The Yellow Brick Road to Becoming an Influencer

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Somewhere over the rainbow in the mystical land of Oz, there is a person of such power and influence that people from all over come to him for help with their problems. Because of his vast influence and wisdom (and his giant green projected head), he is known reverently as “The Wizard of Oz”.

However, as we come to learn at the end of the book/movie, the wizard is actually just an ordinary man. In fact, he’s kind of a bumbling weirdo. His story is proof that anyone can become an influencer or a thought leader.

There are a lot of articles on becoming a thought leader or influencer that are full of vague tips and processes, making it difficult to gain a vision for how to actually make it happen. But there really is a set-in-stone process to becoming an influencer. It’s as easy as following the yellow brick road to Emerald City.

The yellow brick road to becoming an influencer has 7 steps:

  1. Know Your Quest
  2. Grow a Brain
  3. Build Others Up
  4. Engage in the Conversation
  5. Speak Up
  6. Present Yourself as an Influencer
  7. Be the Wizard

Naturally, there are a lot of intricacies associated with each of these steps, so I’m going to write a full blog series on the topic eventually, But for now, I’ll just provide a surface-level overview.

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1. Know Your Quest

Sure, the end goal is to be an influencer. But with such a vague outcome, how can you expect to get there? The first (and most important) step to becoming an influencer is to decide what it is you want to be the world’s expert at. It sounds daunting, but with the internet, you can become an expert in almost anything in an extremely short period. Find a niche that nobody else is occupying and fill in the gaps. Make it something you LOVE. If you don’t already know what that niche is, start broad and then narrow it down according to your audience’s needs.

2. Grow a Brain

Once you’ve decided on your quest, it’s time to start educating yourself! Grow a brain by reading everything you can find on the subject. This includes blog posts, eBooks, case studies, first-hand experiences, and how-tos. Follow existing influencers in your field to get a feel for what’s hot, and where the industry is headed. As you read, make sure you’re applying what you learn to a project of your own. Your experience will be vital to sharing your ideas and getting people to listen.

3. Build Others Up

Why would other people want to listen to and promote you if you’re not doing the same for others? One of the best ways to show appreciation and build relationships is to promote the work of others. If you read a piece of content that you learned something from or thought was interesting, SHARE IT. Your colleagues will start to take notice that you’re following them, and they’ll want to know who you are and what you do. Those relationships will be vital when building your brand. Who knows, one day they might just return the favor!

4. Engage in the Conversation

In addition to sharing the content of other people, engage in conversations with them. If you have a question or a comment after reading a piece of content, reach out to the author on social media or on the post itself. Most authors will be thrilled that they’re getting the engagement, and they’ll remember your name for later. When you start writing your own content, make sure to mention and promote others in your industry. They’ll be happy to promote your content if it also promotes themselves. Your conversations will be viewed by others, who may jump into the conversation themselves, or watch to see what else you have to offer.

5. Speak Up

No one will listen to you if you’re not speaking up. This means both in writing and in speaking. Every influencer is just that because they write about their thoughts constantly. The benefits of this are two-fold: You learn much faster and more in-depth as you teach, and you start to get noticed. At first, it’ll start out small, with a few shares on Twitter and some smaller blogs and sites. Then you’ll catch a break and get an article on a bigger publication, and your visibility skyrockets. You become a regular contributor to top-tier sites and get asked to speak at engagements and conferences. You’re everywhere! Pretty soon, everyone wants to know what YOU think.

6. Present Yourself as an Influencer

Once you’re confident in your ability to share what you know, it’s time to start presenting yourself as an influencer. Optimize your social media pages to reflect that you’re an expert in your field. Start reaching out to other influencers and journalists and ask them to share your content. Consider building out a personal website to promote your content. Write content that people will be willing to exchange their information for, like eBooks and Guides. Start seeking out speaking engagements and opportunities to mentor and teach what you know. Who will question your claim to influence? They’re already listening to you, aren’t they?

7. Be the Wizard

You’ve made it! You’ve followed the yellow brick road all the way to Emerald City, and you’re now the most influential and wise person around! But that’s not enough. Thousands, if not millions of people are now coming to you for advice and solutions. If you don’t deliver, they’ll just think you’re a fraud. So the process never ends. Keep reading, learning, practicing, writing, speaking, and sharing. Keep teaching and pushing the envelope. As soon as you stop, you’ll be passed up by someone else, your influence will diminish, and someone else will take your place as the Wizard.

We’re Off to Be the Wizard, Step 1: Know Your Quest

There are many strategies, tricks, and “hacks” to becoming an influencer, but all of them fit into this general pathway to success. Make no mistake, the path is not easy to follow, but it is straightforward, and can be accomplished by anyone. By harnessing the persistence and dedication of Dorothy and her friends, you can make it to Emerald City.

When Dorothy set off on her journey on the Yellow Brick Road, she knew what her end goal was. She knew her quest. She was going to find the Wizard and use his power to return home to Kansas. It was this knowledge of her quest that kept her pushing on through the roadblocks and the hardships and making it to the end.

The first and most important step of her journey occurred before any physical movement took place. Dorothy knew what she wanted and made the decision to get there, no matter what. The journey to becoming an Influencer is no different. To be successful, you need to know exactly where you want to be, and be absolutely determined to get there.

So why do you want to be an Influencer? Are you sure you want to take that route? What do you want to be the expert at? These are all questions that are vital to know before you can make any meaningful strides toward Influencers.

The Pros of Being an Influencer

Before deciding that becoming an influencer is what you want, it might be helpful to weigh the pros and the cons. Here are some of the major rewards of being an influencer:

1. Customer Trust You

The reason it’s called being an influencer is because you can influence decisions. This is possible because people trust your expertise and knowledge enough to base their choices on it. This effectively allows you to attract customers to your brand or a partner’s just because you’re you, and you said so. You become a magical wizard with the power to change the minds of the people you come in contact with.

