It’s easy to find social media influencers making their mark on Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media networks these days. Influencers can generate brand awareness and make a big impact on a company’s image, so it’s no surprise that influencer marketing is one of the biggest marketing trends today. But there are some important traits that set successful social media influencers apart, from having a deep understanding of their audience to the ability to cultivate trusted relationships.
Whether you’re considering becoming a social media influencer or you’re a marketer looking to hire the best social media influencer for your brand, it’s important to understand the traits and characteristics that lend to success in this challenging field. To find out what makes top-notch social media influencers successful, we reached out to a panel of social media experts and asked them to answer this question:
“What’s the most important trait for a successful social media influencer?”
Meet Our Panel of Social Media Experts:
Read on to learn what our experts had to say about the most important traits that make for success as a social media influencer.
Alistair Dodds is the Marketing Director and Co-Founder of London based Digital Marketing Agency EIC Marketing.
“The most important trait for a successful social media influencer is authenticity and reach. Without those complementary components, you will struggle to persuade people to follow your recommendations. People follow real, genuine people who know their stuff. They don’t want flaky wannabes who are clearly just in it for attention and the money. So even if that is your motivation, disguise it well by coming across as genuine and authentic. Those characteristic traits go a long way to building your following and reach which is then key for being a true influencer.”
Olivia Newman is a Content Marketing Assistant at Giraffe Social Media.
“Some of the top traits of being a successful social media influencer are to be transparent, honest and open. Work with people you really want to work with and brands you trust and can get behind. Social media influencers take time to build an audience and gain their confidence, so it’s important to be yourself and advocate businesses and products you’d use off of social media as well as promoting it online. Be flexible and listen to what businesses are offering in return for your service – you may find an agreement you are both happy with.”
Josephine is a real estate investor by day and helps her husband run an Aikido (a traditional Japanese martial art) school by night. She is the main social media manager and grew their Instagram from 61 followers to 14.6k (and counting) in the last year. She is also a moderator of the Aikido subreddit and the owner of several Discord chat servers.
“It would definitely have to be consistent persistence. This is likely a trait that serves a person well not only in the social media world but also in real life. Consistent persistence means that come hell or high water, the influencer is reliable in that they will post their content on schedule (consistently) and market it with tenacity regardless of the negative responses (persistence). A person doesn’t walk a thousand miles by making every step perfect or by giving up at the first sign of hardship, but by continuing to walk regardless of the stumbles along the way.”
James Nuttall is the Content and Outreach Manager for Africa Travel.
“Authenticity and engagement are the vital factors you need to consider when you collaborate with a social media influencer. It’s very easy to look at the number of followers an ‘influencer’ has and automatically assume that they must be extremely influential in their field. However, as easy as it is for you to do that, it’s even easier for them to spend a bit of cash in order to buy followers who will never react to anything they share or post – whether it’s from your brand or not.
What does their profile look like in terms of engagement? Are people actually liking, sharing, and commenting on what they post? If they aren’t, it’s a pretty good sign that they have been buying followers to make themselves look more impressive than they actually are; this means that if they are sharing your content on their poor-quality page, it can make you look like a tacky brand who will work with anyone.
Make sure you work with influencers who regularly interact with their followers, responding to comments, asking questions, and creating content others will want to engage with. At the same time, check their followers to ensure they aren’t just a long list of faceless fake profiles.”
Guy Novik is the CEO at Orlando Villa Holidays.
“Make sure that the influencers you work with have some relevance to your core offering as a brand. If you are a finance brand partnering with a fashion influencer, this is going to raise some very strong questions from both your customers and their social media audience.
Working with influencers who work in a similar industry to yours means that their followers are far more likely to engage with your content and brand. This is because they already have an established interest in your industry, so it only stands to reason that they will likely be interested in your collaboration with the influencer.
Seeking out influencers who have nothing to do with your brand is just a waste of money because their followers won’t engage with something which doesn’t bear any relevance to their interests.”
