Brandy Alexander-Wimberly shares the do's and don'ts on how to become a successful social media influencer.
You’re not an influencer. Stop trying unless you truly know what you’re doing.
We’ve all seen friends and colleagues start to morph their social media presence into an awkward attempt at becoming an “influencer.” More power to them if they can pull it off – it's truly the way to become an “it” girl and can be a fast track to achieving followers, clout and bringing in business.
But I’ve seen an increasing number of these attempts fall embarrassingly flat, and even backfire when the content has no strategy, art direction, inspiration or context.
To do this the right way and for an audience that you’re truly trying to “influence”, you need a solid understanding of media, marketing, writing, video, graphic design, photography and a game plan. And the ability to tell the “why story.”
Here’s my definition of an influencer: “Someone who has developed a unique persona focused around a niche topic, has high visibility on social media platforms and has the verifiable ability to influence their audience.”
Today’s “influencer” must have a relevant social media following to even qualify. If you’re a blogger or a podcaster with a decent following, but not a huge social media following, I would suggest you’re more of a micro-influencer, or a niche influencer. Not really someone who is making money from social media videos and getting big brand backing like a Casey Neistat for example.
A lot of today’s social media influencers are also already famous and/or infamous in their own right. So don’t go into it trying to be the next Kylie Jenner on Instagram. She already has a base outside of the platform and has 84.7 million followers. You can’t catch that.
As a digital marketer, I’ve put together influencer marketing programs for brands that want to tap into a well defined and complementary audience. The influencers that brands want to be a part of are typically not controversial, have thousands of followers outside of friends, family and their locale and are developed over years and years. If you’re looking to grow your own business by becoming an influencer, that’s awesome, but again – go in with a plan and purpose. Otherwise, you’re cringe worthy.
I believe that the days of going from bathroom selfie to trending only happen anymore if something truly outrageous takes place in the video. And that’s typically not what you’re looking for when it comes to your personal brand and certainly not your professional persona.
The exception to that rule is compelling content. It can be an amazing opportunity to write a trending post or capture a video that goes viral. But it’s like trying to predict a lightening strike, you can’t base your business or your personal brand on anything “going viral”– it just happens.
When it comes to building your professional influencer brand, here are some tips and tricks that can help you understand if this approach is truly worth your time and energy. Or you may be better off with more traditional tactics like speaking engagements, writing, podcasts and just doing great work for your clients, and therefore getting referrals. Word of mouth is still the best way to close business!
Dynamic or Dilettante?
Some people were actually educated and are professionals at what you’re trying to pass off as expertise. Nothing goes against your efforts of trying to develop an audience like not being authentic or qualified to discuss the talking points you’ve aligned with. There are of course rare exceptions. But for the most part, don’t focus on a topic that you can’t get a ton of mileage out of or worse, you get called out on.
Literally, stop putting up sweating videos, unless you’re a qualified, professional trainer that’s looking to grow your clientele. We don’t care that you went to the gym or sell weight loss shakes on the side.
Chairman of the Bored
Social media marketing 101: your content should be compelling, funny or inspirational. Boring rarely works in person and it's definitely not sharable on social media. Relax, it’s ok if you’re not capable of putting together this type of content, there are still plenty of other ways to get your business out there. But being an influencer is simply not one of them!
“Good Design is Good Business”
Former IBM executive Thomas Watson declared this statement during a 1973 lecture at the University of Pennsylvania, and it still holds true today. There are plenty of resources available to help develop good graphics that you can use as part of your content. Two of my favorites are Pexels.com for royalty free stock photography and video and Canva.com for super fast plug and play graphic design. And if you’re planning videos or selfies, try to have the camera stay above your head (don’t shoot from below) and be mindful of your backdrop. Dimly lit living rooms rarely make good videos.
Simple. Don’t try to develop a unique persona, based on someone else’s unique persona. We don’t need another Gary Vaynerchuk.
Call Me, Maybe
If you’re trying to get your influencer status off the ground in order to grow your business or launch your startup, have a clearly defined call to action or next step. “Sign up for my email, or free trial” or “I’ll send you a free laptop sticker if you fill out the form on this landing page.”
Becoming an influencer is a side-hustle unto itself. It truly is like having another job if you have any plans of truly growing a massive, loyal audience. That’s not to say it can’t be done. The point is, it’s not for everyone, and if you truly feel it is something for you, try it out, but have a plan! Know your audience, topic and why story. Don’t skimp on design and art direction and keep your content short, sweet and with a defined call-to-action.
Brandy Alexander-Wimberly is an independent writer, digital marketing strategist, startup founder and mentor. She is also founder of the blog Silicon Rust Belt,
Follow Brandy on Twitter @SiliconRustBelt