How To Become an Influencer in 6 Simple Steps

It’s hard to spend a day online without seeing or hearing the word “influencer.” Influencing has become so massive that many view it as a viable and desirable career path. According to research, 57% of surveyed Gen Zers said they’d like to become a social media influencer, compared to 41% of adults overall.

There are virtually unlimited opportunities to succeed across multiple social media platforms—but it requires the right balance of personality and charisma, along with marketing savvy and a thoughtful social media marketing strategy. Let’s take a look at what an influencer is, some traits and considerations, and how you get started on your own path.

What is an influencer?

An influencer is someone who consistently creates content and shares it with their following on social media channels like Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Twitter. Influencers have established authority, credibility, and loyalty among their audiences.

Influencers typically have a specific industry, niche, or category they tend to post about. For example, a fashion influencer posts about fashion trends, products, and conversations happening online. A comedy influencer creates fun, entertaining content with a consistent style of humor that keeps their audiences laughing and engaged. If you can think of a niche or category, there are probably influencers in it.

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How influencers influence

Because of the relationship influencers build with their audiences, they’re able to persuade their opinions and behaviors. In other words, influencers influence their audience. This is why influencer marketing is so profound: influencers collaborate with brands to promote products or services to their followers, leveraging their influence to accomplish goals like driving sales, engagement, or brand awareness.

Types of influencers

There are several ways to categorize social media influencers, with one of the most common ways being based on the number of followers they have. Let’s look at a common breakdown of five types of influencers, from largest to smallest:

  • Mega. These accounts have more than a million followers, which means they have the most power when it comes to influencing their audiences to buy specific products or hold certain opinions. Selena Gomez is an example, with one of the top five most-followed Instagram accounts.


  • Macro. These influencers have between 500,000 and one million followers. While they’re less potent than megas, they have considerable influence in their realms and make powerful partners. UX/UI designer Zander Whitehurst is an example.


  • Mid-tier. These influencers have between 50,000 and 500,000 followers. This is often considered a tipping point for becoming a big name. Fashion and art influencer Shayda Campbell is an example.


  • Micro. These accounts have between 10,000 and 100,000 followers. Micro influencers may be labeled “up and coming,” and may be in the early stages of developing successful brand partnerships. Gaming influencer Gamer Kingdom is an example.
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  • Nano. These influencers have between 1,000 and 10,000. In most cases, they’re just getting started. They may also be in a highly specialized or niche area. Don’t let the numbers fool you: they can still be powerful in their influence. Digital creator Lilly Jackson is an example.


How do influencers make money?

Influencers can use their online persona in many ways to earn money from what they create and share. Some popular ways to earn as an influencer include:

Affiliate marketing

Influencers can integrate affiliate links in their content. When a follower clicks on one of these links and makes a purchase, the influencer receives a percentage of the sale. For example, a tech influencer might share an affiliate link to their favorite laptop in a video. When their followers buy the laptop through that link, the influencer receives a commission on each purchase.

Merchandise

Another way influencers earn money is by selling merchandise. This can be anything from t-shirts and stickers to art or unique keepsakes. For instance, a travel influencer might offer maps or journals branded with their logo. People buy these items because it helps them feel part of the influencer’s journey or because they share a love for the product.

Influencers’ merchandise often includes:

  • Clothes
  • Artwork
  • Stickers
  • Unique memorabilia

Many influencers open online stores to facilitate the sales process. Platforms like Shopify make it easy for them to showcase their products and handle payments.

Events and appearances

An influencer can commit to appear at events in exchange for payment or arrange their own event and charge a fee. They can do meet and greets, where fans pay for a chance to meet them and get autographs. For instance, a popular wrestler might attend a fan convention where they meet and interact with the attendees.

Donations

Fans who like a creator often show their support with tips or donations. Creators can add a donate button to their site or share a donation link. For instance, an artist might stream themselves painting, chat about how they do it, and ask viewers for donations to help keep their work going.

Ad revenue

Content creators can monetize their work by embedding ads in their content. When people watch or click these ads, the creator gets paid by the advertiser. For example, a food blogger might include ads within their recipe posts or video tutorials. This allows them to earn money as their audience engages with the ads.

