Influencer marketing and social media influencers are all the rage right now, and everyone who can be an influencer wants to be an influencer.
But what a lot of these people miss is that becoming an influencer is not an easy thing you do during your lunchtime. It takes effort, consistency, and resources, and may take months or even years of hard work. It also comes with a lot of responsibility.
If you are one of the people dreaming of becoming an influencer and are confident that you’re ready to put in the effort, you are in the right place. In this article, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know about the influencer world and the steps you need to take to succeed.
What is an influencer?
An influencer is an individual with a large social following who is regarded as an expert in a particular niche and has the power to affect the purchasing behavior of their audience.
Influencers spend months or even years to carefully curate an audience of people sharing their interests and passions, forming meaningful relationships with them, and getting in contact with them to earn their trust. Their voice and recommendations then carry considerable weight when their followers decide whether to purchase something or not.
Usually, influencers treat content creation on social platforms and brand deals as a career, and it’s their main source of income. However, they are not strictly a marketing tool, but a social asset of sorts, as usually they value their audience and work only with brands their followers can benefit from.
Types of influencers
An influencer is a broad term, covering different types of creators working in different niches with different audiences. There are between 3 and 37 million influencers according to EarthWeb, and they all differ from each other. And to succeed as a creator, knowing these types and differences is crucial.
By follower count
Not all influencers are equal, literally. One way of differentiating influencers is through their social following. This one is quite straightforward: the larger the following, the larger the exposure. At least in theory. Let’s take a look.
- Mega-influencers with more than a million followers. Think celebrities here. These are the influencers who have access to millions of people. They are usually very active on social platforms where their audience is, and they generate high engagement, which is what makes them so effective and successful. This is also what makes them incredibly expensive.
It’s important to know, however, that according to research, engagement starts decreasing as the audience grows. So, if the influencer has 3 million people, not everyone will see or interact with their post.
- Macro-influencers with 500K to 1 million followers. Macro-influencers are smaller compared to mega-influencers, but they still offer access to a considerable audience. These can be TV personalities, thought leaders, and athletes, but not only. With a high reputation and access to a large brand of people, macro-influencers also have quite a high price tag, but collaboration with them is more affordable than with mega-influencers. And they come with a more targeted audience.
- Mid-tier influencers with 50K to 500K followers. Mid-tear influencers don’t have a celebrity status, but these are content creators with significant power that can be leveraged by brands. Usually, these are people who’ve spent years curating content to grow from thousands of followers to where they are now, so a) they are very good at what they do and b) their audience is hyper-targeted. In fact, 70% of millennials claim to be more influenced by bloggers than celebrities. Additionally, because mid-tier influencers are usually just regular folk, their content is high-quality, but not out of touch, adding authenticity to their message.
There are influencers of all sizes out there, starting from a couple of thousand followers (nano-influencers) and growing from there, and all of them can bring something to the table, depending on brand needs.
Another way to differentiate influencers is by the niche they work in and the type of content they craft, and here’s why: it’s impossible to create content about everything, so quite early on creators understand what is it they want to concentrate on. This is also usually based on personal interests and expertise. Some of the most popular influencer types on Instagram are:
- Food influencers – food influencers can range from cooks sharing recipes and tips, like Jeffrey Boadi, to restaurant reviewers traveling around certain territories or even the world trying new places and sharing it with their fellow foodies. Food influencers are quite popular on social media, because well, everyone loves to eat and try new delicious stuff. And these types of influencers are earning income by working with restaurants or product brands, depending on their content.
- Gaming influencers – Gaming influencers fall into several sub-niches. Usually, they do live streams on YouTube and Twitch for followers who want to improve their gameplay and use other social platforms to connect with their audience in a more meaningful way, like Sceptic. Gaming influencers often promote video games or gaming-related products and merch. And because their audience is so hyper-targeted, their promotional cooperations with brands tend to bring great results.
- Fashion influencers – Fashion is booming on Instagram, and fashion influencers focus on clothing, jewelry, accessories, shoes, and more, which gives them a large range of opportunities for collaboration. They share style tips like Tanesha Awasthi, product and brand reviews, unboxing videos, and post-shopping “haul” videos. They collaborate with brands to promote their collections, and often work directly with fashion lines.
- Fitness influencer – last on our list is fitness influencers, which can cover many different niches, from yoga to weight loss. Fitness influencers often create workout videos and share fitness tips, like Alexia Clark, and typically collaborate with fitness clothing brands, food supplement brands, gyms, fitness apps, and more.
How to become an influencer
The number of influencers and the overall estimated cost of influencer marketing is constantly growing, standing at around 16 billion in 2022. This rapid growth is happening because of its effectiveness: as influencer marketing has proven to yield great results, more and more brands look for creators to collaborate with.
On the other side, more and more people want to become influencers, build an audience around their interests, and earn from it. If you are one of them, congratulations! You are in for an exciting ride. However, to succeed, you need to know the steps you need to take to become an influencer. Below, we’ve summed up some of the most important things to consider.
Find Your Niche
The first and critical step that’ll define all your further steps is determining what it is that you want to represent. What is your primary niche? Here are three questions you can ask yourself to understand this.
