Becoming an influencer is the new “it” job to have, and it’ll be a long time before that changes. Many social media stars ambled into the early influencer fray because they began posting their passions on Instagram. Others took a more decided approach and targeted a need until it snowballed into a moneymaking venture. The influencer arena changes almost daily, and what it took to become an influencer even a year ago differs from today.
What did it take to become noticed in the early days of influencers? It took grit and a focus on one platform. How do you become an influencer now? It still takes grit, and you have to spread your efforts on multiple platforms.
The term ‘influencer” is actually quite old, dating back to the days of fashion icon Coco Channel and earlier. Then the popularity of celebrity endorsements emerged in the 1980s and 1990s. When Instagram launched in 2010, viewers flocked to bloggers and brands using the platform. In 2018, the influencer world exploded with increased marketing budgets and increased pressures on both influencers and brands. Today, the industry continues to evolve, including the ways to becoming an influencer. The general path remains the same, but with a few significant additional steps:
Find a niche that you’re passionate about or have an expertise in, and focus, focus, focus. It doesn’t matter how many other influencers are in the same niche. If you have a genuine love for the subject, it’ll come through in your posts.
To attract followers, know your topic. Or, be honest and say you’re learning and invite others to learn along with you. Your bio is the beginning of your branding. Study your favorite influencer’s bio and figure out why it’s compelling.
It’s not just about Instagram anymore, though it’s estimated to have 1 billion active monthly users. There are plenty of influencers on Twitter, which may have more engagement with followers than Instagram. YouTube is extremely influential with an estimated 1.9 billion active monthly users per month. The key today is to distribute content on all or at least two platforms to capture followers.
Instagram has evolved beyond just photos. Now, you need to put some meat behind those eye-catching images in the form of stories. Through your real stories, you’ll begin to engage with your audience and connect with your followers.
It needs to be consistent, coherent, and with an authentic style all your own. Use editing tools and filters to stand out in a way that blends with your content and niche. It’s almost like putting a beautiful book together. Take your time and be thoughtful with your content and your image.
They need to be real, not fake, so forget about buying them. Fake followers don’t engage, and real followers can sniff that out.
You no longer need to be designated as a mega-influencer to get noticed.Brands, and audiences, are beginning to pay attention to nano-influencers (less than 1K followers) and micro-influencers (1K to 100K followers). Influencers with smaller audiences have hyper dedicated captive audiences, which is ideal for brands. In fact, according to Forbes.com, marketers want to partner with smaller, edgier and more controversial influencers that have zealous followers.
Your Favorite Brands
It pays to reach out to a company or brand that you truly believe in, tell them you’re just getting started and ask the marketing person from the bottom of your heart for a sample for a photo. You never know where it could lead from there, maybe even a long-term partnership.
Last and by no means least, join and apply to influencer networks. Networks act like agents, matching brands and their budgets to influencers. As you grow, consider joining Amazon’s influencer program which rolled out in 2017. It’s a richer version of its successful affiliate program, but allows influencers a free storefront filled with recommended products and a way to make money.
If you’re hoping to be an overnight influencer, it could happen. There are stories of influencers who took two months to become a moneymaking brand ambassador. In the influencer world, miracles have been known to happen.
What Brands Look for From Influencers
Where do new brands turn to when they’re launching? Where do established brands go when looking for exposure to a new audience? Enter influencer marketing. Influencer marketing bypasses traditional routes and print advertising for relationships with social media powerhouses who drive brand awareness through a targeted campaign aimed at their captive audiences. That all sounds good, but what exactly are brands looking for from influencers? As an influencer, you’re expected to demonstrate and provide value to the brand before, during and after a campaign. Here’s how you can do just that.
Before the Campaign: Prove Your Metrics
As a professional influencer, you already know your demographics. You’ll also want to be able to present performance metrics to an interested brand. That no longer means how many followers you presently have for numerous reasons such as fake followers and the rise of nano-influencers. Marketing is a business, so if you’re an influencer hoping to make a living as a social media star, you’ll need to understand and drill down into your core engagement metrics, for example:
Organic follower growth analysis
Unique and direct clicks
Time spent on site/page
These are some of the analytics a brand needs to know before investing time and money into your expertise. They want to know you’re able to drive traffic and sales of their brand. There are plenty of analytics tools. Luckily, if Instagram is your dominant platform, you can take advantage of Instagram Insights. But you’ll need to be able to adequately interpret those insights.
