A Step-By-Step Guide To Becoming An Influencer In Your Industry
How do you become an influencer in your industry? Columnist John Lincoln discusses some tactics for building your following, increasing credibility, and becoming known as an authority in your field.
Influencers are the people others come to for advice. They have a genuine, loyal following because they add real value to their industries.
Influencers have insight and actionable information, and because of that they attract the eye of even major brands.
In short: Influencers have power.
It’s possible that someday soon you will have an amazing service, product or idea that will change your industry forever — or maybe you already do. Perhaps you already have a startup for that industry-changing service, product or idea and a crack team to make it work. What else could you possibly need?
Influence. Because without it, your amazing work just won’t get the buzz you need to really succeed.
This is the fear all entrepreneurs have, and no wonder. We have all faced it from time to time.
To get the attention your business needs, you need to become an authority, an influencer in your industry. Fortunately, this is within your reach.
Too often we believe that influencers are born, not made, and that we can’t learn how to do what they do. Wrong!
Influencers do not pop up overnight; they work their butts off to get where they are. Just ask them.
This practical guide to becoming an influencer in your industry will show you how to grow your following, build credibility, and develop your identity as an authority in your field.
It will cover educating yourself, creating compelling content, harnessing the power of social media, and engaging with your community. And it will share these tools and tactics with you step by step.
What Is Influence? What Makes Someone An Authority?
There is an endless stream of information out there, and everyone is looking for content that is actionable, credible, and powerful. Most of us are on the seeking side of things — we consume the best information we can find.
But authorities create that high-quality information. They consume, but they also create. As you produce more and more valuable content, you grow your influence.
Influencers engage in other authority-building activities as they create their information: They nurture useful, productive relationships and networks, and they continue to improve themselves and their work. Becoming an influencer is an ongoing process.
This matters because it dictates the necessity of engaging at a high level continually. As new consumers of your content find you, they will research you, what you do, and who you know as they watch your social media profiles and activities.
Social media is important today, and this won’t change. It provides a way for people to decide how valuable your work is, and how much they should trust you.
Influence is supported by metrics. Your numbers of followers, engagement levels of those followers and who they are, and your place among other influencers are things people can look at as they evaluate you. For all of these reasons, there are proven, concrete steps you can take to become a top influencer.
The Psychology Of Influence
You must understand the psychology of influence to seize it, because influencing is a challenge.
Robert Cialdini, a psychology and marketing professor and author, has named six principles of influence based on his experimental studies. To do this, he worked with people he titled “compliance professionals” — those who succeed in their work only when they persuade others. For example, salespeople only succeed if they persuade you to buy.
You can only succeed as an influencer if you can persuade others that what you have to offer is unique and valuable. Therefore, mastering these six concepts allows you to harness them for your own use as an influencer.
The notion of treating others as you’d like to be treated doesn’t belong to a particular group or faith; reciprocity is a basic truth of human nature.
People strive to pay their debts and return favors because no one likes to feel indebted, powerless, or weak. This also means that we are more likely to do favors for people who offer them to us.
Use reciprocity to influence others by having a deep understanding of what your goals are. You also need to know what the people you are interacting with want.
In this way, you will be best able to see what exactly you want from others and what you can offer to set this reciprocal relationship in motion.
Commitment And Consistency
Humans perceive a deep connection between commitment and consistency. That is why getting a commitment for a sale is so important: Once we have committed to the transaction, we are far more likely to make it happen.
This means influencers seek out verifiable commitments quickly. A natural by-product of this is the engagement you attain as you seek a commitment.
We humans feel safer in numbers — not just physically, but also socially. This is especially true when we feel threatened, anxious, or unsure.
When that happens, we seek reassurance or social proof from others, especially people who seem trustworthy.
This impulse is what makes us more likely to patronize the busy restaurant, tip when others do, and stay later than we like when our party does. This is why people advertise products using celebrities — we think of them as people we “know.” This is why we care how many followers they have when we assess their information.
This is also why creating buzz works. And buzz from other influencers is more valuable, because influencers are credible and trustworthy.
This one is simple and intuitive: People we like or find likable are more likely to influence others. Maybe they’re very kind or flattering, or maybe they “feel” like they are similar to us.
To be an influencer, you must make others like you.
To be likable, you invest your time and effort in building rapport and trust. You nurture good relationships with your co-workers, clients, and others in the industry.
You are reliable and consistent. You are an active listener who balances the knowledge that comes from experience with an open, creative mind that can find novel solutions.
You use your emotional intelligence (EI) to do this, because it works, and because you need genuine buy-in to be likable. No one likes a phony, and most people can spot them from a mile away.
