How to Become a Paid Influencer

How to Become a Paid Influencer

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that influencer marketing is very profitable and very trendy. This is true both for businesses and the influencers who work with them. However, one thing we don’t talk about much is how to become a paid influencer. It’s relatively easy to build a sphere of influence on social media, but getting to work with brands is another skill altogether. So, whether you are interested in this topic to get a sense of the other side of the desk or want to be that paid influencer, this article is for you. Of course, being both is also possible, especially in the B2B space where business leaders tend to be the influencers.

Find your niche

Find your niche

Generally, influencers have one thing in common: they’re passionate about their niche. This is important, because the value of influencers lies in their ability to advise people about a certain subject. If you don’t love the topic enough to spend lots of time on it, then it will be hard to become an influencer. However, there is still a lot of flexibility for choosing your niche.

Share industry expertise

If you are a professional, one of the best ways to become a paid influencer is by sharing industry related expertise. This can be done with most industry types, at least to some extent. If your company has an excessive number of trade secrets then it might not work. You also need to be conscious of company social media policies.

With that said, for most industries you can share a lot of knowledge. Auto mechanics, for instance, can share car care tips and review the latest automotive redesigns from a mechanical perspective. People in the beauty industry might talk about the latest makeup tips, but they can also help people understand which products work best for what people. Similar lines of inquiry can be explored for other industries.

Go with a hobby

Go with a hobby

Sharing your hobby with others is another great way to become a paid influencer. For most people, a hobby is one way that they relax. Hobbies also consume disposable income. While there are hobbies available for poor people, selling higher end items will probably be more lucrative. Bargain basement supply brands are less likely to pay influencers for their help. However, the most important thing is that you’re passionate about the hobby because authenticity is paramount.

Pick a lifestyle niche

Besides industry experts and hobbyists, talking about a lifestyle niche is a great way to become a paid influencer. Lifestyle niches can include a wide variety of topics. One popular choice is travel, whether this is done by discussing business trips or tourist experiences. Another major genre in lifestyle is the “mommy blog,” where influencers talk about everything from cleaning the house and picking the right diapers to ways they relax at the end of the day.

Research your target audience

Research your target audience

If you want to become a paid influencer, it’s important to think like someone who is starting (and running) a business. Part of being a business owner is performing market research. For influencers, much of this is done through researching a target audience and social listening.

Find opportunities

Researching your target audience is done at the beginning to figure out where there are holes in coverage or enhanced opportunities. For instance, let’s say you want to compete in the automotive space. You might perform analysis and find out that there is a major competition between two car companies over SUV or crossover models that cater to growing families. At the same time, there are a ton of influencers competing for those partnership dollars. On the other hand, the sedan space might be relatively quiet, or the introductory-level luxury cars nearly neglected. For less competition, you might go with sedans or intro luxury niches.

Define your audience

Define your audience

Once you have determined what opportunities are best for you, it’s time to define your audience further. If you decide to work with introductory-level luxury cars, then your target audience is relatively easy to define. Most people that buy those are younger professionals and middle managers with some extra income, but who want to pay for quality rather than something flashy. Or, they might like flashy but can’t afford it yet.

Monitor social media

Once you have defined opportunities within your niche and determined the matching audience, it’s important to take an overall survey of this audience. People who buy a family-oriented SUV or crossover tend to be a relatively diverse crowd. They’ll have a variety of jobs and hobbies. Yet, one thing they have in common is placing a high value on families and their safety. By following their social media, you can get a sense of how this plays out in their everyday lives. To become a paid influencer, you’ll need to cater to their needs fairly closely.

Choose your content format and social network

Choose your content format and social network

It almost goes without saying that you can’t become a paid influencer without a high degree of focus. That’s because you need to have consistently good content and distribute it in a way that is easy for people to follow. By far the easiest way to ensure quality is by producing a particular kind of content. This could mean video, pictures, or blog posts, though the types of content within that format can vary. In other words, you don’t need videos or blogs to be a certain length all the time, or for pictures to be solo or in a group consistently. It just needs to be the same type of content on a regular basis.

