The past decade has a seen a number of new job titles infiltrate the market. Perhaps the most desirable of them all: influencer. A recent article shows that over half of Millennials and Gen Z would become an influencer if given the opportunity, so there’s clearly some interest in the title.
Nobody is hiring influencers, but people are paying them. To be an influencer you need to have a following. Typically, influencers are pretty niche and focus on a single category. Whether that be food, clothing, make-up, it doesn’t matter too much. That single category is the focus of their social media presence. This is only a piece of the battle for those trying to become an influencer. The other half is getting the people who will become your followers. When it comes to being an influencer, numbers matter, but perhaps not as much as some may think.
With an influx of young adults aspiring to be influencers, there are going to be a lot of people who are disappointed. Most people are not going to get the opportunity to influence others, and there are reasons why.
You’re Not Specialized Enough
I get it, your life isn’t centered around one hobby. If you want to be an influencer, it’s a good idea to center your social media around one hobby. Unless you have a massive following, brands are not looking for generalists to endorse their products. Rather, they want people whose online presence is in line with their brand identity.
Think about brand endorsements in a more traditional marketing capacity. There’s a reason Nike isn’t endorsing Adam Sandler. Don’t get me wrong, Adam Sandler has a pretty big fan base and decades of movies behind his name. However, Nike is going to focus their endorsements on athletes, the people whose careers align with their brand messaging. Adam Sander may have played a golfer once an he probably wears sneakers, but golfers aren’t influenced by Billy Maddison. They’re more inclined to at the PGA Tour for inspiration. This idea translates into the influencer marketing world. Brand want people whose lives align with their product, not people who do everything.
Your Content Isn’t Valuable
When you scroll through Instagram, you might stop and look at some of the pictures on the Explore page that catch your eye. Are you going to follow the pages behind those pictures? Probably not. There has to be more to the post than just a nice picture. Influencers usually provide some value to the reader in addition to the picture. They might provide a solution to a common problem, provide a new recipe, or introduce viewers to a life hack.
If you’re looking for recipes online, you’ll find an infinite number of cupcake pictures. You’re probably not going to follow a personal account who made some stellar cupcakes for a bachelorette party even if the cupcakes were exceptional. You might follow a pastry chef who consistently posts dessert picture and provides tips on how to make designs out of icing. Brands will want to work with this chef because she can inform customers how to use their products, not just show what the products look like.
Your Following Isn’t Large Enough
This may be the obvious one, but you need to have followers to be an influencer. If you have 300 Instagram followers you may be able to influence your friends and family, but you’re not worth the investment of a brand. Many influencers have hundreds of thousands followers who are active with their posts.
The good news, you don’t need a massive following to get influencer opportunities. Micro-influencers are becoming increasingly popular. They may only have ten thousand followers, but they’re hyper focused in a specific niche. Their value makes their followers more likely to engage, even though they’ll get fewer impressions than individuals with ten times as many followers. Quality is important in the influencer world, and micro-influencers provide tremendous quality in their niche.
You Jump at Any Opportunity
If you want to become an influencer, you’ll eventually get someone sliding into your DM with a product to promote. It can be tempting to agree to get a $100 check by promoting a weight loss supplement, but is it really in line with your brand? I see this all the time with YouTubers. They promote a product or service (like a VPN for example) that has nothing to do with the channel’s content. I wonder how many people actually engage with that advertisement, let alone even know what a VPN is.
To establish credibility, content creators should choose to promote products that are in line with their existing identity. I follow a YouTuber and podcaster named Matt D’Avella who recently started incorporating some paid sponsorships into his videos. His content is often centered around minimalism and self improvement, so when he started to sponsor Audible it made sense. He could recommend books centered on self improvement and I believe a minimalist would choose to have digital books rather than physical the physical copies. Perhaps not a perfect match, but the partnership does not diminish his credibility.
You’re Not a Personal Brand
When companies look to collaborate with influencers they’re looking for a spokesperson. This means they want an actual person to promote their product, not a meme page. While it’s possible to build a following with a fan page or humor account, these accounts don’t draw the same following as personal pages.
While there may be some collaboration with specialized pages, the opportunities are going to be fewer than with a personal page. People have established reputations while meme pages don’t have the same pressure to maintain their reputation. If you want to be successful, you’re going to have to put your heart, soul, and face into your influencer page.
You’re Not Consistent
This past decade has been one where online personalities have risen to celebrity status. With that, we’ve also seen many personalities fizzle out. It’s common to go onto YouTube and see a vlogger begin their video with “sorry it’s been four months since my last upload.”
Nobody is endorsing infrequency. This doesn’t mean you need to post six photos on Instagram each day, nor does it mean you need a daily vlog. It means you should find a schedule that is doable and commit to it. If you can post three Instagram posts a week and a daily story, you are doing enough to be recognized. Continue this process for a year and you’re going to see an increase in engagement and opportunities.
You’re Not Opinionated Enough
If you’re getting influencer opportunities it’s because there’s some weight to your opinion. Neutral opinions aren’t going to convince people they need to purchase the product you’re endorsing. Brands are looking for people who are able to give a positive, glowing review. This means they share opinions on other products, and their opinion isn’t always the best.
Being opinionated shows you’re human so long as your opinions are authentic. Demonstrate you’re familiar with the product, you’ve used the product, and you have rationale behind your opinion. Influencers should have some unpopular opinions so long as they’re not offensive or baseless. As an influencer you shouldn’t reserve your opinions for the products you’re endorsing. You need to have authority within your niche, and this is shown with your opinion.
You Faked It
This should go without saying, but influencers get their success from having influence. You can’t buy followers and expect to be successful, and you can’t Photoshop pictures and expect praise. Faking your online personality and following is a great way to destroy all credibility.
How to Be An Influencer
Now that you know what not to do, there should be some themes surrounding successful influencers that will put you on the track to getting influencer opportunities. Influncer marketing is a growing field, and more opportunies will becoming available in the coming years.
There are entire articles dedicated to the art of being an influencer, but here are a few general tips to begin the process:
- Find your niche and center your brand around that niche
- Be selective, only accept opportunities the fit your brand
- Have a personality, be opinionated, show your authenticity
- Establish a presence across multiple social media platforms
- Stick with it, post consistently, don’t let one set back ruin you
With these tips in mind, it’s up to you whether or not you want to become an influencer. More and more, people are discovering they can make money online. Influencer opportunities are just one of the many methods of getting paid. For brands, the return on influencer marketing has been proven. The opportunities are out there, but there’s no shortcut to becoming successful. The smartest influencers think long term when making decisions. They know what they want to achieve, but they also avoid the pitfalls that will halt their success.