- What am I interested in that can potentially become a topic of interest for others?
- What am I good at?
- What type of content I’d be comfortable creating on a regular basis?
Answering these questions can give you clarity on what direction you should be looking at. Narrow down some of your interests and ideas, and then start researching that niche to better understand where you stand and what you can offer.
There are quite a few social platforms out there for influencers to use, and while some of them work seamlessly together, others don’t. For example, Instagram and TikTok both support short-form video content, so the same or similar content can work on both platforms. However, YouTube is a long-form video platform, and the 1-minute Instagram videos won’t do great there.
So, you want to choose the right platform. It will boil down to the niche you’ve chosen, as well as your resources. You can have profiles on many platforms, but your primary focus should be only on one, especially in the beginning. Growing an audience ground up is not an easy feat, and by doing it on 2-3 platforms you risk spreading yourself too thin.
Your content is how your followers will perceive you, and it should offer something unique to make you stand out. Ideally, they should be able to understand that you posted the content without even looking at the username. You need to have a sound content strategy in place that indicates what is it exactly makes you unique, and you should stick to it consistently.
Engage With Your Audience
An influencer is first of all someone who has an audience that trusts them. And this won’t be impossible to achieve if you don’t interact with them. So, the next step towards success as an influencer is getting in touch with your followers, and being available for them. Platforms like Instagram give you all the tools to do it. You can organize polls, ask questions, respond to questions in the stories, reshare posts tagged by your followers, reply to comments, and follow them back – the opportunities are endless. All you need is readiness and a bit of time.
If all of the above sounds like a lot of work (and it is), we have good news for you – there are tools and platforms to make it all much easier! It’s the Influencer marketing platforms like ViralMango. These are platforms designed to keep influencers and brands together, help them find the right partnership, and manage their collaboration all in one place. As an influencer, once you start looking for monetization options, you’ll need to do a lot of pitching to the brands. Having a platform where you can find partnerships you are eligible for and then manage your pitches and replies in one place can save you some significant time you can dedicate to creating content and interacting with your following.
How to grow your following?
Growing a social media following was easy at the dawn of platforms when everyone was creating an account and following everyone. It’s no longer the case, so you’ll need some time and effort to grow your following. There are two ways you can do it.
Growing your Instagram account organically means gaining a following through the content you create, shares of your posts, and other exposure that happened without you paying for it. To grow your following organically, you need to have a sound strategy in place and take it step-by-step over time.
Growing an organic audience usually takes time, but there are quite a few benefits to it:
- It improves your recognition: people who follow you do so because they saw your content and they liked it enough to give you a follow.
- With an organic audience, your engagement will be higher, because your following is interested in you.
- Because organic content is free, it can save your finances whenever you cannot afford paid services.
It’s in the name: you pay to promote your content with the aim of getting new followers. With paid social, you’ll need a bit more know-how than in the case of organic content, as you’ll need to be able to create ads, target them properly, and analyze and tweak them. And you’ll need to invest finances. However, paid ads do have quite a few benefits making it all with it.
- With paid social, you are guaranteed that your content will be seen by people your organic content might have otherwise not reached.
- Paid social with the right Call-To-Action has proven to be effective in making people take action.
- Boost the performance of your organic content, and increase engagement and reach.
One method is not necessarily better than others. Rather, you can utilize them in combination to reach the best results in the shortest amount of time.
Monetizing Your Influence
Once you’ve grown your audience enough, it’s time to start thinking of the ways you can earn from it. Luckily, there are quite a few ways you can make money on social media. Let’s look at some of the more popular ones.
Brand partnerships are some of the most common collaboration methods between brands and influencers. This is usually a one-time collaboration when the brand pays the influencer to promote either the whole brand or a specific product. The payment for these types of collaborations is usually in the form of a pre-determined amount, which will largely depend on your audience size.
Becoming a brand ambassador is an ultimate goal for many influencers, and given the benefits, it’s understandable. You can think of brand deals as a longer version of brand partnerships, and that’s exactly what they are. By signing a deal with the brand, influencers become brand ambassadors, and from there, their cooperation can last from weeks to years. Brand ambassadors will work with the brand consistently, promoting their products, new collections, and the brand overall, and receive for it predefined amounts, commissions from sales, discounts, or gifts in the form of products.
Affiliate promotion is another common cooperation between an influencer and a brand, and a “safer” one. Here’s how it works: an influencer receives a unique link or a promo code, which they then promote on their platforms, urging their followers to make a purchase. The link may or may not offer a discount as an additional incentive. Every time a purchase is made through the link or code, the influencer earns a small commission. This method is loved both by brands and creators alike as the payment will be determined by the sales that already took place, allowing creators to do the promotions at their own pace. Affiliate programs can be both short-term and long-term, as many brands provide indefinite affiliate programs.
The answer to the question of how to become an influencer is not a simple one. There is a 100% way to success, and it may take you months and years of hard work to succeed as a creator and start earning income. It’s important that you don’t get discouraged along the way. Invest time in creating authentic and valuable content, get in touch with your followers, know what you want to share, and there is no reason why you shouldn’t succeed.