Now, more than ever, we are living in an age of influencers. In years past, you had to be a well-known celebrity, politician, or leader to be considered an influencer. If you were just an average Joe, nobody paid much attention to you. The path to influence usually involved years of climbing social or political ladders.
Then the internet, social media, and smartphones came along and changed everything. Now, literally, anyone can build an audience and become an influencer. You don’t have to be famous. You don’t have to be good-looking. You don’t have to have access to the halls of power.
You just need to know how to create content that interests people.
The beauty of the internet is that it allows people to find others like them. It makes it easier to form “tribes” around narrow shared interests. And within every tribe, there are influencers.
There are running, finance, gaming, knitting, coffee, business, mental health, beauty, vegan, keto, fashion, and spirituality influencers. Name a subject and you can be sure that there are influencers.
Of course, this does create a challenge. If everyone can be an influencer, it’s much harder to stand out. It can be difficult to cut through the noise and capture the attention of others. It can be hard to build an audience when a lot of other people are trying to do the same thing.
In this guide, we’re going to walk you through the what, why, and how of becoming an influencer. You’ll discover a step-by-step process for finding your tribe, building an audience, and even monetizing that audience.
What is an Influencer?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of actually becoming an influencer, let’s ensure that we’re all on the same page regarding exactly what an influencer is.
At a high level, an influencer is someone who has a following and is able to influence that following to do specific things, such as purchase products, attend events, wear certain items of clothing, and more.
Obviously, celebrities who have millions of followers on social media are influencers. But you don’t have to be Kylie Jenner or Will Smith to be considered an influencer. Depending on your niche, you can be an influencer even if you have only 1,000 followers
There are basically 3 types of influencers:
- Mega-influencers. These are celebrities with millions of followers. These individuals can literally charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for sponsored posts on social media. Unless you’re a well-known actor or rock star, you probably won’t fall into this bracket.
- Macro-influencers. These are individuals who, while not exactly celebrities, have still built up a large online following. They probably have somewhere between 50,000 – 1,000,000 followers. With hard work and consistency, you can build this kind of following.
- Micro-influencers. These are normal people who have built up an audience in a specific niche and are known for their knowledge and expertise. Maybe they run a sizable online group or have a devoted following on YouTube. Typically, they’ll have less than 50,000 followers but more than 1,000.
Platforms for Influencers
Most people think about influencers in terms of social media, but the reality is that there are all sorts of ways to be an influencer. If you’re able to attract a following, you can be an influencer.
Some of the most common platforms are:
Blog. Blogging is a great way to be an influencer because it allows you to share your expertise and insights in an in-depth manner.
If you want to be an industry-specific influencer, blogging is a great way to go about it.
YouTube. If you can be engaging on camera, YouTube may be the right platform for you. There are influencers on every subject on YouTube, from makeup to mental health to spreadsheets.
Podcast. Podcasts are absolutely exploding right now, and if you can develop an interesting show that attracts a lot of listeners, brands will want to work with you.
Social media. Social media is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to being an influencer. It’s a blessing because there’s a low barrier to entry and it’s easy to create content. It’s a curse because so many people use social media and it can be difficult to stand out.
Email. In recent years, there has been a resurgence in email newsletters. If you know how to build an engaged email list and write newsletters that others actually want to read, this can be an effective way to become an influencer.
The point is if you can build a substantial following on any platform, you can become an influencer that brands want to work with.
You don’t have to be photogenic or able to speak eloquently. If you can command people’s attention and move them to take action, you are an influencer.
Some influencers, like popular YouTubers, have a very broad audience. Others speak to a smaller, niche group, such as business influencers on LinkedIn. Some focus on being fun and entertaining. Others try to deliver valuable insights and expertise.
The bottom line is that no matter who you are, you can be an influencer.
Benefits of Being an Influencer
There are a number of substantial benefits associated with being an influencer.
If you build up a big enough audience, you can make substantial amounts of money by partnering with various brands. But even if you don’t make much money, there are still perks:
Build your reputation. If you consistently provide your audience with expertise and knowledge, you’ll develop a reputation as the go-to person in your industry. You also may get invited to speak at conferences, appear on podcasts, or do in-person workshops at companies.
Attract new clients. The more you grow your reputation the more people will want to work with you. You’ll be able to grow your business without having to constantly hunt for new clients.
Connect with others. As an influencer, you can authentically connect with a large number of people. You can build meaningful relationships that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
Becoming an influencer isn’t easy, and it takes a significant amount of work. But it definitely pays off in the long run. Whether you want to become a full-time influencer or simply boost your career, it’s definitely worth the time and effort required.
Now let’s get into the details of how to become an influencer.
Step #1: Choose your Niche
The first step in becoming an influencer is choosing a niche. It’s possible to be a “general” influencer and build an audience of people who simply enjoy watching you go through life. However, this can be pretty difficult unless you’re really able to make yourself stand out in some way.
