How to become a social media influencer: The ultimate guide

Grow your influence using social media platforms.

You want to be a social media influencer?

You want the prestige, notoriety and authority that social media influence brings?

Or you want the fame, money and perks that come with it?

You want to become a social media influencer to land that job, become an entrepreneur or win new clients?

Or you want to live a lavish jet-setting lifestyle like a celebrity?

You’re not the only one.

In this competitive and global environment, a lot of people are growing their social media influence for their own personal reasons.

In fact, interest in social media influencers is growing fast as the Google Trends chart below suggests.

Why do people want to become a social media influencer?

Because social media is causing huge changes in culture and society. It’s breaking down communication barriers, fragmenting the media and connecting people like never before.

Social media influencers are a big part of this shift.

In every country across every industry, individuals are growing their social media platforms to increase their influence and, in some cases, make a lot of money in the process.

Marketing firms are fighting to work with top social media talent promising them access to people and experiences usually reserved for celebrities.

Wannabe business leaders are using social media as a platform to fast-track their careers by achieving a ‘thought-leader’ status.

Entrepreneurs are ramping up their influence to scale their business and move into new territories.

The question is, why would you NOT want to become a social media influencer?

This article is the ultimate guide on how to become a social media influencer.

It’s not a sales guide. There’s nothing for sale here.

It’s not a get rich quick scheme either.

If you’re interested in what social media influence is, who are social media influencers and how to become one, read on.

Why become an influencer?

Over the last ten years, social media has changed the world.

From its cultural impact to how we communicate to the products we buy and everything in between has been shaped by social media.

Gone are the days when people were informed by a select elite few to a new era where people are influenced by their friends, peers, acquaintances and people they admire all around the world.

It would be fair to say social media is fully ingrained in society and culture.

Young people can’t remember a time without it. Old people can’t remember what they did before it.

Ten years ago no one suspected the impact that social media would have today and you could say we are underestimating its impact for the next ten years.

While still in its infancy, social media has provided a platform for people to showcase their skills and turned them into celebrities, thought-leaders, authorities and influencers.

Smartphones have made us all creative directors of our own media empires.

We are very much still in the early days of influencers and social media in general but there is no doubt that we are not going back to the old ways of doing things.

In years to come we will look back on this era as a ‘land-grab’ period where savvy individuals worked hard to build their influence to become their own media companies.

This is the golden age of growing your own social media influence.

We will look back on this time and marvel at the abundance of opportunities people had to develop social media influence during the days it was easy.

The people who provide ongoing value to their audience and understand that building a brand takes a long time will enjoy a long career and all the benefits of being an influencer brings.

Social networks may come and go but people’s inherent need to be social will not.

This is why growing your social media influence is important.

Whether you’re an aspiring entertainer, startup entrepreneur, CEO, fashionista, marketing expert or even if you just want to connect with people in your local community, building a platform will help you achieve your goal quicker.

What are the benefits to becoming an influencer?

Building an online brand takes hard work and consistent effort.

The internet has a short memory and you can become irrelevant quickly if you stop creating content that resonates with your audience.

So, why put yourself through all that work?

There are many benefits to becoming an influencer, actually.

Regardless of your industry or niche, having the ability to influence others has a ton of benefits.

You can;

  • Earn money

It’s no secret that influencers from all walks of life are earning more money from their content than ever before. Some influencers make multi-millions of dollars each year, some do it to pay for a certain lifestyle while most people don’t make a full-time living from their content.

  • Become location independent

If the only place you have to be to earn your living is online then you can in theory work from anywhere in the world. Many influencers do work from anywhere and if you’re a travel influencer, the world is your office. Not all influencers can work from anywhere however but some design their life so they have the option.  

  • Become well known (and remain relevant) in an industry or subject matter

If you have a specialist skill, knowledge or expertise, becoming an influencer will raise your profile among people around the world interested in your work. Becoming an influencer can also help you maintain your relevancy in your subject matter also.

  • Launch your own products and services

Many people grow their influencer and brand which in turn allows them to launch their own products and services to a captive audience. As well as this, they can also learn about what their audience wants and create products and services around it.

  • Become a professional public speaker

When you’re known for being one of the most knowledgeable people on a specific subject, you will be invited to speak at events around the world on it. Many influencers develop a speaking career based on the content and insights they’ve created online.

