Be a Social Media Influencer in 3 Easy Steps

Social Media Influencer: How does it work and how you can become one

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Who is a social media influencer? How can he be useful to a business and make money for himself? In this brief article, we cover all you need to know about the topic social media influencer. We will start with a simple definition, and then move to the details including how to become one.

Who is a Social Media Influencer?

Defining Social Media Influencer

Let’s start with a simple definition of social media influencer.

A social media influencer is a person who has a decent number of followers on one or more social media platform, and who can influence their decision-making and purchasing behavior.

To put it differently, a social media influencer is someone you don’t know directly, but that you trust anyway, up to the point that if he recommends you a given product you consider his opinion trustworthy and sincere.

Even with this definition, we tend to have some sort of gray area. What is the “decent number” of followers we need to be considered influencers, for example? How much do we need to influence people’s decisions to consider ourselves influencers? Once again, the golden answer is: it depends. But we can dive deeper into all these questions in the coming sections of this article.

How Many Followers Do I Need to Have?

We can start with a definition to help us assess the number of followers needed and the degree to which we need to influence them.

Any combination of number of followers and ability of influence them will make you an influence, as long as a brand can capitalize on that.

So, there is no specific number like “10k” or “100k”, although some websites will tell you so and use that to classify you as micro-influencer, influencer, mega-influencer and so on. These websites are not wrong in what they say, nor right. The truth is, there is no clear boundary that you need to cross to become an influencer. Being a social media influencer is an abstract concept, and as such it is subject to opinions.

For me, who consider myself grounded into facts and numbers, you need to have an objective measure of “how much of an influencer are you”. This cannot be measured directly, but you need to measure proxy values instead. A proxy value can be the number of followers, or even the number of likes or direct messages you receive. These, however, are vanity metrics, because they do not capture your ability to influence.

A metric I prefer much more is the willingness of brands to engage you to promote their products. You can measure this in the number of brands, or even better in the fees you get from such brands. The higher the fees, the higher the wiliness of the brand to pay for you, so at least they believe you have good influencing capacity. If brands express genuine interest in you and your follower base, then you are an influencer, no matter how small your base is.

Social Media Influencer
You will often see social media influncers taking pictures of themselves.

In general, the number of followers that is considered appealing to brands depends on many factors. The platform itself is a driver: for example, you may need more followers on Instagram than on YouTube (because YouTube gets many views also from non-followers).

Your engagement ratio is also an important driver. If 10% of your followers are influenced to a purchasing decision, you will need half the total number of follower than if you were able to influence only 5%. In fact, engagement ratio is one of the most important drivers for you to be an influencer: you want to prefer few followers, but that are more engaged in whatever you post.

The type of followers that you have is also an important driver. If your followers are wealthy people from wealthy countries, you will need just a few of them. This is because you can start to work with high-end brands, such as luxury cars or watches, that can extract a lot of value from each customer. In turns, they don’t need many customers, and each follower you have is worth much more, so you don’t need to have many. This is the opposite if your followers are cash-poor students from a developing country.

Influencer Outside Social Medias

The concept of social media influencer is not really new. In fact, influencers have been in existence since the early days of humanity, but they evolved based on the different media available. Originally, an influencer might have been someone who exerted greater influence within the tribe.

More recently, we all witnessed in the 2000s (prior to social media surge in popularity), actors and soccer players to be featured in TV advertisements. Those are pre-social influencers, and they still play a role. In fact, most now leverage social media so that they can be social media influencers as well.

However, the benefit of social media is that you can start from scratch and build your social capital there. In other words, you can become an influencer just by using social media.

How to Become a Social Media Influencer

Of course, this is not a complete guide on how to become a social media influencer. But it will show you how people can become social media influencers. As you will see, the process is not complex. Quite the opposite, the process is simple, but this does not mean it is easy. In fact, in an over-saturated market, it is quite difficult to find your space.

Find Your Niche

Everyone who is serious about social media management will tell you that finding a niche is important. A niche is a group of people that have some sort of narrow interest, and are ideally extremely passionate about that.

For example, people can be passionate about bicycles, but this is not a niche because it is a wide interest that many people share. Instead, if you narrow it down to something more specific, like fixed gear bikes, or even more like fixed gear bikes in Ireland, you will find a group of extremely passionate people. If you are passionate about the same thing, you have a match.

Social Media Influencer's Selfie Stick
Most social media influencers will use selfie sticks now and then. This tool had some stigma in the past, but now it is widely accepted.

