In just the last few years, influencer marketing has taken over the online landscape, with brands big and small sharing their successes reaching new audiences through what was once such an exclusive avenue, reserved only for those who could afford celebrity endorsements.
And with reports of influencers raking in over $100,000 for a single Instagram shoutout, it’s no surprise many of us want a share of the pie. But with internet fame being so misunderstood (does fame = influence?) it can be hard to know what to do and where to start when it comes to building a loyal following.
Becoming a social media influencer in 2020 is a highly appealing way to make money online, but it might take a little more effort than it did just a decade ago. Here are a few tips on how to grow your audience and become a social media influencer:
Choose your main platform
You may think that as an influencer you need to be on every existing social network, but the key to a successful social media presence is creating great content. The best thing to do is to stick with one main platform, and use a few others to help promote it. For example, you may decide to start a YouTube channel, which you can then promote on your Instagram account with a link back to your channel. Or you might want to stick with Instagram only, by curating your best images and using popular hashtags.
While YouTube and Instagram are the main platforms where social media influencers can quickly grow their following, you can also start a Facebook group and build a following there, which is what many people have successfully done. It depends on what your content is and where your potential followers spend their time.
One thing to note however, is that social media platforms come and go, and algorithms can change practically overnight. It’s a good idea not to rely solely upon YouTube ad revenue for example, nor should you expect that Instagram will show your photos to all of your followers the moment you post it. With most of the current social media platforms, you have no control over how your content is displayed, accessed or monetised so keep that in mind when you are growing your audience.
Decide what you want to be known for
Personal branding is an important step in the journey towards becoming an influencer, because it’s going to help you build a community. It’s also a good way to differentiate yourself from the competition.
For example, you might want to be a beauty guru but since that is an incredibly saturated market you could market yourself as an eco-friendly or vegan beauty vlogger who reviews sustainable products. Or perhaps you want to be a travel blogger, with a focus on personal development and motivation. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s something that reflects your true personality. If it’s not authentic, you won’t stick to it and your followers won’t believe it.
Create content that helps your audience
There are no shortcuts when it comes to growing your social media following, you need to create genuinely helpful content to an audience that is asking for it. Today, you’ll find countless Instagram feeds with stunning images—this isn’t enough to become an influencer anymore. The mistake that many people make when wanting to become influencers, is thinking that they can take a couple of selfies or film a few videos and the fans will come flooding in. Unfortunately, that just isn’t enough anymore.
Remember that most existing social media influencers began without an audience. They built their audience by creating content that they thought their audience would like to see. If you can’t come up with anything on your own, look at what your favourite social media stars are up to and get inspiration from them.
Creating content is the easy part, the challenge is getting the word out. There are a number of ways you can promote yourself online—paid advertising, collaborations with other influencers, creating timely content and using the right hashtags, and engaging with your community regularly by replying to comments. It might take a while to grow, but if you know where your community is and what they want to see, you can position yourself in the right place at the right time. When it comes to promotion, you will have to invest time, money or both to see results—it’s up to you to decide how much of each you want to spend.
Get comfortable with numbers
Being a social media influencer requires more than just posting about your life and replying to your fans’ comments. Understanding your stats is important because they can help determine what content is performing well, who your demographics are and what content you should focus on creating in the future. They are also important for brands to determine whether they’d make a good return on investment from your endorsement. Your worth as an influencer relies on three factors; follower count, engagement and reach. Make sure you understand these and can justify the value you provide.
Understand all the ways to make a living on social media
There are a few ways to make money on social media that you may know about such as advertising (placing ads before, during and after a video), affiliate links and brand sponsorships. You can also create your own products to promote on your social media channels.
Reach out to brands
Presumably, one of the reasons you want to be a social media influencer is so that you can make some money. Once you have a substantial following, you can start securing sponsorships and working with brands. While there is no universally agreed upon number for what constitutes a “substantial following” Social Media Today defines micro influencers as those with less than 10k followers, and macro influencers as those with thousands or millions of followers.
The fact is, depending on your niche and the audience you attract you could be considered an influencer even with just 5000 followers. However, brands most likely aren’t going to come to you, which is why you’re going to have to reach out to them. There are a number of platforms, networks and agencies available that can connect you with brands that fit your audience, including Intellifluence, ReachBird, Tribe and many others.
If you don’t want to go down that route, you can simply approach companies on your own by introducing yourself through email and sharing some of your stats, explaining why you’d make a good ambassador for their brand. There’s really no right or wrong way to go about it, you just have to try and see what works.
Be consistent, but don’t expect overnight success
You need to allow plenty of time for your community to form and earn your trust. Being an influencer is not about being “famous”, it’s about having the power to change people’s minds or make them consider things they hadn’t considered before. To do that, you need to build trust and trust isn’t built overnight. Consistency in producing valuable content is paramount, because then your followers will come to learn that your word is good. It may take months or even years for your personal branding to pay off, but if you put in the time, you have a real chance to find success as an influencer.