Becoming an influencer requires social media savvy and deep knowledge of your audience. It means you post videos, blogs, and photos that appeal to your followers in hopes of encouraging them to interact with your content. To grow a following and keep them coming back for more, you need the right balance of charisma and strategy.
Learn about the different types of influencers and varying strategies on how to become an influencer.
Table of Contents
What is an influencer?
An influencer is a person who has an online following that looks to them for inspiration, advice, or entertainment. Due to the trust influencers develop with their followers, an influencer can sway their audience’s opinions and attitudes. That’s why influencers often partner with businesses to leverage their influence and promote products or services.
As content creators, influencers amass followings on their blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, and social media accounts. They typically create content that appeals to a specific niche interest, like fashion, fitness, gaming, beauty, or cooking. They might create and share content in the form of blog posts, videos, photos, or livestreams.
Types of influencers
Follower counts on social channels or other influencer platforms determine your influencer type. This positioning then dictates the kinds of brand deals available to you. Someone who is a mega influencer, for example, can work with bigger, more influential brands, and someone with a smaller following might work with new or small-scale brands. While the following types of influencers have varying follower counts, all of them share the same goal of posting relevant content for their online community.
A mega-influencer has millions of followers. This might be a celebrity—like a famous actor, musician, or politician—or someone who built a following from scratch.
With more than a million followers, mega-influencers have a wide reach and can have a significant impact on their followers’ opinions and purchasing decisions, making them appealing to large brands. One example of a mega-influencer is Kylie Jenner, a media personality and entrepreneur with 400 million followers on Instagram alone. She has a strong influence on American culture as a famous socialite and trendsetter.
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A macro-influencer has between 500,000 and a million followers. Well-established in their industry, they begin trends their audiences follow. They can land partnerships with companies or command lucrative sponsorship deals. One example of a macro Instagram influencer is Amy Jackson, a fashion business founder, creative officer and editor, with almost a million followers who look to her for fashion advice and tips.
A mid-tier influencer’s follower count ranges from 50,000 to 500,000, which can help them acquire sponsorships. Since they have fewer followers and often a more manageable comment section, mid-tier influencers can engage with their audiences more easily. This authentic connection can mean they have a strong influence over their followers, who feel like they have a more personal relationship with the creator. Instagram influencer Nick Neves is an example of a mid-tier influencer, with around 58,000 followers who tune in for delicious meal inspiration.
A micro-influencer has between 10,000 to 100,000 followers. Micro influencers have built tight-knit communities by engaging their followers. While they may not have as high a follower number, they can still acquire brand partnerships in their field of interest because of how strongly connected they are to their community. One example of a micro-influencer is Khadijah Lacey-Taylor, who has a loyal audience of around 20,000 followers and posts about fashion and family life.
Nano influencers have 1,000 to 10,000 followers. A nano influencer might post about a very niche industry or is just getting started on their journey. They will typically have a very close relationship with their loyal follower base—even knowing their most active followers by name. Though small in follower count, a nano influencer can still have plenty of influence on their followers who trust them like they would a friend.
How do influencers make money?
- Branded partnerships
- Events and appearances
- Subscription plans
- Digital products and services
- Affiliate marketing
- Ad revenue
There are many ways influencers can leverage their online personality to make money from their content creation.
Influencers can become long-term partners or ambassadors for relevant brands that want to tap into the same market as their target audience. In this relationship, the influencer promotes that company’s products in sponsored posts for payment. The influencer will create sponsored content in which they include an ad for a product or service within a piece of content that feels similar to their non-sponsored posts. For example, a podcast influencer who analyzes indie artists’ work might agree to promote a musician’s new music; they would then promote that artist’s new album in exchange for payment.
Many influencers open up online stores to sell merchandise—such as clothing, stickers, art, and memorabilia—that appeals to their followers. For example, an influencer who posts popular fitness videos might sell t-shirts with motivational fitness messages on them. Followers purchase merchandise because it helps them identify as part of an influencer’s community or showcase their interests.
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Events and appearances
An influencer can agree to make appearances at events in exchange for payment, or they can hold their own gatherings and charge an entrance fee. Influencers might participate in meet-and-greets, where fans can purchase tickets to meet them and get autographs. Influencers might speak at conferences for their particular field of interest. For example, a sports convention might invite a famous athlete to come speak about their experience as a professional.
Influencers who regularly post content for their followers to enjoy can create a subscription plan that allows them to get paid for the content they put out. They might let paying followers access content early or see content that others can’t. For example, an influencer who writes reviews about new video games might allow followers to pay a monthly subscription to read reviews one week early.