Steve Habazin is the Content Marketing Specialist at Latana.
“Passion. Real, authentic passion is what truly drives the influencer marketing. In the world overflowing with numbers, false accounts, and robotic engagements, real passion shows what you’re really about. In the long term, this will not only attract followers but also encourage brands to check you out. In the eyes of true managers, who can understand real connections, authentic storytelling, consistent brand voice, and a constant desire to push themselves further, it can be an easily measurable indicator of a true influencer. Passion-driven influencer marketing may not show instant results, but it does showcase and eventually convert long-term.”
Paige Arnof-Fenn is the founder & CEO of global marketing and branding firm Mavens & Moguls based in Cambridge, MA. Her clients include Microsoft, Virgin, The New York Times Company, Colgate, and venture-backed startups, as well as non profit organizations. She graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Business School. Paige is a popular speaker and columnist who has written for Entrepreneur and Forbes.
“You want to find someone with a track record of success, stellar reputation, and a large social media following who can authentically live your brand values and who is not overexposed. Once you identify a short list of candidates, it is best to test them with your target audience to see who is the most credible and in sync with your brand. When you engage the right influencers, research shows that people trust them more than their friends, advertising, or press. That is why they are so popular, but the risk is that they get caught saying or doing something inconsistent with your core values – and your brand’s reputation gets tarnished – so due diligence is crucial with social media archives and videos so easily accessible today. I have had good experiences working with them, but again, doing your homework is key to success. It should not feel like a paid opportunity, slapping on the #ad to a post. You want to give them the freedom to create their own content but ensure it’s still getting the message across.”
Jonathan Lubic owns a Miami-based marketing firm that specializes in representing a variety of top-tier social media influencers and professional athletes. They represent influencers across a multitude of vertical markets including health & wellness, travel & hospitality, food & beverage, outdoor interest, and lifestyle.
“The most important trait for successful social media influencers is authenticity that leads to high value metrics. To break this down, there are two major metrics that brands and agencies like ourselves look at: vanity metrics and value metrics. Vanity metrics are the surface-level numbers that often trick audiences into thinking that an influencer is successful, particularly the number of followers and number of likes. However, these metrics hold little value because anyone can buy followers and buy likes.
Value metrics are the data points that brands actually look at and will determine whether or not a company will partner with an influencer; these metrics include engagement rate, average impressions per post, potential reach, demographic, follower sentiment, etc. With Instagram taking steps to remove likes, value metrics are more important than ever. The key to achieving high value metrics is to post authentic content, pictures, and videos that speak to who the influencer is. This will attract genuine followers and authentic engagement. This even transcends to brand partnerships. Customers know when a promotion is paid; however, the most successful influencers can do a paid promotion and still receive great engagement if the promotion is in line with their personal brand. This naturally leads to great value metrics that they can then show other potential brand partners and increase paid opportunities. This will set apart a successful social media influencer from someone who is purely vanity.”
Jakub Kliszczak is a Marketing Specialist at CrazyCall.
“I believe that the most important skill for a successful social media influencer is the ability to create and connect with his/her network and create a sincere relationship with the followers. I’ve seen many social media people fail to create a following solely because they didn’t have this required drive to connect with people and bring people to them. Yet, social media thrives on the idea of this endless and infinite connection that social media influencers explore and use to their own advantage (in a positive way). After all, the audience is a group of people that follows a certain person, idea, group, belief, etc. Thus, being able to connect and gather all these people is the most important trait for a successful social media influencer.”
Gabby Beckford is a 24-year-old travel influencer, Gen Z marketing strategist, and opportunity expert behind Packs Light. She has visited 29 countries, given a TEDx talk, and been featured in publications such as HuffPost, Essence, and BusinessInsider. Gabby empowers others to seek risk, seize the opportunity, and see the world.
