The line between business and life is growing more and more blurred today. Social media influencer is a job now, and they are in the business of themselves. A lifestyle brand is a flourishing online business niche, where people essentially spell out how they live and invite others to come take a look.
The rise and accessibility of social media has opened the door for more traditional business owners to become influencers in their own right. The curiosity is there- how did X millionaire get to where they are? What’s it like behind the scenes at a company? How do successful people spend their time, and what tools and services do they use?
These are the questions a social media influencer raises as much as they answer. As a business owner, there is an opening for you to become an influencer in your own right. People want to know what goes into the special sauce, and business owners can provide that insight.
There is a distinction between being a business owner and being a social media influencer. Influencers can turn their social media into a business, but business owners don’t have to turn into influencers. You can stay behind the scenes and let your business speak for itself.
Can You Become a Social Media Influencer?
The first question you should ask yourself is if you want to become a very public face associated with your brand. Influencers make their money by being center stage. They share their travels, their food, their outfits, their tools, and their feelings on all of the above. On my company’s Instagram page I often share what a work day is like for me.
Their brand is themselves so they have to share themselves. By putting themselves and their lifestyle out into the world for everyone to see, they command an air of authenticity that consumers respond to. (Especially among the Millennial generation.) There’s no product or gimmick to hide behind, which bonds them to their audience. Viewers feel like they know the actual people, not just the brand.
As a business owner, you get to decide if you want to build that kind of relationship with your audience. You can choose to fuse yourself with your brand or to keep them separate.
The Benefits of Becoming an Influencer
By positioning yourself as an influencer and a personality outside of your business you have the potential to create two marketing funnels. People listen to people they genuinely want to hear from. You can direct your audience towards your business.
You also create hype around your business. Take Mark Zuckerberg for example. Zuckerberg exists as a force outside of Facebook. He’s outspoken on political issues, started an LLC (The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative) with the intent to funnel part of his billions into charity, and has even sparked rumors that he’s interested in running for President.
All of Zuckerberg activities direct attention back to Facebook. He even wrote a post about the President rumors (he says he’s not running) on Facebook. In a masterful influencer move, he took the buzz that his personality had created and drew it back to his company.
Deciding to become an influencer also gives you more leeway to express yourself. You can state opinions as an individual, and not as an entire company. You exist outside of the business sphere and you can show the world your other interests and how you spend your time.
Giving ‘behind the scenes’ looks and showing the world that you’re just a person like everyone else creates a bond between you and your audience. It humanizes you, whereas businesses are often deemed ‘soulless’.
The Case Against Becoming an Influencer
As I mentioned above, one of the main drawbacks of becoming an influencer is opening yourself up to the world for criticism. There’s no hiding once you set out in front of people.
The internet can be cruel, and the backlash of personal decisions can negatively impact your business. As much as you can draw positive attention back to your business, you can draw negative attention.
Kendall Jenner learned that lesson from her Pepsi commercial disaster. Pepsi selected her for the campaign based on the strength of her social media following and appeal to young consumers. However, the ad was tone deaf and turned a lot of people off. Her personal brand took a hit as well, and she was seen as valuing a paycheck over her fans. Worse, she alienated a lot of her fan base. It can be very difficult to win people back after they leave you.
Take the disastrous Frye Festival as another example, (which Jenner was also a part of.) The organizer Billy McFarland, got caught up in his own hype and blew all his money on marketing. When it came down to actually getting the festival what it needed- like food, lodging, and bathrooms, he failed. He lost sight of the business amidst all of the marketing, and now he is synonymous with the words ‘scam’ and ‘fraud.’
His name as an individual carries a stigma. He created a hugely negative media storm and all the bad press landed at the feet of the festival that was supposed to generate his income.
Is it For You?
There is a real power in becoming a social media influencer. You need to decide if it jives with your personality as well as your business goals. It requires building a loyal social media following, which is no small task. Assess your business growth plan and see if this makes sense for you.