How do you really win fans, and more importantly influence people?
Over the years I have seen and helped a lot of seemingly successful people “monetize their audience”.
Many friends in the hobby niches I hang out in seem to be successful in business but aren’t financially successful. They might do ok, but they are not really running what I would call a sustainable business.
They might be “social media influencers”, for example, who have a massive audience on TikTok or Instagram. Or they might have a huge YouTube channel or podcast, getting lots and lots of listeners and viewers.
The question I always ask is … Do you have a platform, a product, or an actual business?
A major problem is their channel is built on someone else’s platform, their monetization requires that the audience stick around and that the other party pays up, and when it comes to assets nothing is truly theirs in a real legal sense.
This isn’t especially new in the world of selling attention and creativity of course.
What Is An Influencer Anyway?
Influencer Definition: An influencer is an individual who has the ability to affect the purchase decisions of others due to their authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with their audience.
Influencers are typically found within a specific niche, and they engage with a large number of followers on social media platforms. They have the power to influence trends and the purchasing behaviors of their audience due to their perceived authenticity and the trust they’ve built with their followers.
The influence of these individuals comes from their expertise in a specific industry, their reputation, or their relationship with their followers. This influence can be utilized by businesses for influencer marketing, where influencers promote or endorse products, services, or initiatives on behalf of a brand.
There are various types of influencers, ranging from micro-influencers with a few thousand followers to mega-influencers with millions of followers. Each type has its own advantages in terms of audience engagement and marketing potential.
Fame is Not Authority and Audience Size and Freebies Do Not a Business Make
I’m even including my own side projects in that “look successful but aren’t really” category right now, as I will describe later.
You see, we associate one or two visible metrics with success. We compare our behind-the-scenes with their “showreel” as they say.
So let’s today pull back the curtain on the “looks successful” enterprise and compare it with how an “actually successful business” is built.
Results versus what we observers might mistake for success.
The Fake Influencer Business Model
The obvious not-success-but-looks-like-it we all know about is the famous “influencer”.
We assume with such a large platform they must be rich, or at least doing very well financially, and with that large income of course they have put that surplus income into a thriving business.
But it’s not true for possibly most influencers that you see.
Did you know even the Kardashians were almost broke when they started out? A true “fake it until you make it” situation. They spent lavishly on credit cards, calling in favors, anything they could to make it appear that they were living their best lives until reality caught up with their fantasy and they started earning big bucks.
Visibility is not necessarily correlated with income.
A platform is a huge asset, having a lot of reach and visibility would definitely give you a head start, but a shocking number of big social media superstars are relying on either a day job or sponsorships/advertising, and not making as much as you would think.
What matters more is influence and conversions – and that is what made the Kardashians famous AND wealthy in the end. When they recommend something people go out and buy it.
Real Success is Repeatable, Famous is Fleeting
Another type of not-really-successful is where the person has “made it” with no follow-up. Or was riding high and then not being able to sustain that success.
This is the category that my Maker Hacks site is in. During the 3D printer gold rush, my site was doing very well, ranking first page and better for lots of $$$keywords$$$ and I was selling digital products around 3D printing … and then my main merchant went bankrupt, I failed to keep my products updated with the changes in the field, and my email vendor had issues …. blah.
All my own fault for taking my eye off of things until it was too late.
So while the site still makes some money, and I still rank fairly well for some still useful phrases, it is not a real business. Heck, if it wasn’t for my beloved laser cutters it would only really be described as a hobby.
A lot of Kickstarters are like this. A successful campaign, lots of income all at once, maybe deliver on promises, maybe even on time, then … not all Kick-started businesses remain in business.
It’s kind of like the “difficult second album”. Not a given and harder than it looks.
People Should Anticipate Good Things
Speaking of the second album, what is the difference between a book, TV show, or franchise movie that you can’t wait for the next installment, and one where you feel “meh” if at all?
The expectation of reward.
Fond memories of past experiences.
Now think of all the people who are putting time, money, and effort into building out fully automated marketing channels. Do you think people will feel the love from those highly optimized production-line-produced “generated content pieces”?
Turn Fame into Influence
It doesn’t matter how many fans you have or how you acquired them, what really matters is the impact you have on every person you come in contact with.
You are either valuable, or at minimum nice to be around, or you are wasting everyone’s time at best.
This is why dirty SEO tricks and fake engagement bait on social media will only ever work short term. Once you have burned out the total approachable market of “marks”, you are done.
Instead of building more and more attention, instead, try and make each engagement pay off massively for the person you attracted. Get them to take small actions that are super-rewarding, and then another, and another.
When people see that taking your advice is not just worthwhile but advisable then you have authority and influence.
Turn Authority Into a Business
How does an authority convert?
Once you have visibility and trust then you need to create business systems for these three things:
- Acquire customers – Unless you only ever want a one-time launch, then you need systems for constantly acquiring new, paying customers, and not just sales either, but customers. Visitors aren’t customers, email subscribers aren’t customers, and while cash is lovely, it’s better to have been paid AND know who your customer is. This is why my books on Amazon were good for my reputation but didn’t directly grow my customer list.
- Onboard the customers – One of the many, many ways the “get rich quick” crowd burned their reputations was by having massive launches and then leaving their customers to figure things out (or more likely get confused and demand refunds). Onboarding is a lot more than sending out a receipt or a welcome message.
- Keep the customers loyal – Onboarding is just the start of keeping your customers happy. People are MUCH more likely to write a bad review or tell someone bad things about you than spread good news. If you do the bare minimum when delivering on your promises you are even less likely to get those great testimonials, case studies, advocates, and referrals. Want to get your customers to upgrade or spend more with you in other ways? You better deliver way more than promised.
What Not to Do in Influencer Marketing
Notice I didn’t say “Immediately hit them with an offer after offer, up-sell after up-sell”. If your foundations are shaky then you will just accelerate your business into a ditch.
I didn’t speak yet about diversifying with multiple income streams either.
Raising your prices should always be earned, and by all means reduce your costs to increase your margins, so long as your quality doesn’t take a hit and your customers always receive the value they paid for.
Other than raising your prices and increasing your margin, the main ways to grow are:
- Lifetime value (LTV) and share of the customer – Sell more to existing customers
- Share of the market – Sell more to more new customers, and grow your percentage of the total addressable market pie.
Influencer Business Bottom line
You need your own assets. If another company name is in your asset, such as “YouTube” channel, “Etsy” store, or “Instagram” Profile, then it is not YOUR asset.
It doesn’t matter if you have an Etsy, an email newsletter, a blog or a podcast, if all you have is a marketing channel and no customer database (that you are actively nurturing), you need to get on that right now before it all goes away!