To have monetary success online, you must be “an influencer.”
If you can’t “influence” people to pull out their wallet and spend their hard-earned cash on your products (or products you recommend), then you won’t make money online.
So how do you become an influencer?
Step 1: Make content expecting nothing in return.
You have to make something (anything) to have success on the web.
You have to write blog posts, post photos on Instagram, vlog on YouTube, pin on Pinterest, record a podcast,
CREATE SOMETHING – ANYTHING.
But you CAN’T do nothing.
Nothing won’t work.
I’ve tried it for years and let me spare you the trouble.
It won’t work.
Once you start producing content, you can’t expect anything in return.
At least not yet.
And not for a long time.
It’s easier to simply produce content and forget about what you might get in return.
As Henry David Thoreau says:
Success usually comes to those who are too busy looking for it.
So get busy creating content and let success come looking for you.
Step 2: Create high-quality content.
When you first start producing content, it will be bad.
It will be bad compared to the people who have been producing content for years, and that’s OK.
They’ve had years of practice.
It will also be bad compared to what you will be able to make in the future.
And that’s OK too (as long as you work to make your content better and better).
How do you make your content better?
If you’re a blogger, you painstakingly edit for typos.
You do several takes to get the perfect shot if you’re a vlogger.
You tweak your photos in photo editing apps to get the lighting just right if you’re a photographer.
And you need to do this over and over again so that you become faster and better at creating high-quality content.
Step 3: Produce a lot of content.
What do James Altucher, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Neil Patel have in common?
They are all highly successful web influencers and they produce TONS of content.
James Altucher has written 17 books* and counting.
He’s answered 850+ questions on Quora.
And he’s written thousands of blog posts. (source)
Gary Vaynerchuk has written 5 books* and counting.
He’s spoken at hundreds of conferences.
And he’s made thousands of social media posts. (source)
At one point in Patel’s career, he was writing a high-quality blog post every single day.
Now he usually writes at least twice a week between Quicksprout and neilpatel.com
Neil has also written a book* and has spoken at several conferences.
These guys are ALWAYS producing content.
And they’re wildly successful web influencers as a result.
Step 4: Make content over a long period of time.
Producing a volume of high-quality content isn’t enough.
You need to create it over a long period of time.
As you do this, it becomes only a matter of time until you start becoming a web influencer.
How much time?
That is always the question.
And no one can definitively answer that because no one can predict the future.
But we can look to other’s success stories to get an idea.
John Lee Dumas made a podcast every single day for 9 months straight before making a dime.
In his first year of business in 2012, he made $26,000.
Now he regularly makes six figures a month!
Personal development and fitness blogger Victor Pride made nothing his first year of blogging.
He made $15,000 his 2nd year blogging.
And $1 million total after 4 years of blogging. (source)
The YouTube channel Primitive Technology makes approximately $5 million a year on 29 videos after 2 years in existence. (source)
Ivory Ella, a clothing company with a large Instagram audience, has pledged to give 10% of net profits to philanthropic causes.
They started business in 2015 and donated $600,000 to charity by 2016.
So they made ~$6,000,000 roughly one year after their start. (source)
Even in these edge-case stories of extreme success, success took at least months of consistent work.
And for every success story, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of less than successful business ventures.
But if you consistently produce high-quality content over a long period of time,
You will stack the odds of becoming a successful web influencer in your favor.
Step 5: Borrow the influencer power of others.
Following the above steps will put you on the path to web influencer success.
But you can fast-track your success by borrowing the influencer status of others.
The way you do this varies from platform to platform.
For blogs, borrowing the influence of others means getting a link from an influencer to your blog.
Or guest posting on a popular blog.
On Pinterest, you borrow the influence of others by joining group boards managed by other influencers.
For most other social media, it means shout-outs:
(Getting influencers with already established audiences to mention your profile and send some of their audience to it.)
Shout outs are how Neil Patel grew both his Instagram and Facebook audiences.
