Always remember that reach is vanity, engagement is sanity and relationships are reality.

Before web 2.0 and the rise of social media (this was back in the late 90's), influence was exclusive to a privileged few who held unrivaled sway over public opinion. Prominent personalities in politics, CEOs, leaders of prominent NGOs and movement activist celebrities just to name a few.

Today, individuals on social media get to pick and choose who and what they listen to and those who once had little chance of being heard can now broadcast their messages across the world. The internet gave everyone a voice to be heard.

Influencers are now niche promoters and brand advocates that are active on social media sites and blogs AND brands are now naturally hungry to take advantage of this phenomenon. Brands will seek to turn that influence into a marketing opportunity but aren’t always sure how best to go about this.

For influence to take place, the influencer needs to behave authentically and when communicating about or on behalf of a brand. The balance between being seen as an another advertisement and someone that is being paid to recommend a product in a credible way is often misunderstood and the value in using influence marketing lost.

There are 5 key understandings that allow you to understand what brands are looking for in your profile as an influencer:

  1. Context:
    There are no one influencer that fits all brands because, first and foremost, they are a contextual fit. This is the most important characteristic when they are looking for the right influencers for their campaigns.

    The example I always use is that Justin Bieber can’t sell insurance without looking like a fraud to his followers because they are teenager girls who aren’t interested in that.

  2. Reach:
    Defined as the size of the audience or the number of followers the influencer has on a particular platform. Influence describes the ability to affect action from within that audience. When Reach and Context work together, you have success.

  3. Actionability:
    This is the influencer’s ability to cause action by their audience. This characteristic comes naturally when you target audience that are in contextual alignment with brands you are in interested to work with and have a far enough reach. Make-up influencer recommends new mascara — it works because the context fits the reach.

  4. An “opt-in” network:
    Influencers don’t force themselves upon an audience as their followers choose to follow them on particular channels like Twitter or a blog. Thus, their audience is engaged and is there to hear about the topic being discussed. This is why the need for a contextual fit is so important. Buying “likes”, “page views” and other engagement fakes are big no-nos to brands.

  5. Engagement:
    Positive engagement is a great indicator that the content is interesting to your audience. This means that something about your content is evoking a reaction and that there is the potential for an action to occur.

    Also know your audience — if possible, engage them offline as this builds stronger relationship with your audience are what brands love too.

Once you understand these, the next step is giving yourself an image you can best match brands to. Decide on what type of personality you are and if you need to be an activist, an informer or an authority to best promote brands campaign or product.

Know your genre. Examples include technology, fashion, travel and marketing. Niche this genre further into demographic, geographical position and age group.

Always remember that reach is vanity, engagement is sanity and relationships are reality.

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