How to be a social influencer

Jan 23rd, 2017

Influencers may be social media’s most powerful commodity in terms of branding – and you don’t have to be a celebrity to make an impact. However, creating a strong personal brand is time and effort consuming and involves being active on a regular and consistent basis

According to Forbes, social influencers are the new brands, with a unique ability to engage, persuade and endorse. This makes influencers a valuable commodity in today’s world, where branded content and messages vie for our attention. Consumers now have more choice than ever and are increasingly turned off by overt advertising (the same article found that 47% of customers use some form of ad-blocking technology). What makes influencers so ‘influential’ is their power to build trust and loyalty among their audience. The Forbes article claims that 92% of people trust influencers over ads or celebrity endorsements.

The secret of influencer marketing success

… influencer marketing’s success relies on building long-term, authentic, mutually beneficial relationships between brands and relevant individuals


“Pay-it-forward thinking”

Such is the power social influence in today’s media-driven world that it’s become the subject of academic research. The University of Tennessee’s Karen Freberg studied the personality attributes of social media influencers and “how this perceived personality profile impacts their overall online reputation and effectiveness among their key followers”.

She found the attributes that most characterised the social media influencers were intellect, social skills, responsibility, power and trustworthiness. No surprises there, perhaps, but Freberg also noted some very specific differences, when comparing social influencers to some of the other power roles she has also studied: in particular, compared with company CEOs, influencers were perceived to be more willing and confident to share their expertise.

According to Freberg: “I think what you are seeing with these third party endorsers is that they are participating in a discussion. They are very pay-it-forward thinking in terms of making sure people are well informed as to what’s going on. They are trying to build this community, making sure people have the information that they need, producing and curating it so people can redistribute it to their own followers. They are basically like a hub of information.”

“A hyper-targeted audience”

Sam Hurley, who’s been named as a top digital influencer, says: “Influence has evolved because, thanks to digital, it now has levels: You don’t need to have a million fans or be an extrovert celeb to be influential – just a hyper-targeted social following who are inspired by your words and actions online. That’s influence.

“To be influential in today’s crowded digital landscape also takes differentation – you must create a unique footprint in your industry of expertise. Not only that, a true ‘influencer’ is always willing to go the extra mile to help others. I have witnessed many remarks from those who have felt let down by the lack of response after they reached out to their inspirations multiple times – don’t be the one to ignore your most valuable asset: your audience.”

How do you build your personal brand?

You don’t have to be a celebrity with millions of followers to establish yourself as a digital influencer. According to research by marketing platform Mavrck, there are three influencer ‘personas’ (as categorised in the infographic below) and micro-influencers (those with 500-10,000 followers) garner a click-through rate 3.2 times higher than other influencer types.

influencer marketing types infographic

As Scott Rumsey noted in a previous blog post, the rise of influential bloggers, YouTubers and stars of Instagram means that those who find fame on social media sites and the wider internet are often ‘followed’, ‘liked’ and ‘retweeted’ more than ‘traditional’ celebrities.

Be unique

Otherwise, you’re never going to stand out above the noise. There are millions of others all trying to do the same thing. So find your expertise, special territory and angle – then own it. Sam Hurley says he’s achieved his success just by being himself:

Being yourself is the most important element in personal branding. If you’re acting, you will get caught out. I genuinely enjoy helping others and building relationships and that catapulted my progression into entrepreneurship

Sam Hurley

Honesty and transparency makes it easier for people to connect with you on a personal level and makes you seem more relatable. Moz co-founder is best known as a go-to influencer who’s expert in all things SEO, but isn’t afraid to show that he’s human once in a while, like in this post about his struggle with depression:

rand fishkin blog

And if it’s right for you, your audience and your topic, don’t be afraid to employ humour, controversy, and even drama in your posts. Evoking strong emotions in people is an effective way to engage people and keep them coming back. As an extreme example, this is how the Kardashians built their empire.

Know what you’re talking about

The phrase ‘thought leader’ is bandied about alot in the marketing industry and it’s all about becoming a go-to source of knowledge . What this boils down to is developing a reputation for being credible, honest and fresh in your perspective and your insights. Identify a niche and make it your mission to immerse yourself in that topic: read up as much as you can so that you can be credible in your opinions and stay on top of industry trends. Retain your personality and authenticity  – this is essential – but stay on top of your game in your specialist area, whatever that might be.

Create and share quality content

Now that audiences are faced with more choices than ever before, brands need a more sophisticated approach to stand out from the competition and get on the right people’s radar – relevant, consumable content is the new currency to fulfil this by providing tangible added value and a satisfying customer experience. Luckily, social media allows you to easily track by finding relevant conversations, hashtags and trending topics on platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Think carefully about the topics you choose and how and where you distribute your content rather than churning out endless poorly-targeted content.

Learn more about optimising your content strategy with this downloadable guide

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Get involved with conversations

This all goes back to the importance of engagement. Especially on social media, people now expect real-time conversations. Being seen to react quickly to comments, questions, shares and mentions shows that you care, and will generate trust and loyalty. Join relevant online communities social media groups and spend time getting involved in discussions offering helpful advice – without being overly pushy and and promotional.

Interact with other influencers

Build a network not only with the audience you want to target, but also with peers and those you admire and aspire to emulate. Don’t treat them as your rivals. Finding opportunities to interact and collaborate with them allows you to support one another’s activity and extend your reach. Sharing their posts is a great content curation technique, too.

Grace Helbig, Hannah Hart,and Mamrie Hart are all successful YouTube influencers in their own right (with more than six  million followers between them), but some of their most popular posts are when they work together to make silly challenge-related videos – their audiences enjoy them because they’re funny and the friendship between them feels authentic.

Have clearly defined goals

Define what you want to achieve by becoming an influencer and how you’ll measure success. According to Mavrck, the six most most common goals for influencer marketing are:

  • Brand awareness
  • Direct response (encouraging people to take action, such as subscibing to an email list)
  • Create a buzz around a product
  • Community building
  • Content generation
  • Research (gathering data on customer interests and preferences)

To achieve these goals, you need to stay focused and business-minded.

The most import KPI for your influencer status

Without doubt, this is the level of engagement you create around your personal brand – this is way more important than the number of followers you have. Gone are the days when brands, personal or otherwise, talk at their audience rather than with their audience. The digital revolution has shifted the balance of power between businesses and consumers. Customer expectations have changed and they’re now setting the agenda in terms of how they interact with brands.

There’s no secret code to crack when it comes to social influence

What the advice above boils down to are three key things. Be genuine, accessible and responsive. Pretty good advice for marketing, and for life, in general.

Learn more about this topic by downloading our Beginner’s Guide to Social Outreach

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