Interest in influencer marketing has skyrocketed 90x since 2013. And I hesitate to pat myself on the back, but I’m recognized as an influencer in the digital marketing space.
But how? Why? In this article, we’ll go over how I became one and how to become an influencer in your own field.
1. Start by Becoming an Influencer in a Niche Field
Most great influencers start as a microinfluencer, a person on social media with roughly 10,000-50,000 followers. In a pinch, think of them as having a larger following than your average person, but less than a celebrity or established influencer. This is great because it allows you to start building a dedicated following and see what type of content works for you on a smaller scale.
With this said, though, even if you have a decent size following, you want to always establish credibility with the audience. Micro influencers can extend powerful word of mouth to small groups. As you start out as a micro influencer you’ll develop expertise in your niche. They don’t have the followings of a Kardashian, but they’re more affordable and can still reach enough people to make a difference in product sales.
Research shows they generate double the sales of paid ads and with a 37% higher customer retention rate.
It’s not enough to just pick the field you want to influence.
Take my case for example. Digital marketing is a broad topic, and I didn’t get to the top by focusing solely on a broad keyword.
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I started in the trenches of SEO before learning content marketing, conversion rate optimization, influencer marketing, social media marketing, and more. I worked hard. to get to nearly 432K Twitter followers.
One day you might get to 400K + followers too; but to become an influencer, you have to start with one.
Start as the expert among your friends and peers.
Work toward being the expert in your city and state.
Then become an influencer from there.
2. Create a Content Strategy
Once you have a niche, it’s time to build your content strategy. Content strategy can be a vague concept, but for the purposes of this post, we mean things like publishing cadence, tone and voice of the author, and content elements (text, graphs, etc.).
Even the Content Marketing Institute concedes there is no template for this, because every person and brand’s needs and goals are different.
The Usability.gov website has a handy chart to get started.
For my content strategy, I have strict goals I set for myself to create a set amount of social posts on each network while maintaining blog quality and working on side projects. I also made sure I use the same conversational tone and voice in my content (can you tell?)
Not terribly hard right?
Once you’re armed with this information, you can select your channels.
3. Select Your Channels
There’s no wrong answer for which social channels to be on and avoid.
Besides Twitter, I’m on Facebook.
Facebook is the most popular, with 94% of marketers using Facebook worldwide as of January 2020, followed by LinkedIn with 76%.
Facebook is by far the most popular, with almost 75% market share in 2022. But that dropped from 65% in 2015, and other social channels still have validity.
While I enjoy my time on certain channels more than others, I don’t play favorites when engaging with my audiences.
I do my best to show up everywhere.
My page gets a ton of traffic and has a great conversion rate.
I’m also active on LinkedIn and Pinterest, which I think is even more visually appealing than Instagram. I also think it has more effective content marketing potential than Instagram.
And, last but not least, I have over one million followers on my YouTube channel.
Each channel has a different audience (and audience size) expecting different content.
These are just my social channels. I’m not including my blogging and guest blogging efforts.
You don’t have to stay this active on so many channels, but pick one or two to start building out your influence.
Think of each social channel as another platform for you to reach your customers (and the general public).
4. Network Within the Industry
In order to become an influencer, you need to make real connections.
Everyone wants to sit at home on their couch and connect with influencers on social media.
That’s simply not an option. Popular tech influencer iJustine, for example, has 1.8 million Twitter followers.
She’s very active with her followers, but can’t possibly engage individually with all 1.8 million in any meaningful way.
Where you can network with Justine Ezarik is at technology trade shows like CES, the Webby Awards, the Streamys, and several other events. You can follow her social accounts to see which events she attends.
Event marketing is a big trend and being able to boast influencer attendance is huge.
Why not make it a priority for marketing yourself?
Get off the couch, get out the house, and get to major events related to your niche. Or, even easier, attend online events, which are becoming more popular in the post-COVID world.
You can start your search at the Trade Show News Network for listings of trade shows around the world in every industry.
