Have you ever wondered how to become an influencer, whether it is to get free products from the brands that you love or to launch a speaking career in your industry?
You’re not alone.
With influencer marketing becoming such an important business segment, many people are jumping on the bandwagon. Brands are finding that the influencer marketing ROI realized is very good, even exceptional. On the other side of the desk, potential influencers are eager to break into this business. Not only does it make good money for them, but it’s a rewarding way to profit from a hobby or special interest.
Let’s first clear the air about defining digital influence.
What exactly is an influencer?
An influencer is someone who has a close following on social media, and whose recommendations are followed.
From here, influencers are a diverse group. Some of them are industry leaders who share news and developments with other professionals. Another group is business travelers who talk about their adventures around the world. Busy moms and housewives often discuss the latest recipe or household management tips. People from all walks of life share their passions, which can be anything from beauty products or fashion to sports and more.
While many people have these discussions online, an influencer is someone whose opinions are taken more seriously.
Becoming an influencer takes time, but if you know how to become an influencer and have useful opinions, you can achieve this goal.
Following these nine steps will get you a long way.
Step 1: Find Your Niche
When you think about it, finding your niche is the most difficult and important part of your journey. This is true not only because of competition, but because your niche needs to be something you can stay with for years. Learning more about your industry and topic is one of the most important factors for your success. After all, you’re asking people to take your advice and (later on) buy the things you endorse.
Know your goals
In order to determine your niche, first think about your goals. Are you learning how to become an influencer so that you can influence the industry you’re already working in? Or is this more an issue of getting paid to pursue your hobby? For some influencers, the ultimate goal is to quit their day job and follow their dreams full time. Knowing your goals will help determine what niche you choose, because you want that niche to be compatible. For example, if you want to quit your day job then becoming the “industry expert” probably isn’t the best idea. On the other hand, hobby-related niches often work well for this.
Understand your strengths and weaknesses
Part of finding your niche is understanding what you are good at. In this case, I’m not just talking about topics. I’m talking about your aptitudes in terms of content creation and networking skills. While learning how to be an influencer, you’ll need to understand the kinds of people who you hope to have for an audience. For instance, corporate executives have different personalities, but they all have a relatively narrow understanding of decorum within the same industry. Therefore, if you have trouble dealing with button down executives, you might pick a niche that avoids interacting with them much.
Here’s the other thing. As most people in sales will tell you, the most important part of getting people to trust you is to build a sphere of influence. To be an effective influencer, you need to pick your niche in such a way that you can connect with lots of people who share your interest. This is somewhat easier with certain niches like hobbies, and harder with technical topics.
Step 2: Differentiate Your Niche through Researching Your Competitors
Now that you’ve decided what topic or industry you want to influence, it’s time to find out what other people are doing. In sales, we call this step “market research.” Before you start any quest to become an influencer, it’s important to know how you will differentiate yourself from the competition. After all, if your social profile looks like everyone else’s there is little incentive to follow you. Some people learn how to become an influencer in highly competitive settings, but it is much easier to differentiate yourself if you understand what makes you unique.
Let’s look at a concrete example. Beauty and fashion are highly competitive markets for influencers, but there’s also plenty of work available. If you try to work primarily with gym clothes from major brands, then differentiating yourself will likely be very difficult. On the other hand, you might have more luck targeting polo shirt and loafer buyers. Many guys wear both types of clothing at different points throughout the week, but one niche is easier to break into than the other. Go with the easier target, and you might be successful sooner. Then again, if you hate polo shirts then think about chasing the gym clothes market. Ultimately you want to compete in a space that makes you happy but isn’t too crowded.
Step 3: Catalog Your Insights and Experience to Build a Content Strategy
Knowing how to share your knowledge and experience is critical when learning how to become an influencer. After all, you want people to consume the content you produce and learn to value your opinions. This is what brands look for when deciding who to work with.
Both as an exercise and in the name of planning ahead, it’s important to keep track of your insights. When thinking about and researching your area of influence, be sure to keep a record of insights or conclusions. Over time, these entries will help you build a content strategy and calendars. Think about what inspires you the most, because this is the area you should concentrate on for a content strategy.
Step 4: Choose Your Content Format and Social Network
Most industries and niches can be covered on any social network using a variety of formats. However, some options are better than others for a given niche. For instance, LinkedIn and blogs are good places to produce content in the B2B space. These are more professional and allow for long-form written content. LinkedIn won’t work for most B2C industries, while blogs can easily accommodate just about anything. In particular, many family/home influencers use blogs.