People are impressed by authority figures; we believe they are more likely to possess expert knowledge and good judgment. People also have an inherent impulse to comply with authority and experience a sense of obligation to authority figures.
As an influencer, you supply authority, but you also know how to leverage the authority of others. You gain support from authorities by involving them in your goal and asking for their insight and assistance. Once you have an authority backing the goal, show others.
And don’t forget: If your own work is professional, high-quality, smart, and presented in an appealing way, you further establish your own authority.
You probably already know that things that are in limited supply, special edition, or exclusive sell well and hold more appeal for consumers. The psychology behind this is that scarcity means we have a higher chance of missing out, so we jump for what the scarce item is instead.
How does this work with influencing rather than selling? As an influencer, you give actionable advice and valuable insight into issues that people care about.
This is the urgency or scarcity: You have the power to help them solve serious problems, problems that ultimately have serious consequences if they aren’t solved.
As you consider how to use these principles, always remember what your ultimate objectives are, who your audience is, and why/how you must influence them. Then adjust your approach to suit each situation you tackle.
This means you must develop and build empathy while maintaining a baseline level of detached interest. In other words, you learn to gauge the emotions of others while not getting too emotional yourself.
Be smart and strategic as you seek out the perspective of your audience.
Create And Share Relevant And Unique Content
Creating and sharing relevant and unique content is central to being an influencer. There are several strategies to use as you strive for and meet this challenge.
Find Your Focus
An influencer must choose and master a specific area within your industry. No one can be an expert on every detail of your entire industry, and if your focus is too broad, you will neither gain the right expertise to function or be perceived as an authority.
Start with the basics of your focus area and master them by researching, theorizing, and experimenting. This is exactly what I have done over the last decade or so when blogging, and I recommend you do the same.
As you hone your theories and learn new things, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of your focus area. Your goal will be to move from reading and restating the ideas of others to generating your own.
Before you know it, you can talk about any angle of your core topics in your sleep.
Choose The Right Topics And Focus Them
Align your content with your target audience’s interests and needs. Use your expertise and insight to solve their problems, answer their questions, and entertain them in specific and meaningful ways. If people see you as a resource, you will influence them.
Create unique content that highlights your brand and ideas. Don’t stop at finding great topics; identify unusual, compelling angles you could take on topics that your audience is interested in.
Take complicated issues and transform them into compact, easily understood, usable content for your readers.
Engage in competitive analysis before you create your content. Search using your working title and see what’s out there.
I like BuzzSumo, Reddit, simple competitive analysis and tools like SEM Rush for this. Read content that’s on point to identify what’s missing or left unsaid, and focus your content to bridge the gap.
Fold in your own insights based on your expertise and experience. In this way, your content is relevant yet unique, and adds value.
Your focus is important, because to become an influencer in your industry, you must have a clear, powerful brand and value proposition. This allows you to compete and makes you stand out even in a remarkable crowd.
Your brand and value proposition also become your long-term goal; everything you do must make sense within that paradigm.
For example, I have identified the following for myself, and it has helped. My business mission is to “help others through digital marketing.” And our core company values are honesty, hard work when necessary, innovation, over-delivering for clients and growing into their business and results.
You already know this, but you absolutely need to blog to be an authority. You must stay organized, and plan your blogging so that you will publish consistently.
Aim for a minimum of two to three posts per week. Use an editorial calendar to stay on track, and stick to it.
Your blog content must be valuable and usable. It must be in line with your expertise and your SEO strategy.
Its purpose is to show who you are and allow you to disseminate your knowledge. Your blog is your voice in the world.
There is so much to know about how to blog, so before you start a blog, talk with an expert about how to maximize your blogs reach. Otherwise, you could be blogging for no reason.
Partner with other influencers in addition to creating and sharing your own content on your own channel. You can interview them for your own blog, and guest posting is even better.
It allows you to reach a whole new community. It further establishes you as an expert and brings people to your blog. Strive to make your guest posts even better than your everyday content.
To find your best guest posting bets, search for the best social media users and bloggers that relate to what you do. You probably already follow some influencers who you should contact.
Reach out after you’ve researched their submission guidelines and pitch a piece that covers something new for them. This way you ensure that you both gain value and traffic from your work.
And remember, after you’ve successfully reached out to one influencer, you should seek out another one, preferably in the same circle. You are building a network of influencers to join.
Make friends with these people, because you will be working with them for a long time. Help them out, and they will hopefully help you.
When I am approaching a new site, I generally like to provide them with a piece of content that is so good, it is very hard to say no to. It also shows that you know your stuff.
I generally know this works because I was an editor for four and a half years. When someone gave me a great piece of content I didn’t have to pay for, I was pretty thankful.
