Influencers represent one of the best ways to start or grow a social media following for your business. By definition, influencers are social media users who have already established a reputation of their own and are engaged enough in the community to persuade members of their own followings to follow other accounts. In short, if you can win the attention of a social media influencer, you’ll gain instant favor with a portion of his/her audience, greatly increasing yours in the process.
But not all influencers are the same. Some are more likely to help you out with a favor, while others are more aloof, and some have passionate, dedicated followings, while others tend to accumulate drifters. So how can you tell these types of influencers apart?
There are seven main types of influencers I’ve encountered, and you need to know how they operate before you get too deep into a social influencer strategy:
The CEO didn’t exactly ask for a social following. He was on Twitter and LinkedIn, and once he became the CEO of a widely recognized company, he instantly started accumulating new followers and new respect. Alternatively, perhaps he didn’t create an account until he was well into his CEO tenure. Either way, the CEO doesn’t post often and doesn’t log on often. His following is largely the result of his position, and beyond his control. Getting his attention is hard, since you’ll be competing with many for a timeslot in an already busy schedule, but his level of respectability is hard to match, making him a quality influencer.
The networker, on the other hand, took great efforts to build her following from nothing. Regardless of her position, she’s always at the center of her community, attending networking events, getting to know other major players, and trying to connect with new people whenever she can. Whenever she meets someone, she connects with them on social media, and often meets new people on social media too. As a result, her network is extremely large, and it’s full of contacts who have a personal connection with her (even if it’s at a distance). She posts often, and her followers are more than willing to listen to her requests.
The blogger built a similarly sized audience, but he did so in a much more passive way. Rather than reaching out for connections, the blogger simply wrote with such quality and frequency that he ended up earning the respect of an entire industry (or community). Generally, the blogger starts on a “home base” blog and gradually earns more features on high-authority publication channels. Because of the strength of his work, each new post helps his following to grow. The blogger isn’t as deeply engaged with his following as the networker, but his followers are all interested in him and they respect him nearly as much as they would a CEO. He’s also liable to grant favors, especially if one of those favors is a guest spot in an article he’s writing.
The rockstar has more raving fans, passively earned, than either the networker or the blogger. Her audience is comprised of people who admire her for her personality as much as her accomplishments. Generally, the rockstar makes more personal social posts than the other influencers we’ve seen, posting pictures of family events and making asides about her daily life. Still, she carries much respect in the industry. She’s less likely to share your content, but if she does, her followers will undoubtedly read it. With the rockstar, you’re trading increased influence for a lower chance of actually connecting.
The maven has earned a reputation as an expert in the field through no special circumstances. He doesn’t hold a particular position, he isn’t charismatic, he doesn’t write often, and he doesn’t go out of his way to connect with people. Instead, his posts are few and far between, but the posts he does make are so impactful that his entire audience listens acutely. Like with the rockstar, it will be more difficult to get the maven to post on your behalf—after all, he has a nearly perfect reputation—but his followers are so passionate, a good word from him could be all you need to become an influencer in your own right.
“Summertime” isn’t the best word here, but it’s the most appropriate one I could think of. The summertime player uses social media in fits and spurts. Rather than maintaining a strict posting schedule or just getting online regularly, she’ll go through phases of high intensity and low intensity. If you’re looking to get a portion of her audience, just make sure you reach out to her when she’s undergoing one of her more active streaks.
The businessman, for our purposes, is you. He’s interested in using social media as a means of gaining a better reputation and seeing some end result, whether that’s increased traffic, new leads, or career opportunities. He’s on his way up, so his following isn’t as strong as some of the other ones we’ve seen, but he’s more than willing to connect and trade favors—as long as it yields some small benefit for him. Businessmen are great influencers to work with because they’re almost always willing to help you out, as long as you help them out a little too.
Learn to recognize the signs of these seven influencers. There’s no such thing as a “bad” influencer, so don’t be fooled into overall avoidance. Instead, understand what each of these types desires in a social landscape, and try to make it worth their while to help you out.