An influencer’s job might seem easy and chill. People think that everything they do is posting on social media from time to time, earning lots of money, and call it a day. But, in reality, becoming a proper influencer requires much time and effort. And to remain an influencer and work on follower retention requires even more perseverance.
We shed light on what defines an influencer, how to become one, and how influencers make money.
This ultimate guide contains lots of valuable information on the subject that is probably hard to digest at a time, so make sure you save this one in your bookmarks to come back later for more tips.
An influencer can be anyone with a high level of popularity and authority within a certain industry or niche. What helps you gain this authority is certain followership you acquire owing to your experience, success, or expertise in the area.
💡Suggested read: How an Instagram Influencer Can Get More Followers in 2022
Calculating influence is a tricky business. There are specific metrics that might point to the individual’s influence and popularity, but we’ll touch on these later. What else can be considered as ‘influence’ is that others turn to these people for advice and look up to their views and opinions. This is why companies team up with influencers for their marketing campaigns — they know that influencers are a trustworthy source of information for their audience.
It’s vital to know that influencers are not necessarily defined by their large followership. Rather, individuals with a couple of thousand followers might as well be influencers within a certain industry or on a particular platform.
Keeping that in mind, let’s see which types of influencers even exist.
Influencers are divided into these categories:
- Nano-influencers: 1,000–10,000 followers
- Micro-influencers: 10,000–50,000 followers
- Mid-tier influencers: 50,000–500,000 followers
- Macro-influencers: 500,000–1,000,000 followers
- Celebrities: Over 1,000,000 followers
💡Good to know: 57% of marketers plan to increase their influencer budgets in 2020, according to a new study by Linqia. According to the study, ‘77% of those surveyed expressed interest in working with micro-influencers (5,000 to 100,000 followers), while 64% wish to work with macro-influencers (100,000 to 500,000 followers). One notable disparity was in the intent to use nano-influencers (fewer than 5,000 followers), which was greater than the desire to use celebrity endorsers (25% to 22%)’.
Perhaps, being an influencer isn’t what you truly want. Influencers are known for their user engagement. They ooze with natural charm, a convincing persona, and a visually appealing Instagram feed.
They usually have a large following that continuously supports their work or the products they endorse.
Whereas a content creator’s selling point is their content, an influencer’s focus is more on the relationship and trust they build with their audience.
💡We have recently covered the difference between influencers and content creators, so make sure you know this difference.
If you’re not a celebrity or a member of a well-known family, your influencer path will probably start with becoming a micro-influencer in a particular niche. And you need to find it.
Although micro-influencers don’t have a sufficient amount of followers, they produce powerful word of mouth for their small audiences. Brands actively work with micro and even nano-influencers, so it’s a good place to start.
If your niche is broad (like fashion or technology, for example), you can narrow it down to create exclusive content with your expertise that no one else does.
Typical questions you should ask yourself before coming up with a niche:
- What am I good at?
- What am I an expert (or nearly an expert) at?
- How can I help people? Which problems can I solve?
- What interests me? What do I like to do for free?
- Which content do I love to consume? Which content do I love (and can) create?
Once you answer these questions, you’ll more or less be aware of which industry you can be an influencer in.
You don’t have to be on every platform available. Perhaps, you even can’t be. There are dozens of alternatives to Instagram alone, though with certain distinctions. So choose a platform wisely — find those your target audience and other influencers of this niche use, and those you personally love the most.
Being omnipresent is excellent, but you will have to create content that is original and unique for each of them. This can be daunting when you just start.
The most popular platforms for influencers are Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Depending on your niche, audience and even content, you can also consider LinkedIn, Pinterest, or even Telegram.
Choosing the right platform depends on the content you’re going to or like to create: if you’re a designer or a visual artist, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest would be the best choices at the beginning.
If you’re into writing and visuals are not your strong skill, you can be active on Twitter, Linked, or Facebook.
💡Suggested read: How to Come Up with Engaging Instagram Captions
Once you’ve determined your niche and the content you’re going to create at the start of your influencer career, it’s time to produce a content strategy for these channels.
Content strategy is unique depending on every influencer or brand; there’s no universal template for content marketing strategy, though there are general recommendations on how you can build one.
There’s no one-fits-all approach when coming up with a content strategy, for this is different depending on your goals, niche, and personal preferences.
When coming up with your content strategy, think of these facets:
- Content forms (videos, infographics, written posts, visuals);
- Tone of voice (how you want to speak with your audience);
- Content types (evergreen and topical, real-time content);
- Goals and objectives of your content: entertain, educate, sell, etc.
- Backlog of content ideas, topics, and keywords: create a note on your smartphone or a Notion page where you can keep all your content ideas that you will randomly come up with (trust me, you will!). Next time you run out of ideas, just take a look at that document and make a post.
- Keep in mind all content formats that a particular channel has to offer. For instance, Instagram has lots of content types — feed posts, Reels, stories, feed videos, live streams, Guides, and now even NFT collectibles! Use the full range of content that a platform possesses.
As we said, you don’t have to use each and every platform you can find on the internet to become an influencer.
