The Ultimate Influencer’s Guide to Social Media
"You want to watch the best you can possibly watch, and you want to see what's capable of being made."
As an influencer you’ve worked really hard on your craft. You’ve made many sacrifices to get to where you are today to establish the fan base that you have. Whether you want to be in social media or not, you know that you need a strong social media presence to engage with your fans in order to grow your personal brand. You have trouble doing it because you’re worried about giving direct and unguarded access to people that you’ve never met. Compounded by the fact that you’ve been trained by old-school media to present content in a very vanilla fashion…not to offend the public so that your employers can sell ads or product placements. Essentially your employer wants as little of “you” as necessary to discuss X topic so that they can sell Y number of ads. But “you” are the reason that people tune in. People can get information from any number of outlets. They come to the media outlet for you.
If you are going to earn what you’re worth then you’re going to have to open up your life just a bit for the world to see. Don’t be fooled by celebrities that refuse to use social media. They’re artists, not entrepreneurs. Just because a movie star made $20 million for one film doesn’t mean that they’re businesspeople. It means that their agents are. The one exception to this rule that comes to mind is Oprah. Look at influencers that are also business people…LeBron James, Kim Kardashian, Chelsea Handler, Ashton Kutcher. Collectively, they have billions of fans across multiple social networks because they open up their lives just a little bit for the world to see. There is so much scripted, edited and machine-built content in the world today that people crave authenticity and transparency. It’s not necessarily that fans are nosey. It’s because they want to explore other worlds that they may not have access to. And they choose to invest part of their lives through the lenses of influencers.
Millions of entrepreneurs would kill to have the potential audience that you do. Entrepreneurship is hard work, but it’s worth it. You have 80% of the personal brand battle won because you already have a potential audience. Now, you just have to bring your audience along for your ride. Here’s how you build your personal brand as an influencer in three steps to earn what you’re worth.
Build Your Content
Start by developing a content calendar. The content calendar is meant to be a roadmap of where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. On the content calendar, you’re going to write out the topics that you want to discuss on a particular day, week or month. Don’t be too specific and don’t worry about where you will post that content. I will cover that a bit further down. It’s easy to be intimidated by anything that is blank and a content calendar is no different. Do not be overwhelmed by the blankness of the content calendar in front of you. Just start writing out ideas on a piece of paper. Even if you think that they’re dumb to write them down. You never know what dots will be connected once you see your ideas on paper. Write down at least 30 ideas. You should shoot for triple that amount but get at least 30 down. The idea is to build a pipeline of ideas. You need to have a pipeline so that you’re not constantly having to use your mental energy to create new ideas but to execute on the ones that you do have.
Now, let’s put some dates to those ideas. Realistically think about at what time intervals you can create content. Most people tend to overcommit to a content creation schedule. When you’re starting out, I suggest setting the bar low. Don’t commit to creating content every day to start. Start with a few times per week. You can always increase the frequency of your content once you find your groove.
As for where to track these ideas, it’s a matter of personal preference. I’ve seen whiteboards, Franklin Covey planners and even a stack of index cards. The most popular method for content creators is to use a spreadsheet such as Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. I prefer to use a program called CoSchedule because it’s dynamic, shareable and also integrates with the WordPress blogging platform. Whatever you use is fine just start writing down topics at regular intervals on your fresh new content calendar.
This content calendar is important because it will keep you out of binds when you are pressed for time to create content. A content calendar helps reduce the anxiety that you have to be on every social network all of the time. Social media can be intimidating because you feel like you need to be on all of the networks all of the time. This simply isn’t true if you’re smart about your preparation and planning.
Now that you have you have a few ideas for your content, it’s time to execute on them. The mobile device in the palm of your hands will allow you to start creating content wherever you are. Written, audio, still or video formats can all be created from the palm of your hand. The goal in creating content is not a final draft. The goal is to get a sense of how easy it is to create content quickly. Start playing with the media format that you feel comfortable with so that you can get confidence in creating content that is aligned with the ideas on your content calendar. Only create content in media formats that you’re comfortable with and only post content to social networks that are relevant for your personal brand. You do not need to be everywhere at all times.
