Who wouldn’t want to be a social media influencer? You get to make fun content about the things you love, have an audience of wonderful fans who eagerly pay attention to you, and enjoy the perks of being a recognizable face. It looks like a ton of fun, but people trick themselves into believing that being an influencer isn’t going to be hard work. Not only that, but many people go into becoming an influencer blind, and mess up some of the early stages of the process. Don’t worry though, we have your back with this easy-to-follow guide on how anyone -- including you -- can become a successful influencer.
If you’ve already read our guide on how to become an Instagram model, some of these points will seem familiar. That’s because Instagram models are a type of social media influencer, and some of the advice we have for them applies pretty generically to other aspiring influencers, regardless of their desired platform.
Also, as a general tip, becoming an influencer is not something you should consider lightly. It requires a surprising amount of time and dedication, which not everyone can commit to. Plus, just like with other forms of fame, there is a fair amount of luck require -- people that show up and put in the work will obviously do better than the people that hardly care. However, the difference between someone who is an influencer as a hobby and someone who gets to be an influencer as their full-time job is mostly one of them getting luckier than the other person.
If you made it through that and are not yet deterred, then congratulations, you have completed the first step to becoming an influencer: being convicted in your desire to become an influencer. Wanting something will carry you a lot further than being sort of interested in the idea.
Having a plan from the start of your journey will make the whole process easier. Knowing what kind of influencer you want to be and what kind of content you want to create allows you to know what kind of steps to be taken when. Here are a few of the main points you’ll want to figure out as early as possible in your time as an aspiring influencer:
The best influencers are always associated with an identity. They find a particular niche they can appeal to and focus on them to maximize their appeal, and often completely disregard people outside that audience. Will you aim yourself towards millennials?
Do you have strong ties to a particular identity? What sort of demographics about your target audience should you be aware of? This can affect things like how you carry yourself in content and/or in public, the kind of content you can make, your self-marketing, how to best please content algorithms, and your overall content strategy.
Platforms / Content Medium
As mentioned earlier, Instagram models are a type of influencer that focuses on and takes advantage of the platform they use to find an audience. Both the types of content you want to produce and what social media platform you want to be an influencer on can affect each other.
Youtube is great for visual content but lackluster for things like blogging, Facebook is great for reaching an older audience and loses most of the younger audience, etc. It’s much better to stick to one platform and content type in the beginning and brand out with other social media accounts once you’re a bit established.
What Kind of Influencer You’d Like to Be
This can refer to the size of your influencer personality -- micro-influencer, macro-influencer, nano-influencer. We’ve already covered the different levels of influencers and how that can affect income, so check that out if you’re curious. But this can also refer to your platform. YouTubers have different content expectations from bloggers, a podcast host needs different skills from a Snapchat influencer. Researching the skills, equipment, and what goes into the different types of influencer content is a good start.
This is also an opportunity to think about the things that annoy you with other people’s content, and how you can avoid those mistakes. Similarly, think about the quality content that resonates with you, and use that to inform your decisions with what you produce.
Finding an Audience and Growing Your Presence
Now that you have an idea of what kind of influencer you want to be, you’ll need to start putting in work to find an audience, develop a relationship with them, and grow your reach. There is a lot more to this than just an endless amount of self-promotion.
There is a lot of work and thought that goes into maximizing your follower base. After all, influencers are more or less just marketers for their content, trying to convince people they are more worth their attention than other influencers.
The best way to manage your growth as an influencer is going to depend heavily on the platform you are trying to grow. Instagram influencers, for example, want to not only make regular Instagram posts but also take advantage of all the awesome and engaging tools for Instagram stories.
Twitch streamers benefit largely from a higher overall streaming time and regular schedules, and the list goes on. The only thing every platform has in common is a need to consistently publish quality content and a strong understanding of your audience metrics.
The hardest part of this process will be the start. You’ll have the smallest outreach and the weakest promotional ability. Plus, you won’t have a strong handle on what works and doesn’t work for your content.
That being said, it is also the safest time to do major experimentation with your identity as an influencer. Once you become more established, changing things up too much can lose you a large number of followers and subscribers.
A Few Tips For Increasing Your Visibility
Again, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for success here, and the most meaningful steps you will take will depend on the social media channels you are focusing on. But, there are a few generic tips and bits of advice you can follow for just about everywhere you’d want to promote yourself.
If you are promoting yourself on a platform with hashtags, be sure to utilize them whenever possible. A lot of people sort content and explore platforms using hashtags as a way to filter what they are going to see. Stick to hashtags that are genuinely relative to your content, and only use a few at a time. Data has shown that using too many hashtags makes people less likely to enjoy your content.
If your platform of choice has a trending topics list -- Twitter is a good example -- then don’t be afraid to ride the trending wave. As long as it feels organic to your personal brand to chime in on hot topics, then it is a great way to increase your visibility to people browsing the trending topics.
Don’t underestimate social network development sites like LinkedIn. They may not feel like a fun social media site that you want to invest in, but being an influencer is just as much of a real job as anything else. You benefit so much from professional connections, and depending on the kind of content you make, your skill set could land you serious non-influencers-type gigs like a makeup consultant or photography tech.