Related to this, you need to do your work on a particular social media network. Some networks accommodate just one content type, while others permit a variety of options. Facebook is a great example of this: with Facebook Live, you can broadcast videos and have them saved. Yet, pictures and written content are also possibilities. YouTube allows for live and pre-recorded video, both of which can be a few seconds to literally hours in length. LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok are more restricted. Make your choices based on your aptitudes and appropriateness for your chosen niche.

Optimize your bio and profile

To grow your following and become a paid influencer quickly, it’s important to optimize your bio and profile. Depending on the social network, these might be the same feature. With proper optimization, it will be easier for people to discover your social media profile and the content you have posted. For instance, my social media profiles highlight the fact that I am a social media expert. An auto mechanic might mention their certifications along with the “plain English” translation that they know a lot about cars. The trick here is to use keywords and hashtags that are highly relevant to your niche and intended audience.

No matter what you say, however, it’s always important to include a nice picture of yourself and some good links. Depending on your niche, the picture can be more or less professional, but make sure it’s a good likeness. Links should be relevant to your audience, as well as demonstrating your expertise in the subject matter. For Instagram, the link should refer to a linking service that provides more relevant links.

Develop your content strategy and post relevant content

Develop your content strategy and post relevant content

Once you have created a killer profile, it’s time to start producing content. First, make sure that you have decided how to develop your content. As with other types of business development, trying to become a paid influencer requires branding. Look at the influencers in just one niche on Instagram, for instance, and you will see a variety of approaches. Some influencers are more businesslike, others quirky, and a still different group might be intensely personal. Before you start posting, know what kind of branding you want.

Next, you need to appeal to your audience by posting relevant content. People don’t pay attention to content creators whose material is irrelevant to their needs. For instance, you probably won’t see the CEO of a major corporation looking into ways they can keep an obsolete junk car on the road. However, they might want to know about refurbishing a classic. To ensure audience relevance, check out what other influencers in your niche are doing. Then, develop a content calendar that will help make you part of the discussion.

Grow your audience

While it is easy to create and post content, if you want to become a paid influencer you must do more than the minimum. Growing an audience takes time and effort because you need to build both credibility and trust. There are a few steps you can take to achieve this goal.

Engage with followers

Engage with followers

From day one you need to engage with your followers. As the saying goes, relationships are a two-way street. Engaging with followers can take several forms, some of which depend on the platform and format of content. One example of engagement is responding to viewer questions. This can be especially valuable if you are an industry expert. Another engagement technique is to ask your followers a question that they can answer. Do this in the content or at the bottom of the post, whichever works best. Going this route encourages a culture of dialogue on your profile. Helping build a community, especially in our socially distanced world, is an effective approach. Finally, simply “liking” a comment shows you care about audience participation.

Curate other content

Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from content creation. Other times, sharing other creator’s content encourages dialogue that increases the relevance of your own social media profile. Either way, by curating content from other creators you are sharing your audience with them. Links between profiles encourage followers of each to check out the other profile. In the process, you can get new followers for yourself without poaching theirs.

Network with your industry and other influencers

As with any career, networking is an important way to advance. After all, you can’t become a paid influencer if nobody knows you, and this includes industry players. Brands are the ones who will someday pay you for using your influence, and it is much easier to “get the job” as a familiar face. In this case, I mean that they should know you outside of your social media presence. Networking as an influencer is similar to networking in other types of jobs, and there are a few very effective techniques.

Attend conferences

Especially if you have chosen to work with B2B brands or serve as an industry expert, it is important to attend conferences. Here, you will have the opportunity to meet competing influencers in addition to brand representatives. Furthermore, some thought leaders have more than one role within the industry. Attending conferences lets you shake hands, get contacts, and engage in chitchat with your constituency. Plus, you might find that people you already knew can introduce you to friends of theirs.

