Anybody can become an influencer, but it won't be a miracle. It will be the result of vision, discipline and technique. Here is my 7-point formula.
Why become an influencer?
When there is a high demand in a sector, most professionals involved make money. They do not have to be the best in their field, they just need to be good enough to meet the increasing demand.
I strongly believe social media is going to be such a sector in the next few years:
- Social media advertising spending in the US will grow from $13B in 2016 to $45B in 2020.
- Influencer Marketing Hub reports that in 2016 Facebook influenced 62% of consumers' online and offline purchases, up from 52% in 2015.
- Instagram influencer marketing is estimated to grow from $700M in 2016 to $1.7B in 2018.
So, if you are well positioned in this sector, as an influencer, agency or service provider, you are likely to monetize your expertise very well.
The dream of many people is to capitalize on this growth as an Influencer, unfortunately it will be wishful thinking for most. Why? Mostly because they are treating their channel as a hobby and not as a business, without consistency, without analysis of metrics and without continuously learning.
I do not pretend to be the best expert on social media, but with my family we have built a following over 5 million fans across various channels. Last month, I have decided to reposition my personal Instagram account as an attempt to show that anybody can become an influencer (even a boring, non-photogenic 50+ male talking about business to future retirees 😂 ). Here is the 7-point formula that I am using.
1. A sharp positioning!
This is perhaps the most important point. You need to have clear answers to the following questions: Who is your target audience? What is your message? Why should they care? Be so clear that you can visualize a person and describe him/her to anybody in a way they can also visualize him/her.
In my new channel, the positioning is 'Making money after 50 using social media and network marketing'. It is a narrow business focus that I am developing in response to a retirement crisis that I believe will happen in the next 10-20 years. This positioning may not get the largest following, but my objective is really about engagement, finding like-minded people who will become loyal followers.
So my ideal follower is someone concerned about maintaining his/her purchasing power after 50, and willing to do something about it using digital opportunities. It means that, if someone is over 50 but interested in real estate, he does not belong to my target audience (unless he wants to build a community of Airbnb hosts for example). Similarly if he is younger and interested in social media, he can naturally follow me, but some of the content may not speak to him if he is not concerned with retirement yet...
If you can formulate your positioning very clearly, I believe that half of the work is done and everything else is discipline and technique, with a dash of creativity.
2. Regular content
I post twice a day every day. Once a day is a minimum for anybody hoping to build influence.
The content in my feed is always in line with my positioning. It has two parts:
- The visual: I use pictures of my daily life that I find interesting. So the content is completely mine and sometimes not optimal, but I feel it is more personable. Other approaches are acceptable, maybe even better. The key is to keep trying and finding what works best for you.
- The caption: I always put a spin on my picture that brings it back to the positioning. I also try to give it a real human voice like in this example:
3. Use hashtags
My content needs to be discovered by potential followers. Adding hashtags to my captions is an important way to achieve this.
Instagram allows you to add 30 hashtags to your post. I usually add about 10 to 15. 5 to 7 hashtags are always the same and related to my positioning and my persona: #nomad #over50 #money #financialfreedom #socialmedia #networkmarketing. Then I add hashtags relevant to the post. In this case, it could be #coffeelovers #business #strategy.
The research of optimal hashtags never stops. They have to be relevant, not too popular, yet not too small either. I try visualizing the hashtags my ideal target audience would typically follow.
4. Comment and follow others
Another technique to be discovered is to comment on other profiles in hope that their followers see your comment and decide to check you out. I try to target 5 profiles per day leaving a thoughtful comment that could be noticed, rather than an automatic 'Good job!'.
I also follow 5 more accounts, in hope that they will follow back.
5. Post at the right time
I use my Instagram insight information to make sure that I post at the best time for my audience. Because my ideal target is in the USA and I am often in Asia, I tend to post between 6pm and 3am my time.
6. Engage with your followers
I answer all comments on my posts. I try to be as diverse in my answers as possible. Obviously, this is harder to do as your influence grows, but the human touch will really be appreciated by your community.
7. Methodical trial and error
There is no miracle, and finding my true voice will come with time. The key is to start posting, try different types of content and analyze what works best. I do this in a systematic way in order to reach the right conclusions for my tests.
These seven steps are the minimum one should do to build an account. I believe that, by doing them consistently, I have a good chance of building a decent level of influence with my target audience in 12 to 24 months.
I would add three extra considerations to take into account:
- I use half of my Instagram stories to share a little of my personal life in order to create more trust and relevance with my followers. I keep the other half squarely in line with my business positioning.
- I never consider my formula set in stone, and I know my execution is not perfect on all points all the time.
- Because I regard this channel as an investment, I am willing to spend some money to give it momentum especially in the beginning.
This is my formula for all to see, evaluate and comment. If you have a better, more performant approach, please do share it. I and many others would love to hear it.