Influencer marketing.

It’s just a buzzy phrase right now, isn’t it?! Influencer marketing is about forming relationships that help to grow your business. And relationships are the key to business growth.

That means to grow your business, you must connect with other people — prove your value by being genuinely useful — and do it like the human that you are.

That means not allowing your ego to get in the way.

What matters in influencer marketing?

Spoiler alert: It’s not all about the numbers anymore.

The thinking used to be that an influencer had a lot of “reach.” It was a numbers game. “How many followers do you have?” The answer to this question used to be all that mattered.

But in the last five years especially, there has been a big shift in the opposite direction. The key performance indicator now isn’t how many people are “following” you — sometimes the follower numbers aren’t even real! — the key performance indicator is how many of those people who are willing to DO something for you.

What are numbers without action to back them up?

Automating relationships is an unfortunate new trend

Let’s face it — there’s a whole lot of fake presence out on the web today. With the click of a few buttons, people can create social media accounts and grow a large “following” quickly, but that doesn’t mean those followers are active or even remotely interested in your content.

In addition, many black-hat marketers use bots that comment, like, or post on Instagram for the sole purpose of getting more followers. 

Real or fake, big numbers alone don’t make someone an influencer. You can’t automate real relationships. What does it matter if you have thousands of followers if all they’re doing is following you… but not buying anything or even showing interest beyond being labeled as a follower? Chasing followers is a fool’s errand.

And here’s another common problem: People try to get as many followers as they can — and grow their mailing lists as big as they can — while forgetting one necessary point: They need to ask permission first.

You need to ask someone to be part of your world. Ask them before you put them on your mailing list, and before you engage them by asking them to share, comment, or buy from you.  

Influencer marketing expert Michael Roderick from Small Pond Enterprises believes that while someone might think it’s faster to add a bunch of people from different social media sites, it’s not going to be faster at all. In fact, it will be SLOWER. Why? Because you have betrayed that person’s confidence. You’ve broken their trust from the start because you didn’t ask first.

The truth is that few people bother to build relationships because they think it’s too time-consuming. The reality? Investing time in building strong relationships will pay off in the long run.

It’s really no different than your relationships in real life. If the connection is shallow, the relationship will likewise be shallow. When you take time to form a real bond, a mutual connection is made, and those people will be more than willing to do things for you. They will enjoy doing it because of the relationship you’ve formed.

The two types of influencers

According to Michael Roderick, influencers fall into two groups.

Type 1: The first group is invisible or incognito influencers. They have a lot of influence and can make many things happen in terms of shares, comments, or other actions you want them to take.

But everything they do is for someone else.

They are in the background and may be responsible for someone else becoming famous and making a lot of money. Yet they haven’t done anything themselves to put their own message out there. They are at work behind the scenes and are very influential. They may be excellent communicators, skilled at planning and timing. They are usually charismatic, passionate, focused, and authentic.

Type 2: The others are those who have taken the time to think about their own referable brand, their process of creating a methodology and sharing it with others. In turn, they will share that with their friends. And now everybody knows them because they have come up with this strategy that is being shared everywhere.

Which of these two types you are depends partly on personality.  

So let’s talk personality!

Personality plays a big role in being an influencer — for good and for bad. Folks who fall into the first group of influencers usually love to help others. They get a good feeling from it. Type 1 Influencers don’t enjoy promoting themselves the same way they enjoy promoting others.

And this can hurt them!

When someone shows a Type 1 Influencer appreciation for helping with a particular thing, they feel great about that, but at the same time, they aren’t taking care of themselves. They are busy helping others become successful because it feels good, but it doesn’t feel as good to ask for anything or to put themselves out there.

On the flip side is the big ego. Have you ever dealt with someone who is conceited? Were you treated badly? If so, you might be afraid to put yourself out there for fear of becoming like them.

People with big egos tend to forget where they came from. When they start believing their own hype, that’s the beginning of the end. They start resting on their laurels, getting comfortable where they are, and eventually, someone else will do something more innovative or better. They’ll likely find out many potential customers prefer someone humble and approachable.

Feeling appreciated is also important. When we keep being snubbed by some egotist, why should we keep helping them?

They might be influencers today, but they probably won’t be influencers tomorrow. Why? Because as they’re climbing the ladder, they are chopping off the rungs. Unfortunately, they don’t realize that the people they’re snubbing could be more helpful to them in their business than those they’re kissing up to. Pretty ironic!

Go deep, not wide.

If you go deep in an industry, focusing on a particular niche and learning all you can about it, you’ll build credibility, which will make it easier to sell within that industry. You’ll develop relationships more easily when you walk the talk.

But what happens when you go wide — peppering “influence” in many places simultaneously without a true investment in your skill, your niche, or your relationships with others? You’ll fail to gain any sort of substantial audience because there are others in nearby niches who know more and have more credibility. It’s imperative that you know not only the market, but the actors in it.

While automated marketing tactics may suck people in, they can hurt those who use them, too. Instead, double down on what you’re good at, picking that niche, and you’ll be more successful.

For instance, if I’d started just another work-at-home blog or a virtual assistant blog, my influence wouldn’t be what it is now. With Proofread Anywhere, I was able to niche down, so to speak, not out. Many were talking about working at home generally, but not specifically about proofreading.

The bottom line…

Create a ripple effect in whatever you do.

Think of leaves on a lake. They drop into the water with barely an impact. This is what happens when you attempt to automate relationships. Those leaves land softly on the water… there’s hardly an impact at all.

But if you take a giant boulder and hurl that thing into the middle of the lake, you’ll go deep. You’ll create a ripple effect that will go on for miles  — naturally.

Bonus Video Interview with Michael Roderick, Influencer Marketing Expert expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Caitlin Pyle

Caitlin Pyle is a 30-year-old former freelance proofreader turned multimillion-dollar mediapreneur.

As the founder of the ultra-niche, multi 7-figure blog Proofread Anywhere, Caitlin has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, Business Insider and Foundr, and she enjoys using her words to swiftly kick budding business owners in the pants. She writes primarily about skill development, mindset, and authentic marketing.

Caitlin lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband Ben and their not-a-Corgi dog, Buffett. She enjoys eating tacos.