How to be a social media influencer: The golden rule of engagement

Let's talk about the basic etiquette of being an online influencer.
social media influencer
Social media makeup celebrity ILuvSarahii meets fans during the NYX Cosmetics opening at the Mall of America on April 15, 2016 in Bloomington, Minnesota. Credit: Getty Images

For those of you who have no clue what an influencer is, let me enlighten you.

 

It is basically a normal human being who has somehow found a niche in their field and many people follow their lead, fashion or advice. They then leverage their influence through social media, usually through the top three powerhouses -- Facebook, Twitter and Instagram -- with Snapchat being most popular among teenagers.

 

Companies and brands look to work with people who have a large number of followers as it is the new age of advertising, for better or for worse.

 

Being a journalist, blogger and an influencer, I have a foot in each door which gives me a unique position to sit back, learn and listen to mainly traditional journalists bitch about this new wave of media, the social media influencers.

 

Most influencers have a home website base as a blog but the way things are going, you can just be an influencer with only social media under your belt and still get all the invites and perks as a published journalist who has 20 years under theirs.

Major “celebrities” like *ahem* the Kardashians are brilliant business women who built an empire off of a sex tape and have millions of followers just begging to see what fashion and perfume to wear with video cameras cashing in, following their every moment. The family is probably swimming in a pool of gold somewhere in Saudi Arabia like Scrooge McDuck.

But their followers are legit, not bought. In an age of instant gratification (swiping right a la Tinder is sadly apparently a national pastime), why not pay to get 100,000 fake followers that make you look like you are a semi-superstar? People with a meager 5,000 followers, or under, are dubbed the micro influencers and not as sought after although undeniably more authentic.

There are many ways to tell if someone’s followers are legit. Fohr Card validates the users of those within its network. They basically reward the authentic versus calling out those with bought followings. You can also look up accounts on SocialBlade.com. Pay no attention to the stupid high school grading system but when you see sharp spikes, it's an indicator of bought followers. Some influencers will use giveaways of free products and gain more followers that way but it’s usually in the hundreds, not triple digits unless you’re Beyonce.

There is also the golden rule of engagement.

For instance, if somehow a Philly influencer goes from 20,000 to 300,000 in one week with no more likes or comments than usual, it’s a huge red flag. But… they can also buy likes. Wouldn’t it just make more sense to take that money and hire a social media specialist to do the same and actually grow your brand with real humans and not robots? But people like big numbers and they cannot lie. Their clients want to see all those zeros, which is a shame because it usually brings back zero return on investment.

Another golden rule is don’t be so pushy. Have your email on your social media and if someone wants to work with you and reaches out, great. If you meet a contact out at an event, feel free to email and make a connection suggesting you work together. If they don’t want to, move on.

There are plenty of fish in the sea. Don’t be a thirsty jerk and pretend to be going to an event for another outlet when you’re really pushing your own blog. Public relations people can spot a fake a mile away and connectors like myself are more than happy to blast your trifling ass. True story, I actually had a writer/blogger pretend to own my blog… and then dye her hair rainbow colored the same time as me. I guess that’s when influencer turns into Single White Female.

If you are invited to a media dinner, leave a tip. If you don’t know what the total is, you can ask or round it up. A 20 percent tip is acceptable but if you had outstanding service and many courses, leave something larger. No cash? Ask to run your card for a penny or dollar then add it.

Don’t be the jerk at the photo gang bang (what I call media events where everyone is clamoring for a food porn pic) elbowing people for a shot. PR companies, please move away from those events. It’s not classy and cheapens the experience. Be genuine, be yourself and remember to help those who helped you along the way. Your candle flame will never dull by helping light another.

 
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