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Subscription plans

Influencers who regularly create content can earn through subscriptions. They can offer perks, such as early access to their posts or exclusive content for paying followers. For instance, a video game reviewer could allow subscribers to access reviews one week before everyone else for a monthly fee.

Digital products

Influencers can sell digital products like ebooks or advice papers to fans. They can also offer classes online or one-on-one advice sessions for a price. For example, a fitness expert could put their workout plans online for sale or offer personal coaching over video calls to their followers.

How to become an influencer

make money

Let’s look at a few steps you can take to start your own path of social media influence:

1. Choose a niche

Consider your interests and expertise. What could you post amazing content about? If you already have an idea of the target audience you’ll have, try to put yourself in their shoes: What interests them? Whether it’s fitness, art, beauty, travel, gaming, or niche hobbies, focusing on a specific area allows you to establish authority and attract a dedicated following. The more specialized your niche, the easier it is to design influencer marketing campaigns.

2. Pick your platform

Not all social media platforms are created equal. Different platforms might lend themselves to different types of content, as well as different types of audiences. For example, if you’re in the Gen Z age group, or your audience is, TikTok might be a better option for reaching them than LinkedIn. Be sure to do your research and make sure that your anticipated audience is active on the social media channel you’re interested in.

3. Build a personal brand

Your personal brand is the star of the show when it comes to being an influencer. Consider elements like your values, aesthetics, style, voice, talents, and the things that make you unique and interesting. The best path is to be authentic—if people get the feeling you aren’t, they’ll scroll right past you. Once you establish your brand, make sure you’re consistent across every aspect, from your bio to your visuals to your messaging.

4. Craft a marketing strategy

Social media marketing is a critical skill if you want to become a successful influencer. First, think about your goals: do you want to grow your following, grow engagement such as likes and comments, or be appealing for brands to collaborate with? Next, do research on your target audience: their demographics, interests, behaviors, and opinions. When you understand these things, you’re ready to make content. Here are some tips:

  • Post frequently and consistently
  • Create a content calendar to keep track
  • Use hashtags and platform-specific features
  • Respond to comments on your posts
  • Collaborate with other influencers
  • Track key performance metrics
  • Regularly analyze, refine your strategies, and repeat
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5. Create high-quality content

Content is a major element in an influencer’s toolkit. Aim to create relevant and memorable content to keep your followers interested and attract new ones. For example, if your target audience is Gen Z, creating TikTok videos highlighting the latest trends, challenges, or humor can resonate. Track your social media analytics to see how the content performs and tweak it as needed.

6. Collaborate and grow

Keep an eye out for opportunities to collaborate with other influencers or brands in your niche. As your community grows, companies interested in your audience might come forward with sponsorship offers. Tap into your personal networks and sift through Facebook groups or business profiles to spot trends and opportunities in your field.

Strike the balance of work and play

While many influencers really are having as much fun as it seems, the reality is that there are a lot of moving parts in the background that helped them find their success. When you develop the right content strategy to promote your personal brand to your target audience, and you have the savvy and flexibility to evolve with the landscape, you’ll be on your way to carving your own path as a successful social media influencer.

How to become an influencer FAQ

Can you make a living as an influencer?

Yes, you can make a living as an influencer. Influencers earn money by turning their content into cash or teaming up with brands as ambassadors. How well you do comes down to growing your followers, making great content, and getting a reliable income from what you share.

How much money does an influencer make?

An influencer’s income can vary depending on their follower count, their industry focus, the platforms they use, and the level of engagement they receive. Micro-influencers may earn hundreds of dollars monthly, whereas mega-influencers have the potential to make tens of thousands of dollars per month. 

Which social media platforms should influencers focus on?

An aspiring influencer should pick a social media platform crowded with fans of what they’re passionate about and one that suits their content style. For example, if you want to become a social media influencer focused on travel and adventure, then you might consider YouTube. This platform is ideal for longer, in-depth videos that attract viewers looking for travel content.

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