When you hear the word influencer, what image do you picture? Many of you might think of Instagram pages with young women who share flawless selfies and make up hacks. Others might picture a professional male athlete wearing name brand apparel. This is far from an overall representation of the social media influencer industry.
Being an influencer is a unique entrepreneurial opportunity. People such as Branden Hampton, who is described as, “the millionaire next door,” adapted their marketing to resonate with online community members. Hampton owns one of the most influential Twitter brands and has gained over 31 million social media followers across all his influencer accounts. He understands the power of social media image and has made revenue by partnering with brands that want to access his audience base.
What is an Influencer?
Influencers have committed followers on a variety of channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Some influencers also create blogs, YouTube videos and podcasts. Their followers trust them and view them as someone with expertise in a certain topic, whether that be fashion, travel, cooking or some other concentration.
Alexander McKelvie, associate dean for undergraduate and master’s education and
professor of entrepreneurship, explains, “Influencers make entertaining and engaging content that may be informative. They have attractive types of content where there are videos that are funny like TikTok, amusing reviews and engaging activity that would get a lot of press.”
Companies and organizations compensate influencers to show off their products and services online. Compensation may take the form of a normal paycheck, but also could entail free products and trips. Sometimes they co-create marketing ideas. The caveat is that influencers must legally notify their audiences when a brand has paid them for promotion.
Some influencers are not even people. Animal influencers such as cute cats and charismatic squirrels have gained traction with the online community as well.
Why are Influencers Popular?
Influencers have gained momentum with the rise of social media. They can use it as a tool to host giveaways, contests and build rapport with their niche audiences. Relationship building is vital to the success of a brand and influencers do so by staying consistent with their aesthetic and messaging.
Organizations look towards influencers to help them build brand awareness, engage new audiences and influence sales. McKelvie says, “Companies pick influencers that reflect the values and characteristics that fit the target market. If you want to exude luxury or high fashion, who would you pick for that?”
McKelvie continues, “Why people follow influencers is the same reason they look at product reviews and trip advisors. They want to know what other people think. We see an increased reliance on reviews.” In fact, almost 50% of consumers rely on influencers to help them make purchasing decisions.
How Do You Become an Influencer?
Becoming an online influencer is not as simple as just having a lot of followers. In fact, many influencers are not celebrities, they are everyday entrepreneurs with a smaller social media following.
Individuals with fewer than 10,000 followers are considered micro-influencers. Micro-influencers garner more engagement and trust from their audiences. According to the Digital Marketing Institute, research has revealed that only 3% of consumers said they would consider purchasing a product in-store after seeing a celebrity endorsement, whereas 60% would consider a purchase if it was supported by an influencer they saw.
McKelvie speaks to the birth of becoming an influencer, “I don’t think we figured out how things go viral yet and we haven’t necessarily been able to manufacture viral. I think being engaged and interactive is key. Influencers post often and engage in comments. It’s like they’re inviting people to conversations or inviting themselves to other peoples’ conversations. They become successful through engagement, presence and quality.”
Although there is no science behind becoming an influencer, below are some key tips and characteristics of successful influencers.
Be Authentic – Influencers focus on their passions and are considered knowledgeable in the field they promote. Maintain authenticity by matching your personal brand with the right social platform. For example, if you were an influencer for a health and beauty company, your go-to platform most likely would not be LinkedIn.
Understand Your Aesthetic – Almost all micro-influencers are their own art directors, including photographer and graphic design person. They take clear photos and edit the images to reflect the media perception they want to give off. Owning an expensive camera does not have to be part of the gig, some influencers use smartphones to curate their content.
Be Engaging – Influencers do not just bombard your timeline and Instagram feed with photos, they also promote engagement with witty descriptions and create a fun dialogue between themselves and their audience. They collaborate with other influencers and sometimes promote a variety of brands with products and services that they support.
Get Noticed – Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a marketing agent slide into their DMs. To get noticed by a brand, begin sharing photos and tagging the company while also increasing your hashtag use.
Become Reputable – Finally, if you do become an influencer, make sure to be transparent with your audiences. This means disclosing what content is organic compared to paid. It also means staying consistent with what you support and how you present yourself. Creating a personal website with a blog could be a successful way to write about your passions and showcase the knowledge that you have in each subject area.
Learn more about entrepreneurship and unique ways you can start making money.