Sharon sets an example as a successful, adventurous, and passionate influencer who documents her travels from all around the world. How did it all start and how did she stay true to herself when selecting brands for collaboration? What are the biggest challenges of being an influencer and how does she maintain a meaningful relationship with her followers? Keep reading to find out about Sharon’s journey.
Question: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your account.
Answer: I’m originally from Malaysia but I came to the UK about 12 years ago for my education and stayed since. My account documents my travels, my style and everything in between.
Q: Let’s say it’s day one and you’re posting your first picture on Instagram. Did you know back then that you were going to become an influencer?
A: No, definitely not! Back then I didn’t even know what an influencer was (laughter). I think it all started from Facebook when I was occasionally posting photos of my travels. At some point my friends started asking me for travel and fashion advice, where I get my things from or how I do my hair… and suddenly one day it just clicked! I thought to myself that if people are interested in what I do, why not to start posting on Instagram? Long story short, my audience gradually grew and I got where I am today.
Don’t get too obsessed with numbers – use them as a guide to help you grow instead. At the end of the day a number is just a figure and you don’t want to get too overwhelmed with how many likes or followers you have. Everybody starts somewhere, so set yourself a goal. You will get there if you have the passion and you keep doing your best.
Q: What do you think being an influencer means nowadays? Has it changed over time?
A: It definitely evolved a lot. Being an influencer means that you’ve built your credibility and you have the power to influence your audience to buy a product or service that you promote. I think it’s a very powerful tool to use in terms of marketing for brands.
Q: Did your account grow gradually or did it happen overnight?
A: There is no such thing as overnight success! I’ve spent a lot of time and effort to research on strategies regarding building an Instagram account – I read a lot of books and went online to see how other successful people did it. I knew I had to actively engage with people in the same niche as me who were also growing so that we could support each other. Of course I’m still trying to expand but I’m really happy with my results today.
Q: What is your favorite part of being an Influencer?
A: I’ve always had a lot of passion for visuals, art, fashion and creating images. But because of my pharmacy studies, I didn’t have a chance to actually venture deeper into that creative area of my life. I feel like being an influencer has finally given me a chance to be creative and do what I actually love.
Q: From your account we can see that you’re a passionate traveller. How do you select your destinations?
A: Initially I went on Instagram and searched for inspiration. I chose places that other influencers like taramilktea and mikevisuals have been to because they always looked awesome and photogenic. But now I travel to places that aren’t so well-known on Instagram to make my account unique.
Q: Who do you travel with?
A: Always with my husband. He was also my boyfriend in University and we’ve been together ever since. He’s always the one behind the camera – he knows my angles perfectly. He has shot me for more than 10 years now and together we’re improving and evolving. But recently, when I went to Japan, I also took my parents with me. I’m really lucky that they’re so supportive in what I do.
Q: Apart from basic things, what are three essential things that you always take with you on your travels?
A: I definitely need a red lipstick. With the lack of sleep during travels, red lipstick will make you look polished straight away. Second definite must is a pair of stylish sunglasses. They cover dark circles up and always make you look cute on photos. And the third thing would be a good pair of walking shoes because they will always take me long distances to where I need to be and also keep me comfortable.
Q: What is the most memorable place you have ever visited? Do you have any fun/inspiring stories to share from your trip?
A: Me and my husband travelled to Cuba three years ago and I have to admit that it was the most ‘different’ place that I’ve ever been to. A lot of people warned me before the trip that I might not have an Internet access because it’s a luxury over there. And when we finally arrived, we realised that it’s all true! You have to go to an Internet cafe and wait in a queue to use it!
Nowadays, you wouldn’t ever imagine that you still have to do that to get Internet when it is such a common thing. But it was all good – we decided that we’re not going to bother with Internet. We’re just going to enjoy ourselves and forget about the outside world. I thought it was such an amazing experience that you just get lost in the world before time and forget about Instagram and all social media. But of course as soon as I landed back in London I was checking my emails straight away because I hadn’t been online so long (laughter).
Have fun! You will only love what you do if you have fun in the process. Get to know the people in the same niche as you. Get to know people who are growing as well, build a relationship with them and grow together. Just let it loose and enjoy the process.
Q: What has travel taught you?
A: When you’re in touch with other cultures, you grow as a person. It definitely opened my eyes and changed me in a lot of ways. I feel like I’m more open-minded and accepting of other cultures. I became less judgemental because when you see more and you understand the way of living of other people you become more selfless. Travelling also reminds me of how lucky I am to be able to see beautiful places and influence people to travel more and become better people.
Q: Do you have any ground rules when it comes to running your account?
A: Mainly about what brands I choose to work with. Especially in the beginning, there’s a temptation to work with every single brand that approaches you. But you always have to see things in the long run.
If you want to build your account, you can’t say yes to everyone because if a brand is not true to your style and who you are, your audience will be able to see that straight away. As a result, you will lose trust and relationship with your followers you’ve been building for so long. That is why I’m really careful with what brands I choose to work with and only pick those that I love, know and use for myself and would recommend to my family.
Q: Tell us about the relationship you have with your audience. What do your followers mean to you?
A: In the beginning when people commented on my posts it meant so much to me that I replied to every single one of them. But I have to admit that as I grew it became really challenging. I still want to engage actively with my audience so after I post a photo, I dedicate about an hour to answer any questions in the comments to be as helpful as I can. Social media is not a one-man show – you have to engage with your audience. And I think that have built a bond between me and my followers.
Q: Are there any misconceptions about what being an influencer means?
A: A lot of people think that being an influencer is an effortless job. And they need to understand that it’s not just visiting beautiful places and getting paid for shoutouts about a product. There’s is a lot of work and time involved! You have to spend hours on researching the location to shoot that will interest people. And if you’re person who does most of the editing like I am, the process is even longer. If I’m not 100% happy with the post, I have to re-edit the whole thing until I’m satisfied. So it takes a lot of time, dedication and work.
If you have the passion, don’t wait. Don’t wait until you have the money to buy expensive equipment because you don’t need it to take good photos. I know a lot of people who are successful and are taking photos with their phone. If you have the right mindset – just do it!
Q: How do you deal with negative comments?
A: In the beginning it stopped me from posting as frequently as I’d like to because I was doubting myself. Overtime I changed my mindset and I thought to myself: people who actually love you, will support you anyway. I think I’ve come to a point where I accept that in life it’s hard to please everyone and noone is perfect. But I always take constructive feedback for my own self-growth and learn from it but if the comments start to be a little rude, I ignore them. I have to say that I’m pretty lucky, because I seldom get nasty people targeting me on Instagram.
Thank you Sharon and we wish you luck with growing your account!