Before the Campaign: Prove Your Relevance
A marketer will seek out an influencer whose content is relevant to the brand needing exposure. But as an influencer, you’ll also feel motivated enough to work with the brand because you feel an organic alignment. You may receive up to 20 brand pitches on a weekly basis, but you’ll need to realistically vet these opportunities. If there’s no relevance between you and the brand, the entire campaign will feel forced and deceptive, resulting in damage to both your reputation and the brand’s. As an influencer, take note on an in-depth Crowdtap survey of 50 creators:
44 percent choose to work with a brand because it’s relevant to the influencer’s audience
17 percent choose to work with a brand because it’ll give them an exclusive influencer experience
14 percent choose to work with a brand because they simply like it
10 percent work with a brand because it’ll help promote the influencer
8 percent only take on a brand because they have an expertise in the subject area
Focusing on working with a brand because it’s relevant to your audience — and also, because you like it — will likely result in a successful campaign.
During the Campaign: Prove You’re a Team Player
Proving you’re a team player should never mean selling out to any brand, company or marketer. What it does mean is you’ll have to walk the fine line of staying authentic and creative while maintaining an effective strategic relationship with your partnered brand with appropriate influencer-generated content. A brand chooses you because you have influence over your audience, but they need to trust you’ll also give them what they need: a return on their investment. For example, you may want to offer a promotion or time-sensitive discount on a brand that’s exclusive to your audience as a way to funnel followers and convert them to sales, making everyone happy in the process.
After the Campaign: Prove You’re in It for the Long-Term
Brands don’t appreciate partnering with an influencer who has highly limiting or strict editorial guidelines. That’ll squash any possibility of a long-term partnership. If you hit a few bumps in the road during your campaign, evaluate the experience and the process with a post-implementation review with insights from your perspective. Share your results with the brand and ask if they have any campaign results they’re willing share. A mutual, professional recap goes a long way towards building solid bridges for the future.
Why Do Brands Hire Influencers?
Brands love to hire influencers to be part of their marketing dream teams. But why? What do you, as an influencer, offer that an old traditional print ad doesn’t? Connections.
You’re worth your weight in gold because you have an audience of followers who trust your opinions. Brands hire influencers because the public sees influencers as trustworthy sources of information. Eighty-four percent of marketers who’ve used influencers believe the strategy is effective for their brand, according to Social Media Today. Here are more six more reasons why brands hire influencers:
Influencers are Content Machines
Building up a brand’s blog takes time, effort and employees to do the job. A company’s blog is just that, a company’s blog. But you offer oodles of consistent, creative and engaging content that captures your followers’ attention spans.
Influencers are Experts on Their Topic
It’s why you became an influencer in the first place. You had a passion or expertise on a topic and ran with it on social media. It just so happens that others love to listen to your informative and authentic messages.
Influencers Build Relationships
Brands know that an influencer is more like a peer than an authority figure to followers. Your voice sounds more like a good friend giving another friend advice or a recommendation about a brand.Friends also engage and interact.
Brands prefer working with influencers who have high engagement rates. That’s even more important than your number of followers. It’s also great news for micro- and nano-influencers. A survey published in Social Media Today reports that micro-influencers can have seven times more engagement with followers than influencers with much larger followings.
Influencers Know How to Communicate
Though influencers and followers can be of any age, the sweet spot for Instagram seems to be between 18- to 34-years old.That means both you and your followers have grown up using social media and digital products.
You know what it takes to communicate well on digital platforms. You may have a sense of humor or an effective writing style. Maybe you simply shine on camera. Whatever way you communicate, it works for your audience, and brands want to tap into that magic.
A traditional branded advertising program can be a hit or miss proposition. When a brand uses the right influencer, it’s more hit than miss.
Influencers Show Off Brands
Influencers excel at building brand awareness. You use your creativity to show off a brand to your followers. And those followers love to learn all about your favorite products.
Your style is more exciting than an ad. It’s more creative than a press release. And it’s more relatable than an article intended for a mass readership.
Influencers Drive Traffic and Sales
As an influencer, you know that once you start the conversation about a brand, the momentum keeps going. Your efforts should result in traffic and sales.
Your followers see you interacting with a brand, and now they’re thinking about that brand and how to incorporate those products into their own lives. Brands love working with influencers who know how to achieve the marketing benchmarks of organically funneling followers and converting them into leads or sales.
Brands know that influencers have an enormous amount of talent that’ll bolster a marketing plan. When the stars align, an influencer marketing plan can be a wildly successful collaboration for both you and the brand.
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