How to be an influencer and get paid for it
Hello again to the blog universe! I haven't written in a long time as there have been quite a couple of new things and changes in our company.
You see, it's not easy being a (young) chief executive. I learn the ropes as things happen, I maximize and make good use of my youthful idealism and energy as we figure things out along the way. I need to remain humble, for I know that there is always something to learn from every single person we meet and work with.
Last night, I was fortunate and honored to be invited by the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP) to a panel discussion on Influencer Marketing, along with industry giants KC Montero of Kumu, Law Tan of Viva Entertainment, mom influencer Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan, Jason Cruz of McCann, and Domz Tiu of Ogilvy.
In that panel, I wasn't able to, but I wanted to share how we get plenty of emails everyday (like, a minimum of 5-10 people, every day!) that go along the lines of:
"Hi! I want to be an influencer. Can you please let me know how?"
"Hello! I want to join your group because I want to be an influencer, as I am very passionate in promoting brands."
"Hey, I want to know how can I be an influencer and get free products?"
It really seems like being an influencer is the ultimate dream job for many individuals old and young alike, and I fear that maybe, many people have misconceptions about influencers and how one becomes such. So this blog entry will be about "How to be an influencer" and hopefully inspire and empower more individuals to step up their influence game. Let's get down to business. :)
I started blogging in 2001 when I was 11 and the internet was a relatively friendly place. That time, there was not any popular/widely-used social network yet, and there were very few bloggers then because it wasn't easy making a blog site. I remember spending a lot of time studying HTML coding and figuring out how Adobe Dreamweaver worked, because I don't think there were drag-and-drop platforms back then. You really have to know HTML (and graphic design) if you want a blog that's not plain-looking. So you see, at the onset, the "barriers to entry" are quite high.
I remember then, the bloggers that had a lot of readers (the "influencers" of that time) were the ones that wrote well and had compelling stories to tell. We didn't have nice photos back then -- we only had VGA phone cameras at best (DSLR cameras only became popular I think around 2005-2007 therabouts), but the popular bloggers always had something unique and interesting to/in them AND they're really good at it, sort of like their "personal branding". Which brings me to point #1.
1. Focus on one thing that you're really, really good at. What do you want to be known for?
When I was still active in blogging, I was an avid follower of Tricia Gosingtian's, Isa Garcia's, and Camille Pilar's blogs.
Even if our personal styles don't match, I followed Tricia because she was so consistent in what she wanted people to see: her "kawaii" aesthetic that really showed her artistic eye and gift of creativity. I have always admired how she's able to dress up "not like everyone else" and embrace that uniqueness, empowering young women to find a style that works for them and embrace it like how she's embraced hers.
Isa and Camille have the gift of eloquence in the written word. I remember reading (and deeply feeling) things they used to write about being more confident and embracing yourself, the beauty and pain of admiring and loving from a distance, the wonders of experiencing romantic love for the first time, and many other real human experiences laid down beautifully.
I can name a couple more bloggers that I really follow and admire even up to know, because I know that they know what they are talking about; i.e., what they say has a lot of weight and I am more likely to believe things that they will say moving forward, because they have proven to be "trustworthy figures" by virtue of being really, really good at what they chose to speak about.
My second point is really all about longevity. And influencers that have real staying power are those that are not only "trustworthy figures" but those that provide real value.
2. Bring VALUE to the audience. Remember the 3 Es: Entertainment, Education, Empowerment.
I know this is a controversial topic -- influencers who are "nothing but" (a sexy body, a pretty face, big boobs, big butt, six-pack abs, crazy antics, kalokohan, etc.) but to me, this is exactly how they bring value to their audience: people follow them because of entertainment value.
I remember following The Soshal Network and Divine Lee very early on, because I appreciate their entertainment value: TSN talking about trending topics with their own jologs spin (one of my favorites was their article about shutter shades back in 2009) and the "mother becky" Divine Lee living the alta life driving around in a Maserati but ever-so-jologs in her blog, declaring her love for daing. Not only do they bring entertainment value, they also bring educational value. Divine now talks about her fitness routine, her skincare regimen, and motherhood! :)
Whenever there's a new gadget released, I will always, always consult Unbox, GadgetMatch, Yugatech, GadgetPilipinas, and TechPinas first -- they are the ones I will first believe, because of the educational value they have provided and proved through the years.
I know a lot of us follow influencers because they are like our friends (aka reachable and relatable), but they have access to things that we do not. In YouTube, I follow vloggers Shea Whitney and Isabelle Ahn, because their usual day-to-day life is so aspirational; they provide empowerment value -- I feel like with their stories, I am able to identify what I want and I really am able to relate with them too in terms of how I want to live my life. You know that feeling of wanting to live your life the way they're living theirs -- their lives are an inspiration AND an aspiration for me!
I've seen how the industry has changed and evolved over the last two decades. Along with the rise of social media, bloggers have become "influencers" and were "commercialized" and treated as content creators and media outfits. This also changed people's perceptions of them and of the industry as a whole.
It's now easy to create a blog site with modern drag-and-drop platforms. No need to know HTML or any coding language!
Microblogging platforms emerged, attention spans decreased, subsequently decreasing the appeal of long form text content.
Internet penetration is better; democratization of content creation allowed more individuals to express their individuality and easily distribute their content online, resulting to a greater quantity of influencers in many different niches.
Attention of people shifted from traditional forms of media to digital and contemporary forms, resulting to shifts and reallocations in terms of ad & media spending of companies.
In short, from starting purely out of passion without intention of making money (at least for the pioneers), influencers are now being paid. Because of this financial implications, influencers also need to focus on point #3.
3. Understand how business works: How can you move the needle for the brand?
Brands have started to utilize social media influencers in their advertising & PR activities. In the business sense, this means that influencers are now actually part of the budget appropriation of a company. When you are in business, you actually have two (2) major goals: increase revenue and decrease expenses, all bearing in mind that the ultimate objective is to increase shareholder value. Knowing this, influencers must:
Work with the brand, knowing they are a business. Remember that without them, there will be no cash in the bank! The brand is your client and we all must work aligning with the client's business objectives. It's always a value exchange, where the value to the client must always be greater than the amount they pay!
Know the goals of the campaign and how you can help the brand achieve them -- it can't be just using their products for a pretty photo or even think that you're doing them a favor by posting about them. Remember: in this business transaction, the influencer is a service provider, so we should always come at the heart of service.
Some new influencers go out of their way to get free products, but remember, there is no such thing as free lunch!
In case it didn't quite catch on, businesses put money into this, so they expect a decent return on their investment, or what they call as the ROI. It's cool when you know you can raise awareness for the brand, but when we talk about longevity and staying power, we talk about individuals who are able to move the needle for the brand.
The bottom line is: if you want to be an influencer and get paid for it, you have to understand that it is WORK, and hence, you have to think of it in terms of professionalism, skill, talent, effort, and a fair value exchange. You have to be confident about what you can bring to the table, proving it with track record and solid bankable experience.
It's not about the follower count nor is it about the likes and comments you get. Being an influencer -- that is, one that has real staying power -- means knowing deep down your solid answers to these questions:
1. What are you good at?
2. What value do you bring?
3. How can you help move the needle for the brand?
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