The ever present Facebook app that sits on your smartphone is an addiction for many of us. You post a cute photo of your dog, maybe your latest trip to the Caribbean and then check in later to see how many likes you have.
Received a low response? Only a few people responding? Maybe the “like” metrics aren’t what they should be.
For some social media anxiety strikes.
The internal conversations question that all important popularity gene that the school yard conditioning gave us. For some it was all about being “popular”.
Then the big temptation is to spend a lot of time creating or finding “that” piece of amazing content to share. To go back and search your photo library to have another go and focus on chasing likes.
No wonder many of us are not getting any work done.
Popularity has been redefined by the social web and many are still trying to work out the new game.
What’s your popularity?
In “Nosedive” (the opening episode of the third Netflix series, Black Mirror) the popularity contest is an app.
The episode’s story is based in a world where everyone rates each other out of five for nearly every interaction and social media post. Lucie Pound as the central character has an obsession to get a rating of 4.5 or above so she can move into an exclusive new apartment.
Pound’s obsession with improving her rating sends her on a rapid spiral to madness and it is all about improving her rating….her likes. Does part of that sound familiar?
This satire is maybe closer to the truth than we care to admit.
In the early days of the social web the measurement of influence and possible popularity was attempted and we saw that with the establishment of the Klout platform in 2008. It used metrics scraped from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks to rank your online impact.
People started sharing the Klout scores and it was even touted as a metric that could be used for being employed or hired.
It was a bit rough and ready. But it was a glimpse of what a social media popularity contest looked like. But it was fun for a while as people shared their scores.
The rise of the influencer
The early attempts at measuring influence were fun and a bit superficial but it was a glance into the future. Towards the end of 2014 the term “influencer” started to make a serious move into marketing consciousness.
Go to Google Trends today and type in the term “Influencer”. It is now currently ranked as a “breakout trend. That means its search volume has risen by over 5,000% over the previous period.
This is one way to see if a meme or a trend is emerging or declining. This graph shows that since the end of 2014 the term influencer is on an inexorable rise in online consciousness as determined by a rising search volume.
It is also interesting to see associated search terms and topics that are an indicator of rising sub-topics within the influencer eco-system. Instagram ranks as the top term and content marketing and being “listed” on Forbes are in the mix.
This trending topic has led to the emergence of influencer platforms that connect and monetise personal brands with corporate brands that want to reach the influencer’s audience and tribes that they have trust, credibility and influence with.
The traditional PR approach
Thought leadership is associated with influence and many brands (both personal and corporate) want to be seen as idea leaders in their industry.
A few years ago I attended a PR event and the public relations professionals were postulating. The question? How do you position your company as a thought leader in your industry?
This was the overwhelming and suggested approach.
Beg a journalist or pay a media mogul for permission to write and publish one article for the flagship magazine or newspaper in your city. Tick that box and you are now an “authority”.
But it’s not that simple on the social web.
The new paradigm
On the social web influence is earned.
If you think you can beg or pay for authority then you may need to reassess your tactics. Most influencers and online thought leaders never set out to be one. They just took their passion and expertise online and built web traffic and a social media following.
What sets them apart from the rest?
It can be summed up with 3 words. Content, distribution and persistence 2. Great content, whether that is words, videos or images and its distribution on social networks grown with passionate persistence over years is the secret sauce mix.
Thought leadership is built and earned. One word at a time, one tweet and mentions on blog posts and online articles.
These are all bricks in the wall of influence. But there is a cumulative digital footprint of this activity.1
Defined by data
The tone and quality and quantity of your content does indeed define you online with ebooks, blog posts, tweets and social sharing as some of the content credibility indicators. We also have seen the rise of content marketing over the last 10 years as it has moved on from what could have been a short term fad to an embedded marketing trend.
The outcome and footprint of all this content and sharing? It’s data.
Thought leadership and influence can now be measured. Appearing on a Forbes list is now a data game.
It is one of the indicators that you are making an impact and exerting some digital influence. I was honoured to rank on this Forbes list of “The Top 20 Influencers of CMO’s” in the USA and appearing at #10. The reason that happened? The big data machines and collectors measured tweets of 1,300 North American CMO”s who are active on Twitter and analysed over 680,000 tweets for 12 months.
This should not be taken as the only definer of influence but it is part of how the game is now being played. The machines are now watching and defining you.
Why strive to be an influencer?
Growing your online influence provides empowerment. It means building a life, business and career on your terms. It also allows you to become more of a price giver rather than price taker
Because…. it puts you in the driving seat.
As a creator and a person of influence, opportunities come to you. No longer is chasing and begging for attention required. You can earn it yourself with passion, persistence and hard work.
