10 attributes of a social media influencer

Last week I shared some insights about influencer marketing, with examples on how it works in the travel industry, based on my experience at #TBEX in New York state recently. I’ve got part 2 of those thoughts for you this week.

Influencers can range from celebrity status with huge broadcast reach of millions, to micro influencers, those with 20,000 – 100,000 followers on combined platforms, with a leader who is actively engaged in a niche audience. Depending on how specific the niche, there is also opportunity for influencers with 5,000 – 10,000 followers if they are heavily engaged.

Influencers often deliver insider information, and they do it through a 1:1 relationship with thousands that they have nurtured over time on their various media channels, in their niche audience area through consistently producing content of interest like photos, tips, blog posts, videos and podcasts on social media platforms and their website. The content is generally entertaining, educational or inspirational.

If you’re thinking of working with an influencer, run down this check list first:

1. Influencers are solopreneurs at heart. They are generally self-directed and driven. The good ones have hustle.

2. They are natural storytellers. Whether that be through words, video, audio, photography, or a combination of these, they know the power of story and how to frame content in a way that their target audience loves.

3. They are social. Seems logical that they’d be social if they are social media influencers, but many accounts with large followings don’t received that much engagement, or it’s shallow at best. Good influencers engage with their audience and develop relationships over time. Great influencers also have a social presence beyond online, solidifying contacts in real life with their audience at networking or industry events, sometimes speaking or presenting.

4. They’re often youthful. But that is changing. Since social media influence is relatively new, and the platforms involved have had uptake from a disproportionate number of younger players, many early adopters were in their 20s and 30s. That however is changing very quickly.

5. They are driven by the pursuit of their passion area FIRST and the business of making money SECOND. Most successful influencers evolved into a privileged position of making money from their influence. They didn’t set out to do that. Those later joiners who have been motivated by money are easy to spot. And their numbers likely aren’t organic in their pursuit of growth, so the following and influence may be less valuable. Good growth and nurturing an audience takes time. People usually only have the patience for that if they are telling stories about something they love. Check out these folks on Instagram for travel industry examples:

6. Have a well-defined niche. They target a well-defined audience, or their content is hyper focused. Mickela Mallozzi (@travelbarefeet) dances her way around the world. Her positioning line is, “I make new friends by dancing with strangers.” If that sounds a bit weird to you, it’s not really. Her background is in dance. And she tours and films around the world learning the native dance of different cultures and then shares it with others. To her, dance transcends language. Is it too niched? Apparently not. While her Instagram following is still modest for an influencer at just over 5,100 she has significant reach with a broadcast show on Youtube that has just been picked up from her online content.

7. Great branding. While having only great branding without great content won’t hold a following over time, there’s lots of great content out there that will never be found simply because the branding is crap. Check out Lia Garcia (@practicalwanderlust) and link to her other platforms beyond Instagram. There is a look/feel, which is consistent visually. But the voice of storytelling is also consistent and very personable. And the brand matches the person in real life – her self deprecating humour is contagious.

8. They have perfected ONE primary platform, and then added others. Great influencers usually have one favoured and super strong social platform where they prefer to play and where their followers prefer to get content. They have rounded out their offerings using other channels, but it’s easy to spot what they love.

9. Multiple income streams. Professional influencers, (yes there are people making six figures and more at this), have multiple income streams from their influence. Beyond influencer partnership agreements which is usually where the big money is made, there could be affiliate marketing, advertising on their site podcast or video pre-roll, coaching, boot camps or courses to others to learn how they do what they do, and membership sites. Many sell or license their content production too.

10. They are guided by ethics. Good influencers are selective about what they become involved in, and maintain transparency and authenticity – always with their audience in mind. They respect the power they have and will not sell that out. Despite putting a price on their influence, they can’t always be purchased.

I’m fascinated by how all this works in the travel industry, and I’m convinced it’s an area with huge potential in other markets. Progressive companies are already playing in this space as part of their social media marketing strategy. Have you had experience working with online influencers? I’d love to hear about your experience. Leave a comment below or reach out to me directly.

Since my brand is still in its infancy, I’d be thrilled if you would check it out, or send some love with a like, follow or share to my social platforms. And if you are a published writer, or know someone who is, with a travel story to share that you think would be a good audience fit, drop me a line at I am actively collecting well written content to profile while helping grow an audience for the author. Check out this guest post for a sample of how work is profiled.


Mary Charleson


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