What is a Social Media Influencer? (And how to become an Influencer)

social media influencer

The word ‘Influencer’ has become overused, and misused, in recent years. Here I will explain the difference between an influencer and a social media user, who just happens to have a lot of followers.

Being an influencer doesn’t take talent, we don’t need to look any further than the Kardashian klan as proof, although in many ways they did give birth to the influencer idea.

Kim Kardashian is heir to famous attorney Robert Kardashian, the attorney who defended O.J. Simpson during his murder trial. Kim was a little-known stylist for Brandy Norwood, the singer simply known as Brandy. During her time as Brandy’s stylist, Kim became involved with Brandy’s brother, “Ray J”, also a singer. Kim and Ray J decided to make a sex video in Mexico that later leaked on the internet, thus Kim became a household name for all the wrong reasons.

Kim turned to what she knew best, fashion, to turn the bad publicity into a business opportunity in the digital age. Today, Kim is one of the internet’s hottest fashion influencers. Fashion companies worldwide pay millions of dollars for Kim to wear their clothing and jewelry and post photos in social media to her millions of followers.

What makes Kim Kardashian an influencer.

An influencer is someone with:

A) a lot of followers, over a million is a good starting point.

B) someone who has a niche in which they are an influencer or expert authority.

Kim returned to her roots of fashion and style to brand herself as an expert in all things fashion. The people followed and the rest is history.

We will find many self-proclaimed ‘influencers’ on Instagram with just a few thousand followers and no true niche that they influence. Taking a shirtless photo or bikini photos may produce a lot of followers, but it doesn’t create a lot of influence.

There are fitness influencers who post about fitness, nutrition, and supplements all while being shirtless, but those are a lot less common than the shirtless selfies that only promote ego. No company seeks ego as their spokesperson.

It took a lot of work for Kim to become known as a fashion expert and not just another sex-tape leak victim, or promoter, depending on how you look at the publicity stunt of sex-tapes. Companies didn’t always want to be associated with the K. Kardashian brand. But in the ultimate testimony to how branding can change perception, Kim K is a hot commodity.

How to become an influencer

To become an influencer you need a personal brand, something that a company would be proud to work with. You need to consider your personal brand, the way people perceive you, before you even start in social media or make your first post.

For the purpose of explaining how to become an influencer, we will look at the fitness industry.

The Personal Brand

If you are a health junky, go for the shirtless photos but instead of inviting people just to look at your body, tell them how you are doing it, give valuable information beyond the ego. You want to earn trust and build friendships.

The goal is to become attractive to a company or product, so you need to show you know your stuff and your followers trust any company or product you advertise. Every post, from the very first post without any followers, needs to keep this in mind. If you have a current social media account where maybe you have posted questionable photos or thoughts, delete that account or make it private. Start from scratch keeping every post professional and never comment or post anything that isn’t with a positive view. You need a strong and reliable personal brand, someone people like to like, and companies want as a spokesperson.

YouTube for Influencers

There is no way around it, you cannot become an influencer without also being a YouTuber. Jumping into the world of fitness influencers, or any influencer world, will require regularly posted videos on YouTube. If you cannot dedicate yourself to a weekly scheduled YouTube video, for instance, every Wednesday, then you won’t succeed as well as an influencer.

Your videos should serve a single niche. For fitness, you can make videos about your gym training or diet. Tips on balancing work and the gym. Tips and cheat sheets to be successful. Stay on topic and be consistent with your YouTube postings. You want your subscribers to be excited about your video every Wednesday, or whatever day you choose, don’t disappoint them. If they cannot count on you, they cannot trust any product that sponsors you, meaning you won’t be an influencer.

Facebook for Influencers

In the marketing world, we understand Facebook is starting to lose credibility and ‘businesses’ are not performing as well as they used to because Facebook has changed what we see on our newsfeeds. For this reason, creating a ‘fan page’ or ‘business page’ on Facebook isn’t worth the trouble any longer. Create a ‘personal’ Facebook account and accept friend requests instead of page ‘likes’.

You will be limited to 5,000 connections on Facebook personal pages, but you can allow people to follow your page, just make sure your posts are public. Posts that are not public will only be seen by friends, not followers. It can be confusing, but ¡Gotcha! Brands can help you set up your influencer accounts across social media too.

As mentioned before, it’s best to start your ‘influencer’ Facebook page from scratch instead of trying to use a personal page that you have used for several years. Companies will find all the questionable posts you have made in the past and hold that against you. Make any other accounts on social media ‘private’. With one click you can change all your previous posts to private. Remember, your personal brand is the most important thing to maintain if you wish to become an influencer that earns money through their social media connections. No one wants a spokesperson with a history of controversial posts or comments.

