2018 has been the year of the social media influencer. If you aren’t already working with them on influencer marketing campaigns, you most definitely are following influencers on social media, seeing their endorsed posts and stories of products and brands they love with code XYZ for a percentage off.
Though popularity of influencers has skyrocketed in recent years, influencer marketing isn’t new. If you look back through history, a similar strategy started in the late 1800s when celebrities and royals were paid to promote products.
Social media is a highly competitive landscape, but fortunately for baby boomers and Gen Xers, there is also opportunity. Platforms today are overly crowded by young adults with businesses vying for their attention. But the fastest growing audience on social media happens to be those who are ages of 50+. It’s best to take advantage of this audience’s presence, and the lack of competition. Don’t let the 18-24 year olds take all of the pie. Social media isn’t just a young person’s game. If you want in on this growing trend, here’s what you need to know.
What is a Social Media Influencer?
A social media influencer is a user on a social media platform with a large and active following. These people have established credibility and authority in an industry or amongst a particular audience type. Posts made by social media influencers have the power to persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach.
Today’s influencers are either celebrities, or were amongst the first users of platforms like Vine, Snapchat and Instagram. These pioneers of their platforms and the speed of adoption within the new environment led to a disproportionate number of followers as new users joined and found them.
If you’re a bit behind on social media, it’s going to be harder to achieve that growth. But with a little hard work and the right plan, you can be on track to growing a solid following and earning some nice side cash.
Influencer Marketing by the Numbers
Influencer marketing budgets are rising every year, with 39% of marketers increasing campaign spend this last year alone, according to a study conducted by Linqia. The same study showed that marketers will spend anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 on influencer marketing.
Some of the most successful social media influencers make upwards of $25,000 for a single Instagram post. And if you’re Amra and Elma Beganovich, a pair of NYC-based fashion and lifestyle influencers, you can make a nice living off of being an influencer, each earning $700k a year through blogs and social media posts.
Making six figures is not uncommon for top-tier talent. According to Financial Times, an influencer with 100,000 followers on Instagram can charge around $2,700 per picture, while celebrity influencers with between 4 million and 20 million followers can charge $6,700-$17,500.
For the majority of influencers though, expect to earn somewhere between $100 to $500 depending on your following, engagement, and the type of content you post.
Influencers Owning the Space: Ray Dalio
At 69 years old, Ray Dalio is one of the most active and successful entrepreneurs on social media. An American billionaire investor, hedge fund manager, and philanthropist, Dalio is the founder of investment firm Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest hedge funds. As of this year, he is also one of the world’s 100 wealthiest people. He could just stop there and revel in all his success, but instead he shares his experiences and advice with people on social media.
His successes in business has earned him instant influencer status on every social media platform he has joined. Initially known for being active on LinkedIn, a platform where 77% of users are 30 or older, Dalio decided to join Twitter in April 2017, and recently joined Instagram, a platform where 59% of users are under the age of 35, in June of 2018
Most of his posts across social media feature life and work Principles that promote his autobiography. Dalio also cross-promotes his LinkedIn articles on other social media platforms like Twitter, bridging the platforms together to increase chances followers on one platform follow on the other for multiple touchpoint opportunities. His social media efforts aren’t all one-way communication however, in May of 2018 Dalio did a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) where he spent time answering questions from Redditors on the platform’s “entrepreneurs” forum, sharing life and career advice to an eager audience.
Learnings: If we can learn anything from Ray Dalio, it would be to focus on your personal success first and the followers will come to you. Dalio didn’t start by focusing on becoming an influencer, he focused on becoming a successful entrepreneur. When you’re the best at something, share your knowledge with others. Dalio took advantage of LinkedIn’s platform because he knew that was where his information had the most impact with his audience. When you think of influencer marketing, we don’t typically think of LinkedIn first. We think of shiny Instagram. But taking advantage of the less widely used platforms, while considering what your content is about and who it is for, may earn you better results. Seeing his success on LinkedIn didn’t deter him from expanding to other platforms – even if those platforms aren’t where his main audience is. His following on Instagram and Facebook may not be as big as LinkedIn, but he is reaching many more audiences by diversifying his platforms. Dalio now has a following of nearly one million on LinkedIn, 201k followers on Twitter, 123k followers on Facebook, and 94.8k followers on Instagram.
Influencers Owning the Space: Arianna Huffington
At 68 years old, Arianna Huffington is a digital media pioneer. Author, syndicated columnist, and businesswoman, Huffington was the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post. Like many new media businesses, Huffington saw a market opportunity and took it. She used the power of her personal network of contacts to help jumpstart the site, growing it into a journalistic entity that racked up more than 100 million unique visitors.
Huffington became an influencer by carefully crafting her brand, using the digital web to promote her business ventures, and building her knowledge of the digital space and all it has to offer. Her posts are a perfect balance of plugs and pitches that are both personable and relatable.
“People are hungry for meaning and a life lived as something more than just consumers… And it’s not a coincidence that this trend is escalating at the same time social media have risen to the forefront in the worlds of both marketing and activism.” – Arianna Huffington.
With this understanding in mind, Huffington uses social media to start conversations and make connections. While most people focus more on using social media to amplify a message, Huffington instead places more of an importance on what message she is trying to share and using social media as a means, not an end.
