In the world of digital marketing, there is a seemingly infinite supply of people who refer to themselves as “social media strategists.” They have a Twitter account with a blurry header image and a bio that describes their love for cats and coffee. However, when you scroll through their feed you have hard time getting a sense of their direction or focus.

The best digital marketers are the ones who have been in the trenches. They have turned themselves into influencers and built an audience around the knowledge they share. They aren’t the ones reading articles about best practices — they’re the ones writing them.

One influencer who knows this as well as anyone is Brian D. Evans, Inc. 500 entrepreneur and founder/CEO of the digital publication Influencive. He has been on both sides of the equation, building a successful digital-marketing agency and also establishing himself as a thought leader and influencer with millions of followers and readers across his personal accounts and brand. Evans set out to bring some of the biggest influencers together to give people real insight into what it takes to utilize social media effectively.

“My theory is that without us (the influencers, content creators, etc.), social media would essentially be dead. Most people are curators. Curators share the popular articles, they retweet the viral videos, they take what they find helpful or entertaining and give that to their audience. But they aren’t the ones actually creating things of true value,” said Evans.

Evans, who has been called “the influencer of influencers,” has brought together a team of influencers who have each climbed their way to the top in a unique and unconventional way.

One of these is Nathan Allen Pirtle, who is not only a huge social media influencer in his own right but also builds social media accounts for A-listers. The team also includes A-list film producer Daniel Wagner, top online writers, TED speakers, award-winning authors, intuitive coaches and a plethora of other people who literally influence (or directly control) a large portion of the Internet.

I was recently able to sit down with Evans and his expert panel of online influencers and viral experts over at Influencive Mastermind while they explained their strategies.

1. Viral Content Is Scripted To Look Unscripted

James Shamsi, a growth hacker who is famous for his viral stunts, explains the importance of influencers: “Influencers and viral content is what keeps you coming back and engaging on a platform. However, the secret to making viral content is to have it reflect some sort of relatable human emotion, interaction or experience. Think reality TV.”

Dan Fleyshman, the youngest founder of a publicly traded company and co-owner of one of the biggest influencer agencies in the world, adds: “My agency planned a stunt with social media rock star Jake Paul, where he would vlog on YouTube his experience of carrying an 8-foot teddy bear named @BrodieDaBear through LAX airport. We went as far as buying the bear a seat! It ended up getting international coverage on social media and transcended onto CNN and the morning news shows.”

There are millions of videos posted to the Internet. Only a handful of them attract massive attention, and they’re usually more scripted and intentional than you might think.

Julius Dein strategy is to understand and treat Youtube and Facebook as different ecosystems. Julius, who has acquired over one billion views of his videos says, ”For Facebook, you need snappy content with minimal introduction. Forget developing a relationship with your audience and focus instead on grabbing their attention as fast as possible.”

Dein references that his most viral videos on Facebook are almost always compilation style videos or for any one prank, a variety of several clips with the same prank.

However, Dein says ,“For Youtube, quality content trumps all. Nonetheless, it is crucial to consider the title of the video to make it as appealing as possible, and before publishing, to edit the thumbnail separately to the video to make it as clickbait as possible.”

2. Building A Personal Brand Means Mastering The Intersection Of Education And Entertainment

Leonard Kim and Nicolas Cole, two of Quora’s top writers, have had whirlwind careers since exploding on the question-and-answer site. While the masses often encourage people not to be too open on the Internet, both Kim and Cole took the opposite approach — and ended up building huge audiences for themselves.

“It’s about being honest,” said Kim. “On Quora, sure, people want to learn, but they also want to know about you and who you are. They want to know where your knowledge is coming from, what you’ve experienced.”

Cole added: “One of the first things I noticed about every single influencer on Quora was their ability to answer the question while at the same time telling their unique story. So now, every time I make an Instagram post or write a column for a major publication, I ask myself, ‘What question am I answering, and how can I weave my own personal story in to create a more human connection with the reader?’”

3. Social Media Advertising Is Underpriced Right Now — Take Advantage Of It

Social media has become so popular and widespread that we tend to forget that it is still very new. Just five years ago, the concept of paying influencers to represent your brand on a social platform was unheard of.

Jason Stone, an entrepreneurial influencer on Instagram, explained: “Social media is no longer about family and friends’ conversations, and photo sharing. It’s about reaching an audience, a new client and new prospects from anywhere in the entire world!”

Stone went on to explain that social media advertising right now is still significantly underpriced. Take Facebook, for example: the fact that you can hyper-target your advertising and reach hundreds or thousands of people for $5 a day is astonishing.

Branden Hampton, owner of some of the most sought-after social media accounts (such as @travel), who has more than 100 million followers, explained: “If you are going to start spending money on social media, your focus shouldn’t be on putting a heavy ad budget behind a standard piece of content. It should be the other way around. Invest heavily in creating a high-quality piece of content, and then give it a nudge in the right direction.”

4. In Order To Become An Influencer, You Need To Realize You’re Competing With Media Companies — Not Ordinary People

“Influencers and advertisers are now equals,” said Hampton. “If you want to be a true influencer, realize your competition is the big brand that is investing heavily in keeping its audience. If you want those audience members to watch you instead, you need to give them something more valuable to watch, read or look at.”

Social media can be extraordinarily effective in forging long-term relationships with your customers in ways that are simply not possible through television, print, radio or outdoor signage. A perfect example is Intuitive coach and spirituality influencer Tanaaz Chubb, who runs the popular spiritual website Forever Conscious and draws a large portion of her traffic from social media.

“I think sometimes brands and businesses forget that social media is intended to feel like human interaction. It’s actually a lot more about listening to what people are talking about, what questions they have and responding with something of value,” said Chubb.

One of the world’s top podcasters, Daniel DiPiazza, added that the tables have turned, and social networks are entirely reliant upon the influencers creating content that is worth consuming.

“Case in point: this video I shared last year drew 1.5 million people organically on Facebook and created a firestorm of engagement — and all Facebook had to do was sit back and watch as my content caused people to flock to their platform,” said DiPiazza. “But look at the social platforms that eventually fizzle out. Why did everyone leave? It’s because the influencers left.”

5. Building Influence Is An Investment. If You Want To Become An Influencer, Don’t Expect It To Happen Overnight

The question a lot of people have at this point is: “So how do I get in on the action? How do I become an influencer?”

Every influencer can attest to the years they spent investing in their craft. In fact, many of them say that the moment they started taking the process seriously, putting out quality content every single day, is the moment when things started to take off.

Another expert from the panel, Sam Rusani, who is an icon in the sales psychology world, shared: “For social media marketers, the 1/9/90 rule will dictate your success. You need to engage the influencers, the 1%, in order to reach the 9% — the active crowd that can actually make things go viral — so that the rest, the 90%, will see it. But if you can’t impress the 1%, you’re never going to impress the 9% or the 90%, because they’re too busy consuming all the other amazing content out there.”

As Rusani explained, it’s the long and arduous path of learning how to engage the 1% at the top, like the experts on the panel of the must attend retreat, Influencive Mastermind. But rest assured, it is possible and the advice of these experts should help get you that much closer to online influencer status.

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