How Do You Know if You're Influencer Material?
The capacity or power of persons to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.
I love how we live in a time where someone can choose a topic they enjoy, write about it, photograph it, record themselves talking about it, share it, build a community around it, and make money doing it. For influencers using the digital space, there are far fewer barriers to entry for banking off of your creative capital than there used to be. But just because the door to Instagram fame is cracked open doesn’t mean everyone is ready to stroll on through. Plus, I think many of us are so used to seeing the end result of influencers who have found astronomical success in the digital space and beyond that we don’t even realize the sort of dedication, strategy and, of course, failure that’s involved in the journey. Listen, you’re not going to be Luvvie Ajayi within your first 3 months of pop culture commentating, so don’t even psyche yourself out. But if you’re serious about building your brand as an influencer, or even just dabbling in the idea, here are my key questions to consider.
1. DO YOU REALLY HAVE A POINT OF VIEW?
Influencer. Wave-maker. Thought leader. These are all terms used to describe people who captivate and inspire an audience with their personal tastes and ideas. But we know what they say about opinions, right? So what does it take to be part of the select few who cross the threshold into having a valued and sought-after perspective? You need to stand for something if your audience is going to fall for you. And I mean get real comfy in your stance, whatever it may be.
A couple of my favorite current influencers are Kid Fury and Crissle of my go-to podcast for my morning commute, The Read. They’re a Black queer BFF duo that’s bold, brash and unapologetically well-versed in trash. When you listen to The Read, you’re really just eavesdropping on a couple of friends talking shit. But I keep coming back for their candid infusion of pop culture news, politics, odes to Black entertainment staples and a couple of running jokes (like whenever they go off on lengthy, ridiculous impressions of Blue Ivy and North West). The format is simple. But what works is that, within a few episodes, you feel familiar with these people. You know which celebrities they love and which celebrities they shade relentlessly. You know that their sarcasm and quick-witted metaphors know no bounds. And you should know whether you love it or hate it.
A great influencer will not hesitate to establish their point of view on a topic or industry that impassions them. So, if you don’t have a point of view that you feel committed to yet - if you can’t state your values or articulate your tastes without back-peddling and second-guessing yourself - you ain’t ready. Get to know yourself better, because the digital space is as critical as it is accessible.
2. DO YOU HAVE THE DEDICATION TO BUILD AND ENGAGE A COMMUNITY?
Successful influencers don’t have the luxury of being sometime-y. If you’re a vlogger, you’re going to have to keep producing quality video content. If you’re a fashion blogger, you’re going to have to make fresh, on-brand style statements everywhere you go. If you’re a travel writer, you’d better stay on the move and keep your camera charged up. Becoming an influencer on an independent platform requires commitment to your persona and the patience to build your following over a long period of time.
But on top of maintaining your persona, you need to feel energized to talk about yourself or your expertise often, and also listen to the ways your audience and network respond to you. Being an active listener also means that you take notice when your audience is NOT responding to you. If you’re too sensitive to grapple with constant feedback, you ain’t ready.
3. DO YOU HAVE A PLAN TO MAKE MONEY?
If you’re going to put in the effort to build your platform, have an endgame in mind. Do you have more than one idea for how to monetize your influence? Do you have the professionalism and business savvy that you’ll need in order to partner with notable brands or create profitable products if the opportunities present themselves? Being an influencer means being intentional about how you leverage your image and persona. You can stumble upon 15 minutes of fame and then disappear into the graveyard of cyber one hit wonders, or you can envision and plan for longevity. Think you have what it takes to be the next big tastemaker taking over the Interwebs? Check out my post 8 Steps Before You Start Your Brand Design for some pointers on getting started. More power to you! #BrandOnPurpose