While most of us support and even cherish the idea of the “free press”, the actual job of running a newspaper (or any other traditional media channel) is far from free. Access to a multi-million dollar printing press, the rising costs of newsprint and a distribution network reliant on a fleet of diesel vehicles — not to mention the (albeit often underpaid) staff required to write, edit and design the newspaper, all make for an expensive business. The time, effort and cost of publishing the traditional way is way beyond most people’s budgets. While you might argue, the media landscape has always offered a number of publications targeting niche audiences; their reach has been limited and expensive in terms of subscription and advertising costs. This is why most newspaper proprietors, more often than not, fall into the very specific demographic category of “wealthy old men”.
The invention of the printing press might have made the written word accessible to huge swaths of the population but high costs of publishing kept control of what was written and distributed to the general public in the hands of only a small number of people.
The Internet changed everything.
Laptop computers, unmetered Internet access, low cost and even free software, and latterly incredibly powerful mobile devices like smartphones and tablets completely democratized the media landscape. If you have an opinion (and who doesn’t have one of them) you can be a publisher or broadcaster with very little upfront investment other than the technology on your kitchen table or in your pocket.
Joining the ranks of the traditional media are armies of bloggers, YouTubers, podcasters and social media influencers (across a wide range of social channels including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and many more).
Note: While there are many digital channels to choose from, I would suggest you get to grips with one first and as your confidence grows to start expanding onto other channels. Remember it’s always better to do a good job over two or three channels than spread yourself too thinly over multiple channels. While there is no right or wrong answer about where you should start — it’s always best to focus on the channels that you and your audience are most comfortable with.
So Who Are The Influencers?
Digital influencers come from all walks of life. They are musicians, actors, authors, reality TV stars, journalists, coders, business leaders, entrepreneurs, restaurateurs, bakers, makers, connoisseurs, religious leaders, teachers, politicians, models, artists, experts, activists and pretty much anyone else who has an idea and the confidence to use digital media to share their message. Some of them might look a lot like you. And if they don’t look like you, they almost certainly look like your kids.
While a lot of the focus is inevitably on “celebrity” influencers like the omnipresent Kardashian clan or fresh-faced YouTube stars like Zoella (with her 12 million followers) the space isn’t exclusive to any one particular group.
If you have a passion and the desire to share insight around your passion, you have the potential to become an influencer.
Find and Own Your Niche
The low costs associated with online publishing and broadcasting makes it accessible to any niche interest. Hit the right audience with the right message at the right time and even the smallest of audiences can provide a receptive and even lucrative home for your content.
To quote my good friend, Matthew Ogborne, it’s all about “Finding your nutters.”
If you have a product or service to sell, an idea you want to share or simply the urge to entertain or inform, there is literally nothing standing in your way of getting your message out there. There are no editors or overly cynical hacks manning news desks and dismissing the validity of your story. There are also no advertising sales reps hoping to turn your idea into their commercial gain with the promise of very little (if anything) in return. In fact, the most common roadblock to finding success as an online influencer is you.
While every influencer will have their own unique approach to their output, I believe they all share some very similar traits. These include:
· Knowledge: They are bona fide thought leaders. Just because the media channels they operate on are free and open to everyone, it doesn’t mean that their expertise isn’t any less valuable than the opinions of those in the mainstream media.
· Passion: They clearly love what they do and they want you to love it too. Great content is often described as “viral”, what these guys produce is nothing short of an epidemic.
· Authenticity: While production values rival traditional outlets, there is no veneer covering waver thin content here.
· Persistence: Perhaps the most important trait of them all. They turn up every day and produce consistently good content which their audiences want to consume and (equally important in this social age) share.
You have the power to reach and influence your audience like never before. You just need to put the effort in and take ownership of the conversation you want to control.