A practical guide that walks you through the step-by-step process of how to become an influencer within your industry.
Forget celebrity endorsements. In this era of online marketing comes the rise of the influencer, someone with authenticity, authority, and a large audience that gives them the ability to sway people’s decision-making process. We all have our favorite influencers, and after watching their enviable careers progress through our screens, who could be blamed for wanting the same influencer status and success for themselves?
If you’re looking to rise above the crowd as a social media influencer or key opinion leader, but don’t know where to begin, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together this practical guide that walks you through the key steps for becoming a social media influencer in your industry, reach your influencer status goals, and monetize your influence.
15 steps to becoming a social media influencer in your industry:
- Step 1. What is an influencer?
- Step 2. How do you become an influencer and supercharge your brand
- Step 3. Ask yourself, why do you want to be an influencer?
- Step 4. Select your preferred social media channels
- Step 5. Develop a content strategy
- Step 6. Distribute your content
- Step 7. Create and share how-to videos
- Step 8. Utilize thought leadership posts
- Step 9. Run a blog alongside your social media
- Step 10. Engage with your followers
- Step 11. Know your insights
- Step 12. Keep updated with industry developments
- Step 13. Focus on consistency
- Step 14. Boost your influencer status
- Step 15. Monetize your influence
Step 1. What is an influencer?
An influencer is someone who can greatly impact the purchasing decisions of a group of people due to their perceived authority, trust, knowledge, and connections. Unlike celebrities, influencers are considered to be typical and average people, thus making their opinions seem more credible and relatable.
You cannot simply reach influencer status overnight. An influencer must first build their target audience, which in return, gives them a relevant and effective platform to voice their opinions. They also strive to create original and engaging content, rather than posting content that has been said and done before, therefore giving their audience an undeniable reason to follow them.
Perhaps at the heart of every influencer relationship is trust, as their audience expects nothing but honest, trustworthy opinions and advice. After all, 90% of millennials trust social media influencers more than traditional celebrities, and this is something that brands of all sizes are capitalizing on.
What are social media influencers?
Social media influencers are another category within this industry, and unlike key thought leaders, they have gained their status as an influencer due to the size of their social media following.
As we know, social media has rapidly grown in its importance over the past decade and 3.8 billion people worldwide now have a presence on at least one social channel. It also makes sense then that people are increasingly turning to authority figures on these platforms to guide them with their purchasing decisions.
Brands love social media influencers because they can encourage trends and influence their large followings of enthusiastic and engaged followers to buy products they speak highly of.
Some famous social media influencers worldwide include:
- Murad Osmann
- Kayla Itsines
- Jeffree Star
- Kylie Jenner
- Celeste Barber
The ‘key opinion leader’ types of influencers
One category of influencers can be referred to as key opinion leaders, and they are industry experts and thought leaders such as:
- Political figures
- Industry experts
Key opinion leaders have gained trust, respect, and interest due to their experience and expertise. This might be their prior education, a position they hold at an influential company, or any other prestige they’ve gained along the course of their life and career.
Well-known examples of key opinion leader influencers include:
- Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post
- Seth Godin, marketing expert
- Marie Forleo, life coach and motivational speaker
- Tim Ferriss, entrepreneur and author
Step 2. How do you become an influencer and supercharge your brand
Wondering how you can use your experience and credibility to shape the opinion of others, cultivate trust, and supercharge your brand? Here’s a simple, yet effective 5-step plan to help you become an industry influencer.
The 5 key steps to becoming an influencer within your industry
#1. Focus on a niche you’re passionate about. If you want to establish authority, and therefore influence in a specific area, then it’s vital you concentrate on a niche you’re passionate and knowledgeable about.
Some specific niche ideas might include:
- Vegan food
- Skincare for mature-aged skin
- Business finance
- Budget-friendly travel
Notice how these niches aren’t just general categories but focus on a specific element of a broader topic? Of course, it’s important not to pigeonhole yourself into a topic so niche that it doesn’t have an audience, but when you focus on topic ‘sub-categories’ like this, it allows you to reach a target audience who are seeking the exact content you’re putting out there. It also greatly increases your chances of your name being associated as an expert with that particular topic.
#2. Demonstrate your knowledge. Once you’ve established what niche you will be specializing in, it’s time to share your knowledge within that field. This will help you build your audience and make a name for yourself, as people will tune-in to your content to get your latest advice, knowledge, or opinions.
