[playht_player width=”100%” height=”175″ voice=”Richard (en-US)”]
I don’t want to do it, but I’m going to…
I have to tell you.
And you need to hear this.
Almost everything you see on Instagram is fake, and followers/likes/comments do NOT equal influence.
Take a look at the below:
Look at the last third of the chart – the account jumped 200K followers, with steep-shots upward. Their normal trend was like 10K/mo – and, all of a sudden, 100K/mo.
Why would users instantly follow an account in such droves?
They are bought / bot followers.
This is done by someone who pulls strings, clicks a button, and sends 10K fake followers instantly to a target account.
Don’t believe me? Last week, I sat next to a guy in a coffee shop and, with a single click, he sent 300 new likes to an IG picture – in real time.
I analyzed the same account from the above screenshot last week. Here’s my convo with a client who wanted to work with another influencer who had no real influence – and I wasn’t about to let that happen.
Don’t believe everything you see on the internet, kids.
And if you care about making real waves as an influencer, thought leader, or business person, listen to me for 5 short minutes.
I’ve run influencer campaigns for countless clients now, ranging from $75b tech giants down to bootstrapped apps.
The rules are the same – followers/likes/comments do NOT equal influence.
So, what does?
(Caveat – while follower count doesn’t equal influence, followers are often a byproduct of real influence – so we need to analyze this in serial order. I will explain more as I go.)
Tried–and–True Tactics to Gain Real Influence and Authority in Your Niche
And the followers will follow – I promise.
Before diving into the tactics, let’s review the thinking here.
We don’t have any problem with followers, in fact – we want them. But we want them to come for the right reasons.
If for some reason they’re not authentically interested in our content – say, they came from an “engagement pod” or “follow-for-follow group” – it may be a real account, but the human behind it doesn’t actually care about your content, or they would’ve followed without needing to exchange “like for like” or “follow for follow”.
So the lesson here is that people should be following you based on the message you share – not because of some unrelated incentive like an “Instagram body”, a “follow for follow”, or, worse yet, a bot follow.
To get your message across to the right audience and a large enough amount of people, you can’t depend on something like Instagram. The algorithm is simply too competitive and doesn’t give you reach even if you’re an awesome person.
Instead, start somewhere less competitive. And pull some strings, ethically!
Three Tactics to Hack Influence Organically
First, Try Booking Speaking Engagements in Person – And Influence the Influencers of Tomorrow
There are few places that lend as much credibility as when you’re a speaker. There’s something about hundreds of people looking up to you (literally) for your insight that just creates immense social demand.
If you’ve ever done it before, you know that a mass of people rush the stage to talk to you after – once you exit the podium. It happens every time.
What an amazing way to captivate tens, hundreds, or thousands of people with your real voice and true story.
More and more, I see the smartest people in my Rolodex going to guest lecture at local universities or their alma maters.
Not sure why I hadn’t thought of this – but I love it. I spoke at the University of Delaware for over 1,000 high school startup founders at their annual Diamond Challenge and, since, have an army of young hustlers supporting me.
There’s actually a platform coming out of Australia, called Glecture, that helps people like you book guest lectures at universities. Alas, the Uber of guest lecturing. Joking…but, seriously.
Anyhow, professors search for talented entrepreneurs to come display the grit component of business to match the theory universities teach.
Both sides are eager for the other’s value, meaning it’s easy to book speaking engagements.
My co-founder at K&J Growth Hackers, Kale Panoho is a guest lecturer at the University of Otago, his alma mater.
And another friend, Nick Brogden, speaks at University of Technology Sydney (UTS), as seen in his Linkedin Profile.
Nick explains, “The benefits of guest lecturing are priceless, and that’s because they can add new dimensions to your personal brand that simultaneously solidify your expert status and credibility. Guest lecturing can also lead to other things like being invited to be a panel judge or even being interviewed by journalists on TV.”
Beyond his points, it seems there’s a large, unstated benefit here.