Shay Carl Butler first got traction for his YouTube empire that lead to a billion-dollar deal with Disney after receiving shout-outs from other popular vloggers. (source)
And John Lee Dumas was an early adopter of podcast shout-outs.
He asked those he interviewed to promote his show to their audience which in turn grew Dumas’ audience quickly.
The mechanics of leveraging the influence of others will evolve with our platforms.
But the principle of influencer marketing is here to stay.
How to Effectively Leverage Influencer Marketing
As influencer marketing has become more wide-spread, its effectiveness has waned.
Ryan Holiday wrote an article about how podcasters now abuse the once novel shout-out method that rocketed John Lee Dumas’ podcast to success.
Holiday mentions that many podcasters rely exclusively on the marketing efforts of the interviewee to promote their podcast episode.
This in turn causes fewer interviewees to want to promote podcasts to their audiences.
(Or appear on podcasts at all.)
And thus more and more influencer marketing requests for podcast interviewees fall on deaf ears.
Unfortunately, this is how most marketing methods evolve.
First, someone comes up with an effective marketing method.
Then word gets out about it.
And suddenly everyone is using (and abusing) this marketing method until it’s no longer (as) effective.
Even so, influencer marketing is still powerful.
You simply must be strategic in how you approach it.
Here’s how to leverage influencer marketing to turn yourself into an influencer when you don’t have an audience.
Step 5A: Follow steps 1-4 above
You can’t ask influencers to promote your work (or become an influencer yourself) if you don’t have any work.
So start by consistently producing high-quality content.
The more high-quality content you have, the more likely influencers will listen to your requests.
Step 5B: Scale Up the Influencers You Approach
“In the movie, The Social Network, when Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin meet Sean Parker for lunch, they explain how to attract students from Baylor (a college that already had their own social network) to Facebook, by putting Facebook on the campuses of all the schools within 100 miles of Baylor first.” (source)
This is the same concept you should use to leverage influencer marketing.
If you’re like me, you probably want to go after the biggest influencers first.
Having a large influencer mention your brand can quickly catapult you to success.
This is why I’ve personally tried guest posting for major publications like Entrepreneur, Inc, and Forbes.
And (surprise surprise) my requests went unanswered.
Why didn’t they get back to me?
Probably because I’m a no-namer blogger (for now).
I’m sure there are a handful of guest posting opportunities I could obtain.
But they would be for blogs with MUCH smaller audiences.
And that’s OK.
Everyone has to start somewhere with influencer marketing.
So don’t make the same mistake I did of going after the biggest influencers in your field when just beginning.
Instead, start small with your influencer outreach.
Look for influencer marketing opportunities to put your work in front of small audiences.
It’s better than your audience of zero when first beginning.
As you begin to have success with influencer marketing, you can gradually scale up the influencers you approach.
And eventually, if you’ve built a solid audience through B and C level influencers, you can begin approaching A level influencers for outreach.
And who knows?
They might even start approaching you.
Step 5C: Leverage the fact that success is a numbers game.
Success in marketing (and in life) is a numbers game.
So the more you try, the more likely you will have success.
Or as the saying goes:
The harder you work, the luckier you get.
This means that you must approach many influencer marketing opportunities to have just one or two work out.
For instance, Neil Patel says you should expect ~5% success rate when reaching out to authoritative websites asking for a link back to your site.
(In my personal experience, I’ve had more like a 1% or 2% success rate for backlink outreach.)
Or when reaching out to Pinterest group board owners asking to join the board, you have to send several e-mails before getting accepted to just one board.
Knowing this will help temper you expectations.
It will likely take hundreds of outreach attempts before you start getting traction.
Hang in there and remember, success is a marathon, not a sprint.
This is how I understand the path to becoming a successful web influencer according to those who have “made it.”
What do you think is necessary for becoming an online influencer?
I’d love to hear about it in the comments.