Influencer Marketing: this seems to be the new buzzword for businesses paying people to promote their stuff publicly.
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Of course, celebrity endorsement of company products has been a thing ever since media began – it’s nothing new. The difference is that now it seems that anyone can set up a social media account and become an ‘influencer’. It’s become such a big thing that more and more children dream of pursuing a career as a professional YouTuber.
I feel (and hope) that the absolute peak of Influencer Marketing has already passed – certainly I can see that companies are starting to get more savvy about what benefit they will actually receive when they reach out to bloggers and YouTubers. Not everyone who has a lot of followers has real influence – there are many ways to inflate follower numbers, and some supposed influencers will say anything you like about a product if they get paid for it.
But thankfully, I think that companies are getting smarter now, and that means that bloggers and supposed influencers need to get smarter too, and prove they have a genuine following that will bring real benefit to the company concerned if they want to get picked. Blogging is already a profession in my book, and the skills and barriers to entry are getting higher.
I’ve been blogging for nearly 11 years now – does this make me an influencer?
Well, I certainly do get paid to promote products occasionally, so I guess in that way I suppose I am. But personally, I do not consider myself to be a real influencer, even now, and I would sound a note of caution to anyone who thinks that all you have to do to be an influencer is to set up a blog or a YouTube account and just talk about yourself.
It really is a lot more complicated than that – and it takes a lot of time and effort to grow your online presence to the point at which you are really worthwhile to a company. I’ve had my moments, as you will see below, but mostly I’m realistic about what I’m actually bringing to the table with my little corner of the blogosphere. I have even turned some clients and companies down if they seem to think that I will deliver more than I realistically believe that I can.
You may call that imposter syndrome, but I call it realism. My blog is a hobby, and I run it alongside other business interests and raising a family. The fact is there are lots of aspiring bloggers, and not all of them break into the big time where they can make a full-time income and cadge lots of free stuff. My blog is mid-size and likely to remain that way.
If you want to make it as a full-time blogger and influencer then I can certainly give you some tips – but let’s say that I don’t always practice what I preach, mainly because I don’t have the time.
How to set up a successful blog and become an influencer
I run a Facebook group called The Blogging Mums Club – a group for current and aspiring bloggers. The members share their blog posts, support each other and we exchange hints and tips that are useful for blogging.
The group has over 5,000 members, although only a small percentage are active. I presume there are a lot of members that have an idea to start a blog but then don’t follow through with it, or give up when it is not immediately successful. But the fact is, blogging is a whole lot more than just setting up a platform and telling the story of your life. If you really want to be a success you have to consider a whole lot of other factors, and learn a new set of skills.
Establishing your platform
You need to set up a platform for your blog or online presence. Some people use a website, others use YouTube or a podcast platform and there are some who use Facebook or Instagram as their basic platform (although I would never recommend that as your only platform) . Whichever platform(s) you use, there are a whole load of things to learn in order to set up your profile correctly and to promote yourself and encourage other people to see your content.
This tech side is crucial – some platforms are definitely better than others when it comes to blogging. If you are serious about making money from your blog I would definitely suggest a self-hosted website, and/or a YouTube channel or podcast hosting site.
Once you have the platform set up, then you need to write or produce regular new articles or episodes – and after that you need to promote each one using a variety of social media, each one which has its own rules and protocols. Most social media platforms also reward you if you spend time interacting with others as well as promoting your own stuff. There’s a lot to learn, and the skills and algorithms change every couple of years so you have to keep yourself updated as well.
The Influencer Marketing agencies also have various hoops they need you to jump through before you will start to earn money. You will need to learn about Domain Authority, engagement rates and all sorts of other metrics, depending on which platforms you choose.
Setting yourself apart
Once you have set up your platform you need to tell your unique story and decide what makes you different from the other bloggers out there. You need to be very clear about who you are, what the story is that you are telling, and who would be likely to want to read that story. Identifying your target audience is crucial as it will help you to decide what kind of content to post (written, images, audio, video?) and also what channels to promote it on.