  • Share an important message

Some people want to grow their influence online to share an important message. For a cause, an injustice or a better way to live life, whatever it is a lot of influencers have grown in influence through sharing an important message.

  • Get free products and experiences

If you grow your influence in a specific industry which has a lot of products and services like fashion and health then it’s very likely brands will want to send you products in the hope that you like them and talk about them online.

  • Connect with people who share your interests

People like to connect with people who share the same views and interests as them. Becoming influential in a specific industry will allow you to connect with likeminds regardless of where they’re based.   

  • Achieve fame, celebrity and notoriety

We are now starting to see people who have created their influence in social media become more like ‘traditional’ celebrities appearing on ‘traditional’ media like TV. There is certainly a blurring of the two happening and over time they will just become one.

Some people might say aspiring to have influence is narcissistic but that’s a narrow way of looking at it.

Everybody likes to be influential in some way. Whether that’s in an industry, among a peer group or even just being a positive influence on friends, family and your community.

Having influence gives you greater control of your life and a sense you’re in charge of your own destiny. As well as this, it allows you to positively impact other people’s lives too.

That’s real influence but don’t confuse it with seeking fame and adulation for self-validation.

Becoming influential in your chosen area is, for the most part, a positive experience.

In fact, the market is demanding you become an influencer.

What is influence?

If you want to become an influencer it’s important you understand what influence is.

It’s a vague term often incorrectly used so let’s start with what influence isn’t.

  • Persuasion and influence are not the same
  • Authority and influence are not the same
  • Power and influence are not the same

Persuasion, authority and power can help someone be influential but individually they are not conducive to it.

You can still be influential without having power or authority over someone and being persuasive doesn’t necessarily make you influential.

Here’s why.

So if influence isn’t persuasion, authority or power, what is it?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as;

“The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.”

That’s pretty much it.

It’s important to understand influence and being influential are positive traits. The term influence is often confused with persuasion, authority and power but as you can clearly see in the chart above they are very much opposites.

Understanding influence is allows you to better develop your influencing skills whether that’s:

  • Writing
  • Designing
  • Presenting
  • Speaking
  • Providing a point of view
  • Understanding someone else (empathy)
  • Debating
  • And the list goes on

Influence is powerful.

What is an influencer?

As time goes by, it’s becoming more difficult to properly define what an influencer is. This is largely because the old world of media and the new world of social media are blurring into one.

A definition of an influencer is:

A person with an established credibility in a specific industry or topic who has access to a large audience and can influence them through the media, social media and their own online platforms by virtue of their authenticity and reach.

Social media influencers (or ‘online influencers’ as they are sometimes called) can come from any walk of life and belong to any industry.

Influencers can be involved in mainstream industries such as health, fitness, business, entrepreneurship, lifestyle, travel, pets, cars, food, fashion and DIY.

Some influencers focus on more niche subjects like molecular biology,

If there’s a market for it there’s an influencer for it.

Social media influencers grow their influence using social networking platforms and using The Four Cs.

1. Content

If you’re looking to be an influencer, it all starts with the content. If you’re not creating content then you’re not influencing. Of course, content comes in different forms from a 280 character tweet to a two hour long video which is why it’s important to figure out the best content formats for you.


Ask most influencers and they’ll tell you that there wasn’t one key moment that 10Xed their following but rather it was day-in-day-out consistency and always showing up with new and relevant content.


Becoming an influencer requires having credibility. Having both great content and being consistent helps. So does having a track record in your subject area which if you don’t have now you can develop over time.


Charisma is how people feel about you. What is the experience you’re giving them when they’ve come into contact with you and your brand? Charisma is not a trait as such but rather a collection of traits that form it.

How to influence others

To influence others requires skill, time and hard work.

To become someone who can influence others in the long term also requires you to have some form of talent, skill or knowledge and be passionate about your subject matter.

A lot of people set out to become an influencer but can’t hack the journey and the delayed gratification that sometimes takes two, three, four, five, ten years to achieve.

But there is a science to influence and becoming influential.

It’s more a psychology than a science but it’s practical and if you follow the rules you too can develop influence.

What is it?

The answer lies in this book.

