How to become a trusted influencer on social media

If you think influencer marketing is something new, think again. While it’s undeniable that with the advent of social media the phenomenon reached a new level, brands have a long history of trying to influence people’s purchasing decisions.

For example, back in 1931, Santa Claus himself stopped his sleigh for a quick drink of Coke

While we can’t really say that Santa is a social media influencer (for instance, he never Instagrams about his favorite choice of soda), it’s true that he’s a household name absolutely capable of influencing people.

What is an influencer

Before you can become an influencer, first you need to know exactly what an influencer is and does.

According to TechJury‘s influencer definition, “an influencer is an individual who’s capable of affecting (i.e., influencing) people’s purchase decisions because of his/her knowledge or authority. … This individual has a following – usually on social media – in a specific niche, such as fashion, food, fitness, photography, and so on.”

Based on the number of followers, we can distinguish between micro (5-25k), small (25-100k), big (100k-1 million), macro (1-7 million), and celebrity influencers (over 7 million).

Before the era of Facebook & Co, only a select few celebrities had the opportunity to influence purchase decisions. However, thanks to social media, any person with internet access has the potential to become an influencer.

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Dream profession: social media influencer

And why not become one? Influencers seem to have an easy job. They get to do what they like, can post about what they’re doing on social media, and even get paid for it. Sounds like everybody’s dream job, right?

It’s no wonder that, according to a recent study, 17% of children aged 11-16 want to become social media influencers.

However, becoming an influencer is a lot harder than it seems. First of all, there’s a lot of competition. On Instagram alone, there are over 550,000 active accounts with more than 15,000 followers. With “noise” like that, it’s not easy to make yourself heard.

However, those accounts are typically unique to their niche. So, you’ll have to be good at something. Or, alternatively, do something that interests people. And while being famous for being famous is nothing new, there’s a catch: you have to become famous before you can be famous for being famous.

And last but not least, you have to be able to actually influence people. Which means that you have to get them to follow you, like, share, and comment on your posts on social media, and have an impact on their decisions.

Before you give up the idea and go back to your day job, here’s a spark of hope: despite all this, millions of people managed to become influencers. You can do it too.

Becoming an influencer

If you want to become an influencer on social media, here are the steps you need to follow.

1. Find your topic

Are you passionate about cooking? Do you like fashion? Are you an avid gardener? Do you have a unique/funny/insightful take on parenthood?

Whichever your chosen area, remember that you don’t have to be a professional at it. Having a degree in engineering doesn’t preclude you from posting about your life with a litter of kittens.

Regardless of your topic and experience, you have to be passionate about what you do. You can write a blog about being a skydiving expert, or learning how to skydive starting from the first time you put that parachute on.

Your expertise doesn’t matter. Your authenticity does. Be honest and credible in your writing. Remember, the audience (and an influencer marketing agency) can smell a phoney from miles away.

2. Find your audience

With your topic comes the audience. Who are you posting for? A group of disgruntled parents? Would-be skydivers? Fellow amateur gardeners? Or professional fashion experts?

You need to determine your audience because a lot depends on it: the style of your content, the platform you choose, your influencer personality, the frequency of your posts, and so on. Becoming an influencer is just like working as a marketing professional. You have to know your audience and cater to its tastes.

3. Find your platform

Finding the right platform depends on your audience. Instagram seems to be the most popular choice: 93% of social media influencers focus their efforts on this platform. However, depending on your audience, you may have to look for other networks as well.

For example, if you target the 30-45+ generation, your best bet would be Facebook or LinkedIn. But if you want to reach 18-29 year-olds, you’ll have to look into Snapchat or WhatsApp.

You don’t have to choose only one: you can be active on more than one platform. However, make sure your content is tailored to each specific platform’s needs. What works on Facebook may not work on Twitter, and so on.

If your style and topic call for it, you can start a blog in your niche. However, you can’t bypass social media. You need to regularly share your blog posts on social media. Otherwise, you can’t build credible followership that’s essential to becoming an influencer.

4. Follow other influencers

Find influencers active in similar niches and engage with them. Comment on their posts, follow their accounts and build your network. Remember, you can learn a lot from your peers.

Plus, it’s really helpful to see what they’re doing so you can differentiate yourself and create your own influencer voice.

5. Create a content strategy

Do you think influencers post on a whim? Not likely. Most influencers have a thorough content strategy that tells them what and when to post, what kind of hashtags to use, who to tag, and so on.

Your content largely depends on your style and topic. Blogging about cardiovascular health would require a rather serious tone, lots of text, as well as graphs and charts to build credibility. On the other hand, it may be enough for a fashion influencer to post a few quality photographs and an inspirational quote here or there.

Create a content strategy for your blog and/or social media accounts. Remember that you need to post meaningful content regularly to become an influencer. However, don’t forget that sharing other people’s posts will help widen your network and deepen your relationships with other influencers in your niche. Calculate that into your content strategy as well.

6. Get your content out there

Share your content on your social media platform(s). When you’re starting out as a social media influencer, you may not have a large enough followership. And since nobody’s aware of your content, the number of your followers can’t grow. This is a vicious cycle, but don’t worry, you can totally break it. And no, not by buying fake followers.

This is where your network comes in. Comment on other people’s posts, and, if applicable, bring their attention to your content. Share your posts to their pages and engage them in conversation.

Ask bloggers if they accept guest posts, and publish content on other influencers’ pages who have a more established followership. This will help bring attention to your page and your followership will start to grow.

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7. Engage with your followers

Followers are not just numbers attached to your account. They’re living, breathing, and thinking people. You need to show them your appreciation, otherwise, they can unfollow you just as easily.

Treat your followers like royalty. Engage them in conversation, reply to their comments, and show them how much you value their support. After all, you can’t become an influencer without a sound, loyal followership.

8. Approach brands

Once you have your social media influencer accounts up and running, you have a sound followership base, and you’re producing a steady stream of quality content, it’s time to test the waters.

Approach brands you like and that would be a good match for your content. Don’t aim too high; if you’re an aspiring fashion blogger, Dolce & Gabbana would probably not take notice of you yet. Start with small brands that share your vision and target audience.

Show your chosen brand(s) how your values and image align and why working together would be beneficial for both of you. Don’t sound overly self-assured, but be confident and polite.

Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work out at first. Remember, there are many influencers and most brands tend to have tight marketing budgets. However, with patience, hard work, and dedication, you can show the world what you’re passionate about and become a highly respected influencer.

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