This is made evident in a Nielsen study commissioned by InPowered. Some of the findings of the study included:

  • 85% of consumers regularly or occasionally seek out trusted expert content – credible, third-party articles & reviews – when considering a purchase
  • 69% of consumers like to read product reviews written by trusted experts before making a purchase
  • 67% of consumers agree that an endorsement from an unbiased expert makes them more likely to consider purchasing

When put in comparison with both brand content and user-generated content, influencer content had much more profound effects on the customer’s awareness, affinity, and purchase intent:

  • Expert content had an 88% greater impact on brand awareness than brand content and a 50% greater impact than user-generated reviews.
  • Expert content had a 50% greater impact on brand affinity than brand content and a 20% greater impact than user reviews.
  • Expert content lifted purchase intent by 38% over brand content and 83% over user reviews.

That kind of influence is what brands drool for. If you have it, there will be no end to the opportunities you will be presented with.

2. People Will Bring Business to You

Being an influencer is the ultimate in inbound marketing. Because you’re the expert in what you do, customers and companies flock to you in droves for your advice, thoughts, and (best of all) your services. Gone are the days when you have to look high and low for business opportunities and leads to close. Instead, you’ll probably need to start looking for an assistant to help manage all of your different obligations.

3. Personal Benefits

From a purely personal standpoint, being an influencer can be quite lucrative. You’re able to charge top-dollar for your services because the words that come out of your mouth make the same sounds as gold coins clinking together for your partners and customers. That could mean total financial freedom if you save and spend your money wisely, allowing you to do almost anything you want. For those who have other motivations, it doesn’t hurt that you are constantly getting recognition for your work and that it feels really good to have the ability to help people and businesses grow and improve.

The Cons of Being an Influencer

Being an influencer is not for the faint of heart. There are some cons associated with that status:

1. It’s Hard Work

Being an influencer is not an easy thing to do. It requires great determination and self-discipline. The most glaring challenge is the requirement of your time. Not only are you spending tons of it sharing your knowledge through writing and speaking and providing value to anyone who comes asking for it, but you also have to stay up-to-date on your industry, keep gaining more experience through work and practice, and think of new and innovative ideas. As if that’s not enough, you also have to take care of yourself and potentially a family as well.

Basically, being an influencer is totally exhausting. Many of the influencers I know put in well over a 40-hour work week, but it’s something they love doing and have the flexibility to do around their regular life obligations like parenting, so they don’t mind.

2. It Takes Patience 

It can take a long time to become an influencer in the first place. You can’t just decide to be more influential than other people in your industry. People only trust people who have put in the time and energy to earn the knowledge they have obtained. Now, with the growth of the internet things have sped up a little bit, but becoming an influencer is not a short-term, instant-gratification ordeal. To be successful, you have to be in it for the long haul.

Many people start on the path to being an influencer, only to be discouraged by the slow growth at the beginning. I feel like becoming an influencer is usually somewhat of a snowball effect. It takes a long time to grow your initial following, but once you get momentum, things can start to grow like crazy. Don’t be surprised if it takes you a couple of years before you start to make it as an influencer.

3. All Eyes Are on You

If you’re an influencer, it’s almost like you’re a celebrity in your field. People are always watching you and will take notice of or even draw attention to your faults or mistakes. They expect something close to perfection from you because you’re the person they have put their trust in. You don’t get to have off days. You don’t get to half-ass anything. You have to provide your best work at all times. Someone is ALWAYS watching.

This is one of the worst parts for me. People generally only imagine the positives of attention when they envision being an influencer, but people are mean. You need to have a thick skin to survive as an influencer. Plus, if you become recognizable, you have to deal with having people recognize you when you’re out and about. Sure, some people don’t mind being stopped every once in a while, but if it ends up getting to the point where you can’t go anywhere without someone wanting to chat or get a photo, leaving the house can start becoming something you dread.

Finding Your Niche

If you’ve weighed out the pros and cons and feel like it’s all worth it, you’re going to need to find and fill your little niche. The more specialized you are, the more likely you are to be able to claim the status of “the world’s expert” at that thing. I’ve found that it’s easier to grow initially when you’re speaking to a really Niche group than when you’re casting a wide net that doesn’t set you apart from other wide nets.

To find your niche, you must honestly answer a few probing questions:

  • What do you love? You will never have the dedication you need to be an influencer if you don’t love what you do. You can try, but I guarantee you won’t be happy spending so much time on something you only kind of like. Eventually, your influence would fizzle and die.
  • What are you good at? This is a question that needs to be asked frequently, and the answer isn’t life or death. Luckily, you can become good at almost anything as long as you put in the work. However, it is much easier to become an expert at something you already have a knack for.
  • What do you spend your time doing? This is a great question to ask, as you will be spending almost all your time thinking about or doing whatever it is you are the expert at. If you’re already spending a lot of your time doing something, it’s only natural to become an expert in that instead of changing your entire lifestyle. Plus, chances are the answer to this question is also the answer to the first two questions.
  • What isn’t already being covered? Whatever answers you get for the first three questions will lead to this fourth. What aspect of your industry isn’t already being covered, or at least covered well? The answers are the holes in which you can provide the most value, and that you want your influence to fill.

The very first step in your quest to become an influencer is to know your quest. You should know it so well that as you progress toward reaching your goal you feel like you’re coming home, and fitting in where you belong. After all, “There’s no place like home.”

Are you an influencer? What advice do you have for others who would like to become an influencer someday? Let us know in the comments below!

Much success,

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