When I started blogging, you could pretty much just write about how it was to be a mum, and tell your own story, but those blogs are everywhere now. The mum niche is huge, so you will probably want to subdivide it; are you an older mum, a teen mum, a single mum, a mum of multiples, a special needs mum, a mum with disabilities, a family with dietary or cultural preferences, a mum raising kids in a different country to her own, a dad raising kids? All of those angles are interesting, just a mum, not so much…
If you are talking about fitness – what makes you special in this area? Here’s an example of somebody I consider to be a real influencer – Diana Rose Rosqueta is a Filipina barefoot runner who has completed several marathons. Just reading that one sentence makes me more interested to read her story than that of another random blogger just talking about their personal fitness or weight loss journey.
I did have my personal moment of fame back in 2011. I guess I could have capitalised on it and kept it up, but at the end of the day the persona was fake and I didn’t feel I could sustain it for ever. I got invited to a conference in New York – you can read about it here . I was invited as a blog ambassador and my travel and expenses were paid (it was lush!). The conference was about saving money, and one of the talks was about extreme couponing. So I came home, and because I was a blog ambassador, I wrote about the conference, and then I did a second blog just about the extreme couponing because I thought it was a fun subject.
It was fun, and Extreme Couponing was topical – Channel 4 were doing a series on it at the time – mainly lampooning the crazy people that did it – hence the word “extreme”. So the national press came sniffing and asked to interview me. But when they wrote the story, they portrayed me as the crazy couponing lady, who was so excited about saving money that she paid for a flight to New York to take couponing lessons from the masters! Wow, the Daily Mail readers sure had fun with that one!
It was a good story and I was in several national publications and also appeared on the One Show. I definitely saw the funny side of it and the company I represented at the conference definitely got their money’s worth too, as I made sure they were mentioned in every press briefing. My blog went viral and I dined out on that story and lived that persona for a couple of years. But it wasn’t really me, it wasn’t really what Mums the Boss was supposed to be about, and eventually I stopped answering the press calls and let the ‘crazy couponing Debbie’ slide back into obscurity.
Keeping up Appearances
And this is the final piece that stands between me and what I consider to be real influencers. Once you have established your platform, carved out your niche and started to actively promote your blog/influencer persona, you really have to be consistent and stick with it. That means keeping up with your appearance, your perfect body if that’s part of who you are, the immaculate home, and the lifestyle you are epitomising.
In my case, various things have intervened over the last few years – on a number of occasions I have had to take substantial breaks from blogging due to family matters. I was very glad that this is the kind of business you can just put down and pick up again when you are ready, and I’m very grateful I was able to be there for the people that needed me.
But, at the end of the day, if you are not writing fresh content regularly, and getting out there on social media , then people very quickly forget about you and move on to the next big thing. Then when you come back and start writing again you cannot assume that your audience will come straight back. The social media algorithms favour freshness and consistency – if you drop out of the loop for a few months it can take a long time to rebuild.
I am in awe of some of my Blogging Mums Club members who started blogging in the last few years and really built a great following – much bigger than mine who has had a blog for twice as long. But when I read their blogs it’s easy to see why – a very clear and well defined persona, and regular entertaining and fun updates that make you want to read more, and press like and leave comments when you see them in your Facebook feed. If any of those people talk about products they have used, I am likely to check them out and maybe buy some. They come across as friendly, and very much like me – what they like, I’m sure I will like too. These are real influencers.
Conclusion – where is Influencer marketing going?
You’ve probably detected a tone of cynicism in all of this…
I’m all for companies using word of mouth to promote their products and I will also pay attention when I see people whose opinions I really like and trust promoting things. However I do feel that the celebrity/influencer culture has got a bit out of hand and I’m very much hoping that it might peak and die down a bit.
For me a real influencer has to have something about them – a backstory, a tale of something they have achieved. To me becoming an influencer is not a career in itself – you need to do something else first and then once you have made your name, then you are worthy to influence others with your opinions and choices. But I suspect that my opinion is not the common one, and indeed I am getting on a bit, and many people of younger generations would probably find many of my views outdated.
But hey, I’m happy with that. This is my tiny little corner of the blogosphere and social media and all opinions are my own. Please feel free to disagree with me in the comments below.
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