There are many great books on influence and persuasion and this is one of the best.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini (Amazon), written in 1984 is a classic on how you can increase your influence over other people.

The book is a New York Times bestseller, has been printed in 30 languages and is recognised as one of the top business books of all time.

It is studied and used by people in the influence and persuasion business from marketers to sales to customer services to everything else.

It has helped countless people become more influential and using the principles in the book can help you become more influential in social media too.

Cialdini identifies six principles that help someone have more influence.

These are;

  1. Reciprocation
  2. Commitment and consistency
  3. Social proof
  4. Like principle
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity

The first five principles of Cialdini’s method can be applied to growing social media influence too.

Let’s break it down.


This is a social rule that people should repay, in kind, what another person has provided for them.

To become a social media influencer you must first provide value without asking for anything in return.

Give, give, give as some might say. Or “jab, jab, jab” as Gary Vaynerchuk would say.

If you provide ongoing value without asking for anything back, over time people will begin to reciprocate by sharing and commenting on your content, talking about you to their friends and buying your stuff.

Commitment and consistency

People value commitment and consistency in other people. If you show up every day with a consistent message while producing valuable content they will warm to you as they become more familiar with you.

Social proof

Social proof means that people are doing what people around them are doing. As you build your influence your social proof increases too meaning you create a snowball effect.

The more followers you have the easier it is to acquire new ones. The more shares your content has the more other people share it.

People follow people. “Monkey sees, monkey do.”

The like principle

The like principle states that people are more likely to comply with requests made by people they like. If we are a fan of someone then by definition we like (or adore) them and are willing to do what they say.

Be likeable, relatable and don’t put yourself on a pedestal. The like principle ensures that your fans will always stay loyal (provided you keep working hard to please them).


People respect authority. They want to follow the lead of real experts. Business titles, impressive clothing, and even driving expensive, high-performing cars are proven factors in lending credibility to any individual.

Your goal as a social media influencer is to become a respected authority on whatever niche you’re in.

The vast majority of the human population is made up of followers. They will respect authority figures who have an important message, an effective style, and a platform from which to speak.

Now that you know how to achieve influence you then have to develop an influencer strategy.

Types of influencers

Not all influencers are the same and influence itself is on a spectrum. This is why the influencer industry has categorized influencers into different buckets depending on their reach and subject matter.


The term nano-influencer is relatively new to the influencer industry and was introduced to categorize the people in social media who have a small follower count and reach but an engaged audience.

The reason nano-influencers have a low but engaged follower base can be for a number of reasons such as they cover a niche but interesting industry to those who are in it.

With 1,000 followers or less, nano-influencers are at the bottom of the influencer pyramid and usually are not paid to do sponsored posts and instead may receive free products for review.

Chances are, if you’re starting out on building your influence status then nano-influencer may be the first achievement you unlock.


Micro-influencers are at the 5k to 100k follower mark and a lot of which are full-time content creators earning a living doing brand sponsorship or helping brands create content for their own channels.

They are the most common kind of influencer and a category that brands like to work with for two reasons.

The first one being is they aren’t too big to command expensive fees so a brand can work with a lot of them at scale.

Secondly, influencer case studies show that micro-influencers tend to have the greatest ROI (return on investment). In fact, it’s this reason why brands are beginning to spend more on micro-influencers than they do with working with celebrities.

When you’re at micro-influencer level, there will be a lot of brand partnership opportunities available. Especially if you use one of the growing number of influencer marketing platforms that connect brands with content creators.

Mid-tier influencers

Mid-tier influencers are in the 100k to 500k follower mark and are full-time content creators.

Mid-tier influencers are professional and usually used to create high-quality content for the brand they’re working with.

Macro influencers

Macro influencers are bordering on the cusp of celebrity. Although they have built their profile through social media they are becoming more known in the mainstream particularly as the lines between social and ‘traditional’ become blurred.

Macro influencers command large fees and often have an agent who represents them on their behalf securing brand deals and advertising opportunities.


As social media continues to become the dominant social media channel, more ‘mainstream’ celebrities are doubling down on and investing in their social media platforms.

How influencers make money. A short guide to influencer marketing

Over the last few years, brands have recognised the power of social media influencers.