If you love picture and video, consider YouTube or Instagram. These forms of media are especially successful for lifestyle, fashion, and beauty. Craft makeup tutorials or video reviews in the beauty space or share Instagram photos of your latest vacation. The key here is to use a format and social network that is appropriate for your niche and plays to your content strengths.
Step 5: Share Your Knowledge through Publishing
With a content strategy in hand, it’s time to start sharing what you know. Whether this means creating top-quality YouTube videos, a quirky TikTok jig, Instagram photo or something else, it’s important to put your best face forward. For now, your content is the product you are offering to the world. Even later on, after you become a paid influencer, this content is what will keep people coming back for more.
Remember, the most important thing you can do is build your following, and the easiest way to do this is by publishing regularly. Depending on the platform, you should post between two or three times a week and a couple times a day. Your posting frequency doesn’t have to match your writing frequency though, because you can create several small pieces in a day. Also, at some point content curation becomes a possibility. Regardless of your strategy, frequent posting is the ultimate answer about how to become an influencer.
Step 6: Engage Your Community
Once you start to build a small community around your content, it is critical to engage with that community. Your methods of engagement will vary based on the type of content you produce and the platform you use. For example, if you want to influence people on Instagram, then “like” their comments and share great pictures from their profiles. YouTubers might also like comments, but they can also do response videos featuring other influencers. Engagement should be done both on your channel and other people’s spaces to raise awareness. This is because responses give people an incentive to hang out on your social media profile.
Keep in mind, engagement with your community will become more difficult as your following increases. Many of us believe that this is one reason why engagement rates for large followings start to decline. People will start following you just to see what you have to say, but if you don’t respond to them a large number of followers will quit trying. Brands look for high engagement rates, especially from Instagram influencers, so this is a metric you need to keep as high as possible.
Step 7: Network and Collaborate within Your Industry and with Other Influencers
Part of learning how to become an influencer is mastering the art of branding. Influencers are people with extensive name recognition within their specific niche, because people listen to what they are saying and pass on their insights. However, you can only build your following so far without interacting with other people in your industry.
To network more effectively, you need to work with other people. Since my niche is social media marketing, I go to a wide variety of conferences in a typical year. Here, I’ll talk to a lot of other marketers, direct competitors, and brands who might need marketing help. This allows me to expand my reach fairly quickly. Another way to accomplish this task is by doing guest posts for other influencers. You will see that I host other bloggers on my site, and I also reciprocate by posting for them.
These kinds of effort do two things. First, they’ll build your brand as an influencer. That’s true both in terms of niche and personality. As the saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Some people produce colorful content with an offbeat sense of humor, while others are very serious. Over time people will know these things about you, and it will help brands know if you are someone they’d like to work with. Finally, never underestimate the power of being a face behind a name.
Step 8: Build a Website or Blog
At some point, learning how to be an influencer means mastering other forms of branding. Unless your first medium is blogging, it’s time to think about building a blog. Many influencers do their primary content on one platform, then adapt it for print. For instance, there is a well-known financial services YouTuber who does reviews of credit cards and talks about reward points strategies. Then, he writes about the same topic on his website. Chances are that he is adapting those video scripts into blog posts.
Are you a blogger first? At some point, you will want to move that blog from a free blogging platform onto your custom website. It’s OK if the site is mostly blogging, like mine. But you’ll build more name recognition while enjoying increased monetization options if the URL is your own. Bloggers can also use this principal by posting links to their latest post on other social media platforms. Using this technique will increase traffic over time.
Step 9: Continue to Grow Your Network
Finally, once you have discovered how to be an influencer in a way that fits you, don’t stop there. Growing your network is a never-ending task that, over time, increases your stature in the industry. More than that, but as genuine followers are added to your network you can demand higher prices for sponsored posts. You are making money off of this, aren’t you? Getting to that first thousand followers or so is often the hardest part, especially if you produce high quality content. Diligently continue the path we have described here, and the sky is the limit.
Often, learning how to be an influencer is the hardest part. Every influencer has their own ways of reaching out to followers, and business strategies vary significantly. However, once the appropriate formula has been developed the only thing holding you back is time and interest. You can’t expect to quit your day job right away, but given the right niche and effective marketing it’s possible to make sufficient income over time.
Photo by Jaime Lopes on Unsplash