You’ll probably have more success if you pick a specific niche in which to build your audience. Because you’ll be making so much content in the niche, it should be something you enjoy and in which you have some amount of expertise.
The niche you choose should be broad enough that you can build a sizable following. If the niche is too narrow, not enough people will be interested in the content you produce.
When choosing your niche, ask yourself these questions:
- What am I good at?
- What do I like to do?
- What problems can I help people solve?
- What value can I deliver to my audience?
- What can I offer that no one else does?
- What are my unique skills?
Your goal is to find a niche that’s broad enough that many people will care but narrow enough so that you can stand out. One way to do this is to start at a wide level and progressively narrow it down to a certain specialty, or sub-category of the broader niche.
For example, say you’re a therapist. There are many sub-topics that fall under the category of therapy, including marriage, work, sex, parenting, relationships, health, weight loss, and many more.
Instead of trying to cover all these subjects, pick one to focus on in the beginning. As you begin to grow your following, you can begin to expand into other subtopics.
It may be helpful to do some research before finalizing the niche you want to operate in. One simple way to do research is to search different platforms for answers to common challenges that your audience struggles with.
For example, if you’re a career coach, you could search YouTube for tips on finding a new job. If you’re a financial adviser, you could search Facebook or Instagram for financial advice. A Google search can also help you find the most popular websites in your niche.
The search results will help you learn who the influencers in your niche are and the kinds of content they produce. Armed with this information, you can determine whether a particular niche is right for you.
Step #2: Define Your Audience
Once you’ve determined your niche, it’s important to define your audience. In other words, you want to gain clarity on who is in your niche and what they care about.
Knowing your audience allows you to create content that is valuable to them. If you don’t have clarity on your audience, you may end up creating irrelevant content, which will hamper you from attracting followers.
To help you define your audience, think through these questions:
- What is their age range?
- What are their hopes and dreams?
- What do they fear?
- What motivates them?
- What do they want out of life?
- What are their biggest struggles?
- Who do they look up to?
- Who do they dislike?
- Whose opinions influence them?
- Where do they go for information?
If you’re not sure about the answers to any of these questions, you may want to actually post them on social media and see how people answer. This can give you more insight into how your audience thinks.
Facebook Audience Insights can also be useful when it comes to understanding your audience. It provides a treasure trove of data about the preferences of specific groups of people. You can see the pages they like, education level, relationship status, and more.
Another way to get insights into your audience is to join relevant online groups (like Facebook groups) and pay attention to what the group members discuss. What topics come up regularly? What common problems do group members struggle with? What specific words and phrases do they use?
You may be tempted to skip this step, thinking that you already know your audience. Don’t do it. Even if you have a good grasp on who is in your audience, this exercise will give you even more valuable insights and help you to quickly build a following.
Step #3: Pick Your Platform
Once you’ve defined your audience, you’re in a good place to choose your platform. You may think that you should try to be present in as many places as possible, but this usually isn’t a good idea. You’ll end up getting spread too thin, and your overall impact will be diluted.
Choose one or two primary platforms where you will focus the majority of your attention. The platform you choose should be in line with the type of content you produce.
- If you’re a writer, your best bet is to create a website where you can regularly blog.
- If your brand is visually heavy, Instagram is probably your best bet.
- If you’re a video creator, your primary focus should be YouTube.
- If you’re in a B2B industry, LinkedIn is a good option.
If you aren’t sure which platform to choose, think about your audience. Where do they spend most of their time? What apps do they use most frequently? Who do they follow on social media and where do they follow them? You want to be where your audience is.
Also, what platform do other influencers in your niche use? By being on the same platform, you can interact with them, which may open the door for collaboration at some point.
In addition to choosing a primary platform, it will benefit you to choose a supporting platform where you’ll share smaller pieces of content. For example, if you’re a blogger, you may also want to utilize Facebook or LinkedIn where you can share snippets from your posts.
If you’re a video creator, you may want to use Instagram or TikTok to share short clips from longer videos posted on YouTube.
As much as possible, use your supporting platform to drive people back to your primary platform. For example, if you share a short clip of a video on Instagram, link to the full video in your profile and use the caption to encourage others to watch it.
As you grow your audience, you can consider expanding to other platforms in order to gain more exposure. In the beginning, however, it makes more sense to focus on just a couple of platforms.
Step #4: Spice Up your Social Media Profiles
You’ll want to optimize your social media profiles so that you stand out from the crowd. When someone visits your profiles, give them a great first impression so that they’ll want to follow you!
Try these easy techniques to make your profiles pop:
Add a great profile picture. Your profile is an integral part of your brand and identity. Use a high-quality picture that matches your personality. Avoid using a low-quality picture that you snapped with your phone.