Marketers understand that influence is moving away from traditional media to social media and work with social media influencers to promote products or to be part of a marketing campaign.

Instead of taking an ad out in a newspaper or on TV or buy online advertising they instead pay social media influencers to use their platforms and reach.

Money that was once allocated to traditional marketing campaigns is now being transferred to social media and influencer marketing.

Marketing is all about eyeballs and increasingly the eyeballs are focussed on social media influencers. There has been a swath of influencer marketing platforms launched in the last few years to connect brands with content creators.

From a trust and loyalty perspective, social media influencers have way more trust and are way more believable than an advert.

What’s more believable? A soulless advert telling you to buy some product or someone you follow and admire recommending it to you?

This, in a nutshell, is influencer marketing and some social media influencers are raking it in.

This is a trend that will continue for the foreseeable future and recent influencer marketing research shows a rosy outlook for influencer marketing.

  • 18-25 year olds are influenced more by social media influencers than family and friends
  • In 2020, advertisers are predicted to spend more than $2.4 billion on Instagram influencer marketing
  • 73% of marketers said they had allocated budget to influencer marketing
  • Marketers are spending more on micro-influencers than celebs study finds
  • Use of #ad on Instagram grew by 42% in 2018
  • 57% of beauty and fashion companies use influencers as part of their marketing strategies, while an additional 21% are also planning to add this strategy to their campaigns in 2017
  • 70% of internet users want to learn about a product through content rather than through traditional advertising
  • 49% of people say they rely on recommendations from influencers when making purchasing decisions
  • 6 in 10 YouTube subscribers would follow advice on what to buy from their favorite YouTube creator over their favourite TV or movie personality
  • 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers said they relate more to a YouTube influencer than a celebrity

How much do social media influencers earn?

pewdiepie social influencer
PewDiePie earned $15m in 2016. No wonder he’s smiling

This is an ‘it depends’ kind of answer.

Some social media influencers can earn anywhere from pocket change each month to seven figures a year.

Some social media influencers don’t make any money at all but instead, have a profound impact on their niche or the wider society.

As you can imagine, mainstream celebrities from TV, film, music and sports earn the most from their social media platforms.

Influencers who became famous through social media (usually called ‘internet famous’) don’t make as much as celebrities but some still make millions and the lines between mainstream celeb and internet famous is becoming blurry.

The factors that determine how much a social media influencer earns include;

  • Type of influencer

If you’re in a mainstream lifestyle market like fitness, gaming, fashion or makeup then, if you’re at the top of your game, you’ll make more money. You’ll likely make less in a niche area but there is less competition compared to mainstream consumer topics.

If you work in a B2B (business to business) industry you’re less likely to make money directly from your social media platforms. Instead, it’s your influence that helps you get that prestigious job or that lucrative client.

People in politics usually don’t make money directly from their social media platforms. Instead, they use them to influence debate, legislation and the news agenda.

  • Type of social media platform

The best platform to earn money from as an influencer are blogs, Facebook YouTube, Instagram and (for now) Snapchat.

If you’re big on Twitter but nowhere else then there a few opportunities for you to earn money from the platform. Likewise, if you were big on Vine and nowhere else I’m sorry for you.

Research by influencer marketing company, Captiv8, covered by The Economist found that influencers on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram with over 7m followers or subscribers can earn over $300,000, $187,000 and $150,000 per post/video respectively.

social media influencer earnings

Instagram influencers

Sponsored posts on Instagram are booming. (In fact, all Instagram influencer marketing stats are booming) 

Do a quick search on Instagram using the hashtag #ad to see how many ads are findable. The current count, at the time of writing, is a staggering 4.2 million.

This doesn’t include other advertising related hashtags like #sponsor, #spon and #sp or indeed posts that don’t disclose they are an ad (which is illegal in some countries).

instagram influencers ad hashtag
Source: Instagram

Despite its massive popularity with millennials and the influencer marketing industry, Instagram is becoming a treacherous platform.

Buying fake likes, followers and engagement to manipulate the Instagram algorithm has never been easier and a lot of users are faking their own influence.

Mediakix did an experiment where they set up fictional Instagram accounts with fake images, fake engagement and fake followers. They then secured four paid brand deals (two for each account) through an influencer marketing platform.

