Just a few years ago, the term social media influencer was restricted mainly to make-up artists and celebrities. These individuals used their massive social media followings (usually on Twitter or Instagram) to promote products essentially by posting images of themselves using them and describing why they liked them or where to get them.
When someone could run a profitable business simply by engaging in this activity, they were considered an influencer. It was pretty simple, and there were not that many influencers. It was relatively easy to get noticed for your enormous social media following and then test the waters to see if you had enough influence to get that following to act when you asked.
Fast-forward to today, and there are hundreds and hundreds of social media influencers and thousands and thousands of “wannabe” social media influencers dedicated to chronicling enough of their lives in a compelling manner so that companies will pay them to take a picture with certain products their audience might like. Few succeed.
The sector is still dominated, in the forward-facing side anyway, largely by celebrities and makeup artists. Many “serious” businesses do not want to be considered social media influencers, and many “serious” individuals would be very offended at being tapped as such.
You likely consider your business a serious one and yourself a serious professional. That is good, because most businesses and professional individuals should take themselves seriously. However, just because you are a professional providing a professional service, it does not necessarily follow that social media influence is not something that could benefit your business.
In some cases, a devoted following willing to respond to your specific calls to action (CTAs) is an incredibly valuable thing. OK, it’s an incredibly valuable thing in nearly all cases, as long as your pursuit of social media influence does not negatively affect your professional reputation. That aim can easily be accomplished by using compelling, industry-appropriate, professionally crafted content to establish your social media influence and then maintain it.
Now that we have established that a degree of social media influence — when achieved and leveraged appropriately — can be a good thing for you professionally, let’s talk about how to make that happen. Odds are you will not necessarily want to post a bunch of crazy videos (a common misconception about “going viral” involves the idea that you must do something dangerous in order to get attention) or give yourself a haircut using a flamethrower and a chainsaw (yes, that is a thing and it did go viral).
Instead, begin with these three basic steps to start building up your social media influence in a way that will positively benefit your business:
Before you can start influencing people, you need to identify venues in which the people you want to influence — your target audience — hang out.
Are they on Facebook (trending toward an older demographic) or SnapChat (trending younger and placing a high value on temporary postings)? What types of influencers do they already follow? Musicians? Reality television celebrities? Purveyors of fine art?
Once you know where your target audience is located at present, you can hone your content strategy to that platform or platforms.
For some social media influencers, the reward is very straightforward: get paid to promote stuff. This may be true for you as well. However, if you are using social media influence as part of a larger content strategy (and you should be), then your reward might be a little more complicated. Do you want those you influence to sign up for webinars? Invest in stock options? Go vegan? For most businesses, the rewards of social media influence come after multiple steps in a process rather than simply from the number of views on a post.
Before commissioning content or spending a lot of time and effort creating it yourself, you need to identify at least one metric by which you will measure your success in this endeavor and determine if social media influence has a tangible effect on your business. This could be views of your posts, sales of a product, or appointments made for consultations. You will need to identify metrics for determining how the leads generated from social media influence-building perform compared to your traditional leads as well. For example, if your metric for success is 10% more consultations booked and you achieve that goal but do not sell any additional services as a result of those consultations, you cannot consider your social media influence campaign a success until you learn how to convert leads generated in that manner.
We cannot, in good conscience, conclude this article without a word of warning: Successful social media influencers often experience health issues associated with the pressures that come with the platform. With the right content plan, you canachieve this status. However, you must remember social media influence is a tool, not a goal in and of itself. Do not allow yourself to get too caught up in your pursuit of social media influence or else your business, your health, and your mental well-being may all suffer as a result.
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