One of the most prevalent questions I am asked is how I became an “influencer” in the social digital world. First off, it’s an awkward question to answer because I do not prefer to be called an influencer and rarely consider myself one. I did not set out to become a social media influencer, and I think that is the best-kept secret as to how I became one.
What I set out to do was turn painful, traumatic experiences into energy that could positively impact the world. I always, ALWAYS saw social media as a vehicle to do just that. Yes, my very first blog post was about approaching social media like you have nothing to lose, but it also was about a naive, vulnerable, scared Marji dropping herself right in the middle of NYC four days after invasive surgery.
Yes, I know what I am talking about when it comes to digital and social media because I have lived and breathed it for the past decade. I have a sharp intuition of what is/isn’t going to work fostered by the experience I’ve had in the industry.
But what I have found people truly gravitate towards is that I know my sh*t, but I also am a human being. I write about my failures; I was open about my first divorce, I share campaigns that also did not work…I’ve also shared my closeness with my family, my struggle to have children, and my little furbabies. I’ve also shared what I’ve learned from hard, public social media campaigns.
Many of you are asking the question, “How do I become a social media influencer?” while missing that influence starts at the very core of being a flawed human who has found a product, experience, lifestyle that has helped them overcome those flaws. It is challenging to become an influencer, unless you are a celebrity, by posting content that makes you look infallible and is 90% about you rather than others.
You can read all of the “How To Become A Social Media Influencer” posts and books all you want. Still, I promise you that what you read below is the real, gritty sh*t that most people do not like to talk about and definitely feel uncomfortable doing initially. This is the stuff that will actually make you an influencer, not just a popular queen.
Duh. If you’ve been reading good “how-to” articles, then you probably have already heard this, but it’s important and needs to be stressed. A relationship needs to have two sides. Someone adds some change to your influence bank when they engage with your Instagram posts and follow you.
What are you giving them in return? This can be anything from helping them fight dry skin issues, to giving them step-by-step directions on how to set up an ad campaign, to sharing some bath salts you found that you believe will be a critical part of their self-care for the week.
Find Your Differentiator
Like, what are you actually good at that most people aren’t? You will need something to set you apart from all of the other people who want to be influencers– so basically the entire internet.
Do you have a different sense of humor? Are you not the normal model type to be trying on new yoga mats? Do you have a strong opinion regarding social justice that sounds different from all of the noise out there?
Meditate on this. Spend a lot of time on the floor, with your back straight, thinking about this question. This will be at the very core of everything you do and say as an influencer.
Develop Your Fuel
I hate to tell you this, but that influencer that posts pics by the pool every day with her new product is working hard, like super hard. It might look like she is living the Vida Loca, but in reality, she is spending a good chunk of time and change staging everything, so it looks like she is super relaxed.
She probably also has some heavy-duty concealer putting on those eyebags and lotioned those legs about a thousand times. And she has a superpower fuel she is using to get her through all of that and to the perfect one out of 250 pictures that she can filter a few times and then share on IG.
You absolutely have to have this superpower fuel to keep your influencer efforts in a growth stage. Followers can sense fake smiles and fake photos. What is worth it for you to put yourself in front of millions of people?
Let me tell you; it needs to be more than fame or popularity. Once you hit the peak of being an influencer, fame, and popularity, do not stand up to the work you have to do to answer all of those comments and ignore the negative ones.
For me, it is the ability to take painful experiences and thrust them into positive blog posts, photos, experiences. I have made a conscious choice to use all of the energy from trauma to do something better.
For you, it might be that you want people to know that people of all sizes do yoga daily. Or, it might be that you love the reaction of someone when they see the first leaked photos of a new sports car on your IG because you had the same feeling when you found the leaked photos. It could also be that you crave the community aspect of followers sharing their makeup pics back with you after they watched one of your YouTube videos.
Influence doesn’t come overnight, and if it does, you should know those are not real followers. Even apps you can pay to gain more followers know this. They go as far as offering a steady 10 followers a day each month for a price, rather than just handing over 300 new followers.
Use the 3:1:1 strategy to start gaining more followers until you gain more followers. Each day, like three posts, comment on one post, and regram/share one post from users you believe would like what you are talking about on your platform.
Understand Micro IS Macro When It Comes to Quality
Micro-influencers are typically influencers who have 2K-5K followers. Brands are starting to move towards using more micro-influencers because they have found that this type of influencer has a high quality of followers.
It is easy to gain more spam the bigger your follower base gets. Long term, you want quality followers that appreciate quality content. It is also always nice to hear from influencer marketing departments who want to work with you.
Use Your Vulnerability As A Strength
What’s your biggest vulnerability? Can you even let yourself answer that question? Do you talk about your vulnerabilities with anyone? Are you defensive when it comes to your vulnerability?
These are all important questions to ask because your vulnerability is most likely where your humanity shines through, and your followers are going to need to see that piece of you if you truly want to influence them.
For a Type A perfectionist personality like mine, my vulnerabilities tend to lay in things that did not go 100% right. And what people immediately clung to in my blog was my willingness to write about those moments when either a project or life didn’t go the way I expected it to go– and how I got through it and to the other side.
Yours might be that you want to talk about fitness, but you are vulnerable about how your body looks. Or, you want to write about a book pick for each week, but you are vulnerable about your writing. Take the photo of your body, write about your book! It’s posts like these that will truly influence others. Brands are looking for these types of influencers to work with, and people are craving social influencers who keep it real.
Be every little tiny single part of you, and you will win the game of influencer marketing. Post some photos that aren’t super perfect, be honest about how you feel, and let the world see the part of you that only YOU have out of every person in this world. And that is the POWER TO BE YOU. No one else has that power. Use it.
I was forced to be me when I got out of an abusive marriage and had to face a whole community of 10K followers who knew my husband well since I was so open about our marriage, well, except for the whole abuse part. They needed to know where he went, so I had to write a post about why they would never see him again on my social media. It was one of the hardest yet one of the most liberating posts I have ever written.
When I hit the publish button, I cringed, knowing that I was putting a lot out there about an emotionally charged subject, and I deserved whatever came back at me. Eight years later, I have only received two negative Tweets and two negative comments (from him) regarding that vulnerable post shared with over 100K followers. I also received support from strangers who had gone through the same thing that helped me have the courage to push through. The most rewarding words I received were multiple messages that my post gave people the strength to leave abusive situations they were currently in. Ladies and gentlemen, THAT is influence. That is my motivation, my reason why.
And that is what you need to figure out for yourself. Vulnerability and survival are what I offer because it’s who I am. Who are you? What part of you can have a positive impact on this world?
Answer just those two questions, and the influencer marketing world will be very kind to you.
– Marji J. Sherman