If Mediakix can do this with ease then it’s anyone’s guess on how much Instagram influencer marketing fraud is going on.

A lot, I imagine.

That said, influencers are beginning to professionalise on the platform upgrading their photography gear and using third-party Instagram apps to make their content pop.


Some YouTubers make millions each year.

Take PewDiePie with around 54 million subscribers has the most out of any individual. In 2016 the 27-year-old reportedly earned $15 million which is not bad for something he started with having no intention to make money.

We all can’t be PewDiePie but there is still considerable money to be made being a lower tiered YouTuber.

According to this blog YouTubers typically charge $10,000 per 100,000 views to promote a product.

Check out this Quora answer from James Altucher who interviewed a YouTuber. She makes seven figures a year.

Read James Altucher‘s answer to How much does a YouTuber with 1 million subscribers earn in a year if he/she uploads two videos a week and gets 300k visits average per video? on Quora

Twitter influencers

How much money do Twitter users make? 

Twitter announced last year that it was making it easier for influencers to make money from the platform.

Influencers can publish videos through the Twitter Media Studio and receive a share of the ad revenue.

There’s not a great deal of information available on how much Twitter influencers earn. According to the Economist chart above, it’s up to $60,000 provided you have over 7 million followers.

If you’re starting from scratch, forget it. Twitter has shown little growth over the last few years and they’ve recently announced new rules to stop people manipulating the Twitter algorithm by setting up automated bots.

It’s still a useful platform to use, particularly if you’re involved in media and politics so ensure you have a proper Twitter strategy in place. Just don’t expect it to make you much money directly


Some bloggers are making a killing. 

Bloggers can earn anywhere from a few dollars to $500,000 per month through advertising, affiliate schemes and selling their own products.

With the right blog strategy in place, you too could make money from a blog.

Authority Hacker carried out an analysis on professional bloggers who cover different topics and interests.

The top earner, John Lee Dumas, makes almost $500,000 per month in revenue from his blog and podcast. Others make less but many bloggers still earn lucrative sums of money each month.

social media influencers
Source: Authority Hacker

Blogs were one of the first forms of social media but still remain a powerful platform to grow influence.

You can even create your own online community to grow your influence among people related to your interests.

For example, built on the NING platform has gathered a community of Drones enthusiasts:

  • The community has more than 700,000 visitors per month
  • It has 86,000 active users
  • It created the world’s first ‘universal autopilot’

With either a blog or a community you own you have full control of the site and you’re not at the mercy of, say, a social media platform like Facebook which can kill your reach in one fell swoop.

Celebrity-first influencers

As social media has risen to prominence in the last six or seven years, music, TV and movie stars have jumped on the bandwagon.

A-list celebs have huge follower, fan and subscriber counts across all social channels. Very few celebrities today are not using social media.

They use it as a way to promote what they’re up to, engage their fans and use it to respond to rumours and negative media coverage.

They also make a lot of money from it.

A celebrity with a large social following is his or her own media company. They use their social media influence to negotiate contracts.

Chris Pratt creates sponsored content from his social media platforms often as part of a wider advertising or TV commercial campaign.

Kevin Hart negotiates more money for using his huge social following to promote a movie he’s in.

social influencers
Easy money

Instagram is huge for celebrities and sponsored posts.

And if regular people earn a decent living from Instagram then celebrities can make a lot of money for a single photograph.

The most followed Instagram accounts are actors, entertainers, musicians and sports stars.

According to research from Hopper, an Instagram planning and scheduling tool, the top ten earners make a lot for one sponsored Instagram post.

how much celebrities make on instagram
How much the top ten celebrities make per Instagram post. Source: Daily Mail

Which means Ronaldo made £310,000 ($400,830) for this Instagram post:

Not bad for a few hours work.

Who are the top social media influencers?

This is a question that gets asked a lot. It’s one of the most searched for social media influencer questions on Google.

If we’re going by earnings, A-list celebrities by far make the most from their social media channels but measuring influence depends on many factors including the person, platform and industry.

‘Top social media influencers’ is a subjective term.

Sure, you can do a quantitative analysis and look at who as the most followers, fans, subscribers, views and so on but those are just numbers.

Pewdiepie has tens of millions of subscribers but when it comes to quantum physics his influence is limited.