But you need to understand how to use those you want. Bear in mind the media sizes when coming up with visuals, the allowed amount of characters or words for a post, and other specifications unique for each platform.
💡Suggested read: Instagram Image and Video Size Guide 2022
Besides, even if you don’t personally use a particular social media platform, you still need to understand who uses it — maybe there’s your target audience!
Research demographics of each platform’s audience before migrating to it. Maybe after you find out that teenagers and young adults mostly use Snapchat, you’ll make up your mind to never be present there.
You can’t succeed in any area without networking, and being an influencer is not an exception. To become an influencer, you should get to know other influencers.
If you want to expand your influence, follow those who influence you. To find influencers in your niche or other industries, you can use Google search, search engines built into social media platforms, and third-party tools like Combin Growth.
With the first two, it’s more or less clear; let’s see how you can find influencers with Combin Growth.
Once you find some, reach out to them for collaboration or a shout-out. Many of them would be happy to team with you.
Oh, good old SEO! It works not only for websites, blogs, or marketplaces; you can optimise your social media as well. But on social media platforms, it’s a bit different.
When you just start, you should focus on one or two of the channels you’ve chosen and optimise them.
By optimising your social media accounts, typically, these things are meant:
- Create a clear and distinct profile bio, telling what you do, who you are, and showcasing your areas of expertise.
- Choose a profile picture that shows your face. Add a cover photo if applicable.
- Switch to a Business version of your account — almost all social media platforms have one. Business and creator’s account allows you to track your account’s growth by providing you with analytics and insights into your profile’s performance.
- Leave your contact details somewhere they can be easily found. Many social media platforms allow you to have your email or phone number right in your bio. Make sure you have your contact information so advertisers can easily see it.
- Cross-promote your other social media channels and your website/blog if you have any in the header of the social media platform.
- Come up with a clear and easy-to-remember social media handle.
There are also other optimisation steps that are unique to each social media channel, like Highlights for Instagram, location for Twitter, workplace for LinkedIn, and alike.
When you decide on the content you want to post and the platform where you will share it, it’s time to think more tactically: come up with a content plan and a content calendar.
Social media platforms prioritise creators who post regularly, thus providing a platform with a constant flow of users who engage with this content, so it’s in your best interest to post on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be too frequent — no one likes spam, but consistency is the key.
The more consistent you are, the more chances you have to get discovered by new audiences.
Frequency — daily or weekly — is all up to you. The more you interact with your audience, the more insights you’ll get on when they’re online, what content they like the most, and when to post it to get more visibility.
💡Check our guide on how to learn what the best time to post on Instagram is.
Here, we get back to learning the differences between the platforms you’ve chosen.
Some channels, like Twitter or Pinterest, are more dynamic in content sharing and require more frequent posting (several times a day); meanwhile, for Instagram, several times a week (2–4) might be good enough.
To streamline your content posting, you can use planners like Combin Scheduler. Combin Scheduler is an Instagram content planning tool that allows you to share content at any given moment you want it to appear. Posts, stories, and reposts will be published automatically with no further actions needed from your side.
You just upload content to Combin Scheduler (stories bulk upload is available), create a caption, come up with hashtags, add a link in bio, and location, and set the time you want the post to appear on Instagram. The free Instagram planning tool will do the rest.
Your current followers are your best asset, so don’t leave them alone with their comments or thoughts. Of course, it’s complicated to respond to any comment when the followership is already extensive, but even in this case, you can talk to them in stories, live streams, and comments from time to time.
When you only start becoming an influencer, your audience won’t be that large from scratch, so you’ll be able to talk to them directly.
Here are a few tips on how to communicate with your audience:
- Stay friendly and polite.
- Be consistent with your tone of voice.
- Don’t react to haters or trolls. Especially trolls.
- Start conversations, not just answer questions.
- Post in groups, pages, other influencers’ comments, and brands’ accounts, not just your own profile.
Communication and engagement will spread your influence even further.
But communication and engagement don’t stop at social media. Even if you don’t need a site of yours at the beginning of your journey, at some point, you’ll realise that you have many more to say than one tweet or an Instagram post can place.
And then, you want to create a website or blog where you can lead your followers from social media.
Nowadays, there are content management systems like WordPress or Wix that don’t require programming or web design skills, so you can create your website on your own. Having a well-thought website with long-form content can increase your social media engagement and visibility.
What’s more, with a website or blog, you can make money with affiliate marketing and selling your own stuff.
💡Suggested read: How to make money blogging
Though it seems easy, this is probably one of the most complicated tasks of an influencer in the long term — always keep on generating new ideas and make an audience happy with fresh content.
Inspiration can come and go, but we can’t leave our audience without content, remember? We’ve already touched upon a backlog of content ideas in one of our previous steps, but how to actually come up with these ideas?
Apart from our built-in imagination and inspiration, you can use tools that are made to help you find new content ideas.
These are a few to name:
- Google Alerts. You can set alerts with certain keywords and topics to be sent right to your inbox. These alerts are basically links to other sites and blogs with articles on the topic or keyword you set them up. When you get these articles in your inbox, you can read them and find new ideas for your blog.