When you share your knowledge with your audience through high-quality content, it demonstrates your authority within the field and the value you bring — not just now, but into the future too as they continue to follow you.
So, what are the different mediums you can share your knowledge about your chosen niche? Here are the 10 most popular:
- Your blog
- Social media (ideally three or more of the following: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest)
- Guest blogging
- Books, including eBooks or printed books
The trick is to create high-quality and valuable content that can be repurposed across several of these mediums. For example, a lengthy blog post that can be recorded as a webinar, broken down into a slideshow, turned into a shortened series of social media posts, and reproduced as a downloadable white paper.
It’s the most effective way to get your name out there as an influencer within your field.
#3. Have an opinion. As an influencer or someone on the path to becoming one, it’s not your job to sit on the fence when it comes to issues relating to your niche. One of the biggest advantages of being an influencer is that you get to have a voice and share your opinions in the first place, so ensure you’re speaking up about the topics that matter to you and your audience.
A single internet minute holds more than 500 hours of video uploaded by users on Youtube, 147,000 photos uploaded to Facebook, and over 347,000 stories being uploaded to Instagram, so if you want to rise above the sea of online content, you need to be an independent thinker.
Hold true to your own values and beliefs, as authenticity is everything.
#4. Network with other influencers. Being an influencer also requires you to build connections and network with other influencers, especially if you want to be highly successful.
There are two main ways to do this:
- Start a conversation with influencers online
- Network in-person at relevant events
To connect with influencers online, read, watch, or listen to their content and reach out with constructive comments or questions. Aim to start a conversation with them, and continue this approach over the coming days, weeks, and months.
Eventually, they’ll come to recognize your name and see you as a valued audience member. This, in turn, builds rapport, and over time could even blossom into a valued working relationship or friendship.
So, how do you find influencers within your niche to connect with? There are numerous influencer finder tools online or you can simply hire a freelance marketing specialist to perform the research for you.
To network at relevant events, you’ll first need to discover which events are worth going to. Some effective ideas include:
- Industry tradeshows
- Live talks/interviews
Do your research beforehand to determine which guest speakers, hosts, or influential audience members will also be attending, then do your best to strike up a conversation with them in-person at the event.
#5. Engage with your audience. It’s important to keep a rolling conversation going with your audience across all of your channels, whether it’s asking them related questions, responding to questions, or thanking people for their comments.
The most successful influencers are generally those who focus on being real, accessible, and approachable. After all, audiences are the backbone of an influencer’s career.
You can visit your audience’s own blog or social media channel and return the favor by interacting with their content. Even the smallest gestures go a long way when you’re building your career as an influencer.
Step 3. Ask yourself, why do you want to be an influencer?
Being a thought leader in your niche is extremely rewarding and gives you the opportunities to make a positive impact on people’s lives in ways you never thought possible. But, many people believe being an influencer is an effortless and glamorous life — in reality, this often isn’t the case.
Before you become an influencer though, it’s important that you ensure you’re doing it for the right reasons. So, why do you want to become an influencer? Do you want the:
- The flexibility that comes with choosing your own work schedule?
- The versatility of being able to produce content about only the topics that interest you?
- Ability to only work with brands that resonate with your beliefs?
- Creativity that comes with producing content across written, visual, and auditory mediums?
- Chance to connect with thousands, if not millions, of people across the globe?
- The authenticity that comes with celebrating your own unique voice?
Keep in mind that if you’re only pursuing the role of an influencer for perks such as free products, high pay, or a perceived lack of effort, then you might not be in it for the right reasons.
This is because running a brand and business alongside your family and other life commitments can be tough, especially when social media is considered a 24/7 job. Furthermore, being an influencer isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s estimated that on average, influencers price their sponsored posts at around $1,000 per 100,000 followers, which equates to one cent per follower.
Step 4. Select your preferred social media channels
It’s important to note that as a social media influencer, you don’t have to be active across every single social media platform. Instead, choose the platforms where your target audience for your niche is most active, then pay close attention to growing around 2-3 of these by putting effort into them every day.
Popular social media platforms to consider include:
Our word of advice is to make sure Instagram is one of the platforms you concentrate on, especially if your target audience is active there. An impressive 93% of social media influencers focus their time and efforts on Instagram, as it has proven to give them the most successful results.
The same study showed that Facebook ranked second, followed by YouTube.