Forbes often publishes a list of top social media influencers from travel, entertainment, fitness, beauty and so on.

Run a Google search on ‘top social media influencers’ and you’ll find thousands of lists created by other people.

If you want to know who the top influencers are in a given industry simply add it to the search. For example, search for the top auto influencers.

Getting started. Developing a social media influencer strategy

Most people will tell you that the first step of becoming a social media influencer is to just get going.

You have to be proactive and take action every single day which is true.

But, if you’re deadly serious about becoming a social media influencer and are not taking a “let’s just try it and see” approach then you need a strategy. It will save you a ton of time and money.

social media influencers

A strategy + taking action every single day is what you need to do.


You should first consider what your overall objectives are. What are you trying to achieve by becoming a social media influencer?

Are you looking to land a new job, make money, become a niche celebrity? Whatever it is, it’s entirely up to you.

Your objectives are your vision of where you want to go. Growth hackers often call this the ‘north star’ as it provides direction and focus.

How many objectives do you need? Not many. The least you need is one and the most you need are three. Any more than that and you may spread yourself too thin.

A sample set of objectives might look something like this;

  • Become the leading voice for men interested in vegan cooking
  • Become a location independent consultant providing services to international clients
  • Be the leading women’s shoe fashion influencer

Whatever you choose, ensure that it’s something you *want* to do/be not something you *think* you should do.

Developing influence is a long slog and most fall at the first hurdle. Don’t let that be you by focussing on your vision.

Find your community

How successful you are as a social media influencer depends upon the community supporting you. Without fans, followers, subscribers, or, shall we say, ‘people’, your brand in social media is worthless.

People and communities are the engines that power social media and this is why it’s important you should identify who your community is.

Your community depends on the type of market you’re in of course.

A business influencer’s community is likely to be on LinkedIn, Twitter and they may use YouTube to find business related videos and have a blog.

If your intention is to be a lifestyle influencer then your community is probably on Facebook, Instagram and/or YouTube.

Identify your community members

When you know where your community is you have to get more granular and profile your target community members.

  • Who are they? Age, location and other demographics
  • What are their interests?
  • What do they dislike?
  • How you can help them

The last point is key to building an audience. If you’re not helping them in some way, be it with information, advice or even providing entertainment, the odds of you won’t be successful.

This goes back to Cialdini’s influence approach.

If you’re not consistent, likeable, authoritative and providing value to increase social proof, you don’t stand a chance.

Your content spreading is dependent on the community supporting you. If people enjoy your content and believe in your message they will help you.

Identify your unique value proposition

Where do you add value?

What do you bring to the table that other people aren’t already doing?

What insights and experience do you have that others can benefit from?

This is your Unique Value Proposition (UVP).

If you want to make an impact in social media you have to have a UVP that separates you from other people.

unique value proposition

Think about your skills, experiences, background, opinions and your approach and work from there.

A UVP shouldn’t be daunting. We are all unique individuals though, granted, some of us are more interesting than others.

Figure out what your UVP is and write it as a statement. This will help you when developing your messaging (see below).

Developing your persona

You never truly know someone you follow on social media.

You may think you do, but you can never understand the intricacies of someone’s personality through a screen.

Social media influencers usually develop some kind of online persona. And like celebrities, people tend to pedestal social media influencers which is human nature.

They may be intelligent, funny, entertaining and provide insights you can’t get anywhere else, but social media influencers they are only human beings.

casey neistat influencer

A persona is not how you see yourself but how other people see you.

You can either leave it to others to craft your persona or you can have help influence it.

Casey Neistat is one of the most popular YouTubers with his daily vlogs of himself, his work and his family reaching millions.

As the quote above states, he doesn’t pretend that he’s giving viewers his entire life but an online persona.

This is an excellent breakdown of how he creates his YouTube videos and the small unnoticeable things he does to bring the persona to life.

YouTube is a perfect platform to create likeability. Blogs are great for conveying an air of authority. Instagram is the platform to convey glamour.

As Robert Greene in the excellent book, Mastery, says about crafting an online persona.

“You must see the creation of a persona as a key element in social intelligence, not something evil or demonic. We all wear masks in the social arena, displaying different roles to suit the different environments we pass through. You are simply becoming more conscious of the process.