2. Feedly. You just subscribe to your favourite publications within the tool and get news every day in one place.
3. Quora and Reddit. These websites contain a plethora of topic ideas generated by people, not editors of media.
4. Google Trends. This tool gives you reports on what is trending in the world right now. There you can find ideas for real-time posts.
5. Ahrefs or SEMrush. Both tools are used by SEO professionals, content marketers, copywriters, digital marketers, webmasters, and other professionals who work with digital content. The apps are similar in functionality and are stuffed with features, many of which you will find irrelevant. Yet, for content creators and influencers, they offer lots of ways to find new topics and keywords for posts by browsing competitors’ content, trending keywords, and keywords that are most searched for by people on search engines and Youtube. These are limitless sources of content ideas.
💡Besides, check this post we have written on how to come up with ideas for social media posts.
If you are actually at this step, it means you’re already an influencer! You create top-notch content, and your followership allows you to collaborate with brands. Remember, this followership doesn’t have to be large.
We believe that a relative (or even psychologically comfortable) threshold for starting to collaborate with brands is 1,000 followers, regardless of the social media platform.
Believing that only big followership allows you to collaborate with brands is a common misconception. Instead, now more and more brands opt for micro and even nano-influencers for sponsored posts because they’re cheaper, have higher engagement rates, are more approachable, and are closer to their audience — their followers often think of them as friends.
Here are some other things to keep in mind if you decide to reach out to a brand for partnership:
- Your content isn’t only of good quality. It’s not offensive or inappropriate in any way, either.
- Your target audience is similar to the brand’s audience.
- Keep a list of the brands you want to partner with someday. Then contact them directly.
- Show appreciation for products that brands send to you, even if these are not what you usually use.
- Don’t advertise things that don’t correspond to your values. Advertising stuff like casinos or scam in a chase for quick cash is a priori losing strategy.
How to Get in Touch with a Brand
It’s not that hard. You can reach out to them through their DMs on social media, comments under their latest post, or contact information on their websites. Some brands look for brand ambassadors and have special forms on their websites that can be filled out by anyone who wants to become a brand ambassador.
💡We have covered how to become a brand ambassador, so check this guide as well if that’s what you’re interested in.
If the brand doesn’t respond to you after your first enquiry, keep your head up and follow up. Don’t forget to present yourself professionally:
- Include your contact details.
- Elaborate on how exactly you can help them.
- Include links to some of your other channels.
Do your research on the brand, what it sells, who use their products, and if you can — get familiar with its products beforehand as well.
Make sure your audience and content are relevant to this brand: if you’ve always wanted to advertise software, it will be difficult to do so if you talk about cosmetics in your blog.
Brands often tell influencers what to do, which phrases or words to use in their promotional posts. If you’re okay with it, go on. But remember that not all brands dictate the terms of the partnership, so you need to talk through your terms in advance.
If your enquiry is successful, you can then agree on a contract and an NDA with the brand where all the collaboration terms and conditions are incorporated.
All popular social media platforms have analytics tools that allow you to track your performance: account growth, content interactions, visibility rates, and more. Depending on the platforms, crucial metrics are different.
💡We have recently talked about crucial metrics and KPIs of Instagram, so if you prioritise this platform, take a look.
If you’re determined to have a website or a blog, use Google Analytics to get a more detailed picture of how your influence grows. Google Analytics is a basic digital marketing tool used for analytics that is unavailable within social media platforms’ insights.
Metrics that are of importance for influencers are a subject for a different guide, but we’ll just briefly name a few:
- Engagement rate (the % of the audience that interacts with your content and account).
- Followers growth trend.
- Saturation rate (% ratio of sponsored posts produced by an influencer to the number of organic posts. The higher the ratio, the more ‘saturated’ the influencer is. This means that any further collaborations with this influencer might end up inefficient.
- Audience quality (% of bots to authentic users).
- Reach (the number of unique users who view your account or content).
- Content diversity (how multifaceted influencer’s content is).
Surely, you want to become an influencer for a reason. You want to make money. How? Here are some of the most common ways how influencers can earn from their digital presence.
- Partnerships with brands (sponsored posts, reviews, brand ambassadorship).
- Affiliate marketing.
- Creating digital products like courses, ebooks, or even NFTs.
- Coaching and offering expert services: content creation, web design, social media management, mentoring aspiring influencers, etc.
- Selling merchandise they create.
- Ad revenue from their content through native monetisation programs within platforms. YouTube and Instagram allow creators to earn money by making content.
The money you make as an influencer depends on your industry, how many followers you have, and the terms of your arrangement with the business paying you to promote their product or service.
The more influence you grow and the more popular you become, the more you earn.
These are 12 essential steps on the path to becoming an influencer on social media:
- Find your niche.
- Define your platforms of presence.
- Create a content strategy in accordance with these platforms’ specifications, formats, and audience.
- Find out the distinctionы between the platforms and start posting.
- Collaborate with other influencers from your niche and outside one.
- Optimise your social media accounts.
- Never leave your audience bored with no content.
- Communicate with your audience.
- Create a website or blog.
- Fill your feed with fresh content.
- Start reaching out to brands. Don’t be afraid to be rejected!
- Analyse your work.