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Influencer marketing is one of the best ways to gain popularity for your brand, and get more visibility for your content. All you have to do is find a noteworthy, authoritative person in your field, build a relationship with him or her and work together to produce content, engage in discussion or otherwise build visibility for you both. Easy-breezy, right?
Wrong. Influencer marketing actually takes a lot of work, but it is possible, even for people without much of a reputation to stand on. And, certainly, becoming an influencer in your own right could be your best path, in terms of being able to popularize any content you want, get more traffic for your business and even hand-pick the up-and-comers in your own industry.
The task might seem intimidating at first, and it will take effort, but if you follow these nine steps, you, too, can become an influencer in your industry:
1. Start a personal brand.
First, rather than trying to build up your company’s brand, focus on building your own, personal brand. That includes creating a blog for yourself, as well as claiming profiles on the relevant major social media platforms.
When creating a personal brand, remember to define yourself in a way that distinguishes you from the competition and that makes you interesting. What are your areas of expertise? Who is the audience you’re targeting? What personal qualities do you want to demonstrate in your content and social engagements that your competitors won’t be able to match?
2. Actively publish content.
Once you have your blog in place, you’ll need to start writing/producing and publishing new material actively. To start, aim for at least one post per week, preferably two, and make sure that most of your content is evergreen (meaning it’s going to be relevant for more than a month or two).
You’ll be syndicating this content through your social media channels, and using it as fuel to generate interest in your personal brand (and giving your users somewhere to go as a call to action).
3. Get social media followers.
You won’t be taken seriously as an influencer unless you have the numbers to back up your credibility. Getting more followers on social media channels is either going to be time-consuming, or expensive, depending on what route you take.
It’s possible, of course, to build a giant social media following without spending a dime, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to invest money into ads to obtain likes and followers. For help with this step, see 101 Ways to Get More Social Media Followers.
4. Engage with your followers.
Only active authorities generate enough interest to propel them to “influencer” status. For that, you’ll need to start (and get involved in) social media conversations.
Ask your followers about their opinions on various industry events, or ask them what they do in response to common industry problems. This makes people more invested in your brand, and gives you more visibility, as you’ll be connected to their followers, too.
5. Get yourself on forums.
Go beyond social media and start getting involved on forums related to your areas of expertise. These are places where people ask lots of questions — such as Quora — which gives you the perfect opportunity to give detailed answers and show off your expertise.
If you can, include a link back to your blog as a citation (for both referral traffic and SEO value), and encourage people to follow you for more advice. In most cases, your answers will remain published indefinitely, and could, over time, provide a decent stream of traffic to your social profiles and blog.
6. Find existing influencers and network with them.
Next up, you’ll want to find at least a handful of influencers already in your industry and start networking with them (if you haven’t already). If you’re an up-and-comer, they’ll be more likely to respond positively to your conversation starters or your proposals to collaborate on content.
As you start to regularly engage with them,, your follower pools will start to merge into one another, and you’ll earn additional reputation value just for being associated with them.
7. Start deviating from the norm.
At this point, you’ll have built a respectable reputation, but if you want to become a more popular influencer, you’ll need to start taking some risks. Surprise is one of the best ways to earn more attention and visibility on social media, so start deviating from some industry norms.
Disagree with other influencers’ opinions, and don’t be afraid to start some controversy. The more you differentiate yourself, the more you’re going to stand out to new followers, and the more loyal and interested your existing followers are going to become.
8. Perfect your brand image and target audience.
At this point, you may want to revisit your brand image and target audience. As you’ve deviated from the norm and gotten enough attention to solidify your standing, you’ll have the flexibility to revisit your most important qualities, and if necessary, shift focus. Run an audit of your personal brand, and start making tweaks if you need to.
Finally, you’ll need to maintain what you’ve already built, and scale up to find even more social media followers. At this point, you should be creating new material at least several times a week, if not every day, and you should be logging in regularly to check for new notifications, keep up with other influencers and start new conversations.
It takes hours of work every week to keep up your image, so if you have trouble staying on top of it, consider hiring an assistant, or someone to co-manage your personal brand. If you drop off too much, you could start losing the audience you worked so hard to build.
Obviously, you aren’t going to become an industry superstar overnight, and you’ll likely run into some obstacles in your path toward attaining that status. However, these steps should give you enough of a framework to build yourself into a reputable authority in your industry.
Be patient and stick to your plan; with enough visibility and thought leadership, you’ll be boasting a following of thousands — and the industry respect that comes with that — in as little as a few months.