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How to become an influencer in any industry13 min read

May 11, 2017 9 min read


How to become an influencer in any industry13 min read

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Influencer marketing is poised to explode in 2017. Businesses are paying more attention to it than ever before, and are reaping the benefits. According to a poll by Tomoson, businesses are making $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing.

Influencers are also seeing big returns on their efforts to build meticulous followings of loyal fans. Whether they’re using their influence to promote their own products or others’, they’re also seeing financial gain. A study by MediaKix found Instagram influencer marketing is a $1 billion industry, and projects that number to double by 2019.

As a huge advocate of growing businesses by creating high-value content and sharing it for free, helping others, and consulting businesses on how to increase their influence, it’s only natural that I have a vested interest in influencer marketing. I’m also a networker at heart. I love to hear about other people’s experiences with influencer marketing. That’s why I was honored to be part of the recent #Qchat on How to Become an Influencer in Any Industry, co-hosted by Ulyses Osuna, PR expert and founder of Influencer Press.

Below, I’ve compiled some of the most interesting and best answers based on the questions in our engaging chat. I hope you find them helpful as you navigate your own journey toward becoming an influencer in your industry.

Who is your favorite social media influencer?

There were several answers to this question, but online marketer Neil Patel of Crazy Egg and Hello Bar made the list a few times:

Wine entrepreneur-turned-online marketer and investor Gary Vaynerchuk of Vaynermedia was also named as a favorite. It’s easy to see his influence online. To date, Vaynerchuk has nearly 1.5 million Twitter followers and is also a best-selling author, podcaster and blogger:

Vaynerchuk even made an appearance to say hi when he noticed we were tweeting about his influence online:

There’s obviously no right or wrong answer to the question of favorite influencers, but here are some stats on some of the most successful in their industries:

  • Influencer Jake Paul of TeamDom amassed over 17 million social media followers on Vine, Instagram, YouTube, Musically and other platforms.
  • Virginia Salas Kastilio is an influencer who also has her own firm with the top Snapchat influencers from around the world. She founded Snap and Stream to share her ideas on influence and marketing trends.
  • Kristina Bazan, the founder of Kayture, is a fashion blogger and influencer who was one of the first bloggers to break into high-end fashion and help brands like Dior, Dolce & Gabbana and others get more exposure.

In 2017, how do we identify an “influencer”?

Hootsuite defines a social media influencer as someone who carries influence over others, and wields that influence via social media. This simple definition of an influencer may ultimately confuse brands, businesses and influencers themselves on what their role is:

People had a lot of different ideas about what makes an influencer. A lot of readers might assume that an expert with a large following is an influencer, but it doesn’t appear to be quite as straightforward as that in many people’s minds:

Calli Welsch offered a great response about how influencers present actionable ideas:

So while there were varied answers on what exactly an influencer does, the concept is still the same. Influencers are there to flex their muscles and give more exposure to their personal brand, a product or an entire industry. Here’s some of the research on how influencers make an impact:

  • 62% of 18- to 24-year-olds would buy a product endorsed on YouTube over one endorsed by a celebrity.
  • 92% of people trust word-of-mouth and recommendations from family and friends above all other forms of advertising.
  • More than 40% of Twitter users say they made a purchase as a direct result of seeing a tweet from an influencer.

How can becoming an influencer in your industry benefit your brand?

Being seen as an influencer in your industry can bring credibility to your brand, generate more traffic for your site, and ultimately pay you to share your opinion or promote a product.

Ulyses Osuna says that being an influencer has given a major boost to his personal brand:

Other contributors referenced an influencer’s ability to build trust in a product:

However, Amy Murnan shared an interesting idea: an influencer can put a face to your brand’s name and make the connection more personal. This illustrates that the definition of an influencer isn’t as simple as promoting a product to a loyal audience, and has intangible benefits like brand recognition:

Melinda Crow brought up another really good observation:

If you want to build your online influence, which channels should you use?

Trying lots of different social media channels as an influencer may be a good strategy to start out with, but it isn’t necessarily scalable. It may take awhile to learn where your audience hangs out, and how they engage with you. Once you see which channels convert best and offer the most engagement, you can weed out the time-wasters where you’re not seeing traction.