Finding a niche is good because those people are so desperately interested in that topic that they don’t care if you have a limited number of followers, they will follow you anyway. It is the first step to establish yourself as a leader for a specific pocket of users. Since those people are passionate, they will interact, so they will keep your engagement ratio high.

Furthermore, you have the benefit of having a quite specialized niche. So, brands will consider you a valuable influencer sooner, because virtually all your influencers belong to a particular profile that they can target. If you passionately share about fixed gear bikes in Ireland, a bike shop that sells fixed gear bikes in Dublin will consider you a valuable influencer quite early. This is much a better strategy than having a generic audience.

Of course, niches are small so at some point you will saturate it – you won’t be able to grow it any further. No worries, we will see in a second how to transition from being a niche social media influencer to a lifestyle influencer.

Networking, Networking, Networking

Networking should be paramount in social media, and especially for any social media influencer. The most common mistakes newbie influencer make is that they believe they will become influencers just by posting and posting, and posting some more. That’s unidirectional, you post content and expect people to follow you and interact with you. It’s not the way it works.

Hashtags are a popular tool for the social media influencer on Instagram and Twitter
Hashtags allow influencers to talk about specific topics on Instagram and Twitter.

Instead, you need to reach out to other people – normal users and influencers alike. Like, but most importantly connect, send private messages and start a conversation. And here, I mean a real conversation, not something like “Please follow me”. I mean truly engaging with people. If you are really passionate about what you post, then you should have no problem connecting and networking with likeminded individuals on the same topics.

From Niche Influencer to Lifestyle Influencer

Lifestyle influencers are the kind of influencers that post about the way they live and can influence people across a broad spectrum of activities. Most people who want to become a social media influencer would like to become a lifestyle influencer, probably because they see this kind of influencers lead the life they would like to lead as well.

Becoming a lifestyle influencer from scratch is hard, if not virtually impossible. Instead, it is much easier to start as a niche influencer, and then evolve into lifestyle. This is the natural step to do when you see your niche has reached its full potential and you can’t grow there any longer.

If you want to do this transition, it is important to do it in such a way that it does not alienate your existing niche followers. To do that, you need to evolve laterally into something that your audience will still appreciate. For example, people who ride fixed gear bicycles are often guys with long beards and pride in taking care of them. Posting something about beard care, such as oils or razors, may be a good addition.

If you find out your audience also likes to have avocado brunches, you might post about those. Try to be specific when expanding your niche so that you still express your personality. You don’t want to morph into some sort of anonymous generic brand who covers outdoors with no personality.

Social Media Influencer for a Brand

Before wrapping up this article on the social media influencer, let’s see how a social media influencer might interact with a brand. Normally, especially for large brands, a social media influencer never interacts directly. Instead, there is one (if not even two!) agencies between the brand and the influencer. Let’s see the whole process from the point of view of the brand.

Social Media Influencer and Taking Pictures
Not all social media influencers take pictures of themselves. Still, most do, so be prepared for it.

Imagine a brand wants to advertise a new fixed gear bike, and decides to go with influencer marketing. This type of marketing is the one we are after: paying influencers to advertise a product. Normally, most brand don’t waste time interacting with influencers. Instead, they have a marketing budget and give it to an agency asking them “Get me X customers out of this”. At this point, the marketing agency is on the lookout for influencers.

If the marketing budget is of 10k$ and the brand wants 200 customers out of that, it means they want to spend 50$ per customer (10k/200). The agency will take a commission there, which may be even half of the pie, so 25$. With the remaining 25$, the agency goes to various influencers and asks them if they are interested in working together. Normally, for most brands, a tracker campaign is set up. The influencer has to advertise a specific link, and when a new customer is acquired through that link, the brand/agency knows it comes from the influencer and will pay him 25$. As such, the influencer is generally paid only for customers it generates.

Some agencies may also pay influencers to make a specific post, without tracking any conversion link, and paying anything from a few hundreds to several thousands of dollars for a single post. This is common for influencers with a larger audience.

Sometimes, seasoned influencers will hire an agency themselves to negotiate with the agency hired from the brand. Even more, there are agencies that already have relationships with some key influencers so that if you want them to post for you, you need to go through their agency.

Social Media Influencer Wrap Up

In this article, we introduced you to the world of the social media influencer. You now know how it works, what are the main dynamics at play, and how someone might have become a social media influencer. If you want to follow this path, referent power is something you absolutely need, so check it out.

Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

Alessandro Maggio


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