“Think of it as theatre. By creating a persona that is mysterious, intriguing and masterful, you are playing to the public, giving them something compelling and pleasurable to witness.”

Give some consideration to your own online persona. 

What do you want people to think about you when they engage with your work and your platforms?

What words do you want them to use when they describe you? Efficient, knowledgeable, aggressive, entertaining, funny etc.

It’s up to you to decide and then craft your persona to fit it.

Choosing your channels

You know who your audience is, where they are and the best way to engage with them, now it’s time to decide which platforms you should use.

To do this you have to take into consideration some factors which are:

You have to fish where the fish swim 

If your target audience is professional sales executives then you’re not going to find them on Instagram. If you’re looking to reach a mass audience of say, millennials, then LinkedIn may not the place to be.

You need to fish where the fish swim. Create great content (bait) to engage (hook) them in.

Focus on your creative talents

Some people are good at writing, others are good with imagery and video and the rest have a knack for the spoken word.

If your skill is in writing then you should be focussing your efforts on that. Or if you’re good with video and enjoy speaking into the camera then YouTube (and maybe Facebook) is for you. If you enjoy the speaking part but not the camera then podcasting could be your thing.

Different social networking platforms have different USPs. This guide gives you an indication on the benefits of using each.

social media cheat sheet

We all have unique talents and we’re all better at some form of media creation than others. Pick the platform that your community is on and use the medium which feels most comfortable. When you’ve established yourself on one medium start pushing yourself to become better on others.

Go to any established influencer’s first video, podcast or blog post and you’ll notice their lack of quality. Some are really terrible and amateurish.

For example, take Joe Rogan. His podcast interviews on YouTube are highly produced and are watched by hundreds of millions each week.

It wasn’t always like that though.

Have you ever watched his first ever podcast? It’s terrible.

It’s him and another guy sitting in front of a webcam with weird snow falling on the screen.

It takes time, consistent effort and learning what works and what doesn’t. Your quality will improve as you do.

Key messaging

What are the key messages you want to share with people?

Do you have a message you want to share with the world? Do you have a distinct point-of-view that makes you see thing different to most people?

Are you selling a particular skill, expertise or product?

Whatever it is you want to tell people, you should have a set of key messages that are part of your overall strategy.

You have to weave these messages in your content clearly, consistently and repetitively.

Ever heard of the Rule of Seven?

It means that people have to hear a message at least seven times before they remember it.

The book, [amazon link=”0857086197″] outlines this well;

“Messaging needs to be stated in clear and credible terms over and over and repeatedly. Don’t radically change the messaging for each audience. People need to hear something at least 7 to 15 times before they ‘get it’. If you need 5,000 people that ‘get it’ you have to say it a lot.”

This is why your messaging has to be consistent and repetitive. Over time people will begin to relay your message to others when they talk about you.

A word of warning, don’t be cheesy with your messaging. Be relatable. You have flaws and you’re not perfect.

Content development

You’ve identified your objectives, who your community is and how you’re going to be of value, the platform(s) you’re going to use and the messages you want to convey.

Next is you have to develop content that resonates with your key audiences.

The strength of your influence is dependent on the strength of your content.

And guess what.

Content creation is the hardest part of the process.

This is where most people give up.

The day-in-day-out grind of creating new content all the time takes consistent effort.

Writing a 3,000 blog post each week is hard.

Filming and editing an engaging 15 minute YouTube video each week is hard.

Shooting at least five pictures for Instagram each week is hard.

Tweeting relevant content on Twitter each week is hard.

Providing relevant content to grow a Facebook page is hard.

Not only is it hard but it takes time.

Becoming a social media influencer means you have to become a prolific content creator. Especially in the early days as you’re trying to grow an audience and gain momentum.

A new blog with 20 to 40 good quality blog posts with 1,000 to 2,000 words per post takes around six to twelve months before Google starts sending decent traffic its way in the search engines.

A new YouTube channel takes countless videos before it begins to pick up subscribers.

Despite having over 2 billion users, growing a Facebook page organically is a grind.

But there is good news.

Social media growth has a compounding effect.

Meaning the more fans, followers, subscribers etc you acquire through content development the easier it becomes to acquire new ones.

