The term influencer is being tossed around a lot these days.
I would even classify it as one of the top 10 buzzwords of 2016.
Influencer marketing is quickly becoming one of the hottest and most effective strategies in existence.
In fact, “59 percent of marketers use influencer engagement campaigns for product launches and content creation.”
This technique gets results because businesses make $6.50 for every dollar invested in influencer marketing, according to a poll of marketing professionals conducted by Tomoson.
But what about when YOU’RE the influencer? You’re the one calling the shots.
Becoming an influencer in your industry can have immense benefits.
You can use your experience and credibility to sway the opinion of others, build trust, develop your brand, and so on.
But how exactly does one become an influencer?
While there’s no magic recipe and a lot of variables involved, I’ve found there is a distinct process you can follow.
It definitely takes time to achieve this status, but following the right steps should eventually elevate you to influencer status.
What is an Influencer?
First things first. What do I mean when I say influencer?
Influencer Analysis is dead on with their definition:
“An influencer is an individual who has above-average impact on a specific niche process. Influencers are normal people, who are often connected to key roles of media outlets, consumers groups, industry associations or community tribes.”
In other words, people recognize that you’re an expert (or at least highly knowledgeable) in your industry and that you’ve got a sizable following.
This might include a loyal legion of blog subscribers, social media followers, etc.
Keep in mind you don’t need to do it on the macro scale to be an influencer. You don’t have to be Taylor Swift or Jay Z.
In fact, there are countless micro-influencers who may not be recognized on the large scale but hold a lot of sway nonetheless.
Some people who come to mind include Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income and Tim Ferriss.
At the core of it all, influencers have authority, and their word is as good as gold.
People recognize the value they bring to the table and are genuinely interested in what they have to say.
I’ve found that the process of becoming an influencer has five key steps.
Step 1 – Focus on a niche
The first and most important step to becoming an influencer is to focus on what you’re passionate about.
You can’t be everything to everyone. To gain traction and be recognized as an authority figure, people need to link your name to a particular niche.
Take Darren Rowse of ProBlogger, for example.
He’s a blogger, podcaster, speaker, and author who specializes in one specific area: blogging.
His name is synonymous with blogging, and his website is one of the top resources for learning about blogging and how to become a better blogger.
Notice that he doesn’t talk about fashion, ice skating, or cooking. His core focus is on blogging. That’s it.
While you don’t have to completely pigeonhole yourself, it’s important that you pick a particular niche and focus wholeheartedly on it.
You need to eat, sleep, and breathe your niche. This allows you to establish authority in a particular area.
Ideally, in time, people will recognize your expertise and take notice.
They’ll want to follow you on whatever outlets you use (e.g., a blog, Twitter, and/or industry publications) and be interested in what you have to say.
Step 2 – Share your knowledge
To make a name for yourself and establish a presence, you need to create plenty of industry-centric content.
This is vital because it’s a surefire way to prove that you know your stuff and demonstrate the value you bring.
Fortunately, this has never been easier to do than today.
With a ton of media outlets available, there’s no shortage of mediums to choose from.
A good old-fashioned blog is one of the best places to get started, and it provides you with a platform to develop your unique voice.
In fact, “86 percent of influencers also operate at least one blog.” And I feel that launching my own personal blog has been a contributing factor to getting to where I’m at today.
You’ll definitely want to be active on social media as well.
Ideally, you’ll create and maintain profiles on at least three different networks because this increases your reach and gives you the opportunity to establish a strong brand identity.
It’s also great because you can connect with other like-minded people in your industry.
Notice that Darren Rowse has a solid presence on multiple social networks:
However, a blog and social media are just the tip of the iceberg.
There are countless other mediums you can use to demonstrate your knowledge and boost your “street cred.”
Some options include:
- Creating webinars
- Creating videos
I’m also a huge proponent of writing a book.
There’s something about authorship that can really skyrocket your credibility and make people take notice.
An e-book is nice, but a legitimate printed book is even better.
Just think about it.
If someone lands on your website and sees that you’ve published a book, they’ll probably take you a lot more seriously than they would have otherwise.
Your perceived value can quickly go through the roof this way.
Finally, there’s guest-blogging.
While this strategy got some heat for awhile because of its association with potential Google penalties, it’s still incredibly effective, especially for establishing yourself as an influencer.
I attribute a lot of my success to the fact that I made it a point to be featured on publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Inc.
Guest-blogging is awesome because it kills two birds with one stone. Or six birds. Or more.