Digital products and services
An influencer can offer digital products like ebooks or white papers to their followers who are willing to pay for the information. They could also offer online classes or consultations that followers can pay for to receive personal guidance or advice. For example, a famous musician might put sheet music up for sale online or sell one-on-one lessons over video calls to their followers.
Audiences who admire a content creator might support them by giving them tips or donations. This is a common revenue stream for livestreamers who can receive donations from their followers in real-time and thank them for the tip on air.
Influencers can place a donation button on their website or encourage their followers to donate through a link. For example, a popular artist might livestream themselves working on a new painting and talking about their technique while also encouraging viewers to donate to support their work.
Influencers who promote or review products can provide affiliate links to their followers. When someone clicks on that link and makes a purchase, the influencer who provided the link gets a percentage of the purchase amount. For example, a food blogger might post an affiliate link to their favorite granola on a post. When their followers purchase the granola through that link, the blogger makes a portion of the money for each purchase.
Content creators can monetize their content by placing ads within their content. When viewers watch or click on an ad, the influencer receives payment from the advertiser. For example, an influencer who does makeup tutorials on YouTube might have ads running before each of their videos, which allows them to make a certain amount of money depending on the total audience engagement the video receives.
How to become an influencer
- Identify your niche
- Choose a platform
- Develop a brand
- Design a marketing strategy
- Create high-quality content
- Engage your followers
- Partner and network
To become a successful influencer, you need to develop your personal brand identity, design your influencer marketing campaign, and decide on your content strategy before you dive in. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you begin your influencer journey:
1. Identify your niche
As an influencer, your aim is to become a leader and expert in a specific field. You want your followers to look to you for advice, entertainment, and guidance. Pick an industry or topic that interests you the most because you want to sound knowledgeable and enthusiastic when you create content in this particular niche.
2. Choose a platform
Decide on the platforms you will use to promote content and build your following. Choose a platform that has a strong community of people within your interest group to help you grow an audience. You can also choose a platform based on the type of content you want to create. For example, if you want to make videos, then YouTube is a great choice, while Instagram might be better for photography.
3. Develop a brand
Having a clear brand will help your followers identify you easily. Be authentic and make it fun or recognizable. Consider how you represent yourself, what your logo or image will be on your social channels, and your content’s tone. Some influencers like to share their personal lives on their social media profiles to connect with their followers, while others choose to be more anonymous on social networks and only share posts related to their niche.
4. Design a marketing strategy
Your main goal as an influencer will be to grow your community of followers as much as possible while maintaining a strong relationship with your audience. Utilize influencer marketing strategies like creating social media posts across multiple platforms and partnering with other influencers. If you have written content, consider content marketing strategies like optimizing your website’s SEO (search engine optimization) to help your content rank higher on search engines, and promote your content through ads and with trending hashtags to increase your follower count.
5. Create high-quality content
Content that is both relevant and memorable will keep your followers coming back—and bring new followers to your accounts. Make your content stand out among your competitors and take feedback from your community on how to make your content better. Track the analytics of your social media posts and videos to see how your content is performing and adjust as needed. If they respond to what you post, then consider doing more in the same vein. If they don’t, then you can branch out and find new ways to engage your audience.
6. Engage your followers
Your followers will be more likely to stick around when they see that you care about them and are genuinely a part of the community. Befriend your followers and respond to their comments or questions whenever you can. When you get new followers, try to make them feel welcome, and take time to recognize your audience for their role in making you successful.
7. Partner and network
Always be on the lookout for opportunities to collaborate with other influencers in your industry or companies in your market. As you grow your community, companies that see you have influence in their market might reach out and offer you sponsorships. Leverage your personal connections and look to Facebook groups or business accounts to find patterns in your industry. Consider putting together an influencer media kit with examples of your valuable content to show to companies and help you win brand collaborations.
Once you have a strong following, look for ways to monetize your content so you can make an income from your work. You can start a subscription model to share content to specific followers, sell merchandise in an online store, run ads on your content, or promote products as a brand partner for a company.
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How to become an influencer FAQ
How much money does an influencer make?
The earnings of influencers vary greatly depending on follower count, industry, platform, and engagement rate. A micro-influencer might earn hundreds of dollars a month, while a mega-influencer might earn more than tens of thousands of dollars a month.
Can you make a living as an influencer?
Yes, influencers make a living by monetizing their content or by becoming brand ambassadors for companies. Your success as an influencer depends on your ability to grow a following, create quality content, and develop a steady stream of income from your posts.
Which social media platforms should influencers focus on?
Aspiring influencers should choose a social media platform that has the highest number of users in the industry in which they want to specialize and that matches their content type. For example, if you want to become a social media influencer with short videos about cooking, then you might consider TikTok, where you can post quick cooking clips and where there are already users who enjoy watching cooking content.