How can you determine which social media platform is best for you? Take into consideration the following:
- Who your target audience is
- Where the other influencers within your niche are most active
- What type of content you will be creating
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Step 5. Develop a content strategy
Speaking of content, it’s vital that you plan what you will be creating and sharing with your audience to ensure it hits the mark. After all, you want your content to be engaging, valuable, and unique for your target audience, therefore increasing your success as an influencer.
We recommend you post content on social media that fits into these categories each week:
- Valuable content written by someone else: If you stumble upon content that you believe will be beneficial to your audience, be sure to share it with them on your channels. Not only will they appreciate the value, but it’s also a great networking tactic to help you establish rapport with other authority figures within your niche or industry. Who knows, they may just return the favor with your own content down the line.
- Educational and informative content you created yourself: Strengthen your reputation as an expert on your chosen topic by regularly producing your own helpful and high-value content for your audience. It might be a social media series assisting them with a particular issue or a post notifying them of your latest free eBook, for example.
- Posts about yourself: To establish yourself as an influencer, you also need to share social media posts about yourself regularly, especially when they offer a relatable or fascinating glimpse into your daily life. Remind your following that you’re human too, as it’s this relatability and audience trust that will go a long way in assisting you to succeed as a social media influencer.
Now that we’ve established the three major categories your social media content should fall into, let’s take a look at how you can gain relevant topic ideas to ensure you never run out of fuel.
The following free resources will prove to be helpful:
#1. Google Related Search Keywords. This is found at the bottom of the Google search page (SERPs). It lists the most commonly used long-tail keywords used by your target audience when searching for information on the internet.
#2. Answer the Public. This website gives you a thorough list of the various commonly-asked questions in regards to your chosen keywords, which you can then aim to answer through your content.
#3. Quora also gives you a list of different questions asked by internet users in relation to your keyword, but you’ll find that these were left explicitly by individuals currently facing a problem or challenge — rather than a search algorithm, as with the previous two resources. Quora also allows members to leave answers to these posted questions, offering an additional way for you to flex your expertise.
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Step 6. Distribute your content
If you want your content to reach as many people as possible across your social media, then you’ll also need to plan how, when, and where you will distribute your posts.
One of the most vital pieces of advice is to schedule your content to go live at the optimal time and this time will be determined by the location and behavior of your audience. In other words, you’ll want to find out when they’re most active in their time zone.
We recommend using the social media platform’s in-built analytics tool to determine this, if possible, or if the platform is lacking in this tool, try a third-party service.
You’ll want to consider how you will post your content to ensure it has as much engagement and views as possible. Each social media platform has its own rules in regards to how you post content, but keep in mind these general rules for success:
- Ensure what you’re posting adheres to the topic/theme you set out for your social channel. Content that doesn’t suit your established niche or target audience will come across as jarring.
- Customize your post’s description or message if you plan on posting it across multiple social media channels. This keeps your content fresh and ensures that if the same person follows you on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, for example, they won’t be bombarded with a message they’ve already seen before from you.
- Pair your content with appropriate trending hashtags. As an influencer, one of your aims will also be to grow your audience, so putting your content in front of as many people who are searching for the same topics will really help.
Step 7. Create and share how-to videos
One of the key reasons a person will seek out an influencer on social media is to learn more about the brands or products they’re considering purchasing, particularly from an honest and relatable perspective.
This is why how-to type videos and images perform so well on social media — they are hugely sought after to help someone with their all-important purchasing decision.
Aim to show your audience how you use the product, the results you achieved from the product, and anything else relevant to your product experience. It’s not only a great way to make your content valuable to others but will increase your likelihood of other brands and clients wanting to work with you.
Step 8. Utilize thought leadership posts
While social media channels such as Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube are perfect for visual content such as how-tos, other channels such as LinkedIn or Medium are fantastic for posting content that establishes yourself as a thought leader within your niche.
You can do so through writing informative blog posts or articles through these websites as well as commenting on relevant posts within your niche and encouraging discussion.
- Share advice
- Reveal case studies
- Answer FAQs
- Post-thought-provoking opinion pieces
Step 9. Run a blog alongside your social media
A word of advice we would offer to anyone looking to establish themselves as a social media influencer is to also run a blog alongside your social media commitments. This is because, despite how much effort you put into your social media channels, you don’t necessarily ‘own’ them in the way you might like to.
You see, if a glitch with the application saw your entire profile (photos, likes, follower count, and all) be accidentally deleted, or if Instagram were to suddenly cease to exist, there isn’t much you can do to get it all back.