5. Participate in Off-site Forums
Becoming a popular social media influencer does have its advantages. For example, in 2020, the most popular YouTubers earn more than a billion dollars a year from advertisements and sponsorships.
Not all of us can be that lucky. The rest of us have to venture outside social media and participate in forums, comment wells, and other online discussions so we can boost our following.
Every discussion you can be a part of online enhances your reputation, influence, and connections.
6. Create a Website or Blog
Conversations don’t end on social media.
You’ll always have more to say than can fit in a tweet or Instagram post as a social media influencer.
With a website or blog, you have a place to direct your social followers as you gain them.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of blogging.
One of the best content management systems for creating either a website or blog is WordPress.
Be prepared to lead your followers into your well-designed conversion funnel by building out your blogging content strategy. Start with including a link to your blog in your social media posts. A link to your website or blog can actually increase your audience engagement on social media.
And it goes without saying the longer blog content needs to provide even more value than a social post to get clicks.
7. Provide Value to the Conversation
If you’re not providing value to the conversation, you’ll never reach the ears of anyone influential.
When trying to become an influencer, remember you need to be the person people are talking to each other about.
Word of mouth is the most influential element driving purchase decisions today.
If you can impress people enough with your knowledge and conversational value, they’ll sell everybody else on you.
Then they’ll tell two friends, and so on…until you become an influencer!
8. Stay Ahead of Current Events
There are two types of content, evergreen and topical.
Evergreen content stays forever relevant, such as an article about a historical event.
Topical content is hot right now, but will soon be forgotten. Basically, everything happening today.
When writing a blog post, I’d stay as evergreen as possible since you don’t want to have to update your content constantly. But on social media, staying informed about current events is the key to being shared.
Every year since 2003, Starbucks has been able to rally up customers for their seasonal drink. For example, in 2021 they expanded the offering of the beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte to stores in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. They were able to expand customer reach and created a quiz to strengthen their #PSLlovers community.
Using this seasonal tradition with user-generated content created a brand win for Starbucks by appealing to customer loyalty through a festive time of year.
Staying topical is how you go viral on social media.
You can use tools to stay on top of social media trends. You can also set a Google News alert to monitor the entire Internet for specific keywords and phrases.
Do what you have to do to stay current.
9. Understand All Channels
Even if you don’t use a particular social media channel, if you want to become an influencer it’s still important to understand who does.
I’m not a big user of Snapchat, for example, but I understand its 250 million+ (mostly younger) users can’t be ignored.
TikTok may not be for you, but the platform has doubled it’s worldwide users between 2019 and 2021. It’s also the most engaging channel of all the popular platforms today. So, if you’re looking to build a community, the numbers don’t lie – it makes the most sense for you to build a following there. Because the demographics of who uses each channel are so varied, each social network requires a different strategy.
For example, here is a chart showing best practices for posts you can share on each channel during the Holiday season:
While minor, these differences make a world of difference in determining whether you’re a hero or a zero in your industry.
This type of chart helps you prepare posts to schedule in advance.
10. Stay Authentic and On-Brand
Going back to the Super Bowl, it’s an interesting event. Why? Because brands have made the commercials as anticipated as the actual game. Many come through with epic TV spots that tell their brand story.
The takeaway: it’s important to be authentic and stick to your brand voice to become an influencer.
Digital ad spend grew 18% in February 2021 compared to a year prior. TV ad spend declined nearly 27% over the same period.
This means an authentic voice on social media is more critical than an expensive Super Bowl commercial.
It’s free to do, and it’ll help you rise through the ranks from nobody to micro-influencer to major influencer.
11. Respond to Comments
If you’ve ever visited my blog or social media profiles, you know I actively respond to comments.
Here’s an example from a recent blog post I promoted on Facebook several years ago.
My followers love to ask me questions and comment on things, and I love to respond.
This is how I built a social community that participates and engages with my content.
When responding, be sure to stay consistent and friendly.
Don’t respond to trolls and other haters, unless you have a great zinger that will help your brand image.
12. Engage with the Community
It’s not enough to simply respond.
To become a social media influencer, you need to start conversations.