Add a cover photo. A solid cover photo allows you to convey additional information about yourself, such as a motto, media outlets where you’ve been featured, or even a picture of you with your family. Use a photo that further solidifies your overall brand.
Switch over to a business account. Almost every social media platform allows you to switch to a business account. When you do this, you gain access to numerous additional options, such as analytics and advertising.
Craft a compelling bio. Your bio communicates who you are and what you’re all about, and it needs to do so in a manner that is compelling and interesting. Include relevant keywords in your bio, too, so you appear in searches.
Untag yourself from bad posts. Some platforms allow other people to tag you in posts. If you are tagged in any “bad” posts, such as inappropriate photos, be sure to untag yourself.
Pin your best content. Most social media platforms let you pin your best content to the top of your profile. Pin the post that best shows off who you are and the value you offer.
Depending on the platforms you choose, there are some other ways you can spice up your profiles. For example, YouTube allows you to add an introductory video to your channel, which is a great way to let others get to know you. LinkedIn lets you add in resume information. Take advantage of all these additional options.
Step #5: Map Out your Content
Before you begin creating and posting content, it’s smart to develop an overall content strategy. Mapping out your content will help you know what to publish and when to publish it. It will also come in handy if you find yourself creatively blocked at any point.
As you think through your content, consider your audience. Your goal is to deliver content that is valuable to your audience and allows you to show off your personality. Both of these elements are critically important.
If you don’t provide valuable content, people will have no reason to follow you. If you don’t show off your personality, you won’t stand out from other influencers who are sharing similar content.
The combination of value and personality is what will help you rise to the top.
Creating High-Value Content
What makes a piece of content valuable? That depends entirely on what you audience wants.
Content is valuable to your audience if it:
- Helps them solve a problem
- Gives them valuable knowledge
- Evokes emotion in them
- Entertains them
- Makes their life better in some way
Obviously, all sorts of content can meet these requirements. Everything from a video tutorial to a beautiful photograph to a meme can be valuable to your audience. It just needs to add value to them in some way.
Luckily, you don’t need to create all this yourself. The best influencers also share valuable content created by others. This also can get you noticed by the person who created the content, which can open up relational doors.
One effective strategy for content is the 5-3-2 principle. For every 10 social media posts:
- 5 are by someone else
- 3 are valuable content you created
- 2 are about you
Using this strategy ensures that you don’t get overwhelmed with content creation, establishes your credibility, and helps your audience get to know you personally.
Finding Content Ideas
If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, there are a number of strategies you can use, such as:
Type a relevant phrase into Google and then look at the related searches at the bottom of the page. This will give you a sense of different things your audience is searching for that are related to the main topic you typed in.
Answer the Public is another helpful tool for finding content ideas. You type a set of keywords and it spits out a large list of commonly asked questions related to the keyword.
Quora can also be helpful for generating ideas. If you type in a keyword, it will show you related questions that actual people have posted on the site. If you click on the questions, you can also see all the answers that have been provided.
Step #6: Publish your Content
After mapping out your content strategy, you’re finally ready to start publishing. If you want your content to be seen by as many people as possible, it’s important to post consistently. When it comes to social media, most of the platforms tend to prefer accounts that are active.
For an in-depth look at the best times to post on each social media platform, read this article. As a general rule, the best day to post is Wednesday and the most engagement happens between late morning and the middle of the afternoon.
That being said, avoid getting too hung up on posting at the perfect time. You’ll have the most success if you post consistently throughout the week.
Using Social Media Schedulers
If you’re like most people, the thought of having to log in and post multiple times per week is probably a bit overwhelming. After all, you’ve got a lot going on. This is where social media scheduling tools can be very helpful. They allow you to schedule your posts in advance and then automatically publish them for you.
Some of the best social media schedulers are:
- Sprout Social
With these tools, you can create a posting schedule, fill your queue with posts, and then let them handle actually publishing them when the time comes
Optimizing Your Posts
Optimize each of your posts for the channel on which it is being published. A video clip on Instagram looks different than a video clip on Facebook. Photos on Facebook look different than photos on Twitter. Ensure that each post looks great on the platform where it’s published.
Your posts also need to be optimized for mobile devices. With the majority of people consuming content on mobile devices, you’ll want to ensure that your posts look great on mobile, desktop, and tablets.
Depending on the platform you’re using, you also may want to optimize your posts with hashtags. Hashtags allow others to find posts related to specific subjects that they’re interested in. For example, if someone wants to find Instagram posts about vegan foods, they may search the hashtag #vegan.
Using relevant hashtags on your posts can help you get discovered by people who wouldn’t otherwise know about you. If you’re not sure which hashtags to use, these tools can help:
- All Hashtag
- Instavast Hashtag Generator
Step #7: Engage with your Audience
The importance of engaging with your audience can’t be overstated. Engaging simply means interacting with your followers, such as responding to their comments, answering their questions, and more.