However, there was a little debate over whether you should be everywhere, or just on one or two channels:

Most of the Twitter chat contributors seemed to agree it’s best to focus on select platforms after you figure out where your audience is:

I did notice that while Twitter seemed like a common answer to this question, other platforms were more challenging for aspiring influencers. Specifically, Instagram came up as a channel that’s difficult to break into:

What type of content should you be sharing in order to grow and engage a following?

Flexing influence can come in so many different forms, it’s hard to know what type of content to focus on sharing. It ultimately boils down to your industry, offering and talent. Gary Vaynerchuk grew a large following as a vlogger and on Twitter. Other influencers like Neil Patel thrive on creating in-depth blog posts and then sharing and engaging on multiple platforms.

Most of the contributors agreed that the content you’re sharing should be high-value and actionable. Here are some of their responses:

Matthew Fitzgerald brings up an excellent point that sharing content as an influencer may involve a variety of mediums. After all, not everyone enjoys videos or likes reading lengthy posts. Or, you may find your industry resonates more with particular types of content:

What’s the biggest mistake you can make when trying to become an influencer in your industry?

There’s no one way to become an influencer and achieve success. Some take to Snapchat and quickly build a following and find their voice. Others see success sharing their personal insights and content on Facebook. But while there are different ways to achieve influence, there are still some mistakes to avoid.

#Qchat participants overwhelmingly said faking influence is the biggest mistake you can make:

Claro Consulting backs up this idea, and warned against buying followers:

As an influencer, you need to be passionate about what you’re promoting. Satya cautions against the idea of spamming people by pushing something you know nothing about:

There’s something that I think is important to bring up here that wasn’t addressed in the Twitter chat, and that is: it’s also a mistake for influencers not to disclose when they are being paid to promote a brand. Heed a warning from the Fyre Festival, where some celebrity influencers didn’t disclose that they were being paid to share sponsored tweets, posts and other social media shares – and now the lawsuits are piling up.

How can you collaborate with other brands or individuals to strengthen your influence?

Collaborating with brands and other influencers can work to strengthen your own influence in your industry. But how do you do that, especially if you’re an emerging influencer?

My advice is always to give incredible value, help others without expecting anything in return, and network, network, network. At the end of the day, there are no shortcuts to building genuine and authentic relationships. But that’s really what it takes to become – and remain – an influencer.

Several contributors, like Matthew Fitzgerald and Ludo De Angelis, agreed:

Other people in the chat said that following up and persistence are key to mastering collaboration:

#Qchat participants understand that there’s no secret to collaboration. They recognize that it takes concentrated time to build their influence. Here are some other tips to take with you.

  • Look at building influence and networking as lifelong relationship-building tools. I frequently host dinners to build my network, and offer to help others without expecting anything in return. I do the same thing when participating in online communities. That genuine and authentic approach builds relationships quickly, and as a great side effect, also ends up helping my businesses grow.
  • Continuously repurpose your content. The more ways you can share and grow your content, the more opportunities you have to get in front of brands and influencers and get them to take notice of what you’re doing.
  • Be exhaustively persistent. There are no secret shortcuts to growth. While a viral piece of content or recognition from an influencer can give you a boost, you still have to put in the hard work to get that initial traction.

What’s the best way to get featured in a major publication?

There’s endless advice online about leveraging social media and blogging to gain influence. But getting featured in major publications is also a way to quickly scale influence and get taken seriously in your industry.

Getting featured isn’t necessarily an intuitive process. With social media and blogging, you can self-publish and reach out to brands and influencers to build relationships and get noticed. But editors and publishers hold the key to getting featured in their publications. There seems to be some confusion over how to do this, but contributors came up with some great ideas:

Some of the #Qchat participants seemed to struggle in the area of gaining influence by getting featured in publications. If you’re in the same boat, there are a few things you can work on to improve your results:

  • Depending on where you live, ask for LinkedIn introductions to editors and publishers and take them out for coffee to talk about the type of content they’re looking for.
  • Look for MeetUps in your area hosted by, or heavily attended by, area publications.
  • Leverage social media to follow and engage regularly with the dream publications you want to be featured in.
  • Sign up for HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to connect with writers and publications looking for experts (like you) to interview for their outlets.

Now it’s your turn. What are your best tips for becoming an influencer in any industry? Even if you missed the #Qchat, I want to hear from you. Leave me a note in the comments below with your own responses to our questions.


In his 13 years of internet marketing he has led the digital marketing strategy for companies like Sales Force, Mint, Zillow, Linkedin and many other Fortune 500 companies.