Becoming a Top Tier Influencer: Focus and Authenticity
In our previous article, we discussed the importance of being visible for those wanting to maximize their influence. The next logical step, after knowing where to focus, is determining what to focus on. In our opinion, the best path forward if you’re not already a mega celebrity is to focus on a niche and remain authentic in your postings within that niche.
Taken further, Nic Haralambous suggests that with regards to one’s focus, it is a matter of playing a specific niche rather than to the entire population. In his article, he provides the analogy of wearing a very colorful scarf and how that experience helped him understand that trying to please the masses is very different than doing something specific that you know will definitely make your target audience happy.
One way to ensure you are perceived as being authentic to that niche audience is to be selective with your reviews. The short-term monies gained by reviewing all products pitched to you is easily surpassed by remaining true to your focus and being sought after as a true niche player. Adelyn Zhou of Greylock has a great piece on influencer marketing mastery; I reference it here because a lack of focus will result in low engagement, and that’s one of the major red flags to look out for by brands seeking influencers. Let’s avoid that!
Referencing Oleksiy Kuryliak , we see why there’s another very good reason you should focus primarily on your chosen niche: in his case study it was determined that focused content results in greater time on-page and more overall traffic, as niche material has a greater share rate and a deeper spread within niche communities. Not only is traffic and on-page positive engagement signals for you and your own monetization, they tend to bleed into other signals that brands look for: shares, likes and comments. By focusing and being selective, you are making yourself a more attractive choice to brands.
Follow Your Dreams: Build a Persona
Cliché alert: following ones’ dreams is only meant to point out that everyone has hobbies and dream-like interests; by zeroing in on those interests for the majority of content creation the authentic nature of those product reviews will shine through.
Too vague? We can build a persona. Let’s say by day you’re a mom, a wife, an actuarial accountant, someone that likes drinking coffee and reading on the couch during the 10 minutes of downtime you have every other Saturday morning when the kids are still in a cereal-induced coma on the couch. You’ve also been known to sing karaoke in the car, can squat 2 plates, and are passionate about pomegranate smoothies.
In the above persona, where should the focus be? It’s entirely up to you of course, but fitness and nutrition would stand out, perhaps with an analytical twist from your accounting background that allows you to stand apart from the other fitness / nutrition bloggers and influencers. If I were in a marketing meeting with you, I’d pitch concepts like “Mom Fit: By the Numbers.”
If this sounds somewhat formulaic and scientific, we actually recommend that brands perform similar exercises to build buyer personas. By working in reverse on those guidelines, you can see how focused you may appear in ticking off the checkboxes. A brand that is searching for influencers matching a buyer persona that appears to be a mother interested in fitness is going to be very interested in having someone like you reviewing their product. This is especially true if the product requires an analytical mind to understand.
How Do I Focus on My Focus?
Sometimes after settling on a select few niches it is easy to become overwhelmed, not knowing where to start. Sean Ogle compiled a fantastic post on 59 tools to assist in sourcing and creating content, which you can use as a guide for finding content that is already working in your niche so you can apply your own spin…”Mom Fit: By the Numbers” remember? It’s also a great way to find who the perceived experts are in your space, which is even more important as you attempt to become an expert.
Once you have determined the experts in your space, clarifying your message will help you stand out, cut through a lot of the competing noise and connect with the right audience. You already have your focus, you know the experts, now it’s time to develop your own strategy to differentiate yourself from these other experts in order to tell your story in a unique way that will capture the attention of your audience.
Building on the aforementioned example, perhaps there are many other influential fitness/nutrition mom experts in your space. Figure out ways you can attract attention. Maybe you have a particular fashion sense you can bring into the mix? Maybe you have a certain nutritional philosophy you could promote? A unique, consistent message will help you engage the best followers in your niche.
Nothing More Authentic Than an Expert
Becoming a topical expert is the best way to maximize authenticity. From an influence perspective, it is known as authoritative influence, and is very powerful because it is the next step from a casual product reviewer applying peer influence. Authorities generally have a greater topical reach (meaning your audience is likely to increase) and are trusted especially when taking an educational/informational tone. Authorities are sought after for commerce reasons.
Becoming an expert is hard work; there aren’t any shortcuts as Mike Koenigs explains in his how to for becoming an expert for the purposes of writing a book. I like his guide because it provides a useful parallel — there isn’t too much of a difference between a blogger that is hyperactive on social and a book author. Being perceived as an expert isn’t a particularly complex concept, but is very time consuming. If you were to conduct and publish interviews with all the other experts in your niche, you will start to become an expert in your own right, both in real terms due to the sheer amount of time put in and also via co-citation perception. Your name appearing alongside other experts repeatedly will cause readers in the niche to see you as an expert.
Put Into Practice
At this point, after the first two articles, you should have enough information to accurately fill out an influencer profile with Intellifluence. Often I’m contacted by influencers asking why it isn’t sufficient to just list their Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube profile. Selecting the right categories and creating a profile that reads like a buyer persona is key, and will result in more pitches consisting of the opportunities you want to see.