Can you teach someone to be an influencer? Is this the leader/entrepreneur debate all over again? Is someone born an influencer or do they develop the skills to become one?
Could I (or anyone else) devise a strategy and say, “follow these steps and by the end of the year you should have 100,000 followers.” Is that possible? Probably, if you were able to dedicate all of your time to it and had the content to provide and resources available to make the content.
If you Google, ‘how to be an influencer,’ you will be met with 162,000,000 results. Don’t forget, an influencer doesn’t just have to be someone on social media. An influencer could be a political leader, a religious leader, your next door neighbour or even a shop assistant. A social media influencer (SMI) on the other hand, well that’s different.
For the purpose of this blog post, when I refer to an ‘influencer,’ I will be talking about a social media influencer.
But how do you become one? Is it by chance, by luck or by careful planning?
The perks of being an influencer
There are many reasons one would want to become an influencer. For a lot of people, it’s the fame, the freebies, the money and the luxury lifestyle that they see many social media influencers have on apps like Instagram and Snapchat.
Wouldn’t you want to become a full-time influencer and be flown all over the world? Be paid to post pictures online and promote products that you use in your everyday life? Be able to work from anywhere in the world on your own time? It appears to be a very luxurious lifestyle, that’s for sure, but it’s not the most stable career in the world.
From the influencers I follow, it looks like the best job in the world. I mostly follow travel, fitness and well-being influencers and watch as they upload daily from their villas in Bali, Thailand and Sydney while being paid to promote books (the dream), their own online fitness courses and hotels and restaurants. What I would give for someone to fly me to the Maldives all expenses paid, just for me to write a blog post about it. One can dream.
But the main reason people become influencers is because they share knowledge and expertise they have on specific topics. They enjoy educating people, helping people and providing a service to their followers. It’s a sense of fulfillment, knowing you are adding value to other people’s lives.
The challenges of being an influencer
As I said above, it’s not the most stable of gigs. I constantly see bloggers and influencers on Twitter complain about having to chase invoices that are months behind. There is no monthly salary for an influencer, they have to go out and get the jobs themselves to earn a living.
There is also the threat of having rented space on the internet. A lot of influencers are famous through social media apps like Instagram and now, Tik Tok. Some influencers have hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram and no influence on other apps such as YouTube or even their own blog. But what if Instagram was to close down tomorrow? What would happen then? Would they be nobody? Where would their income come from?
Another challenge influencers face is saying or doing one small thing wrong and ruining their career forever. This could come from tweeting something they shouldn’t, collaborating with a brand that their audience doesn’t approve of or being caught on camera doing something they shouldn’t.
Like celebrities, influencers often have the eyes of the world on them all of the time. They have to be constantly ‘on’ when meeting fans out and about, talking to people online and watch how they behave in public. It’s unfortunate because everyone should be entitled to have a bad day, but for influencers, it will only spread online like wildfire if they are rude or nasty to fans.
So how does one become an influencer?
There are many articles, wiki-hows and YouTube videos surrounding this topic and all claim to be a fool-proof guide to being an influencer. As you know, anyone can realistically be a social media influencer. All you need is your phone and an internet connection.
To become a full-time influencer, I would advise the following tips:
- Find you niche: focus on something in particular that you want to post about and talk about, whether that is fashion, fitness, business, beauty or even film reviews.
- Find your audience: For what you want to talk about, where should your content live? Should it be YouTube, Spotify (podcasts), a blog, Instagram, or Tik Tok?
- Get creating: You’re going to have to create good content, and create a lot of it. What you’ll notice about the big influencers on social media is that they are constantly producing content. Whether in the form of static posts, Instagram stories, daily emails, scheduled blog posts and scheduled videos.
- Promote: How will anyone know about your content if you aren’t out there telling people about it. Post links to your social media channels, tell your friends, tell your neighbours, tell your dog.
- Stick with it: A few posts posted sporadically isn’t going to cut it. You’re going to have to be consistent or people will lose interest.
- Try not to compare yourself: Don’t look at the big influencers and think, “I’ll never be like them,” that’s not really going to help matters. Think ten years into the future. If you start today and keep it up, think about where you could be in ten years’ time. You could be where they are. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Teach me how to influence
To me, I think influencing can be taught. It doesn’t appear to be something we came out of the womb doing. However, a lot of people have the qualities and skills to talk to their phones all the time, not care what other people think and feel good about putting themselves out there.
There are people out there with potentially more knowledge on different industries than the leading influencers, but don’t want to be ‘Instagram famous’ or have large audiences that depend on them all the time.
It’s a tough gig being an influencer (from what I can see). The ones that I follow and watch every day often wake up to 1,000 messages every morning – imagine your inbox being that full every single day. And after answering all of those questions, you have to produce content for your followers who will ask questions if you don’t.
There are plenty of how-to guides out there, articles, videos and other resources that have all the tips and tricks of the day to be an influencer. Why not try it out for yourself and get back to me if it works for you? Only once you’ve passed 100,000 followers obviously.