Facebook posts should be done daily, preferably three posts. I call them the breakfast, lunch, and dinner posts because your followers all have different schedules, this will allow for more exposure throughout the day. People don’t expect daily videos on YouTube, but they do expect daily posts on social media.

Don’t make it all about you! It’s OK to share posts from pages you follow that are part of your niche and offer information that your followers will find interesting. If you don’t share posts from other pages and people you won’t grow. You need to spread the love and show your interest is about the niche and not yourself. And people will be more likely to share your posts with their followers to return the favor.

Instagram for Influencers

Instagram is the king of influencers. The platform is a $1 BILLION dollar influencer market.

Some quick facts:

  • Ad revenue for 2017 is projected to reach $2.81 billion.
  • User engagement with brands is 10 times higher than on Facebook, and 84% higher than Twitter.
  • 50% of Instagram’s users follow at least one brand.
  • 70% of the most used hashtags are branded.

Brands love Instagram and Instagram users love brands, so it’s a hotbed for influencers. So what makes Instagram such a hotbed for influencers? It’s projected growth. With more people signing onto Instagram, brands are getting less of the attention, so they are turning to the people (Influencers) to help promote their brands on Instagram. This is good news for you if you have successfully branded yourself and established yourself as an influencer in a desired market.

Before jumping into Instagram to become the next big influencer, you need a solid plan. Don’t just sign up and start posting photos. Every photo needs a consistent brand and message or you risk losing everything.

  1. Make your photos recognizable, whether it be using a specific frame on all your photos or a specific filter for all your photos. When looking at your Instagram ‘grid’ all your photos should look like they belong together.
  2. Create a hashtag for your brand, #GotchNow
  3. Get creative with your caption, EVERY TIME
  4. Use Instagram stories, EVERY DAY
  5. Consider buying Instagram ads, AFTER you have a well-established account and a decent amount of followers. Your advertising dollars will go much further if people perceive you as established and not new to the platform.

Twitter for Influencers

Twitter is a fast moving platform, so you need to keep up and stand out. Just posting a good tweet isn’t enough, you need to grab a user’s attention in the fast-paced environment.

  1. Make sure your profile photo stands out. If your profile photo is you, get close, those little round photos don’t fit a full body to well. Get a nice face closeup.
  2. The bio is king on Twitter. Write an interesting, even humorous, bio line for your Twitter account. The profile photo and the bio line will determine who follows you the most.
  3. Follow trending hashtags and try to connect them to your business or brand while still being true to yourself and followers. Don’t just use a trending hashtag for the sake of using it, if a hashtag doesn’t fit within your brand or followers, skip it, create your own relative hashtag. Maybe your own creative hashtag will trend.
  4. Retweet… just like Facebook, you need to share posts from other people in your industry or niche.
  5. Keep your tweets short. Yes, there is a Twitter limit for a reason, but try to stay under that limit for a better chance of retweets.
  6. Engage with users who engage with you positively. Don’t engage with negative comments. You need to be the bigger person and focus on the praises. A Twitter battle won’t be beneficial to your personal brand. Walk away.

Websites for Influencers

One thing you cannot overlook is having your own Influencer website. It’s not enough to just have social media. As an influencer, you have the opportunity to use a website for valuable data, such as getting millions of people to join your mailing list, which generates revenue. Your site should be dedicated to your personal brand and niche that you target in social media. Your fans what to visit your website and read your blogs, but more importantly, so do possible sponsors! You NEED a website to become an influencer, there isn’t any way around this. It’s the most important tool that will bring together users of multiple social network platforms to one place, your website. We make websites for Influencers.


There are many different ways that you can be an effective, and profitable, influencers, but there are some simple rules that need to be consistent.

  1. Stay true to your brand/niche
  2. Stay true to your followers
  3. Always post with purpose
  4. Build trust with followers
  5. Engage with followers
  6. Repeat.
About the author

Freelance web design and branding professional, Christopher Chad LaGrone, has been working in digital marketing and web design since 2004 with a focus on online marketing, web design, and social media marketing. To date, he has helped over 1,000 clients develop and manage their corporate, product, and personal brands. He has had the privledge to produce design works used by American Idol, Hilton Hotels, Cesar Millan (aka, The Dog Whisperer), HBO and Showtime. Recently, Christopher launched ¡GOTCHA! Brands, a collaboration of the greatest minds in content management, digital branding, marketing, and design.