Distribute Your Content to Relevant Communities
After you’ve built a pipeline of ideas into your content calendar, it’s time to distribute that content to the relevant communities of the digital world. The great thing about social media is that the communities are already built for you. You just have to put your message into the correct communities. For the most part, a relevant community is simply one that plays to the strength of your chosen media format. For instance…for video use Snapchat or Facebook Live… for images use Instagram…for writing use Medium or Twitter…for audio use SoundCloud or iTunes. New social networks arise every day but the ones that I mentioned are likely to be around for a long time. Remember what I said earlier too is that you don’t have to be on all social networks all of the time. Don’t let that anxiety keep you from distributing your personal brand to the communities that want to see your high performing personal brand.
The next part of the distribution step is defining the levels of access that your followers will get to you. Typically, you want to create and distribute content for three types of fans…General Audiences, True Fans and Ambassadors. Your General Audience is the public that knows you in name only but not much more. Your True Fans are people that follow everything that you do. They love your work and will follow you wherever you go. Your Ambassadors are an extremely close-knit group of people that actively spread your work for you. This could range from your mom all the way to a fan that has been following you since the start of your career. Ambassadors are people that you trust and, that short of hurting someone, will stand beside you no matter what you do.
Each type of fan should be able to access you in different ways. For example, your General Audience can interact with you via an email newsletter or your Facebook Fan Page. Your True Fans can follow you on SnapChat, Reddit or Medium. For your Ambassadors, you might set up a private invite-only group on a platform like Slack or maybe host invite-only Blab sessions.
Many influencers avoid social media because they think that they have to respond to everyone that follows them. Nothing is further from the truth. You’re not a customer support center for a major corporation. Your fans are there to see your work not how well you handle their complaints. Your response to your fans comes in the form of your work. It’s one of the reasons that Taylor Swift has an amazing personal brand. She focuses on giving her fans what they want in the form of her music. The evolution of Beyonce is a great case study as well. She started off as part of a group in Destiny’s Child then went onto to have an amazing solo career and now is making art that stirs up controversy. Beyonce’s work only stirs up controversy amongst those that don’t get what she’s trying to do or simply don’t like her. Her fans get her and that’s all that matters. She speaks to her fans through her work.
Your fans want to give you feedback. Social media allows them to give you that feedback. Social media is a practice in transparency that veers off from the traditional ways of building a fan base. The traditional ways used to involve an influencer performing and then the influencer, or their management team, controlling the way that fans responded simply through sales. It doesn’t work that way anymore. Influencers have to work harder for fans attention today but that is good for you because it means your best work is going to rise to the top. But you have to put a lot of work out there for your fans to see. It’s not about the speed at which you put the work out there. It’s about putting enough rough drafts of your work out there to build a beautiful final piece of work.
As an influencer, if you’re not engaging with your fans in social media then your personal brand is dying because you’re essentially creating work in a vacuum hoping that your fans will like your work when you release it. What happens when you release that work and they don’t like it? Then you’ve wasted a tremendous amount of precious time and energy. Time and energy that could have been used testing out your material. If you let your fans speak to you through social media, then you can create a piece of work along with them. In turn, you’ll create amazing work and fans for life.
The illusion is that the influencer no longer has control over their work. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There are no more gatekeepers to keep your work from the world. You control all or as much of it as you wish. What you put into the world is just less scripted. It’s more real. And that is what your fans want. They want access.
Transparency + Authenticity = Fan Access
It’s easy to give your fans access. Just pick a social media network, create a profile and start talking. The first part of giving them access is about being transparent. Transparency does not mean giving your fans access into every single second of your life. It just means a glimpse. Your fans don’t care about what you had for breakfast this morning. Now, if you love ordering a blueberry scone from Starbucks because it reminds you of a pleasant memory you once had, then your fans will care about that. The authenticity portion of this interaction is taken care of with you simply stating, “A blueberry scone from Starbucks always makes me smile because it reminds me of my dad.” That’s it! You’re done. You’ve gained favor with your fans in less than 60 seconds by doing a little extra work to pick up your phone and record the moment.
As an influencer, whether you want to be involved in social media or not, your fans are there. You have a tremendous opportunity to have a conversation with them and create amazing work along with them. Do not let the potential of something bad happening hold you back from earning what you’re worth. There are risks to everything in life. The ones that take those risks are the ones that become great in the world. Social media like everything else in this life is a risk, but it’s a calculated one that will grow your career to the next.