Having a strong online influence is like having a megaphone in one hand and a crystal ball in the other. It gives you the knowledge to anticipate what your audience wants while simultaneously connecting consumers to resources, products or services that matter to them. Thus, you are able to bolster your brand.
Sounds good, right? But how do you go about building online influence? According to Leonard Kim, managing partner at InfluenceTree, like everything else in life, online influence won’t happen overnight.
Developing online influence is not about luck or happenstance. Just as you build your personal brand or create a business, your online influence must be carefully cultivated, and it will take hard work -- and little strategy -- to be successful. Here are some of Kim’s top tips on building influence online.
1. Build your foundation.
To build your influence, you have to start from the ground up. That means constructing a solid foundation first. According to Kim, you need to have a strong presence online so people can see you and find you. They need to be able to put a face to your name, so have professional photos taken of yourself.
“If you haven’t already, you must get yourself established on social media pages,” said Kim. “Also, make sure you claim your website domain name. If possible, don’t let anybody else own your name online but you.”
Then it’s time to launch your blog and start email capture.
2. Discover your brand.
One of the biggest obstacles entrepreneurs face is the disconnect between how they see themselves and how the world sees them. To counteract this, Kim recommends giving post-it notes to everyone in your network and having them write down one word that best describes you. Compare those descriptors to how you want yourself to be portrayed and you will see what you need to work on for your own brand.
“After you do this, the next step would be to identify the market you want to target, the problem they face and the solution you offer,” Kim explained.
He recommends getting your pitch down to three sentences, then to one sentence and finally cutting it down to three words.
3. Be personable.
There is a simple “Golden Rule” that everyone should follow in business and in life: Don’t be a jerk. Kim says it’s pretty straightforward. "It’s okay to highlight your successes, as long as you’re a real person with real interests.”
It sounds simple enough, but too often entrepreneurs get caught up in building their image as a fortress of success. They focus only on their achievements, thinking that showing their failures or missteps will undermine their image. According to Kim, this is inadvisable.
Kim began building his brand by highlighting his failures, what he learned from them and how he grew from those experiences. People responded to his openness and frankness. It made him likeable and approachable, and led to his further success.
4. Position your brand.
If your reputation as a brand doesn’t reflect who you really are, you are going to miss opportunities or get handed the wrong opportunities. That’s why it’s important to position your brand correctly.
“Take elements from other experts in your field whom you respect and compare them to your brand,” Kim said. He recommends taking a close look at the gap between your reputation as a brand and your vision for your brand. This will give you a good indication of what changes need to be made.
Look at what you can do to change people’s perceptions of your brand. Do your bios on social media accurately reflect who you are? Are they highlighting your interests?
Start using the keywords you want people to associate with you. If you want to be seen in a certain light or as an authority on certain subjects, then show that to your audience through your words and actions. Your ability to influence others will follow.
5. Create a heatmap for your audience.
To better understand who your audience is and how to target them, create a heatmap of their interests.
A heatmap is like a cross table or spreadsheet that uses colors instead of numbers. It allows you to visualize large amounts of multidimensional data. “It will help you understand what kind of people already follow and engage with you,” Kim explained. “This also helps you identify who to target.”
He explained that you can also do the same with your competitors. Research their target audience and map out their interests and habits online. Then you can collect information on their followers and potentially market to this existing group through content that has a higher chance of engaging with them.
6. Study what works.
Pay attention to what kind of content is most successful. Look at what goes viral. Kim suggests that you try to understand what makes that content stand out. Is there a way to reverse engineer that success?
For instance, when memes start to gain popularity or topics start trending, the reaction is to generate more of the same. Memes are often based on ideas that spread and are reproduced on social media.
So if you see content that is wildly popular, try to trace its evolution. How did the idea behind the content grow to this point? Understanding these fundamentals will help you understand what works and what doesn’t.
7. Give it everything you’ve got.
Just as your brand can’t be built in a hasty or superficial way, becoming an influencer doesn’t happen overnight.
“You have to give it your all,” Kim said. “Tell engaging stories, write interesting lists, create powerful images, produce emotional or vivid video.” Whatever you do, don’t go halfway with anything you produce.
8. Engage with your audience.
Producing interesting content will get your audience interested, but you need to follow through. You have to engage your audience on a deeper level and build relationships with them.
“You have to comment on other people’s pages, not just your own,” Kim explained. “And then respond to comments. Doing this helps you connect with your audience and build relationships.”
9. Get featured in publications.
Another key element to engaging your audience is getting seen. An excellent way to do this is by being featured in publications that your audience reads or views online. “These publications may be through news websites or on other people’s blogs or personal websites,” Kim said.
You’ll first need to learn the ins and outs of how those publications work. According to Kim, it’s important to produce content that fits well with their platforms while still highlighting who you are. And don’t forget to network and build a relationship with the publications’ gatekeepers: those who can help you get published on their site.
10. Stack your successes.
Each small success is part of your bigger success story. You can build up all your little achievements to create a compelling whole.
In stacking your successes, you are compounding your wins and amplifying your accomplishments. “The best way to stack your successes online is by knowing how to use social media features and strategies to boost your engagement with others on platforms like Facebook,” Kim said.
Using certain features on social media will give you access to more features, which will then allow you to interact and engage with more people. Another simple tip is to use a $1 a day ad strategy to help boost your posts on platforms like Facebook.
At the end of the day, building influence is more of a skill than a gift. That means it’s something we all can and should be practicing.