Influencer vs Influence

Even if your dream isn’t to be a social media influencer you may wish your online following was stronger. But does stronger mean bigger? Not always. If you have the right followers numbers aren’t as important.

Influencer vs Influence: How to Build an Authentic Brand

Influencer vs influence

Last summer I had a string of clients who hired me launch and maintain their Instagram profile. These small businesses wanted to add social media marketing but didn’t know much about it. Since I love both social media and marketing this is pretty much a dream project. I worked hard to create a strategy that reflected the brand and would attract their ideal customer. I chose or created images, wrote captions, and scheduled posts based on best practices.

And then we launched

After two or three months of social media posts my clients complained that they weren’t happy with the amount of followers they had, wasn’t that the point of the work I was doing?

The first time this came up I was surprised. We had talked about the long game, how gaining authentic followers doesn’t happen overnight. I thought we were on the same page. So why were we so far off base?

Expectations.

These clients were new to social media. Their businesses were also new. They had little to no online presence and had heard from a few people that if they went on social media they’d find success. So imagine their disappointment when they realized building an authentic brand on social media doesn’t happen overnight and also is a lot of work.

It was a tough lesson for both of us. I learned I needed to be a lot more blunt about how much time and energy needs to be devoted to building a legitimate social media presence. Now when I begin working with a client I put in writing what is within my control (posting frequency, content) and what is not (sales, growing followers). And I believe these clients also learned that becoming and influencer on social media isn’t something you can automate and expect return from. It involves relationship-building, listening, and connecting with your ideal customer.

What you can and can’t buy

The influencer role is somewhat new so it makes sense that people don’t quite understand what an influencer is. In general, an influencer is someone who has an engaged following of people who pay close attention to their thoughts and opinions.

A true influencer can post about a great new product they’ve discovered and they have built so much trust with their audience that they rush out to also purchase the same product.

I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t love this kind of influence. I mean, duh! It’s amazing! But where people get confused is they see an influencer and they equate the number of followers they have with influence. But numbers don’t equal influence. You can purchase social media followers and engagement. You cannot purchase influence.

How to become an influencer on social media

There is no silver bullet when it comes to becoming an influencer. If you can build a community of people who want to hear what you have to say and trust your judgment then you’re an influencer. And your message is amplified the more followers you have.

If you Google “how to become an influencer” you’ll see many, many articles dedicated to giving you the answer. But no matter what you won’t find a secret tip to getting away from putting the time and work into building your platform, branding yourself, and showing up with authenticity and something to say.

If you want to be a social media influencer and work with brands then you do need at least some sort of a following. To improve, choose one platform to focus on and become an expert at it. Learn the rules and how people engage. Figure out how you fit into the picture and then create a strategy based on finding your ideal followers and connecting with them. It will take time and energy. It will not happen overnight. But if you can make authentic connections and continue offering value to your followers, you will become an influencer.

For more, here are the three things brands look for when hiring influencers from the Spark Society.

Even if your dream isn't to be a social media influencer you may wish your online following was stronger. But does stronger mean bigger? Not always. If you have the right followers numbers aren't as important.

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