Social media has dramatically changed how people discover and consume content online. Platforms like Instagram, TikTok and YouTube have made it possible for regular people to build large audiences around their interests, skills and personalities.
As a result, a new class of everyday social media users are emerging as influential content creators.
The Rise of the Micro Influencer
A decade ago, the main online influencers were celebrities, athletes and other famous figures who commanded massive followings.
But today, so-called “micro influencers” with followers in the thousands and tens of thousands are becoming social media stars in their own right. These are regular people who have organically grown a loyal audience around a niche interest or expertise.
We like to call them content creators.
While their follower counts seem small compared to the millions of followers celebrities have, micro influencers and content creators tend to have higher engagement and conversion rates. Their audiences view them as more authentic experts on a topic versus a paid celebrity endorsement.
Micro influencers are approachable people just like them, rather than unattainable A-listers.
Brands are catching on to the selling power of content creators. Research shows that micro influencers with under 10,000 followers generate 22.2x more conversions per impression than influencers with larger followings. Their high engagement and niche focus makes their content and recommendations more trusted by their audience.
Everyday People Finding Fame on Social Media
You no longer have to be a celebrity to gain a mass following and turn content creation into a full-time job. Social media is giving everyday people a platform to share their talents, perspectives and creativity—and get recognized for it.
For example, Swedish middle school teacher Mikael Cho has grown a YouTube following of nearly 300,000 subscribers by posting study and productivity tips for students. Boston-based Sarah Doody has attracted over 200,000 Instagram followers through her infectious positivity and career advice for UX designers. Both have quit their day jobs to become full-time influencers.
These social media sensations come from all backgrounds. Parents, lawyers, makeup artists, chefs, students—anyone can attract an audience and build influence around a topic or talent.
The appeal is getting to monetize your passion while connecting with a community. Brand sponsorships, affiliate sales, paid content and crowd-funding offer ways to earn an income from content creation. Top micro influencers can make anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 per year.
But it’s often more about the creative fulfillment versus money. 63% of micro influencers say they don’t do it for financial gain, according to one survey by Markerly. These everyday people have discovered social media allows them to share their knowledge, make meaningful connections and gain recognition in a way that was never possible before.
How Content Creators Build Influence on Social Media
For regular social media users, gaining an influential following doesn’t happen overnight. Like any other skill, it takes research, persistence and consistency. But by understanding social media algorithms and what attracts an audience, anyone can organically grow their influence.
Finding a Niche Focus
Gaining traction on social media requires narrowing in on a specific niche or topic to stand out among the sea of content online. Micro influencers differentiate themselves by becoming known as subject matter experts.
Food bloggers may focus on vegan cooking or desserts. A mom influencer may spotlight advice on autistic children. By tailoring content to a very targeted audience, it helps attract people who are highly interested and engaged with that subject.
While quality trumps quantity, regular posting is critical for building an audience on social media. Most platforms reward accounts that frequently publish new content with increased visibility and distribution to new users.
Micro influencers aim for a steady posting schedule, like publishing two videos per week or three Instagram posts per day. This trains followers to continually check back for new content. It also helps boost the account’s ranking in search results and recommended feeds on social platforms.
Engaging With Your Audience
Social media is meant to facilitate two-way conversations, not just broadcast content. Influencers who reply to comments and incorporate feedback into their content end up developing a loyal, invested audience.
Engagement also involves asking questions, posting polls and surveys, responding to DMs, and participating in conversations around related hashtags. By interacting as much as posting, micro influencers build community and rapport with their niche audience.
Partnering With Brands
Once an influencer gains a sizeable, engaged following, they become attractive partners for brands. Companies see value in influencer recommendations, reviews and sponsored posts because they reach and resonate with the target demographic.
An influencer who carefully vets and selects the right brand sponsorships maintains credibility with their audience while monetizing their influence. The key is partnering with brands that genuinely match their niche, values and expertise versus indiscriminately shilling products.
Mastering Social Media Algorithms
The most successful influencers put in the time to study how each platform’s algorithm works and how to maximize reach. Factors like posting frequency, captions, hashtags and video length impact how social media sites distribute content.
Staying on top of the latest algorithm updates and tailoring content to boost visibility helps micro influencers efficiently scale their followings. It’s an ongoing science to learn how to create content optimized for discovery.
The Role Brands Play in Growing Influence
While influencers ultimately have to build their own audience, brands play an important role in amplifying them. Through reposts, partnerships and influencer programs, companies enable micro influencers to expand their visibility and followers.
When an unknown influencer partners with a large brand, they gain access to that brand’s audience and benefit from its established reputation. The halo effect of a brand endorsement also has the power to catapult an influencer from obscurity to widespread popularity.
Marketers have realized it’s mutually beneficial to identify and work with up-and-coming micro influencers in their space. It’s more affordable and authentic to have real customers organically promote their brand versus traditional advertising.
As more companies provide platforms and opportunities for everyday influencers, it further democratizes influence and gives regular people a path to turn content creation into a career.
The Future of Influence & Content Creators
Once the exclusive territory of celebrities and public figures, influence is shifting into the hands of relatable, ordinary social media users. For brands, progressing technology has only made identifying and partnering with relevant influencers that much easier. Immediacy in digital interactions will generate further avenues for companies and creators to collaborate at scale.
While some worry it’s saturated already, the pool of potential influencers standing ready with engaged, specialized audiences is only continuing to expand globally. As the barriers-to-entry of content creation get lower, we’ll keep seeing random students, moms, retirees and more find fame through social media. This new generation of online ‘micro’ influencers will compete toe-to-toe with traditional endorsement by celebrities.
Everyday social media users finally have the chance to turn their knowledge, creativity and passion into a living without needing existing celebrity. That genie doesn’t go back in the bottle. The phenomenon of the social media micro influencer is only going to grow in size and importance.
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