With a dedicated blog, however, you are much more in control of your content and can even back it up in case the worst were to happen. It’s also a great way to increase your follower base, an important task as an influencer, and it gives you an additional platform to encourage your audience to interact with and share your content. Just be sure to install some social media share buttons on your site.
Step 10. Engage with your followers
The aim is to try to develop a deeper and more meaningful relationship with your audience and the best way you can do this is to engage with your followers through acknowledging and responding to the interactions you receive.
As a social media influencer, your social media content will gather plenty of comments, likes, and shares — particularly as your following increases.
While it can seem time-consuming, responding to your audience will allow your followers to feel valued and increase the likelihood of them engaging with you in the future.
Keep in mind that not all of your comments or messages will be positive, as this is the nature of the online world. Remember to stay composed and professional. After all, you’re in the business of social media now, and your behavior on these channels can make or break your success.
Step 11. Know your insights
When we talk about statistics, we simply mean:
- Follower count
- Audience demographics
- Engagement rate
Not only are these beneficial for you to know so you can tweak your content strategy for the best results, but clients and brands interested in working with you will also ask for these insights.
Again, you can use the social media platform’s built-in analytics or insights tool to gather this information, or if you’d prefer, seek out a third-party tool.
Step 12. Keep updated with industry developments
The online world is constantly evolving, and with it comes new algorithms, disclosure agreements, and other changes. As someone who will be relying so heavily on online platforms such as social media, it’s vital that you keep on top of these developments to ensure you’re never behind in your game.
The FTC, for example, has become even more vigilant in monitoring brands and influencers in the way they work together to promote products and services. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the latest FTC guidelines and policies to avoid potential penalties.
Step 13. Focus on consistency
When it comes to succeeding as a social media influencer, consistency really is the key. You want your followers to keep paying attention to your content, and one of the best ways to do this is through delivering high-quality content on a consistent basis.
Rather than posting your social media content manually, it’s recommended you use a scheduling tool to create, upload and schedule your posts in batches. This is also ideal for ensuring you post at the times when your audience is most active on each platform.
Some of the most popular social media scheduling tools include:
Step 14. Boost your influencer status
We touched on this earlier, but if you really want to boost your influencer status, you need to diversify the types of content you create.
Let’s learn about the various ways you can do this.
- Blogging: This was the original form of influencer marketing, before the rise of social media, which saw influencers (or ‘bloggers’) collaborate with brands, products, and services through sponsored posts, including how-to articles, listicles, reviews, showcases, and more. Blogging, whether on your own blog or as a guest blogger on someone else’s, allows for more in-depth content than a social media caption.
- Podcasting: Podcasts have rapidly grown in popularity over the past few years, as they offer audiences a way to listen to content on the go. For influencers, they also offer another way to work with brands, establish your expertise, and grow your audience. Just remember to be consistent with your episode schedule and topics.
- Webinars: Audiences love webinars, as they provide a flexible, location-independent method for consuming valuable content that helps them overcome a problem or achieve something. They’re great for building your authority within your industry and reinforcing the value you have to offer to your audience.
- Online courses: As an influencer, there’s no doubt you’ll have a lot to say about your chosen niche, including sharing your knowledge, experience, and advice. Creating an online course about a topic of great importance to your target audience allows you to offer high-value content while receiving something in return — whether it’s email subscribers, brand sponsorships, and/or monetary compensation.
- Speak at trade shows/conferences: Perhaps the ultimate boost in influencer status comes when others witness you speak as an authority on a topic at a trade show or conference. This is a huge accomplishment and instantly labels you an ‘expert’ in your chosen niche. It not only makes your audience members stand up and take notice of the value you have to offer, but allows brands, potential clients, and other influential individuals to also get to know who you are.
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Step 15. Monetize your influence
Now that you’ve learned the various ways you can boost your influencer status, it’s time to turn our attention to how you can be compensated for your role as an influencer. Thankfully, there are many ways you can monetize your influence. Just keep in mind that before your audience is willing to pay for content, they must first be convinced that the content carries a high value, therefore making it well worth the cost.
To successfully monetize your audience, follow this step-by-step plan.
#1. Members need to feel like they are gaining
Elite status: This is when members receive benefits that are not available to other members, or which are available but at an additional fee. Elite status incentivizes a member to be a frequent consumer of your content and rewards them for ongoing loyalty.