“As a travel influencer of more than 6 years who started at only 18 years old, I would say the most important trait is tenacity. This field becomes more and more saturated every day, and these social media platforms’ algorithms seem to change every hour. Tenacity is what will keep you pushing through the frustrations, failures, and setbacks. Tenacity will make putting in the ungodly hours feel like an investment in something bigger instead of a hole that you’re digging yourself into. You can be unique, talented, beautiful, and well-educated, but without tenacity, you will never survive the ebb and flow that is social media influencing!”
Alexander M. Kehoe
Alexander M Kehoe is Operations Director, Co-founder of Caveni Digital Solutions, and author of Navigate the Digital Realm. He is a speaker, writer, and consultant in the fields of digital marketing, web development, search engine marketing, Artificial Intelligence, influencer outreach, and social media marketing.
“Social media influencers are a growing breed, but there are so many that fail to properly monetize their audience. What really sets a good social media influencer apart from the crowd is an excellent business sense that isn’t dominated by ego. There are an immense number of advertisers out there that understand the value of social reach, and they are more than willing to pay for an influencer who acts professionally and has a strong business acumen. So, learn the ropes of the marketing/advertising industry, and you will have a far easier time when your financials are secure.”
Dewayne Hamilton runs a website called Web Cosmo Forums.
“The moment companies find a person whose beliefs, principles, and profiles align with their philosophy and their brand, and if they agree to collaborate, that person becomes a brand ambassador. An influencer is a person that makes a living off of that process.
The brand sends the influencer various products, or the influencer uses their services, which they promote on all of their platforms and social networks.
The most important trait of an influencer is their niche. If you want to be an influencer, you need a niche even more because brands don’t like generalists.
It’s about not trusting people who are not an expert at something and giving support to people that choose to specialize.
A successful influencer will choose something that interests them the most, whatever it is, and become so good at that particular thing that they will stand out.
It can be fashion, cosmetics, cars, comics, or technology. No matter which niche influencers choose, it is important that they like it and are ready to learn more about it.”
Miranda Paquet is the Media Director at TheClose.com, a NYC-based real estate strategy site. With digital marketing experience at everything from billion-dollar tech companies to beer brewing startups, she has contributed marketing insight to sites including Forbes, The Business Journals, and the QuickBooks Blog.
“It sounds obvious, but the most important trait of a social media influencer is personality! The best influencers are fun to watch and feel like the quirky best friend you’ve always wanted. These influencers often have a vivacious personality, bubbly like champagne, and make product placements go down easy. They’re able to gain a loyal audience who trusts their point of view. That’s the way to truly have influence, not just followers.”
Liz Jeneault is a social media influencer and also the vice president of marketing for the popular product review website, Faveable.
“One of the most important traits to have as a social media influencer is confidence! Don’t let fear hold you back or damper your creativity. When you focus on embracing yourself and being confident in the content you produce, good things will come from it. I also like the quote, ‘If you felt cute, don’t delete it later.’ Questioning your content and creativity, especially if a post doesn’t perform well or get as much engagement as you’d like, doesn’t help! Just keep pushing out new content and continue to take pride in your work. A constant stream of content is also crucial in keeping your followers engaged! Don’t let the internet trolls get you down, either!”
Jessica Miller-Merrell is workplace change agent and author focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer, she’s the founder of Workology and host of the Workology Podcast.
“The most successful trait of a social media influencer is to be dialed into the wants, needs, and desires of the community and the people they influence. For my community in HR, the majority of my community engages with me through our email newsletter, blog content, and through social, mostly during events and conferences. The content we provide and the platforms we use to distribute it are the ways in which our community prefers to engage. I try new things constantly, but I also ask our community through an annual reader engagement survey what they want and spend a great deal of time at conferences, events, and when I’m speaking talking to my community to understand the type of resources, information, and support they need most. From this information, we develop content, resources, and training based on these insights.
The best social media influencers in the B2B marketplace are those who see this as a long-term career strategy and are consistent and process oriented. This is how blogging and social media became a long-term career and business for me going on 15 years.”
