Influencer marketing has skyrocketed since it first made its mark.
That’s very much due to the way purchasing decisions have changed over the years. You might recall, for example, a story about how many women no longer trust celebrity endorsements. That’s because most consumers, research shows, seek product and service recommendations from those who are, above all, knowledgeable and credible.
And today, those qualities often come in the form of social media influencers.
When it comes to getting advice or recommendations on what to do — which product to buy, which movie to see, and where to travel on vacation — there are still areas where we trust our peers more than we do “experts.”
But that’s part of what makes an influencer so powerful: Despite perhaps being an expert in his or her field, by sharing content and insight in a certain way, consumers view that person more as a peer. We have things like constant access to video and other visual content to thank for that — the tools that help us “get to know” people online in ways that weren’t quite as accessible only a few years ago.
So, how can you tap into this area, and become an influencer in your own field?
What Is an Influencer?
Influencers are ordinary people who have earned a substantial loyal following because of their expertise and transparency. Unlike celebrities actively endorse products on their social media accounts, influencers achieved their fame because of the valuable information they share with their followers.
It’s for this reason why one of the influencer marketing trends experts anticipate in 2018 is the increase in demand for social media influencers, specifically micro-influencers (influencers with less than 100K followers). Not surprising, more and more people want to become social media influencers.
The question is: where do you start?
In this blog post, I’ll be laying out ten ways how to become a social media influencer. On their own, they will help you slowly make your mark and establish you as an influencer in your industry. But do all these together, and you have a powerful strategy that will help speed things up exponentially.
How to Become an Influencer in 10 Steps
1. Find your niche.
If you want to become a social media influencer, the very first thing you need to do is to choose a specific niche where you want to be known.
Although most social media influencers start out posting content, they’re passionate about, what sets them apart is the fact that they tend to focus on a particular niche within the industry they’re passionate about.
To find your little corner of influence, you’ll need first to determine who is your target audience by developing a unique persona—a semi-fictional representation of your ideal reader. Tools like HubSpot’s Buyer Persona Generation Tool can help you identify the individual wants, needs, challenges, and goals of your ideal reader that you can help solve and address, pointing you to the right niche to establish yourself and grow as an influencer.
2. Use the “First Principles Thinking” approach.
In an interview with Kevin Rose, Elon Musk explained that there are two reasoning approaches people use. The first and most common is the analogy approach. People that use this reasoning method decide to do things based on what has happened in the past.
That’s why we often see many people in a particular industry doing nearly the same thing, talking about the same topics, and even using similar formats when it comes to publishing and promoting their content.
The second reasoning approach is what Musk refers to as the First Principles Thinking approach. Instead of basing decisions on past successes or failures, Musk and others that use this reasoning approach study objective fundamentals and make their decisions based solely on that.
What’s good about following Musk’s way of thinking and reasoning is that it opens you up to other possibilities and approaches by “forcing” you to disregard the status quo, and think differently. Doing that can help set yourself apart from other influencers in your niche, and allow you to bring something new and fresh to the table for your target audience.
3. Choose your social media channel.
Instagram is the channel where 93% of social media influencers focus their content — because it gives them the best results.
Source: Marketing Profs
However, just because those are the current statistics doesn’t mean that Instagram is a perfect choice all the time.
The reason is simple: Your ideal audience may not be spending most of their time here.
If you want to quickly grow your following and establish yourself as a social media influencer, you need to make sure that you choose the right social media channel based on your niche and ideal audience.
Here are three questions to ask to help guide you in choosing the right social media channel:
Who is your target audience?
Again, this is where creating a holistic persona of your ideal audience is crucial. Instagram and Pinterest are excellent choices if you’re aspiring to reach out to millennials. On the other hand, if your target audience consists mostly of business executives, LinkedIn may be your best bet.
Where are the other influencers in your niche?
Aside from sharing the same target audience, being active in social media channels where the big influencers in your niche open the door for you to reach out to them, and even collaborate with them in the future.
One tool I found extremely useful for this is BuzzSumo. When you do a search here using your targeted keyword, you’ll not only see what topics other influencers have tackled, but where they also share these pieces of content.
What type of content will you create?
Some social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to post a diverse range of content formats while others like YouTube and Instagram only focus on providing users a specific content format.
That said, it’s vital that you select the social media channel that best suit the content strategy you’ll develop, which we will look into in the next section.
Regardless of which social media channel(s) you choose, remember not to go overboard with your selection. Stick to using two to three networks. Otherwise, you’ll be spreading yourself too thin, and will find it difficult to build your credibility and following.
4. Develop your content strategy.
Just like in inbound marketing, the format and quality of the content you publish will make or break your chances of successfully building yourself as a social media influencer.
Decide on the format you’ll use when creating your content. It should be one through which you’re able not only to deliver valuable information, but also, express your personality and voice — which help add uniqueness to the content you produce for your target audience.
Part of developing an effective content strategy is giving your audience the right balance of informative content and personal content. Remember, one reason why people trust influencers is due to their relatability.
One efficient way to do this is through the 5-3-2 principle: Out of every 10 posts you publish in your social media account, five of these should be valuable content written by someone else, three are educational and informative content you created yourself, and two should be posts about yourself.
Now, you may be thinking, “How will this help me become an influencer if half of the content I’ll be publishing is curated content?”
For starters, influencers are known for being able to provide valuable content to their audience. That includes sharing content written by others that they believe their followers will find useful.
More important, sharing content published by other influencers in your niche will help you slowly get their attention. As a result, it will be much easier to reach out to them and ask them to do the same for you later on.