Rather than creating content for social media that promotes your brand, create content that actually helps people in your online community. This could include short-from videos, as Lush does frequently on their Instagram and other social channels:
This type of engagement is what social media was designed for.
It’s easy to do on platforms like Twitter where scaling Twitter engagement is the main function of the channel.
And people remain engaged on these platforms.
The more you engage with the community outside of your feed, the further you spread your influence. Don’t just respond to comments on your Facebook page.
Post in groups, post on friend’s pages, and tag other influencers to engage the community.
Don’t be afraid of starting a Facebook group of your own to draw in even more followers.
13. Consistently Publish Fresh Content
I’ve been publishing at least one blog a day on this site for a long time now.
It’s not easy, but I do it. Why? I want to keep fresh content online for my readers.
I also have a content-driven online marketing strategy that’s fueled by my blog.
It’s the heart of my Facebook page content and my Twitter content.
I can also broadcast my blog to my other social channels.
Focusing on my blog gives me a wealth of content to share across all my other channels.
It’s the center of my long-term digital marketing strategy.
My blog is foundation of how I got where I am today!
14. Listen to Criticism
Being a creator of any kind or in the public eye for any reason involves handling a lot of criticism.
Even the President of the United States or the richest man in the world can’t avoid criticism.
No amount of money or power can eliminate criticism!
Yet so few of us can handle it.
Here’s a Venn diagram of people who need and can handle constructive criticism.
If you become a person who can actually handle constructive criticism, critics will mold you into a more polished influencer.
Being an influencer isn’t about dictating what people do. It’s about creating a movement, and constructive criticism is essential to that.
Nobody wants to be surrounded by yes men.
Which reminds me…
15. Remain Approachable
Phil DeFranco is one of the most influential YouTube users with his SXEPhil account.
The reason is somewhat because of production values and length of service.
More importantly, however, Phil remains approachable, despite his success.
Tackling topics as diverse as politics, social media, pop culture, and nuances of the YouTube platform itself, Phil maintains an everyman approach.
Never let yourself get so caught up in social media fame that you become a prima donna, disconnected from reality in your ivory tower. If you do, there could be consequences.
The more approachable you are, the more influential you’ll be.
16. Research New Topics Daily
I can’t stress enough how important it is to constantly generate new topic ideas.
It’s harder than it sounds over the long term. That’s why I use Google Alerts.
I can set alerts to deliver to my email anytime my name is mentioned on any frequency I like.
There are a ton of other customization features.
In addition to setting up Google News alerts, pick a handful of publications to stay informed on.
I check blogs like Moz, Entrepreneur, and Hubspot daily to keep ideas for fresh topics in my head.
The more knowledgeable and well-rounded you are, the easier it’ll be to gain influence.
17. Automate Posts
Automation is the latest marketing trend, and it’s easy to see why.
You gain efficiency and speed, along with valuable data.
There are plenty of free tools to automate social media posts and let you schedule your content in advance using content calendars.
This is how professional publishing and social agencies work.
Also, keep in mind blog posts can automatically be set up through the blog CMS to promote on social media channels.
Whatever you use, be sure to automate posts so you have a steady stream of content.
18. Follow Influencers and Give Shout Outs
To be an influencer, you need to know other influencers.
Who you’re following is almost as important as who follows you.
To expand your influence, you need to show people they’re influencing you as well.
On Twitter, there’s a hashtag group called #Teamfollowback that believes in reciprocating every follow.
I don’t go that far, but I do try to follow other influencers to engage their audiences along with mine.
Many social media influencers also love giving shoutouts to followers, fans, and subscribers.
Shoutouts make people feel like they’re personally contributing to the community. They incentivize participation.
And last, but certainly not least, is the data we’ll need to quantify all this work.
19. Quantify Your Efforts With Data
Each social media site will show your impressions and audience engagement numbers.
It’s usually on the front page.
This only shows half the picture of your real influence.
However, with a website and Google Analytics, you can see the rest.
We can tell which social channels are getting clickthroughs to our site and how many people are converting from there.
