innovation they think of Tesla and if someone is looking to buy a car and they think they’re innovative themselves then Elon will resonate with them and they’ll probably choose Tesla over another brand.
“The second reason why brands love influencer marketing is a thing called authority transfer. The idea is that if somebody you consider has authority endorses or recommends a brand, that authority is passed on to whatever they are endorsing or recommending. For example if Elon Musk collaborates with a brand, it could be any brand, then automatically that brand would be seen as more innovative. Influencers have their own reputations and areas of authority and when brands collaborate they get a piece of that.”
12. How can an influencer signal to brands that they’re open for business?
“First you have to be mindful that you’ve optimised your social media from a brand’s point of view. That means that you need to make it clear how brands can contact you. It also means you need to make sure you’re on top of your DMs and email so that if brands contact you they can get an answer quickly and easily.
“It’s also important to do some outreach yourself. Reach out to brands that you think will be perfect for your audience/following. This could mean offering services for free. You might think doing brand deals for free is a waste of time but they’re not, they allow you to build contacts and also build associations with your brand.”
Special thanks to Harry for lending The Modern Influencer his time. If you would like to find out more about his Brave Media Marketing Agency then head to www.marketingharry.com. Alternatively, check out his Instagram (@marketingharry) or LinkedIn.