First, you can reach a huge audience basically overnight.
Say the blog or publication you post on has 100,000 readers. You can get your content in front of a large-scale audience and tangibly demonstrate the industry knowledge and expertise you bring to the table.
Second, you can increase your perceived value dramatically. Being associated with other leaders and influencers in your industry elevates your brand equity significantly.
This way, you can piggyback on their success and use it to establish yourself as a viable influencer.
If you’re looking for some guidance on the guest-blogging process, I recommend checking out this post from Kissmetrics. It has some super helpful tips.
The bottom line here is that you’ll need to put forth plenty of effort, creating a lot of quality content and distributing it across a variety of mediums.
This is key for getting your name out there and getting the ball rolling.
Step 3 – Have an opinion
What’s one thing that all influencers have in common?
They have their own take on things. They have a voice. They have an opinion.
This is what makes them distinguishable from the masses and what gives them their swagger.
What they aren’t is vanilla or lukewarm on topics.
With 1,400 blog posts, 2,460,000 pieces of Facebook content, and 277,000 tweets posted each minute, there’s an immense amount of noise on the Internet.
In order to rise above it, you need to be an independent thinker.
Quite frankly, I think it’s better to be occasionally offensive or to go against the grain than to be 100% agreeable all the time.
Not that you should go out of your way to stir the pot, but it’s okay for your thoughts to deviate from the norm.
People are attracted to those who can think for themselves and have their own views on things.
Whatever industry you’re in, hold true to your values, and be sure to have your own opinion.
This is essential for eventually becoming an influencer.
Step 4 – Network, network, network
Once you’ve established yourself to some extent, you need to make an effort to connect with others.
I’ve found that one of the best ways to create leverage is to network with other influencers.
Or as Marketing Land puts it,
“To establish yourself as an influencer, you need to interact with influencers.”
But when you’re an up-and-comer and still working to establish yourself, you’re usually the one who will need to put in the legwork.
Seldom will the heavy hitters reach out to you (at least at first). That’s why you’ll need to be the one to reach out.
There are two main ways to do this.
One is to connect digitally, and the other is to connect in person.
The first option is usually done via interacting with prominent people on social media and commenting on their blog posts and other content they post.
The goal here is to start a conversation and gradually build rapport. This takes time and can’t be done overnight, so you need to be persistent about it.
For example, you might get in the habit of providing insightful comments at the end of an influencer’s blog posts that further the conversation.
After three or four times, it’s likely they’ll take notice of you, and this can open doors for the future.
But how do you know with whom to interact?
If you need some help deciding whom to target, I recommend using Buzzsumo.
The site has a section devoted to tracking down top influencers.
Just click on “Influencers,” and type in the topic you’re interested in.
I’ll use “content marketing” as an example.
After entering this as a search term, I got a list of content that received a ridiculously high number of shares. Also listed are the people who wrote these pieces.
This can be an effective way to find the people you should try to connect with.
The second option is to network in person.
Some ways to do this include:
- attending industry tradeshows,
- going to conferences/industry events, and
- landing public speaking engagements.
Public speaking in particular can be a potent way to make connections because all eyes are on you, and you never know who could be in attendance—it could be a huge influencer who holds a lot of sway.
Step 5 – Engage your audience
Last but not least, you need to keep the conversation going.
Seldom do people want to follow someone who tries to be all high and mighty and acts as if they’re too good to interact with their followers.
They want to follow someone who’s real, accessible, and approachable.
That’s why you need to put in the effort to religiously respond to blog comments, reply to messages on social media, thank people for reading your content, etc.
Here’s an example of me responding to a comment on my blog:
I would also recommend occasionally sharing outstanding content that members of your audience post on social media or commenting on their blogs as well.
That, right there, can be huge for boosting your brand equity and for forming super tight relationships.
The trick is to capitalize on the momentum you generate and to keep the ball rolling.
I’ll be honest. Becoming an influencer isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight.
It takes a lot of hard work, consistent effort, and persistence. Even after you become an influencer, you need to keep your foot on the gas pedal to maintain your status.
Although it’s not easy, it’s definitely worthwhile.
The great thing about it is that building influence has a snowball effect. While you may only have a minimal amount of influence when first starting out, this grows and grows over time.
After awhile, your influence can become immense without you having to put a lot of extra effort into it.
In other words, the first stages are the most difficult and time-consuming.
But after you establish yourself, you simply need to maintain your status, and the world becomes your proverbial oyster.
What specific things do you hope to achieve by becoming an influencer in your industry?