I hesitate to pat myself on the back, but I am recognized as a key social influencer in the Liquor and Spirit Space. From helping launch brands such as Tequila Avion and Martell — I’m often hit with the same questions –Do you have sponsorship dollars? or How did you become an Influencer/Brand Ambassador?
I guess the question is actually… How and Why?
I believe part of my growth as a Brand Influencer is because I weave a lot of my personal life, private life, and business life into my content. What that does is allows the public perception to see me for who I am — a relatable lifestyle entity. I may not have the hundreds of thousands of followers like a few of my colleagues, but in the game of influence, its more about quality over quantity.
My influence allows me to pick and choose projects and clients based on my personal taste, interests, and mood in certain challenges. Most companies are understanding that Influencers or brand ambassadors have a lot of power.
I think it was Spider-Man who said, “With great power comes great responsibility,” so I am very careful on how I use mine. Rarely do I repost other brands that I haven’t personally experienced. I’m overly cautious on what brands show up in my photos — image is everything!
Studies show consumers are 71% more likely to make a purchase based off of social media referrals.
According to 2017 Tap Influence research, 40% of people have purchased an item after seeing it used by an influencer on Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube. This is why interest in influencer marketing has skyrocketed 90x since 2013.
Sounds fun right? A Dream Job! Get paid to party!! Whooo Hoooo!!!
Not so fast my friend. Becoming an influencer was NOT easy. It took focused work to create this niche that didn’t exist 10 years ago, when I secured my first client, Tequila Avion from Major Brands/Pernod Ricard. Shout out to Ken Austin and the worlds’ greatest tequila (shameless plug).
Since I like to use my influence in a positive way, I’m going to tell you the secrets that got me to where I am today.
1. Pick A Specialty
If you’ve ever called Apple or any kind of help desk, the first thing they always inquire about is — does your device have power, and is the device turned on.
The reason you have to have a specialty or niche is because brands need and want focus. Brands have certain objectives/KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) that must be met. Pretending you know everything isn’t going to help. Be focused. Be strategic. Study the Brand.
Become a “micro influencer” first. Create a powerful word of mouth locally and to small groups.
Don’t be intimidated by numbers and followers. If you want 100k followers, you can buy them. However, that’s’ not influence and it’s a waste of money. Companies and brands can immediately decipher the real from the fake, but I’ll talk about that in another post.
Micro influencers don’t have the followings of a Kardashian, but they’re much more rooted into the “scene” and can still reach a targeted niche. Keep grinding. Keep taking meaningful photos. One day you may look up and have 1.2 million followers, but you have to start with at least one.
Just start as an expert amongst your family and friends. Then grow from that point. In the beginning, I was able to leverage DELUX Magazine to enhance my personal brand and local influence.
2. Create and Understand Strategy
Once you know what you are going to focus on — learn the strategy. You must study the brand. “Before seeking support, research the company, organization, or brand thoroughly to see if there are existing synergies or simply if it’s a good fit for their business objectives.” – Karim Lateef. If you are going into the niche of liquor influence without a strategy of how to get a consumer to change their drinking habits — then this definitely isn’t the niche for you. Influence is influencing the influencer to change their habits. It’s a tall task if you don’t have a strategy or activation/execution ideas.
3. Network Within The Industry
In the social media world of “I can do it all by myself’ (wrong) and “quick self gratification” — the art of networking is dying. In my opinion, networking is a key component to success. Not just the spirit industry, but in all walks of life. Its not what you know, its who you know — and that shit is real.
In order to be influential, you need to make real connections. When I launched Martell in Houston and Detroit, I literally knew no one. Now whenever I’m in those cities, its like a H.O.M.E away from HOME. Shout out to Rob over at Prospect Park and Katrice for holding me down when I’m in town!
These days, everyone wants to sit at home on their couch and connect with influencers on social media. That’s not true marketing! Get off the couch, leave the house (yes actually walk out the door), and go to the events. Take pictures, talk about brand, watch the brands that move, watch the execution of the event, who is advertising, etc. There’s so much knowledge you gain from just going and not sitting. Trust me.
4. Create A Website or Blog
Sometimes Linkedin isn’t enough. Conversations also don’t end on social media. There’s always more to say than 140 characters on Twitter. Start creating your brand (I’ll be doing an article about personal branding in the next few weeks). Personally, I’m a huge fan of blogging. Yeah, yeah I know, you aren’t a writer, or you don’t know what to say…LOL! Check this out. I started DELUX Magazine with no college degree, and trust me when I tell you I’m not a writer. I’ll repeat….I AM NOT A WRITER (just ask our Editor In Chief, Shadress). Anyway, go start your blog today. Remember to be real with yourself, and be real with your audience.
With a website or blog, you have a place to direct your social followers as you gain them. One of the best content management systems for creating either a website or blog is WordPress.
5. Stay Ahead Of Current Events
To be an influencer is to be an expert in your craft. Every morning around 5:30am, I’m looking through booze magazines, and checking my preselected keywords via Google Trends. Google Trends is an amazing way to keep track of brands, competitors, and what’s trending. It’s a powerful tool when it comes to monitoring and keeping up with new trends, ideas, and innovative concepts.
6. Follow Influencers and Give Shout Outs
To be an influencer, you need to know other influencers. Who you’re following is almost as important as who follows you. To expand your influence, you need to show people they’re influencing you as well.
On Twitter, there’s a hashtag group called #Teamfollowback that believes in reciprocating every follow. I don’t go that far, but I do try to follow other influencers to engage their audiences along with mine.
Many influencers also love giving shout outs to followers, fans, and subscribers. Shout outs make people feel like they’re personally contributing to the community. They incentivize participation.
7. Be Innovative and Solidify Your Track Record
This is very important in the liquor game. You have to move cases. Period. In order to change a person’s buying habits, you have to teach them why those habits should change. In the liquor industry, change is made through event activations and special experiences. You can’t just slap a flyer together, throw a few brands on it and expect success. You have to be innovative on how you transform “liquor to lips”. This is why its very important to get off the couch. Ideas and experiences aren’t normally found in a bag of potato chips. Follow influencers around the world. Don’t copy, but use them to get inspired. Create activations that will attract the consumer you and the brand want. Create experiences that people will talk about for years. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope (legally lol). You must be the expert of your craft. The captain of the influencer ship. Above all, you must believe in yourself. If not, no one will.
Becoming a brand influencer or lifestyle manager is the latest trend in digital marketing because social media influencers are now able to quantify their audiences. What started as a hobby for many has become a big business, and influencers like Kenny Burns, Su Solo, Mr Rugs, and Karim Lateef often out influence celebrities, politicians, and other prominent professionals.
I’m an influencer today, but I wasn’t always. Everyone starts at square one with no followers, and nobody knowing who they are. It’s the steps you take to build a following that ultimately determines how influential you become.
Follow me on instagram @1Cognacpapi
Who are the most influential people in your niche? Share + Comment below I’d like to help you go to the next level!