Learnings: Arianna Huffington puts the ‘social’ in ‘social media.’ She uses the platforms for what they were originally intended for – sharing bits of your life with friends and family. But Huffington also realizes the great potential social media has in growing and promoting brands, and therefore also uses platforms to promote her business and professional works. In every bio, she includes her professional titles (HuffPost Founder. Founder & CEO of Thrive Global) as well as her personal priorities (“Mother. Sister.”) With a little wit and passion, she has gained over eight million followers on LinkedIn, nearly 3 million on Twitter, over one million on Facebook, and nearly 400k on Instagram.
Influencers Owning the Space: Susan Lucci
At 71 years old, Susan Lucci is an American actress, television host, author and entrepreneur. Best known for her role on All My Children, Lucci found social media success that helped grow a booming fitness empire promoting workout equipment and launching fashion activewear.
Initially, Lucci struggled to embrace social media. Like many people of the older generation, the biggest concern was lack of privacy as well as the triviality of posts. But while on vacation, she posted a picture of herself in a bikini which went viral. The platform’s response and the media’s attention was very positive. And as many older celebrity’s struggle to stay relevant in the age of social media, Susan Lucci became a leading driver of the ‘fitspiration’ trend with many younger and older followers looking to her for diet, exercise, and aging advice.
Learnings: Many people are blessed with amazing genetics, and you can find any number of these models actively posing and posting on Instagram. But what is rarer is a person who uses hard work and determination to defy the laws of aging. At 71 years old, Susan Lucci looks better than most women in their 20s. Lucci prides herself in sharing her strict diet and exercise routine with others. Her posts hold no fake gimmicks or promises about achieving her looks. And while many brands today are digitally editing women’s bodies in images to make them conform to what society deems as beautiful, Lucci posts raw, unedited photos. For Lucci, age is not a number but a state of mind – and body. She believes no matter what age you are, if you’re strong, you’re beautiful.
Tips to Become an Influencer
So now you know it’s never too late to become an influencer. In fact, you can use your experience to your advantage. If the thought of profiting off of sharing your tips and tricks to success sounds appealing, here are some tips of our own to help get you started.
Behind-the-scenes networking is more important than what you post
When building a following online, it may seem counterintuitive to start offline. But just as in Arianna Huffington’s case, networking and building face-to-face relationships is stronger than the bonds developed on the internet. Networking helps improve your personal skill set, stay on top of the latest trends in your industry, keep a pulse on the job market, meet prospective mentors, partners, and clients, and gain access to the necessary resources that will foster your career development. At the basis of all that is relationship building. While you can connect digitally to people on the web, you never know who they really are until you’re face-to-face.
Be uniquely you
What does that mean? Well, it means something different for everyone. To stand out, focus on a subject, topic or industry that matters to you. Something you excel at. The more niche, the better so you have a chance to stand out. Then, strive to be different. Nobody wants to see the same content over and over again. In order to grow, you have to ask yourself how are you different? Then focus on communicating that authentically to your audience through your content.
Focus more on long-term partnerships, not one-off tactics
Collaborations with other accounts are extremely important in growing your presence. The exposure and access to a larger audience is valuable, and you want to take advantage of that.
Another idea is to join an Instagram pod. A pod is basically a group of people who will interact with your posts to increase engagement. There are pros and cons to this tactic – the first being your posts will see an instant boost as the initial comments and likes rank your post higher in Instagram’s algorithm. However, if you’re solely relying on this method to boost engagement and reach, pods can lead you down a road of black hat tricks. When you ask for engagement, your data becomes skewed. You never know what content is really working for you or not, and therefore you cannot improve your strategy as a result. Is your audience liking your content because it’s interesting? Or are they liking it because you asked them to? It’s a fine line between trying to help your content do better and learning to adjust your content strategy based on performance. The concept behind a pod still works if you do it right. If you engage regularly with followers and complimentary brands with similar audience and brand goals, they will follow and engage with you.
Stay true to your brand and your audience will appreciate you more
It’s tempting to take money in return for an endorsement or sponsored post. But you don’t want to be a sell-out. Remember how long it took to build your following. How long it took to become a perceived expert in what you do. It too hard work and a lot of determination! You’re not going to risk that in return for a product or service you don’t believe in. If you’re being asked for an endorsement, do your research and be honest. If it’s not a product or brand you love, it’s probably not a partnership you want to be a part of. Even if the money is good. Because if you start promoting things that don’t live up to the hype, you’ll lose your audience’s trust. And that is worth more than money.
Brands are always looking for user generated content, creating an opportunity for you to be featured and thus gain new followers. Tagging a brand in your images will put you on their radar. To help get your content featured, make sure it’s of the same quality the brand posts.
Engage with your target market
Follow people and complimentary brands who will build you up. You’re not going to follow everyone who follows you back, but follow the people who regularly interact with you. These are your brand advocates who will share your content and help build your following. They deserve your attention and gratitude. For brand interactions, do some research. Many brands won’t interact with you despite your best efforts, but if you take some time and search for the brands who do regularly interact with people, these are the brands you could potentially work with in the future.
Create quality content
Have you seen influencers try to sell their image presets on social media? These are the automatic photo-enhancing edits those influencers have painstakingly created and tweaked that are essentially part of the secret to their success. Part of creating high-quality content is taking images on expensive cameras (though some have experienced just as much success with photos on their smartphones). The other part is creating a consistent brand style – using those photo presets – that defines their brand for recognition and consistency. The last part is, post what your audience is interested in. This may require reviewing your post analytics to see what receives the most and least engagement. Other ways include straight up asking your followers what they want. Since Instagram launched polling and question capability on their Stories, many influencers are actively invested in wanting to know more about what their audience wants to see more of.