Influencers who engage get traction faster than those who don’t. In fact, if you’re not willing to regularly engage your audience, you’ll most likely struggle to succeed in becoming an influencer.
Why is engagement so important?
Consider these reasons:
Engagement allows you to build positive relationships with those in your audience. When you reply to comments, answer questions, and provide helpful resources, it causes your audience to trust you more. They can see that you’re a real person who actually cares about them.
If you don’t engage with your audience, you’ll seem cold, distant, and aloof. You’ll seem like a corporation rather than a human. People won’t feel like they know you and will be less interested in following you.
Almost every social media platform boosts posts that have more engagement. When they see a post with lots of comments and likes, it’s a signal to them that the content is valuable and that more people should see it. The more engagement you have on your posts, the more people will see it.
Comments on your posts give you more insight into how your audience thinks. You can hear what they want in their own words. You’ll understand more about what drives them and learn how you can better serve them.
Yes, it takes some time to respond to comments and have meaningful conversations, but it’s worth it. Your audience will see you as more authentic and you’ll get a nice boost from social media algorithms.
Step #8: Analyze your Results
One of the biggest keys to succeeding as an influencer is regularly analyzing your results. You want to know what sorts of content resonate most with your audience and get the most interaction.
On top of this, if you want to work with brands, it’s important to be able to provide them with concrete data about the content you produce. They will want to know the size of your audience and how much engagement your posts get. If you can’t give them this information, they won’t feel confident that they’ll get much ROI from working with you.
Almost every platform offers analytics of some kind that you can use to evaluate your progress.
You’ll want to compile these types of data:
If you’re a blogger, you’ll want to analyze how many people visit your site, which pages they visit most, how long they stay on your site, and more.
If you’re a podcaster, take a close look at the number of downloads you’re getting per episode and which episodes get the most downloads.
If YouTube is your platform of choice, dig deep into your overall subscriber growth, which videos get the most views, how long people watch each video, and similar statistics.
On social media, analyze which posts get the most likes, comments, and reposts. Also take a close look at the demographics of your followers.
As you evaluate your results, pay close attention to content that performs really well, as well as the comments left by your audience. This information shows you what matters most to your followers.
If a blog post, video, podcast episode, or social media post performs really well, consider doubling down on that type of content. As you focus on producing more of the content that performs best, you’ll pick up momentum and your audience will grow faster.
Step #9: Collaborate with Brands
The final step in being an influencer is collaborating with brands in exchange for products or money.
How do you connect with these brands?
There are several different ways you can connect:
You can wait for brands to reach out to you. If you get big enough, you will eventually be noticed by brands who are interested in working with you. Ensure that you put your contact info in all your online profiles, so it’s easy for brands to get in touch with you.
Consistently tagging specific brands and products in posts is one way to get the attention of companies and show them that you are open to collaboration. It isn’t the fastest approach, but it can yield good results over the long run.
If you want to take a more proactive approach, consider reaching out to relevant companies in your niche. When you do this, be very clear about the value you offer to them. You’ll want to provide statistics about the size of your audience and the type of engagement your content gets.
To save time on this outreach, consider creating a template that you can use over and over.
Step 10: Use an Influencer Platform
These platforms serve as marketplaces, bringing together influencers and companies interested in collaborating. There are a ton of different influencer platforms out there, including:
- Find Your Influence
You’ll need to spend some time researching which influencer platform is right for you. Some are more narrowly focused and cater to a specific audience, while others are much broader.
Find the strategy that works best for you and start collaborating with brands.
Your Tribe is Waiting
It’s easier than ever to become an influencer. You don’t have to be a famous celebrity. You don’t have to write a book or be a powerful politician. You just need to be willing to put in the work.
We’ve covered a lot of different topics in this guide.
We’ve talked about:
- What an influencer is and the benefits of being an influencer
- Choosing your niche
- Defining your audience
- Picking your primary platform
- Spicing up your social media profiles
- Mapping out your content
- Publishing your content
- Engaging with your audience
- Analyzing your results
- Collaborating with brands
Becoming an influencer doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of time and effort. You need to figure out your niche and get clarity on your audience, optimize your social media profiles and create a content map, publish great content, analyze the results, and then double down on what works best.
Consistency is Key
If you get discouraged when you don’t see immediate results, you’ll be tempted to give up. Don’t do it. In the end, it will be worth it.
You’ll develop authentic relationships with those in your audience.
Opportunities will arise that never would have before. You’ll establish your expertise and others will see you as a thought leader.
So do the work.
Put in the time.
Work hard to consistently deliver value to your audience. As a result, your following will grow. Your tribe is waiting for you. Go find them!