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Influencer marketing has become a powerful strategy for brands who want to reach their audience in a non-pushy, non-promotional way. Instead of pushing their own message, they can leverage online influencers to get their message out in a more palatable way.

Online influencers don’t just work to promote brands, however. According to this infographic fromSmart Insights, influencers can take many different forms, including celebrities, experts, agitators and connectors.

Image: Smart insights

Whichever type of influencer you aspire to be, there are a number of strategies that can help you get there. This post will cover 25 things you can start doing today to becoming a more proficient online influencer.

1.Create tons of insightful content in your industry.

If you want to be seen as an expert in your field, you absolutely must be regularly creating useful, insightful content. Read, read, read – learn, learn, learn – dig, dig, dig – deep, to find new niche topics you can cover – simply rehashing the same old topics won’t be enough to help you gain influencer status.

2. Know what your audience wants, and give it to them.

Your audience has already told you what they want to know. Scour your social media comments and mentions, blog post comments and reader emails to find topics your audience actually wants and needs you to cover for them.

3. Don’t focus on your company or products.

I still find that many business owners believe content marketing is simply writing about their products or services and pointing out how great their product or service is – and how wonderfully helpfultheirproduct is above what the other guy is offering. This type of marketing should only be a very small part of what you do. A good rule of thumb is to provide useful industry-related content 80-90% of the time, and promotional content no more than 20%.

4. Be authentic….always.

In her book,Will The Real You Please Stand Up, social media guru Kim Garst talks about the importance of being authentic online. In a public medium like social media, inauthenticity – helping only for your own gains, saying the ‘”right” thing even if you don’t believe it, and being dishonest in your interactions –willcatch up with you. If you want to be an influencer, be true to yourself and others at all times…even when no one’s looking. Really, you can’t get away with anything these days – so don’t try to – be real, be honest.

5. Build up your audience (but quality matters more than quantity!).

In order to become an influencer, you need to have an audience of some sort. A high follower count is great, but the quality of your influence is even more important. Do your followers trust you? Do they read your posts? Do they value your opinions?

6. Express your opinions.

According to a survey conducted byAugure, 79% ofrespondents said an influencermustbe able to concisely express their opinions and create reactions when discussing a particular topic. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions, even if that opinion may not be the most popular one.

7. Listen to relevant conversations on social media.

Being an influencer means staying on top of rumblings in your industry. Track industry-related social media conversations using a tool likeSocial Mention. Know and follow what is being said on social media. Know what the information means. Form a concrete, well thought out opinion.

8. Engage in online networking.

Influencers need to do more than just build their own little online empire. They need to continually reach outside their current sphere of influence to build new connections. This will mean reading and commenting on other people’s blog posts, reaching out via social media, and being interested in and participating generously in other people’s Facebook and LinkedIn communities.

9. Engage in offline networking.

To achieve true influencer status, you’ll need to take yourself offline from time to time. Participate in local networking events, offer to speak at industry conferences and regularly meet up with other influencers in your field. Again, be generous in sharing your knowledge, be generous with your time.

10. Guest post on authoritative sites.

One of the best ways to build your influence is to regularly contribute to authoritative sites. Not only does guest blogging help you expand your reach to new readers, it adds a ton of credibility to your name (e.g., “As seen on Forbes and Huffington Post”). See my postHow To Guest Blog Anywherefor tips on how to get started.

11. Practice makes perfect.

To be an influencer, you need to first excel in your field.In his bestselling book,Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell repeatedly refers to the 10,000 hour rule: that to achieve world-class success in any area you need 10,000 hours of practice. While you may not needquitethis much practice, (or you may need more), honing your skills is key to becoming a qualified expert in your field.

12. Stay on top of breaking news in your industry.

As an influencer, your audience will expect you to know exactly what’s going on in your industry at all times.Subscribe to industry blogs, and follow other influencers on social media. Perhaps most importantly, subscribe to or follow industry news sites so you’re the first to know what’s going on at all times.

13. Be the first to report breaking news in your industry.

Knowing what’s happening in your industry is great, but you also need to communicate what you know to your audience. Becoming a trusted source of timely industry news will go a long way to helping you achieve influencer status.

14. Define your niche.

It’s cliche, but so true: it’s so much easier being a big fish in a small pond. There will always be time to generalize later (if you want), but zeroing in on a specific niche that you keep track of, you know all about it, and a niche you love, will lead you to achieve influencer status much more quickly.

15. Read every day.

As an influencer, you should always be growing and evolving. One of the best ways to broaden your knowledge and perspective is through reading. Read books, blogs and magazines every day, both industry-related and general interest.

16. Optimize your content for high-profile keywords.

Ranking for industry-related keywords is not only important for driving traffic, but for building your influence. If you rank highly for coveted industry terms, it will boost your reputation as a leader in your field.

17. Connect with other influencers.

People tend to associate us and our reputation with the company we keep. So connecting with other influencers not only boosts your reputation as “someone to watch,” it potentially opens you up to new opportunities and relationships you would never have otherwise had. Here is myinfluencerguide and anotherinfluencer marketing guidethat will help you on connecting, becoming and working with influencers.

18. Focus on adding value before monetizing.

If you’re just getting started with building your online influence, focus on providing tons of excellent content before you start monetizing. You can’t put a price tag on your influence, and pushing a product or promotion too soon can jeopardize all your hard work.

19. Have a plan for promoting your content.

Keep in mind that it’s not enough to simplycreatecontent. Have a plan in place for distributing that content both through owned (email, blog) and earned (social media shares, PR) channels.

20. Promote other people’s content.

Promoting your own content is great, but you don’t have a monopoly on industry news and knowledge. Shareexcellent content that would be useful to your audience – even if it’s notyourcontent.

21. Write a book (or ebook).

Writing a book is one of the best ways to establish yourself as an expert in your field. While a paper book may be preferable (if only as a vanity measure), an ebook can work well to share your knowledge with your audience.

22. Set up keyword alerts.

As mentioned, influencers should be the first to know what’s happening in the industry. Set upGoogle Alertsfor a variety of important keywords in your niche or industry so you’re always on top of new developments.

23. Hold webinars or seminars.

Offering free live events gives you a chance to share your knowledge in a more intimate setting. It’s also a great way to build up your email list – and that list will be invaluable as you work to build up your authority and influence.

24. Create industry surveys.

Sharing other people’s data is important, but sharing original data and stats is invaluable. Poll your readers or followers regularly to collect data that no one else has access to.

25. Empower others.

Bill Gates said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” Instead of solving people’s problems for them, find ways to encourage, educate and inspire your readers and followers so they’re equipped to succeed on their own.

What would you add to this list? Any tips you can share for becoming an online influencer?


John Rampton is a serial entrepreneur who now focuses on helping people to build amazing products and services that scale. He is founder of the online payments company Due. He was recently named #2 on Top 50 Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine. Time Magazine recognized John as a motivations speaker that helps people find a “Sense of Meaning” in their lives. He currently advises several companies in the bay area.

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