Also, when they bought me lunch or hooked me up with tickets to an event that was appreciated, too. It is fine to treat editors as you would a prospect; you just can’t pay directly to be published. If you do, that needs to be labeled as an advertorial or sponsored post — which is also OK, but just slightly different.
Organize And Maintain Your Stream Of Content
Posting as often as you need to can seem intimidating at first, but you can do it. Create and maintain your publishing calendar, and stick with it.
Organize your existing content so it is simple to search and easy for you to send out answers to queries right away.
One of your followers has a question? Respond immediately with your content that provides answers.
Keep a list of ideas and topics. Always be adding more.
Keep the list with you, so you can write down new thoughts, topics, and ideas whenever they come to you. Go back to things you’ve added so you can keep thinking about them; take notes as you think about them.
I like to email myself my article ideas with a simple email title like “article idea.” Then when I have nothing to write on, I just search my inbox for “article idea.”
Don’t forget, one of the ways you’ll steadily add value to your audience is by curating great content from others; this way, you show that you really know what you’re talking about.
Part of your stream of content every day should be made up of the best articles, blogs, and videos of influencers in your field. When you curate well, the value of what you shares inures to you too, further establishing you as an expert.
One thing you will notice is that a lot of influencers seem to have so many posts, that they almost look automated. In many cases, they are.
Using a tool like Hootsuite or Twitterfeed, you can select your favorite sites, and filter the content by keyword. You can then set the update duration and your posts of articles from these sites will be constantly published for you. It is always better to do this manually, but I have to admit I have a few feeds on my Twitter profile.
Half the time I refer to my profile to see what is new! It actually works really well, as long as you’re not updating too often.
Obviously, your social media presence is essential to your role as an influencer. Your brand should be prominent on as many social media platforms as are relevant to your industry. Your tone should be recognizably yours on each platform and on-point for your brand, but varied enough to “fit in” on each channel.
Just being online and active in social media, however, is not the whole story. You need to connect in multiple ways.
Connecting In Person
Attend industry conferences and events, and present if you can. This is a fantastic way to network and meet other industry experts and community members.
And perhaps the best way is public speaking. It can be demanding, but it is worth it, and each time you do it you get better.
Connecting With Social Media
I’ll go into great detail about researching your social media channels and SEO below, but for now I’ll mention Twitter and LinkedIn briefly.
On Twitter, try tweeting through live events in your industry or hosting a Tweetup to foster more engagement and nurture your identity as an influencer.
And use LinkedIn to post long-form, detailed posts — even recycled blog posts with great pictures. LinkedIn matters because people tend to believe that only thought leaders and influencers post on the channel.
Connecting With Influencers
To establish yourself as an influencer, you need to interact with influencers. Find their best work and share and promote it.
Thank them if they do the same, and when they thank you, start the conversation. You may not get a response from very famous influencers by promoting their work (since so many do it) but those who are on the rise like you will often answer you.
Focus your effort and time on the right influencers for your industry, and be persistent. Your connections with influencers speak volumes about your brand and raise your professional credibility.
The other day, I wrote a post that was retweeted and praised by the head of SEO at Yahoo. That would be an example of someone in the space who I was very happy to see enjoyed the post.
Research influencers in your industry so you can target those that can help you — and be helped by you. Create a list of influencers you want to reach, and work on it over time.
Start interacting and keep trying. Eventually, as you grow as an influencer and continue to help them and interact with them, you will build a relationship.
Engage Via Social Media
To become an influencer, you must share your ideas and be seen. Answer questions on Quora. Participate in and lead Tweet Chats.
Host gatherings via various social media networks. Remember: Don’t just share and like on your various platforms. Add value by adding comments, asking and answering questions, and giving opinions.
Watch for comments on your post and use those openings for more interaction. And don’t shut down the conversation: Ask open-ended questions to prompt more engagement.
Influencers must know exactly how social media channels will best work for you.
Upon which platform are your industry leaders most often active? Choose that one to be your primary platform and publish there several times every day.
If you’re not sure which platforms are strongest in your industry, do competitive research and see where your competition is doing well.
High-functioning SEO, on-target publishing, and everything else you need to master as an influencer depends on your active and continuous acquisition of education. Educate yourself as follows.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote in Outliers that you need 10,000 hours of work, education, and experience in your area to gain the true expertise of a world-class performer.
Which topics have you invested yourself in to that degree? Which compel you enough that you hope to spend 10,000 hours on them? You’ve identified your focus areas.
You may worry that focusing your work within a niche limits you, but actually it makes your offerings attract an audience of people who are truly interested.
Create A Valuable Information Feed For Yourself And Jump On Opportunities
Social media is always in motion. Read platform blogs as a matter of course.