Jeff Moriarty is the Marketing Manager at Moriarty’s Gem Art.
“We have worked with quite a few micro-influencers over the last couple years, and we found the best trait to have is if the influencer already has a relationship with your brand. Our company has had the most success with influencers that were customers, fans on social media, or already subscribed to our email list. They already knew our brand, so it was much easier to bring them on board as an influencer. This has worked well for us and should work very well for other businesses getting into influencer marketing, as well.”
Sarah Donawerth is the content manager for GoVyrl, Inc., the company behind Carro. Whether you’re a new brand or a well-established store on Shopify (Magento Coming Soon!), they can help you find and understand the influencers that already love your brand.
“To become a social media influencer, you have to make great content. However, what sets an extraordinarily successful social media influencer apart from everyone else is trust and professionalism. Trust with their audience requires that they only take partnerships with brands that they actually love, that they post honest responses to their fans, and that they are transparent about what they do.
As a brand manager, I kept a spreadsheet of all the influencers that I worked with. When they were late or made excuses, they got marked with a yellow highlight. If it happened regularly, then I eventually marked them in red and stopped working with them. Software solutions like Carro can also help you manage influencers with ratings so that you know when an influencer has been trustworthy and professional on a regular basis.
It is so important when influencers are reaching out to brands that they are communicative and on time. Anything less can jeopardize your ability to get future partnerships within your industry.”
Yaniv Masjedi is chief marketing officer at Nextiva, a leading provider of cloud-based unified communication solutions, headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“In the B2B space, the most successful social media influencers are the ones who have unique insights gained from first-person experiences – both successes and failures. Those insights don’t have to be overly complex. Sometimes the best lessons are simple. As a CMO, I can immediately tell the difference between someone who is trying to sound smart and someone who has real insights I can learn from. It’s the stories that make the difference.”
David Mercer is an experienced tech entrepreneur and published author with programming and Web development books translated into over 13 languages worldwide. His books have been used as recommended readers at places like MIT. His software products are relied upon by businesses (big and small) in over 60 countries around the world.
“A good influencer must be a great networker who can build relationships with industry players who open doors and create new opportunities for success. A good network needs to be both diverse and robust. Not enough diversity means you’re putting all your eggs in one basket. It must consist of people who are going to share your success when times are good and support you when times are bad – making it robust.
When reaching out to new connections, an influencer must lay the groundwork for a mutually beneficial relationship instead of trying to promote or sell.
A great way to do this – especially when you are trying to build contacts in the media – is to find a compelling story that is of interest to entities that can increase your reach (like a journalist, for example). Create newsworthy content around that story and use it to reach out. Content oriented, online outreach is arguably the most effective way to build relationships because everyone is after great, shareable, and noteworthy content.
For example, I created a list of the best business ideas from university entrepreneurs and shared it with the media. It was picked up by USA Today and published nationally, leading to plenty more citations from top media houses and leading universities. This led to additional opportunities to establish relationships with top entrepreneurial colleges who often approach me with news about new business competitions in the hope I’ll provide coverage.”
Khris is a sales funnel and online marketing expert, helping online business owners achieve their dreams online using simple methods.
“The most important trait for a social media influencer is the engagement metrics of their content. A social media influencer with a large number of REAL engaged followers who like, comment on, and share their content shows that they’re successful.
But it doesn’t end there. If the number of engaged followers is way too low compared to the total follower count, then that’s an indication that those followers aren’t engaged – or they could be fake or bought followers.
When it comes to engagement on an influencer’s posts, another way to tell is by checking the comments to see if they’re spammy or repetitive. You don’t want to confuse bot engagement with that of humans.
My point is that high numbers don’t necessarily mean that a social media influencer is truly influential. Some are out there to take advantage of business owners. Thoroughly analyze their engagement stats, the quality of their followers/fans, comments, and social proof.”
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