Not long ago, spending all day online was a sure sign of a slacker, someone with no connection to the outside world. Today, there’s serious money to be made, completely and totally in cyberspace. Social media personalities are a new breed of celebrity, commanding impressive loyalty over a small niche of followers. They’re the new wave of entertainment in the modern world…and they’re also the new wave of influence marketing.
Social media influencers represent conversion power that no one imagined was possible just five years ago, and forward thinking marketing agencies have been quick to seize the potential of YouTubers like Felix Kjellberg and Michelle Phan, or Instagram’s Lauren Cohen. Want a share in their success? Here’s how you can become part of the next wave of influencers.
- Start With You
The first step to becoming an influencer is understanding what top brands want from the influencers they partner with. Forbes magazine proposed this useful little metric of factors that determine blogger influence: Influence = Audience Reach (# of followers) x Brand Affinity (expertise and credibility) x Strength of Relationship with Followers. Before you can be considered an influencer, you need two things: authority, and followers. The first brand you need to build up is your own: you need to offer something unique and high quality, and prove that you can build audience and capture their loyalty before any brand deals come knocking on you door.
- Help Your Influencers Enjoy Success
When partnering with an influencer, you can and should seek to help them reach their objectives. This will yield excellent results as they become more successful, reach a wider audience and ultimately grow loyalty for your brand.
- Consistency Breeds Connection
There’s no shortcut to building an audience on social media. Every expert and entertainment personality with a sizeable follower has one thing in common: hard work. Your authority is as good as your content. Consistent and high quality output is the only thing that will bring followers your way. Holly Hamman, co-founder of influence marketing network TapInfluence, recommend that brand marketers look for influencers who post high quality content often, and consistently. A consistent output breeds loyal followers, and lots of likes, shares, and returning visitors.
- Be Positive
Everyone’s had a viral vitriolic YouTube rant or takedown blog wander across his or her Facebook feed. They can be fun to make and cathartic to watch, and can rack up millions of hits when they go viral…but if you hope to make lasting partnerships and brand connections, excessive negativity will only shoot you in the foot. Positivity is the best way to build a community and keep your viewers engaged and build up blogger influence: make your online space a place where people feel welcomed and safe. A follower count in the millions won’t win you collaborations or partnerships if no one wants to work with you.
- Be Authentic
Authenticity is an important part of building a personal brand, but it becomes absolutely vital when you begin producing sponsored content. The most successful influencers keep the ratio of sponsored to original content small. It’s equally important to be choosy when considering potential brand deals: everyone recognizes marketing speak and tricks of the trade these days, and your audience will know if you’re recommending a product you don’t personally believe in. Taking on every brand deal that comes your way only damages your credibility, as well as the credibility of the brand: Entrepreneur lists that oversaturated, quantity-over-quality approach as one of the most damaging marketing mistakes you can make. Branding partnerships should be a symbiotic relationship that benefits all parties, so know when “no” is the right answer!
- Partnership and Reciprocity
Collaboration is vital to building any brand, personal or commercial, and they need to be true partnerships. Treat your online contacts as people: a friend who can help you, not a button you can push to increase your follower count. Successful networkers are giving collaborators, eager to offer advice and experience when it’s asked for. Partnership goes hand in hand with a positive outlook and authenticity. Remember, you aren’t competing for followers, and being defensive only creates a negative atmosphere that drives away both potential collaborators and potential followers. Give and take in equal measure and you can build a network of fellow online personalities and influencers as well as a loyal base of followers and fans.
Sometimes marketers confuse influencer marketing with manipulation, bribing or worse. Influence is something you deserve by being relevant for others. The support of an influencer needs to be deserved by marketers as well. Indeed, by being relevant.
J-P De Clerck
A Few Final Words
It’s easy to dismiss online personalities who wield a lot of influence on social media: All he does is play video games on a camera! All she does is post pictures on Instagram! But there’s no denying the power of blogger influence, and the hard work the most successful influencers did to get where they are today. Success in social media requires consistency, quality, a unique viewpoint and more than a little luck. If you want to be an influencer start now, and start from the beginning: remember, there are no shortcuts, but the rewards are well worth it once you’ve earned them.