Watch for new features and analytics, platform updates, and changes to algorithms. These can all change the user experience significantly, and you can better maintain your presence if you understand them.
You’ll also be building your expert status on the platforms. So you need to always be looking for information about your industry, but also understanding how to use the marketing tools that have the biggest impact in your industry.
Read case studies, expert articles, and news that influencers in your industry share. Look for news alerts and press releases about your key subject matter areas.
And don’t forget sources like industry magazines and specialty news outlets. Influencer status requires you to be in the know.
But how can you possibly stay on top of all of that? Use feed tools. Feedly and tools like it allow you to follow a sizable variety of blogs, alerts, and other sources of information.
Similarly, Social Mention and Google Alerts help you see the news that’s closely related to your brand first. I get most of my news through Twitter, email newsletter I have subscribed to, YouTube videos and a few core websites.
SEO And Hashtag Research
Know the keywords relevant to your area of expertise, and own the few that are most important to you.
This helps you clarify your SEO goals: You want people finding you first when they search for those words.
Identify which Twitter hashtags are most frequently used by people in your industry. You need to know because your hashtag-laden tweets draw two groups: your followers, of course, but also anyone searching for that term.
Integrate SEO into your content strategy. You will notice that your tweets with the best use of hashtags get the most engagement.
Search for content using the hashtags that are most relevant to your work. You’ll pull up tweets from influencers first.
When you find great content this way, share it with the hashtag that helped you find it and other relevant hashtags. If research like this isn’t getting you everything you want, use http://hashtagify.me/ — it has great insight into the best hashtags.
Verify whether your strategy is working once you’ve established and followed your plan by using Klout to see where you rank within social media influencer circles. Klout ranks users based on how consistent you are with content sharing, how responsive you are to engagement, and what you should be doing better. There is some controversy around Klout and the scores, but I generally like it.
Learn About Your Audience
To create truly compelling, engaging content, you have to know your audience. Know who they are, what they care about, and why they care.
Understand their behaviors, beliefs, careers, families, and lifestyles. Let that understanding guide you as you think about what they want and need; as if you were shopping for a gift for a loved one, imagine what they will be excited to see.
Enjoy the feeling that you will be giving people something they want and can use to motivate yourself. This is how you begin to internalize your audience identity.
Study your influencers and other influencers in your industry. Watch what they do on social media, what they share, and how they interact with others. This helps you model and improve on what they do and further enhances your understanding of your own audience. Find out what their pain points are and give them what they need to solve those issues.
Education is always multi-directional. As you continue to educate yourself, educate others in many different venues. Influencers educate others.
Schedule speaking engagements and present at conferences. Even within your niche you can add value in a variety of settings, so research carefully and find out what all of your options are. The other presenters you meet there will be part of an incredibly rich resource network.
Create and run seminars and webinars. This takes a lot of energy, but you can also charge for them, so you are educating and engaging while gaining financially.
Webinars are especially cost-effective because you can record and reuse them. Tools like Stealth Seminars make this very easy.
Send press releases in addition to your normal social media activities. If you don’t know how to write them correctly — and this is a specific skill — learn how or hire someone to write them.
News and industry outlets should be able to see right away what the press release is about, and they should also be able to grab images and a ready-to-print article using the press release so the work they need to put in is minimal.
Create or interview on radio shows, Internet radio shows, or podcasts. You can do this solo or take the opportunity to invite influencers in your field for a better show and a joint promotional opportunity.
There are great software packages and apps for each online format. BlogTalk Radio allows you to set up an Internet radio show or podcast fast and distributes and syndicates your content so it is immediately available everywhere. Audacity is another excellent tool for beginners wanting to create podcasts.
Create informational products like guides, e-books, and even traditional books. Once you have amassed multiple successful articles, combine them into a book. Turn a shorter post or series into an educational handbook or how-to.
Influencers educate others and offer them actionable advice. Your reader should walk away with new ideas, questions, solutions, and plans. Let them have something really unique and valuable — that’s what experts do. Give it all away and if you are really that good, the business with come back to you.
Remember the steps to becoming an influencer:
- Know what an influencer is and does.
- Understand the psychology of influence and the Six Principles of Influence. Know how to use them.
- Create and share relevant and unique content as follows: find your focus; choose the right topics and work them into your focus; blog; guest post; and organize and maintain your stream of content.
- Connect in person, via social media, and with influencers.
- Be helpful and add value.
- Engage via social media in ways that foster connections and ongoing exchanges.
- Educate yourself by choosing a smart focus, creating a valuable feed, and doing SEO and hashtag research; learn about your audience.
- Educate others.
Have a great day, everyone, and best of luck with your efforts to become an influencer!