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How to become an influencer

Just about the smallest business that can exist is a business with one employee. You.

Over the last couple of years an industry featuring small businesses of almost exclusively one person has grown exponentially. That’s the influencer industry. This article will explore what an influencer is, how you become one and meet one of our very own.

Firstly what actually is an influencer?

With the growth in usage of social media and widespread availability of smartphones, it’s possible to build large audiences of avid followers. To give this context, Facebook has more than a billion active users while Twitter and Instagram have about 350 million. You only need to attract a tiny proportion of these users to have a large following.

An influencer then is someone with a large, active, engaged social audience. They are influencers because their access to a large audience makes them opinion leaders and trendsetters. How is this a business? Well, when you have access to a large audience of engaged followers, people and brands want to collaborate and advertise on your channels. Because of this, suddenly, a guy who plays pranks on his housemate, or a cat with a grumpy expression, is a business.

The big names

This first name on everybody’s lips when influencers are mentioned and someone at the vanguard of the influencer movement is Zoella. She is the classic YouTube

influencer and she talks about everything from make-up to present wrapping. She has a staggering 10 million subscribers and her videos have amassed over 700 million views. It’s not a surprise then that brands are falling over themselves for access to her audience.

Using Instagram’s 15-second video format (you can now upload longer videos) @TheBodyCoach caught the eye by creating healthy recipes that he describes in his own unique, 15-second way. He has more than a million followers on Instagram and from humble beginnings, is now busy creating a fitness empire.

This tastes incredible ?❤️ The sauce is the one ?? It's my roasted red pepper and cashew nut pasta with chicken #Leanin15

A video posted by Joe Wicks #Leanin15 (@thebodycoach) on

On the more unusual end of the scale is Grumpy Cat. With nearly 9 million likes on Facebook and millions more across other social networks, Grumpy Cat is a cat who looks a bit grumpy. As unimpressive as this sounds, the cat (and owner) has a lucrative contract with a pet food brand and more merchandise than you’d think possible. Oh, and book and movie deals.

The next big thing

We caught up with comedian Olaf Falafel who is beginning to get influencer status after a couple of smash hit Vines that clocked up millions of loops.

What is your chosen social channel and why did you choose that one?

I started out using Twitter, mainly to share jokes and ideas – I then progressed onto Vine. I find that the visual immediacy of Vine makes a great outlet for my particular kind of silly stupidity. I also love the six-second time limit of Vine, it’s incredibly challenging and forces you to boil ideas down to their core essence.

How many followers do you have?

25,000 across Twitter and Vine.

Was your aim to become an influencer?

It’s very ego flattering to think of yourself as an influencer but while quite a lot of my Vines and tweets have gone viral, there are a hell of a lot of stinkers that I delete when I realise how rubbish they are! Like most people on social media, I started out with no followers, shouting into a void, wondering what it was all about and whether anyone was listening.

Do you still have a day job?

I illustrate during the day and perform comedy at night – they are both quite flexible jobs and quite often they overlap.

Have you been approached by any brands who want to work with you?

I have on a couple of occasions, I’m not against doing branded stuff as long as the fit is right – I’ve recently come back from Paris after making some Vines for MuseumWeek. There are a few other things coming up in the next few months which should be fun, but I can’t talk about just yet.

You had your biggest hit by calling out some big names in the media. Did you target them specifically to get traction?

I don’t think I consciously go after any person or company with the sole intention of getting likes and shares. I have definitely noticed though that mentioning certain people like Donald Trump proves to be more shareable.

What did it feel like the first time one of your Vines got millions of views?

It was weird. I filmed myself throwing a slice of cheese onto a newspaper and within a matter of a few minutes it was flying around the internet. My phone was buzzing that day. It’s a great feeling to know that something you’ve created is being enjoyed by all sorts of people around the world, especially when it’s something as stupid as a croissant-haired Donald Trump or a kettle that sounds like Jump Around by House of Pain.

What tech do you use to create your vines?

I just use my smartphone and the iMovie app, occasionally I’ll use another video effect app, for example if I need to pixelate something out!

How has the improvement in smartphones affected your Vines.

The improvements in smartphone and movie software have opened up what is possible. It’s made it a lot easier and quicker to do things that a few years ago would only have been achievable by people with a lot more technical expertise than I’ve ever been blessed with. If technology keeps advancing and getting more intuitive at this rate, I’m pretty sure that it won’t be long before chimps will be creating great content on social media.

What advice would you give people aspiring to become an influencer?

Do it for the love, you have to be happy doing what you do. Create things that you would want to share and then go out and find other people like yourself and hopefully they’ll share them.

The big tech

What are the technical requirements for setting yourself up as a potential influencer?

On a basic level all you need is a smartphone or tablet. If you’re going to be doing a piece to camera – selfie-style – choose a phone like the Samsung 7 Edge which has a 5 megapixel front camera. If you’re shooting complicated Vines, a tablet with a large screen and good camera like the Sony Xperia Z4 could be your best option.

Things do get more advanced in the influencer world. If you want to achieve a more premium look like the Zoellas of this world then you need to think about lighting. If what you do is audio heavy then consider buying some quality mics and recording equipment. Some influencers have built a career solely on the cool tech they use. Check out The Slow Mo Guys.

The big tips

  • Find a passion
  • Use the right tech
  • Engage in bigger conversations
  • Don’t be boring
  • Keep going

The big step

If you’ve been inspired to become an influencer visit the O2 business shop to view the devices you’ll need to get your small business up and running.

For free, impartial business tech help and advice, why not book a session with an O2 Guru? They’re available online, in store and over the phone.

Book a session now


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