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If You Can’t Join ‘Em, Beat ‘Em: Building Influence On Social Media

Social media is arguably the biggest technology to come out of the 2000s. Ever since the pioneers in the space introduced their platforms, they’ve been growing in power and influence. It’s hard to accept that Facebook has only been around for a little more than ten years, and yet it’s been so influential that it’s helped shift the results of elections and drive the growth of businesses all over the world.

With that said, these social media platforms are very different to how they were back in the early days. In 2005, Facebook was little more than a campus-to-university campus messaging service where you could upload pictures of you and your friends getting drunk. Now it’s serious business, and young people are far more wary of what they post online just in case their future employer finds out what they’ve been up to.

With the space becoming more and more crowded and more businesses and solopreneurs piling in, gaining traction has become more difficult. You could quickly build a following of thousands of people in the early days if you had a good concept. Now, though, it’s much tougher because everybody now knows what a powerful platform social media has become.

Companies (and people wanting to sell stuff in general) have – since about 2010 – realized that a good way to build influence on social media is to reach out to so-called “influencers.” These are people in their particular field who already have a large following and can reach out to their target audience, potentially promoting their products.

But even this strategy is starting to fail. Today’s influencers are literally inundated with requests from companies to showcase this product or that product. Many just switch off and instead focus on the things that they think their audience wants to hear about, which usually isn’t what you’re selling. Even if you do get the ear of an influencer, there’s no reason that they’ll speak favorably about you or help to drive conversions. If they don’t like your product, then you’re screwed, especially if your audience thinks what you’re selling is a load of rubbish.

These problems have led many entrepreneurs and business-minded people to change their tactics yet again. Instead of reaching out to influencers, they’re trying to become influencers themselves. This sort of thing has been going on for a while in certain industries, but it’s only now that companies are recognizing the benefits. For instance, the man behind the modern incarnation of the Paleo Diet, Loren Cordain, didn’t just try to push his line of Paleo supplements on people through the traditional channels. Instead, he started up his own blog and social media and used that to provide people with information about his particular conception of the perfect human diet. Whether Cordain is right or not is debatable. But he showed that sometimes the best way to succeed in an industry is to become the influencer yourself.

So how do you do it?

Get Super Personal

In general, people like people who are like them. It’s why hiring managers at major firms statistically hire people who are most like themselves in appearance and ideas. It’s something humans do naturally. And so according to Zoriy Birenboym, the CEO of an auto leasing company, businesses shouldn’t be afraid to show their customers that they have the same feelings and problems that they do. Many of the top bloggers in the world, including those who post on social media, write about their lives and their businesses in a very personal manner.

They broach subjects that many other people stay away from, including debt, divorce, addiction, mental illness, and self-esteem. According to Birenboym, if you want to become a social media superstar, you have to embrace vulnerability and share the stuff that people really want to talk about. People aren’t looking for guidance on mundane stuff like “which kinds of blinds should you install over your windows.” They want to know about how they should approach major issues in their lives and how you, as an influencer, can help solve their problems.

Share Data-Backed Opinions

Share Data-Backed Opinions

Wikimedia Commons

Neil Patel is one of the most influential people on all of social media. Though he’s mindful of social media security issues, he’s keen on sharing as much of the data he uses as possible. The way Patel has built influence is essentially through proving his points and backing up his opinions using statistics, graphs, and charts. Now Patel is the single biggest voice in the crowded SEO space, offering advice on everything from how to set up a website to what to put on your blog. Patel has been able to craft a niche for himself because of his ability to make predictions based on the data available to him.

Create A Persona

Creating a unique persona might seem like a small thing, especially when compared to your actual content. But according to Dmitry Epelboym the CEO of a cosmetics company, it’s more important than you think. Having a persona makes you instantly recognizable and helps you to remain consistent across all your work. It might seem like a small thing, he says, but it’s an important part of branding.

Internet personas have been around for a while. For instance, Turd Ferguson is an internet financial analyst and pundit. He’s carved out a niche for himself firstly because of his name and secondly because of his combative analytical style. Over the years, he’s been very successful, having been invited on dozens of podcasts and radio shows.

Speak At Length About Your Achievements

When it comes to influencing on social media, people care about your accomplishments. At least, that the opinion of millennial influencer Peter King, the CEO of Mamma. King says that budding influencers need to make a point of their achievements. This, he says, is what will give them credibility and establish them as thought leaders. He claims that there’s no way around this, so if you have any achievements to your name, you need to publicize them. It could be anything he says, from an outstanding education to launching a new product line to being the author of a best-selling book.

Don’t Back Off From Controversy, But Avoid Drama

Influencers, in general, aren’t afraid to speak their minds. Just spend a little time following famous celebrities and business leaders on Facebook and Twitter. Mark Zuckerberg, for instance, has made it clear his disdain for people who supported Donald Trump in the US presidential election. But according to Lia Mendoza, CEO of a cruise company, companies need to avoid drama. Writing your opinion about a particular political or social issue is okay, she says. But companies should avoid engaging in “dramatics” like name calling. It’s all common sense really.

 Initiate The Conversation

Many companies are constantly on the lookout for the latest social media trending topics so that they can hop on the bandwagon. But the problem with this approach, according to millennial CEO Jody Permain, is that it is reactive. Companies are simply observing conversations that other people have started and are trying to retrospectively insert themselves and make themselves relevant.

social media trending topics

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Not only is this hard to do, but it can also be annoying. A much better approach, according to Permain, is to start conversations yourself. Influencers, she says, are people who create the topics of conversation and the talking points. They shouldn’t be taking cues from the communities that they serve. When people realize that a particular person is the one driving the debate, they’re more likely to follow that person so that they can get the latest thinking as quickly as possible. What they don’t want is a business simply rehashing what somebody else has said, desperately trying to make themselves relevant.

Spend Some Time Off Social Media

Some people manage to become influencers just by spending lots of time on social media and nothing else, but they’re a rare breed. Most people have to reach out beyond the Facebook and Twitter account, according to Moe Hamade, and make an impact in other areas of life. There’s a risk, she says, that people who only use social media will become typecast. They’ll be known as somebody who’s big on social media, and nowhere else.

Take Pewdiepie, for instance. He’s massive on YouTube, but outside of that platform, he’s barely heard of, mainly because he has very few achievements outside of his channel.

Stay Alert To What’s Being Said About You

If you run a business, you probably have a Google Business account. And if you have a Google business account, then there’s a good chance that you’ll have notifications whenever your name is mentioned online. It’s worth noting that this system isn’t always entirely accurate, and it can report that you’ve been in the news when it’s somebody else with the same name. But, in general, it’s a good way to keep tabs on yourself, according to Alexandr Kaminsky, the owner of a barber company. The system, he says, will let you know when you’ve been mentioned and in what context. This will give you an idea of how you’re perceived and whether there are any issues you should address.

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