Influencer marketing is quickly on the rise as one of the hottest trends in marketing and advertising today, and those in the affiliate channel already have a leg up in influencer marketing. However, with influencer marketing becoming so popular, many will be looking for ways on how to become an influencer, or new strategies to pick up on what they’re already doing. In this best practices article, we review 11 tips on how to start from scratch as an influencer – from finding a community and developing yourself as an influencer, to ways you can expand and track your results.

Influencer marketing may be the fastest growing trend in digital marketing currently, and the affiliate channel has a great opportunity to start leveraging this trend now. That’s because many content publishers in affiliate marketing may be influencers and not even know it! Whether you’re a content publisher that’s well established, or you’re just starting out in your publishing efforts, influencer marketing is as new an aspect to publishing as it is vital to your affiliate success.

This blog post will walk you through 11 fundamentals of influencer marketing – from how to get started as an influencer and building your brand, to addressing pain points and expanding your reach.

1. Find Your Community
The very first thing you need to do if you want to become an influencer is learning about the community you’re looking to influence! For example, say you’re looking to become an influencer for fans of comic book culture. That alone is a broad, broad community with members having a range of interests. “Comic books” might be too broad of a topic, but “shows made in the 1970s based on comic book sidekicks” might be too niche of a community. You’ll want to get as specific as you can without pigeon-holing yourself. You can do this by asking yourself questions about the community you’re looking to influence as well as seeing what interests you (are you into the television adaptations of comic books? Real life lore that inspired superheroes and their world? Do you want to talk about the latest issues from a particular publisher?). You’ll find that there are many different types of communities that all fall under the topic you’re interested in, so do your best to learn as much as you can about them and find the community you want to be a part of!

2. Learn Their Lingo
What separates an influencer from other types of ambassadors? Authenticity. Being authentic means several different things (which we’ll get into over the course of this post) but, first and foremost, you must be able to speak the lingo of the community. Does your selected community use certain abbreviations? Do they refer to certain things with nicknames? Do they use specific hashtags on social media over other ones? (That one’s extra important!) Being able to speak to your community authentically will give credibility to your name and create more opportunities for interaction.

3. Share Relevant Content That’s Not Just Yours
When you’re first starting out as an influencer you will likely have ideas for types of content you’d like to create or have already created. Naturally, you’ll want to share this content with your community because you want to build your credibility/personal brand, and you want to make sure your community sees your hard work! This is good, but you shouldn’t limit yourself to sharing only your content. If you find an interesting video, an exciting piece of news, or anything else that might be of interest to your community, share it! Talk about why you liked that piece of content that isn’t yours, and if you’re sharing on social media be sure to tag the creator as well. Not only will you be building a personal brand by doing so (demonstrating you look at and share content that interests the community regardless if it’s yours or not), you’ll also be establishing yourself among your peers who might be a part of the same of closely related communities!

4. Produce Content that Fits Your Content Platform
Content comes in all different mediums and formats these days. Whether you’re a microblogger on Twitter, a photographer on Instagram, curator on Pinterest, video creator on YouTube, or blogger on one of the many platforms out there, you can bet there’s an opportunity for influencers interested in any medium. The challenge you’ll have is making sure you’re producing content that A) fits the platform you’re using, and B) has the ability to engage your community. Know what your strengths and limitations are as a content creator, know what platform leverages those strengths, and make sure your community is active/will use that platform.

5. Be Personable and Personal with Your Community
Now that you’ve found your community, identified how they communicate, found and created shareable content, you should start communicating with them. Start interweaving yourself into the fabric of the community by reaching out to members, starting discussions, and contributing to conversations taking place. Be active, and – more importantly – be authentic. Be candid when you engage with your community the same way you would socialize at a barbecue or a dinner party. If you have a personal anecdote on the topic you’re discussing with them, share it!

6. Respond!
You will start interacting with the community, and sure enough something miraculous will happen in return – they’ll start interacting with you on their own accord! Maybe they found your content from posting it, maybe they started to recognize your presence, or maybe they just happened to notice a tweet you posted with a particular hashtag. Whatever the cause, members of the community are now engaging with you, so you need to do the right thing and engage with them. This advice seems intuitive but you’ll be surprised at how many interactions can fall by the wayside when you have multiple points of interaction across multiple platforms. It’s extra challenging when you consider how social media has altered our communication expectations to be more immediate. Despite that, you must be disciplined about this. The responsibility of an influencer is to be a member of the community and have a voice, and that voice can’t be heard if you’re not talking to members of the community.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Have a Fresh Take
At some point, something might happen within the community that they have an opinion on that differs from yours. Going back to the earlier example, it might be something as asinine as “we don’t like this casting choice for [character] in this movie” or it could be something a little more serious. You, however, might feel differently. If your opinion differs then don’t be afraid to share it. Use the opportunity to demonstrate that not only are you a member of this community, but you don’t have to agree with them on everything to provide a well thought out counter perspective. This will create a discussion if done well, and gives you a chance to have an open dialogue about your perspectives. This also opens the opportunity to create more content that validates their perspective in a respectful way while still showing your alternative opinion.

8. Always Maintain Composure
While the previous point highlights an ideal situation when having a contrasting opinion, you’ll find that there will always be people in a community who will take things a little too far and respond rudely, combatively, or with a personal attack. It is – and this can’t be stressed enough – so crucial you do not let it become a personal sparring match. Look at the bigger picture and focus on what you offer the community and the positive individuals in it, rather than getting caught up with one or two people. It is hard. You will feel like it’s personal because they will try to make it personal. You will want to respond because they’re attacking your perspective or some content you created. Constructive feedback on how to do better is fine, someone being rude should be ignored. Do not let these community members get the better of you. Focus on the big picture, remember why you’re doing this, and demonstrate that you’re as mature an influencer as you are an insightful one.

9. Stay Humble
As your personal brand starts to grow and you become a prominent influencer in the community, it will be easy to have your ego inflate a bit. That’s nothing to get concerned over – after all, who doesn’t like the recognition and adornment of people from a community? – but it is important that you handle that attention with humility. This goes back to the importance of an influencers authenticity. It’s hard to be authentic if it seems like suddenly you’re “above” or “too important” for your community, and you can lose credibility and find it harder to be an influencer as time goes on. Stay rooted and avoid buying into your own hype!

10. Work with Other Influencers
Depending on the community you’re a part of, you may have the opportunity to work with other influencers in the community or in another community that closely relates to your own. If you have the opportunity to work with them, take advantage of it. Whether it’s joining them on a podcast they produce, participating in a YouTube video, or even writing a guest post for their blog, this is one opportunity you’ll want to seize. Not only will working with other influencers expand your brand to other communities, it will lend credibility to your own name and work. Doing so also adds an element of community to influencers that people love seeing because it shows authenticity.

11. Track What Works
Everything, no matter how authentic, personable, or engaging, comes back to one important practice: tracking your results. Your role as an influencer is to make sure that you’re sharing authentic, valuable perspectives with your community, and the only way you’ll know if you’re doing that is if you look at the hard data behind what you’re posting. Use shares, comments, impressions, and reach as some key metrics on social media platforms, and be sure to evaluate your SEO practices for content. It may also be helpful to track submissions over time to ensure you’re gaining more followers – not losing.

Use these tactics to start developing yourself as an influencer in a community, and over time you can leverage affiliate partnerships as well. Influencers are becoming increasingly more important in marketing, and affiliate marketing provides a natural fit for influencers to work with advertisers. Whether you’re a seasoned publisher or just starting out, start building a plan on how to you can become a better influencer among your own audience today!