You’re influencing the influencers. You’re talking to the young trendsetters of tomorrow. If they look up to you, you’ll get the network effect of not just the 300 people in the room following you (literally and metaphorically), but all their friends.
Second, Work With the Bigshots – Real Influencers
The goal here is to not only guide the narrative but to amplify your message through the largest distribution channels.
Everyone talks about influencer marketing these days, but as you saw in the back-of-the-envelope-analysis in the opener to this essay, you can’t trust just anyone to do this type of marketing/partnership with you.
Identifying quality influencers and ambassadors has so many layers to it – and, at face value, vanity metrics like followers are usually completely misrepresentative.
Jad Malwali, the brains behind the scenes of international social movements powered by influencers, and head of Dooply, explains that “An idea stays forever. When you share the ideology of a brand as a person through powerful influencers, you win half the game.”
Wanting to test this theory, Jad developed a web-based application that measures the conversion rate of a given social profile, in this case usually Instagram – by calculating “link in bio” click-through rate (CTR) using a proprietary formula and data furnished by Facebook’s Ad platforms.
That’s real engagement right there – tracking the actual number of people who visit the links an influencer promotes.
He firmly believes that “Betting on technology or ‘followers and likes’ doesn’t guarantee influence. However, if a business is surrounded by the right team, expertise, and right connections, the probability of success rises. Emotions have always overlapped data and technology, and will do so again.”
Given what we now know about influencers, the opportunity lies in connecting with the right ones.
It’s pertinent that you’re seen hanging out with, connecting with, and reciprocating value and promotion with influencers who can help you.
But you must validate they are TRUE influencers who have relevance with your audience. If so, their audience will follow you and cause a groundswell.
Some indicators of true influencers:
- They have a blog and real “owned” traffic
- Focused comments – people inquiring about specifics relating to the content posted
- YouTube audiences/subscribers
- Quality of content (not just “posts”)
- Instagram analytics screenshots
- Link in bio click-through rate
Once you connect with them, befriend them and begin reciprocating value by shouting each other out.
Third, Magnify Your PR Coverage by Doing “Content Syndication”
Pardon all the techie buzzwords, but the specifics are important here.
When it comes to getting a piece of press, the reach of the media outlet is generally not as high as you would think. Media are picky in what they promote internally and very little content makes it to the home page. It’s usually up to the author and people mentioned in the article to saddle it for virality.
So, yes; press is extremely important, and yes you should do everything you can to get coverage. But your work isn’t done once it goes onto Forbes. In fact, your work has just begun.
You should definitely share it out on all social channels, email lists, and other marketing conduits you have access to – ideally within hours of publishing, or even minutes.
But step two, and something my friend just discovered, was to have that content syndicated out onto other media outlets.
The truth is, if your article is good, publishers will want it. It’s free content, good SEO, good karma with the writer, and so on.
This friend, a writer at Forbes, felt kind of disheartened that an article didn’t get the attention that it really deserved.
So, what did he do? He thought, “how can I turn this bummer into an opportunity?” So, he emailed approximately 300 journalists from major publications telling them about the article that he had just written, and added just 2 things:
- If you were to republish this, it would not only make my day but my entire year.
- And, if you are looking for contributors, I’d love to be considered.
The results: The article went from approximately 500 and grew to almost 5,000 views. It was re-published 7 times, and he was offered around 10 opportunities to write for other publications.
Needless to say, this helped him to grow his personal brand by getting creative and thinking outside of the box.
As an influencer, when your work is seen on 7 different publications for one story, ranging from Forbes to Yahoo Finance, people will begin to take notice. Not just people, but other writers.
Alas, the followers will follow – as promised earlier.
Instead of trying to build followers first, try to build influence first.
Work on securing more human, one-on-one connections with your audiences. Don’t worry about the volume of your followers; just make sure they’re zealots for your methods, teachings, and voice. Let them shop you around.
Soon enough, the real growth will come.