The Anatomy of a Digital Influencer—And How to Become One

Step aside, Kim K. “Influencer” is taking on a whole new meaning, especially in the digital space. But luckily you won’t have to carry a celebrity status or land a multimillion-dollar endorsement deal to become one. Digital influencers come in different forms; they’re entrepreneurs, journalists, photographers, bloggers, YouTubers and Instagrammers—all equipped with a digital presence and the ability to make people listen, relate and take action.

Worldwide, currently 2.3 billion people use social media and, in the US alone, people spend more time scrolling through their social channels than watching TV. Of that statistic, 100% of them are consumers. So when it comes to you, the business owner, it’s an asset to establish a “face to a brand-name” for your growing small business. Now, how do you get there?

Well, becoming a digital influencer won’t happen overnight. But we’ll help you unpack the process and set you in the right direction. With the help of Kristi Hines freelance writer and online influencer (Twitter following of 68,000+), we break down what makes a successful digital influencer, and the tricks to winning an audience.

What Exactly is a Digital Influencer?

Influencers stimulate minds and incite action. Kristi Hines defines a digital influencer as “anyone with an online following who actively pays attention to their audience and engages with them. That person doesn’t necessarily have to have a huge following, but they do need a following that actually listens and trusts their advice.”

Identifying the differences between being an influencer and a brand-pusher is a good place to start. “Truthfully, it’s tough to work towards becoming an influencer and running a business. Becoming an influencer means you have to go beyond just talking about yourself and your business. You have to really get to know your industry and the trends, then spend the time creating content to demonstrate you know the ins and outs of your industry. Blog posts, videos, webinars, white papers, guides, ebooks, podcasts, etc.”

The Digital Influencer, Unpacked

They’re Curators

“Someone who shares their thoughts and findings when testing out something new when they are asked about the latest trends in their industry.”

A digital influencer doesn’t just spew words. Nor are they there solely for the self-promotion of their business. They’re subject-matter curators, who consistently write and share both inspirational and thought-provoking content on their social media channels. And their followers love it.

They’re Trustworthy

“Someone who doesn’t just shoot off recommendations off the top of their head, but actually goes out, does the research and then comes back with supported or tested suggestions.”

A digital influencer holds themselves accountable to their audience and treat them with respect. They share valuable content (through social media, speaking engagements, webinars), have meaningful conversations and, in return, earn the trust of their followers.

They’re Transparent

“Someone who gives honest feedback and advice when needed.”

A digital influencer has a voice and shares it with their followers—they’re human, after all. Aside from being great sharers of content, they aren’t afraid to go off-course to share their opinions, nor acknowledge when they’re at fault.

They’re Engaging

“Someone who is helpful and approachable.”

A digital influencer is a conversation starter, educator and advocate of their profession and community. Beyond the digital realm, they make the effort to reach their audience in unique ways (meet and greets, trade shows, media appearances, books).

The Universal Formula

For Kristi, she strengthened her digital influence in the freelance world by leveraging what she does best: writing. In turn, it has garnered attention from some of the most recognized brands and people. She shares how she became an influencer, and translates it into a universal formula any business owner can put to use, no matter their expertise.

  1. Leverage Your Niche. “I personally started through blogging, since writing is my specialty. I blogged on my own website first. Then I reached out to other blogs in my industry as a guest writer.”
  2. Capitalize on Opportunity. “After writing for a variety of blogs, I began getting interview requests. In the beginning, they were text-based for blog posts, but now they are for podcast interviews (audio and video). Take as many of those as you can because the more often you are interviewed, the more others will want to interview you.”
  3. Educate People, Always. “From there, you start to get speaking engagement opportunities. I haven’t taken anyone up on those yet because I’m not ready, but speaking at industry events can definitely boost your reputation in your industry tenfold, so if you are a great presenter, absolutely take the opportunities you’re offered.”
  4. Find Your Claim to Influencer Fame—And Repeat. “Those can ultimately lead to book publishing offers and, if you get to that stage, you will become one of the top influencers in your industry.”

about the author

Content Marketing Manager, FreshBooks Megan Santos is the Content Marketing Manager at FreshBooks. Before joining the team, she was the Editor of a national trade publication and has over 6 years of experience in writing and editing. Connect with Megan on LinkedIn and say hello!