Once you understand how many posts it takes to generate a conversion, you’ll be able to calculate an ROI for your social media efforts.
This isn’t the only benefit of being an influencer.
Like I said at the beginning, you can influence other influencers and drive the conversation.
Just be sure to use your power for good.
Quick Tips For Influencer Success
- Become an Influencer in a Niche Field
Start small; pick a niche topic and become an expert in that. Over time you can expand your influence.
- Create a Content Strategy
Decide how often you will post, what your tone will be (casual versus professional, for example), and what elements you’ll use in the content you publish.
- Select Your Channels
Decide which social media channels to focus on.
- Network Within the Industry
Get to know other experts in your industry by connecting with them on social media and attending industry events.
- Participate in Off-site Forums
Expand your reach by participating in forums, comment discussions, and other online discussions.
- Create a Website or Blog
Create a blog to give followers a place to get to know you better and to show off your industry expertise. A blog can also give you more engagement data to show marketers who want to pay you for ads and endorsements.
- Provide Value to the Conversation
It’s not enough to just put out content. You need to provide value to your followers by providing content that is new or offers a unique perspective.
- Stay Ahead of Current Events
Stay abreast of what’s going on in your field and share about it on your social channels. If people can look to you for breaking news in your industry, it will go a long way towards helping you become an influencer.
- Understand all Social Media Channels
Figure out what channels are most relevant to your industry and focus your efforts there.
- Stay Authentic and On-Brand
Tell your brand story often to engage and grow your followers.
- Respond to Comments
When people comment on your social media or blog posts, take the time to respond. People will be more likely to follow and interact with you if they feel like they know you.
- Engage With the Community
Maintain a presence outside of just your own channels. Start conversations, tag other influencers, participate in Facebook groups, etc.
- Consistently Publish Fresh Content
Publishing fresh content keeps and grows your follower list and pleases the algorithm gods.
- Listen to Criticism
By listening to and incorporating criticism, you can become a better influencer.
- Remain Approachable
No matter how big you get, stay humble. Arrogance is a turnoff and could cost you followers and sponsorships.
- Research New Topics Daily
The best way to stay on top of industry trends is to set Google alerts. You should also spend time reading industry blogs. If you subscribe to any industry newsletters, spend some time reading those as well.
- Automate Posts
Make your life easier by creating your posts in advance and scheduling them to be posted automatically using tools like one of these CRM software platforms.
- Follow Influencers and Give Shout Outs
Get noticed by other influencers by following them and tagging them in your posts. If you can gain their trust, they may be willing to reciprocate. This could make some of their followers follow you in turn.
- Quantify Your Efforts With Data
Use the analytics tool most social media channels provide to track your followers, engagement, and other data. These figures can help you gain sponsorships since they help prove your influencer status.
There isn’t an official set number of followers you need to become an influencer. The number of followers you need varies by industry. For example, startup skincare brands can invest in nano or micro influencers because of their tight-knit audience for brand reach. Known athletic brands like Nike can use athlete or celebrity sponsorships as influencers to help gain more brand loyalists for their products.
The money you make as a social media influencer depends on your industry, how many followers you have, and the terms of your arrangement with the business paying you to promote their product or service.
Most would consider you to be an influencer if you are paid to promote goods or services to your followers.
A couple of ways to get more followers are to research and use popular and trending hashtags on your posts, seek out a mentor who is already an influencer in your field, start by becoming an influencer in a niche community and expand from there, and taking advantage of the full suite of features different social media platforms offer to maximize your exposure and grow your follower list.
Influencer marketing is the latest trend in digital marketing because social media influencers are now able to quantify their audiences.
What started as a hobby for many has become a big business, and influencers like PewDiePie often outearn celebrities, politicians, and other prominent professionals.
I’m an influencer today, but I wasn’t always.
Everyone starts at square one with no followers and nobody knowing who they are.
It’s the steps you take to build a following that ultimately determine how influential you are.
If you’re interested in growing your brand and want help doing so, reach out. I have a team of experts who can help you reach your influencer goals!
Who are the most influential people in your niche?
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