High-value information: There is a lot of free information available on the internet, so if you’re offering a paid model of content, it needs to be high value. In other words, information, advice, or tools that they can’t get anywhere else. Information that helps an audience overcome their biggest pain point, and therefore improve their lives, is also seen as highly valuable.
VIP treatment: When someone commits to purchasing an offer, they don’t want to feel ignored or mediocre. Give all of your members the VIP treatment by prioritizing them, including frequently reaching out to them, answering their queries or comments quickly, and providing them with additional value, such as free resources.
Network opportunities with other members: Humans like to feel as though we’re part of a community, and as an influencer, you have the privilege of being able to facilitate this shared experience.
Insider access to the owner/director of the site: Everyone loves exclusive content, especially when that content offers a behind-the-scenes look or insider access to someone’s life, career, etc. This also gives members the perk of being able to have a direct line to you. For example, you might have a private channel (i.e. Slack or WhatsApp) that allows these members to ask for your advice whenever they need it.
Members-only forum: Similarly, a members-only forum gives exclusive access to an ongoing conversation, both with you and fellow members. This facilitates a sense of community and takes your content offering to a whole new level.
#2. Create your paid content model separate from your free content model
When it comes to paid content models and free content models, you don’t have to choose one or the other. The aim is to offer both to your audience, as it allows new followers to get to know more about you, your expertise, and the value you can offer to them before they commit to making a purchase.
Generally, influencers go about this in one of two ways. You can:
- Continue to offer free content on your blog but open a members-only forum with access to you and other perks, such as exclusive articles, training calls, webinars, etc.
- Continue to offer a free blog but also create information products, books, and courses for a fee, so your audience can purchase individual resources as they require them. We’ll cover this in more detail below.
#3. Find the right paid content model
Three of the most common paid content models include:
- Paywall: This method restricts content to only those who have paid for it, therefore only allowing members or subscribers to access the information or resources.
- Individual transactions: Rather than offering multiple pieces of exclusive content at a fixed fee, each individual piece of content (such as an eBook, webinar, whitepaper, or online course) can be purchased separately.
- Metered content: This method allows content to be free until the user has reached a specific limit, whether it’s the amount of time spent on a website, the number of articles viewed, or the number of downloads they have performed. This lets people read a small portion of your content before deciding to pay for full access.
#4. Paid content to monetize
#1. Live webinars are a great way to expand your audience, capture their contact details, showcase your expertise, and offer a glimpse of the value you can offer.
It’s highly effective to start with a free live webinar, as they are easy to create and attract a larger audience, then you can repurpose it in multiple monetized ways. These include:
- Selling access to single replays: Sometimes, audience members can’t attend a live webinar due to their time zone, or they found the webinar to be so valuable, that they want to be able to re-watch it on demand.
- Selling a bundle of replays: If you’ve created multiple free live webinars, you can easily repurpose these into a bundle of replays that are sold at a special price. Just like upselling, you can highlight to your audience how this bundle provides even more value than purchasing each replay separately.
- Selling access to a webinar membership: If you find yourself producing multiple webinars each month or year, then offering a paid webinar membership that gives subscribers instant access to these as they’re released is a great idea. Remember to offer member-exclusive bonuses too, such as access to a private online community or direct communication channel. Subscription plans could be on a monthly or yearly basis.
#2. Online courses are a great way to bundle all of your expertise on a related topic and offer it to your target audience at a premium price. The course might be delivered daily or weekly by email, or by an online course platform or password-protected portion of your website. Along with modules, online courses may also come with digital resources, such as videos, eBooks, worksheets, and more.
#3. Digital downloads. Speaking of digital resources, you can also create and sell access to your videos, eBooks, digital printables, whitepapers, and more. Though the pricing may not be as premium as access to an online course, it’s still a great way to get consistent monetary compensation for your expertise.
Additionally, you can sell your digital downloads through a pay-per-download network, where you are paid based on the number of unique downloads your content receives from users.
If you’ve always dreamed of being an influencer but thought the career was reserved for the rich and famous, then you’re in luck. In this digital age, anyone can become an influencer; it just takes a comprehensive, step-by-step plan and the persistence to show up every day online — whether creating valuable content for your niche, engaging with your audience, or keeping up-to-date with industry developments.
You now have a fail-proof plan to help you succeed as an influencer on social media or as a key thought leader within your niche. All it takes is understanding your reasons for becoming an influencer, following the process of boosting your influencer status, and monetizing your influence, then you’ll be living your dream of being an influencer in no time.