If you need help discovering topic ideas for your content, try these resources.
Google Related Search Keywords
This is found at the bottom of the page after you search on Google. It lists down the most frequently used long-tail keywords used by your target audience when searching for content on the internet.
Answer the Public
Answer the Public is a website that gives you a comprehensive list of the different questions that are commonly asked around your chosen keywords, which you can then answer through your content.
Similar to Answer the Public, Quora gives you a list of different questions asked surrounding your selected keyword. The main difference between the two is that unlike Answer the Public, which offers you a list of questions based on search algorithms, the questions you find in Quora are those that were left explicitly by individuals currently facing a problem or challenge.
At the same time, Quora allows its members to leave answers to these posted questions. This gives aspiring social media influencers the chance to flex their muscles, and showcase knowledge on this topic — and, eventually, your niche.
5. Distribute your content.
No matter how great your content is, if you’re not getting people to see it and engage with it, it’s not exactly useful.
That said, it’s important that you carefully plan out when you’ll be publishing and distributing your content on social media.
The best time to post content on social media hugely depends on which social media channel you chose to use. This infographic provides a detailed breakdown of the best days and times when to distribute content for each of the most popular social media networks.
It’s just as critical to know how to post your content on social media. While each social media channel has its own rules and guidelines, here are some general best practices that are applicable regardless on which social media channel you use.
Stick to one theme per social media channel.
Focusing on one specific theme for each of your social media channels allows you to give your followers a more holistic picture of who you are, what you do, and what you stand for. That way, you’re able to publish more diverse content while still keeping your profiles very sleek and cohesive.
More important, it helps you categorize the different types of content you publish. That way, your followers know which social media channel they’ll find the content they need from you.
Customize your message.
Even if you’re posting the same piece of content on different social media channels, always take the time to make sure that you customize the message you include in it. Not only does it make each of your posts more personalized, but as Aaron Haynes, founder of Fenix Pro points out, it prevents your followers from feeling like their being spammed on their social media feeds.
“You need to make sure that you tailor every single content you post caters to the wants and needs of your followers, whether it’s a regular post or a paid post,” he explains. “The worst thing is that they can report your account as spammy, which could mean the end of your social media influencer dream.”
Optimize posts for mobile.
The average person spends over three hours on his or her mobile device.
And within that time, 80% of it is spent on social media. That said, make sure that the posts you publish are just as appealing in mobile as they would be when viewed on desktops or laptops.
6. Grow your network.
While you’re still in the process of establishing your credibility and expertise as a social media influencer, you’ll need to actively grow your follower base.
One of the most effective ways of doing this is through blogging. Even though more Internet users are turning to social media networks for information, the fact remains that you don’t entirely own your space here. One misstep can easily cause these social media networks to take down your account, causing you to lose all of your content and followers.
Blogging can help you kickstart your follower base by helping you get discovered. By including social media sharing buttons on each of your blog posts, your visitors can share your content with their respective social media networks.
If you have the budget, and you have a premium content offer on your blog, Justin Morgan — a.k.a., the Dental Marketing Guy –recommends promoting it as a sponsored post. That way, your content can find its way onto the feeds of those that match your ideal persona, introducing yourself and what you have to offer to them.
Blogging is also an efficient way to reach out and connect with is influencers in your niche as well as those related to yours. Blogging was how I connected with key influencers in my niche and exponentially grew my follower base.
Creating guest posts is another way of growing your followers. Getting featured on a reputable site within your niche helps you further establish your credibility and authority. At the same time, it will help you capture the attention of the more prominent influencers in your niche, and even open the door for collaboration with them.
7. Engage with your followers.
When your followers leave a question or comment on your posts, take the time to acknowledge and respond to them. That can make them feel like they’re valued and that you sincerely want to help them. It will also help you develop a relationship with them.
Of course, not all of the comments and questions will be positive. As an influencer, expect that you’ll have your fair share of negative comments and criticisms. Make it a point to keep your cool and address them professionally.
8. Evaluate your progress.
This step is crucial, especially if you’re looking to collaborate with brands for their influencer marketing campaigns, since this is one of the things that brands look for in an influencer to partner with.
Most social media channels give you insights and analytics to monitor your progress — things like demographics, reach, and engagement rate, that will show how quickly (or slowly) you’re building your audience. It will also shed light on which content formats get the highest engagement rates, so that you can create more of these.
9. Stay updated.
If you’ve been active on any social media channel, you know how often networks update their algorithms, as well as their posting terms and conditions. As an aspiring influencer, you need to keep yourself updated with these changes to avoid penalizations.
You’ll also need to familiarize yourself with FTC guidelines and policies, especially if you’re going to be collaborating with brands to promote their products and services on your social media accounts.
With influencer marketing proving itself as a highly effective marketing strategy, the FTC has become even more vigilant in monitoring brands and partner influencers that might be violating marketing guidelines.
10. Be consistent.
According to Adam Steele, founder of Loganix, if there’s one thing that surpasses quality content, it’s consistency.
That’s because your followers need to be able to count on you to deliver quality content on a consistent basis. If you don’t, they’ll eventually stop following you, or at least paying attention to you.
Scheduling your posts using a social automation tool like eClincher or HubSpot’s social publishing tools can help ensure that you stay consistent with your posts. Instead of manually publishing on each of your social media profiles, these tool allow you to create, upload, and schedule posts in batches.
Positioning yourself as a social media influencer will take some time, so you’ll need to be patient with the process, and stay consistent with it.
Most important, understand that becoming a social media influencer in your industry is not the end destination. Instead, it’s a stepping stone to more significant opportunities and responsibilities.