Nepotism is alive and well, and you’d be crazy to not get in on it -- if you have contacts in the influencer world already, ask them for all the help you can. Collaborating with other content creators is one of the best ways to quickly grow your audience. Just make sure you collaborate with people you like and have similar content with. A partnership that feels forced will only hurt you and the other influencer.
How to Turn a Hobby Into a Career
It can take years for you to take off as an influencer and for it to become anything more than a hobby. So, ideally, you’ll choose a content path that is already one of your interests so you don’t get tired of it when it doesn’t result in profit for a while. Though, if you get lucky, this passion project can turn into a legitimate way to make money. The question then becomes how do you make money as an influencer?
We’ve already covered this topic in greater detail, but the short answer is influencer marketing. Companies have come to realize in the age of social media prevalence, that there is no better place to advertise than through the content of social media influencers. It’s often a more reliable way to reach a company’s target audience and is usually way more cost-effective.
Influencer marketing can take many shapes, which is great for influencers because it means you have options when it comes to how you make money and the kind of digital marketing the options will request of you. Plus, many of the common options come with a good deal of creative freedom, meaning you get to tailor your promotional content to your audience and flex your creative muscles.
Since we’ve already talked about this in another article, we aren’t going to go into too much detail over the various forms of influencer marketing, but we will give a brief overview of the most common deals you can expect and a few of their pros and cons.
One-Off Sponsored Content
This marketing strategy involves an influencer making a few or even one piece of content that is a paid endorsement of a product. It is similar to the old celebrity endorsement commercials from years ago. Bloggers see this kind of marketing the most often as it is simple for both the blogger and the brand to work out a single featured post to their blog.
These are often the easiest to work out and don’t require any long-term commitment, but they typically offer the least creative freedom and the income is not too steady or lucrative.
The next step up from single pieces of sponsored content in terms of commitment. Micro-campaigns are small periods where an influencer offers their likeness to promote a partnered brand. This practice is a bit more common than sole sponsored pieces, and they are most often done through social media platforms.
Lasting anywhere from a few days to a month, and typically involving a series of sponsored social media posts, these are also a good way for an influencer and a brand to test the waters with each other before going all-in on a brand ambassador agreement.
There isn’t too much of a downside to micro-campaigns besides they sometimes have a strict schedule to operate on, and doing too many in quick succession can hurt your image.
Influencers typically don’t get offered sponsorships unless they are a particular kind of content producer. Twitch streamers, Youtubers, influencers that also happen to be athletes, and the like are the kind of influencers that get offered sponsorships in the traditional sense because they have the means to advertise the brand through their likeness and literal advertising space.
The fact that they are so tricky to land is the only major downside to them. The two notable advantages to sponsorships are that they are normally the least strict and that you will often get free products from the brand to be able to advertise them.
This is a topic we have already covered in-depth, and it goes hand-in-hand with the discussion of becoming a well-earning influencer. This is the influencer marketing strategy that requires the most commitment, but they provide some of the best financial security and overall pay.
The duties can extend beyond just creating sponsored content, ranging from being a speaker at events or offering your likeness to promotional material outside of your content.
Creating Your Own Brand
As a foreword, this is something that most influencers don’t get to pursue unless they become one of the top influencers on the internet -- think the level of Kylie Jenner. Essentially, you become such a recognizable face in a community that you invest in developing a brand that you promote.
With any luck, the business will be successful and allow you to make passive income on your terms instead of having to make deals with other brands.
Maintaining Relevance as an Influencer
There are a lot of appealing parts to the life and career of an influencer, but one quality is far from appealing: the importance of remaining relevant. As with any career that is heavily reliant on public opinion, becoming stagnant and letting your popularity dwindle can result in you not having a means of income anymore.
Of course, there are ways to mitigate that such as diversifying your portfolio, starting your own business as mentioned above, and finding a safe career to fall back on just in case. Still, in general, the longer you can remain a relevant name, the better.
So, here are a few tips to keep in mind to help you keep people interested in you as an influencer:
Being consistent does not mean never changing. Regurgitating the same content over and over again will make people tired of you much faster. But, you can’t diverge from your identity as an influencer too quickly. It is a delicate balance to strike, but one that comes more naturally than you might expect. In short, be willing to change but don’t force it.
Get feedback from your followers often and take it seriously. There is the old saying that “the customer is always right.” In a roundabout way, your followers are your customers, the people that make it possible for you to earn a living. Making sure that you are producing the exact kind of content they are looking for is a sure-fire way to make your career last a while. Plus, it earns you a reputation as an influencer that cares about their audience, which is a major appeal for some people.
We mentioned earlier that it is a good idea to stick to one platform when you are starting, and that you can expand to other social media channels once you have your footing. That remains true, but it should be emphasized that growing your presence on many popular social media channels is supremely helpful to expanding and maintaining an audience.
There have been at least hundreds of people who have gone on this journey before you, and there are thousands of people that have made it their business to figure out all the data that goes into the weird world of influencers and influencer marketing. Don’t feel too proud to take advantage of the groundwork laid out by others. Figuring out how to utilize social media metrics, consumer behavior, and making your content have greater search engine optimization will give you such an advantage over other influencers.