Speak to most influencers and they’ll talk about the first couple of years being the hardest.

Their content is not gaining any traction and they’ve stagnated no matter how much extra content they produce.

Then all of a sudden, a huge spike.

This slide from Rand Fishkin old but still relevant slide deck on content marketing explains it well.

Popular fitness YouTuber Elliott Hulse said the same. For years his videos were receiving minimal views then all of a sudden:


A huge spike in traffic.

This is when you’re in what Seth Godin calls “The Dip”

social media influencers

And it’s where most people give up.

The key is to keep going.

Content Formats

What type of content formats should you use?

Social media is becoming more complex, people’s standards are getting higher and there are more platforms and features than ever before.

That said, we can still boil the content formats down to four areas.

  • Text
  • Imagery
  • Audio
  • Video

That’s it.

It’s up to you how you use these formats.

If video is your prime format, how are you going to use it on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?

Or if it’s audio how can you create videos from it so it can be shared on more than just audio sites?

Maybe you’re a master of the written words then, other than a blog, where else can you write to ensure you spread yourself as wide as possible?

social media content formats

Creating evergreen content

How can you create content that lasts for years? 

Social media news cycles are short.

Today’s big news item is usually forgotten by tomorrow.

Social media influencers feel the pressure to be front and centre of their followers’ minds day in day out which can lead to burnout.

A key strategy using social media is creating content that lasts more than a day. In fact, more than a week, month or even a year.

The key is to create content that is, what some people call, “evergreen”.

Instead of becoming less relevant over time, this type of content becomes more popular.

It’s the type of content that Ryan Holiday talks about in his new book, Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts.

Evergreen (or perennial) content comes in the form of long-form articles (like this one), how to guides, infographics, imagery and so on.

In a lot of cases, evergreen content has to be updated and tended to on occasion but it can repay you back for years in the form of traffic, subscribers, customers or whatever you’re measuring.

Creating viral content

How can you create content that goes viral? 

It’s often difficult to tell if a piece of content will go viral or not. Or, at least, how viral it will go.

BuzzFeed has been using data science for years to understand why content goes viral. Their data team can predict how viral any piece of content they create will go.

You don’t have a data science team unfortunately so instead if you want to make your content go viral you’ll have to do two things:

  1. Follow a set of rules
  2. Hope

Search online and you’ll find a myriad of different methods to give your content greater chance of going viral.

The book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, by Jonah Berger that outlines the overarching methodology of making something go viral.

social media influencers

Follow these steps (or STEPPS) to give your content as much chance of going viral as possible.

The future of social media influence

What’s clear is that social media isn’t going away and each new year the data shows that its usage continues.

Three billion people on the planet now use social media which means that with a global population of 7.5 billion there is a lot of room for growth.

Social networks continue to innovate introducing new features designed to keep people hooked. More people will become experts in subjects and areas perhaps not even invented yet.

Internet speeds are getting faster, people are searching more in Google, smartphones are becoming more powerful and new emerging technology like AI, AR and VR are making their way to the mainstream.

Social media will continue to be a part of the digital landscape and will play a more important role in its development.

The best time to start building social media influence was ten years ago but the second best time is right now.

Perhaps it’s time for you to start growing your social media influence.


Leave a Reply
  1. The reality is that everyone is creating a value on Instagram, regardless of their number of followers. In fact if you have less followers, your impact increases. Consumers too need to be rewarded for engaging with brands. That’s why I’m working on, rewarding mass-consumers for showing love to their favourite brands. Would love to have your feedback on it Ste.

  2. This is the most comprehensive and valuable article I have ever read on social media influence. Great job!

  3. Great post. Ive recently started getting traction with my own Instagram and was looking to see if i could monetise it in anyway. This is how I stumbled on this page. It’s taken me a while to get 5k followers but Im building a good following thats engaging and really quite loyal. From what I have read here, I’m on the right track. It won’t happen over night but im getting there. apparently I have a good ratio as I’m at 6% when the average is 3%. Not sure that means anything but I’m taking it as success 🙂 This post really has helped me so thank you. @antjamesburke

  4. Good article. I usually get scared when I scroll down and see how small the bar on the right is… but the more I read the more interested I got. Good stuff

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