The intersection of technology and the democratisation of publishing and marketing have put the power in your hands when you understand the influencer formula.
Many of us dream about leaving a legacy and making a difference. It’s never been easier. The authors, creators and makers in the past needed the King’s support or the traditional power brokers permission. It’s still great to have the advocacy of the people that matter but the tables have turned.
You can now bypass the gatekeepers and write your own story.
Exerting online influence can lead to being asked to publish a book, or even being invited to speak and be paid for it. It opens doors to global opportunities as your content and distribution and credibility spread to the nooks and crannies of the web. It gives you a seat at the table.
People want to touch the hem of the thought leaders and influencers of many persuasions. Offline and online now intersect.
What defines an influencer?
It starts with content that arises out of expertise and experience. Next you need attention. The marketing of the virtual you. Many creators and makers stumble at this critical step, but it’s crucial.
That means building distribution and earning attention. Social media is often the initial attention seeker….the awareness generator.
It can be distilled into a simple formula.
How do you make money as an influencer?
The holy grail for many bloggers is to be discovered by a big brand in their niche and become their ambassador and be given a lucrative annual retainer. That is the Tiger Wood’s mass media model. For most that won’t happen.
The multiple revenue stream strategy is the best long term approach. This includes the following
Paid speaking engagements
Selling your books
Hired as a coach
Paid as a consultant
Selling your expertise via packaged online training
Selling offline training
Running conferences and offline masterclasses
Earning affiliate revenue by promoting other people’s products
Being hired as an influencer to create and share sponsored posts, content and attend events
You need to experiment with different tactics to see which fits in best with your personality, skills and inclination. It is not one size fits all.
The influencer formula
Influencers often have a focus on one primary network. These include: Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook and even Snapchat is emerging as another place for influence. But as user numbers and followers aren’t revealed, the metric is the number of views that happen when publishing content and Snapchat story videos.
The reality is that just being influential on social is only part of the journey in generating income or building a substantial business.
So what is the formula for building online influence that will last? Here are the 5 crucial steps.
Let’s take a closer look.
All influencers are passionate. Now, this isn’t passion that is there one day and gone the next. It’s not just a fleeting feeling. It’s a passionate persistent purpose that is supported by experience, expertise and innate ability. It’s your story revealed. Passion that works is not a singularity but an intersection of the key elements that support the story. It will also evolve as you learn on the journey.
Remember… you have never arrived. It’s not a destination you are seeking but a journey that has meaning and purpose.
Influencers may focus on one social media network and build a big following that is seen as influential. Some stop there but that is only the start.
If you want to protect yourself against social media algorithm dependency then you need to build a more substantial foundation. A singular network addiction is dangerous place to feel comfortable. All social networks keep changing what is visible in timelines and streams. They are looking after their own bottom line and not yours.
You need to have you own online portal with a domain name you own. That is your own blog or website. A platform presence on Tumblr, Medium or blogger is not enough.
We all have a media preference. Some like writing others prefer great visuals or a video. Others are podcasters. Whatever that is, you will need to create and publish the best content you can that is consistent with the topic ecosystem.
The top influencers are always thinking like a publisher. That means consistent and persistent posting.
Many creators and artists are happy to sit in a cave and produce awesome art. They are often introverts.
But to step into the light means to willing to be vulnerable and push your content out to be judged. Your creation needs to move to be found and discovered. Self promotion is essential and is not an activity to be avoided. We all need to be marketers of our own productions. Whistling in the dark is a lonely activity.
Being listed as an influencer on Forbes maybe be cool and a boost for the ego but it doesn’t pay the bills unless you complete the final critical step. Converting that attention and influence into leads and sales. Generating a profit and a return on your creative investment allows you to continue to do what you love. Living on the border of poverty while hugging your creation in solitude is not my idea of fun.
It can be seen as the most boring step but don’t ignore implementing this tactic that is often the difference between survival and financial freedom. The passion project needs to grow into a business.
Capturing an email subscriber and turning attention into sales means learning the art of landing pages and the skills needed to move people through the sales funnels.
Word of warning
The tension between being defined by your content and your data is real. Posting what gets the most likes all the time will lead to more content “lite”. This is great for Facebook and sharing but playing there all the time is a dangerous place to be.
As an influencer it needs to be written for both you and the audience. Content needs to have a gravitas. But the challenge is making content insightful and attractive enough to be shared. That is a challenge all content creators and influencers face.
Want to be an influencer?
Micro influencers can convert attention into a bit of cash. Maybe all they want is $1,000 a month and that is fine. That pays for a great holiday every year or pays the mortgage.