Even in today’s COVID-19 pandemic, you can still network online by attending virtual conferences, many of which give you the opportunities to network. And, of course, don’t forget about social media groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that are also like attending virtual conferences.

Look for guest posting opportunities

Getting to know people within the industry can also take the form of exchanging guest post opportunities. In this case, you both create content for the other person’s social media account or blog. Not only does this build camaraderie, but it also introduces each party to more people. Becoming more involved in the industry community does wonders for your standing as an influencer. Finally, working with a more established influencer gives brands the opportunity to see your work, often much sooner than they would have otherwise.

Join an influencer network

Once you have built up an audience and demonstrated people trust you, it’s time to become a paid influencer. Before you have a successful collaboration portfolio, however, it can be hard to get gigs. Joining an influencer network is one of the ways to solve this “chicken before the egg” problem. Brands will log onto these networks and search for people who they think can be successful. Showcase your talent, and you have a decent chance of being discovered. Plus, some networks and platforms will help with the practical details. Overall, it’s a good way to learn the ropes of your new business.

Check out these influencer marketplaces and influencer marketing platforms for some places to start.

Proactively reach out to brands

At some point, using an influencer network won’t be as effective for finding clients as it once was. Or, you might have significant sales experience and prefer striking out on your own. When you proactively reach out to brands, you have an opportunity to suggest collaborations without the excessive noise of network-based competition. Different brands have various ways of taking influencer inquiries. For some, sending a DM to their social media account will get your profile viewed. With other brands, there may be a more formal process. No matter how you reach out, though, remember: the worst thing that can happen is a brand says “no.” As any sales person will say, just keep pitching and eventually you’ll get a “yes.”

Remember that influencer marketing trends show that brands more and more want to work with types of influencers that have brand affinity with them, so show some love for products and services that you use on social media and it might lead to a collaboration in the not-so-distant future.

Accept opportunities that align with your brand

Congratulations, you’ve gotten that first offer. Be careful. If you want to become a paid influencer and stay that way over the long term, you shouldn’t accept every opportunity that comes along. While brands being cheapskates is always a concern, the bigger problem is brand dilution. In other words, consistency with your brand is key. To that end, only accept opportunities that are consistent with your brand image and relevant to your audience. Otherwise, you risk having people lose interest in your content because it feels spammy and no longer applies to them. Once people lose trust in your brand, it’s game over for paid sponsorships.

Explore other ways to become a paid influencer

Eventually you will come to a point where your brand is well defined. When this happens, it is time to consider adding to your sources of influencer income. I’ll use myself as an example. If you look at my influencer services menu, you will see that I offer a variety of influencer services, from guest blog posts to ambassadorships. In addition, I am a conference speaker and consultant. Each of these activities earns me income one way or another. In fact, affiliate marketing is essentially passive income that requires little more than posting links. While it takes time to build up a large portfolio of services, it all starts with that first addition.

At the end of the day, if you want to become a paid influencer it will require a lot of initial work. Most of this is unpaid, which is one reason you should choose a niche you’re passionate about. And it will take some time: Read my post on Instagram influencer calculators to give you a feel as to someone with 15,000+ Instagram followers might make per post.

However, once you become successful at engaging an audience, being a paid influencer can be a lot of fun. While most influencers have a regular job, the best work at this full time. No matter your goals, being a paid influencer is a rewarding, people-centered job. Just remember that integrity is an important part of being a paid influencer, because this is what keeps you authentic.

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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  1. Hey brother I am curious if I could be coming influencer and focus on native practices such as healing guidance etc kind of like a spiritual chief which I am but can I do that as an influencer

    • Dude, you can do anything you want – if there are people in your niche to influence, you can do it!

    • I wish you the best of luck Vivian – it takes time to become a paid influencer so you might want to think of other alternatives…

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