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  • Writer's pictureGabriella Mikiewicz

4 lessons learned from a year of "influencing"

A year ago, in March 2023, I started a journey that would not only change the way I see Norway but also how I connect with the world around me (and.. how the world sees me!).

The inception of Unlock Norway on Instagram was driven by a simple desire: to share the Norway I was privileged to experience through the eyes of my Norwegian partner, friends, and the community that I was very lucky to have when I moved here. It was about transforming my insider’s perspective into a bridge for internationals in Norway, helping them navigate life here with a bit more ease and understanding.

Influencers in the wild! :-) Please be nice if you see us!

The spark to create this account came from a realization. I found myself in a conversation with non-Norwegian colleagues, discussing the unnoticed rise in grocery prices. At this point, I had a drawer in my freezer full of frozen salmon because I knew about the price hike before it happened, but my colleagues hadn't heard about it. That's when it dawned on me how such seemingly "minor" pieces of information about the country you live in could significantly impact the quality of life for internationals in Norway—this information not only impacted how close you feel to the country you live in, but how much money you spent, how you got to know people and make friends. It can impact your quality of life in a country.

What followed was nothing short of extraordinary. From zero to 32,000+ followers in just a year, Unlock Norway grew exponentially, far beyond my initial expectations. This journey has been marked by many highlights:

  • Being invited as a keynote speaker at a significant event for internationals, sharing my insights and experiences with a wider audience.

  • Gaining recognition from Norway's largest newspaper, VG, and featuring on their website's front page—a platform with over a million daily views!

  • Collaborating with Visit Oslo for account takeovers and embarking on a new role as the YouTube host for Visit Norway.

  • Venturing into the realm of brand partnerships and discovering the intricate dance of influence and authenticity.

  • Organizing over 20 events for internationals in Oslo, from beer tours to museum visits and speed friending, which afforded me the chance to meet an incredible array of people, many of whom have become actual friends.

I still remember several times when I woke up to find my follower count had jumped overnight, or the surreal moment when VG or TV2 wanted to feature Unlock Norway. Each milestone left me a bit more bewildered, thinking, 'Is this really happening to me?'

Reflecting on this whirlwind past year, here are 4 lessons I've learned being an "influencer" and content creator over the last year.

1. Community really is everything!

The explosive growth of Unlock Norway isn't just a testament to the content; it highlights the incredible power of community. It's been more than disseminating information—it's about forging genuine connections, understanding the community's needs, and creating a space where people can feel valued and included.

My journey underscores the pivotal role of community support. From the first collaboration with a fellow creator who believed in my vision when I was a small account (and our video ended up going viral!), to the brands that took a chance on me, and the hundreds of attendees at our local events. Every step of the way, the community has been the cornerstone of Unlock Norway's success, teaching me that through collaboration rather than competition, the really great stuff is made.

2. Authenticity can lead to incredible opportunities

Each milestone, from media features to brand partnerships, stemmed from staying true to the mission of Unlock Norway. The most consistent feedback I've gotten? People value realness.

Someone moving to Norway told me that they enjoyed scoping out the country from my perspective and seeing it through my eyes; I could give them an idea of what their future lives would be like. Even Visit Oslo, a company whose entire goal is to promote the city to tourists, said that they enjoy that my content shows the unpolished parts of the city at times, not only the highlights.

Of course, at times it's been hard to remember where that internal compass should be pointing. When the brand deals roll in and event partnerships line up, you have to start really taking seriously what you say yes and no to. At those moments, I always try to go back to my original mission and ask myself if this is the right step for Unlock Norway. I try to remind myself of my mission: to share, connect, and enrich the experience of people living in this country.

That moment when your photo is at the top of Visit Norway and Visit Oslo’s Instagram pages in the same week!

3. Social media is hard

Seriously. Like, really hard. And even though I've been working with social media for years now, this is a new lesson that I learned just last year when I dove into a whole new world of social media.

The landscape of social media and 'influencing' is ever-changing. Embracing new formats, like reels and TikToks, and being open to experimentation have been crucial in keeping the content fresh and engaging. Not that they're always successful: I've had a much harder time growing on TikTok than Instagram, and when I've experimented with new formats, the data told me that people just weren't digging it :-) And that's ok!

The content I've created for Unlock Norway involves countless hours of planning, creating, and strategizing. And that's not even mentioning the editing, caption-writing, researching, and of course over-thinking every detail before I press post!

Dealing with technical issues (*cough cough* Instagram and TikTok suddenly muting your audios) or sudden changes in how platforms operate adds another layer of complexity.

In short, being active on social media as a content creator can easily be a full-time job that demands constant attention and effort. And the stress has gotten to me at times.

4. There is no one-size-fits-all secret to social media

If there's one thing I've learned, it's that the path to social media success is anything but linear. Why is my most viral video a short clip which I barely put work into, and that doesn't show my face and has a typo in it?!

But the main lesson here is that all those videos from gurus that pop up on your account and tell you to do XYZ in order to achieve all your hopes and dreams are not true. When they said: post consistently, I didn't. When they said: use viral audios, I didn't (most of the time). When they said: use these 10 hooks, I didn't. When they said: dangle a question in front of your audience and then tell them to read the caption, I didn't (ok, except maybe once...).

Of course, there are certainly best practices. I started using keywords at the end of my hashtags because some random person online told me to. I've worked to make my videos snappier and more interesting, and got inspired from so many people. But at the end of the day, a lot of it has come down to trial and error, me being myself, and trying to genuinely help my audience.

Two extra bonus lessons that don't require much additional explanation:

  1. Getting recognized in the street is weird. I still don't know how I feel about it.

  2. Do the thing. Start the passion project. Just go for it, really.

Looking back, I think I may have 'accidentally' become an influencer, but the fulfillment, excitement, and energy that have come from connecting internationals, sharing our collective experiences (which can be hard to hear, but also a relief to know you're not alone), and building a supportive community were no accident. They were the result of a strange journey, one post, one story, one reel, one DM, and one event at a time.

As I reflect on this past year, I'm filled with a sense of immense awe (at times verging on complete shock) and gratitude for the journey and excited for what the future holds. Becoming an influencer in the truest sense—impacting lives, sparking conversations, and unlocking the beauty of Norway for others—has been a profoundly rewarding experience.

Here's to more unlocking, more sharing, and more connecting in the years to come!


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