It’s easy to chide and critique, however today I’ll focus on how you can be a better influencer.

Let’s face it, some of you reading this already think you’re influencers but other’s can’t stand you, some of you are actual influencers but are doubting your own abilities or clout.

I’m going to focus on 5 key areas to consider that should help ensure you are seen as a valuable ambassador for a topic. This may not get you a blue tick, sure, however we all know the truth by now:

Unverified is the new verified.

1. Assess, don’t obsess

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A common theme in the critique of self-proclaimed social media influencers today is their obsession with the following words:

  • Amazing
  • Best
  • Dazzling
  • Majestic
  • Mouth-watering
  • Delicious
  • Soul food
  • Brilliant
  • Spectacular

While many bloggers and destination reviewers use these words, many use them for every single place they visit or review. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve seen a reviewer visit a hotel on a Sunday, post a glowing review on how their beds were the best they’ve slept in, yet follow it up with a post on Thursday reviewing another hotel claiming THOSE were the best they’ve slept in.

Your job is to make it easier for your viewers, followers and fans to make decisions, not make it more difficult for them. People read your review to help them choose, because they’ve already selected a few options.

I’m going to address a recurring issue related to this, though, and this applies specifically to this region for now, unless I’m told this happens elsewhere: Bad reviews can lead to bad retaliation.

It is common knowledge here in the region that your rights aren’t really that protected if you complain about a public entity or a brand. Give a bad review to a hotel or restaurant and you could find yourself facing a lawsuit or a libel case. Worse, you could have a really bad customer service rep turn nastier and stalk you or threaten you. I’ve seen this happen.

A friend of mine was threatened with a million dollar lawsuit in a Gulf city because a review was posted by them that wasn’t positive. In the face of an unregulated communications environment for consumers vs brands here, it is easy to become the victim of thin-skinned business owners.

How do you avoid this? Simple: Tact.

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It’s easy to write with good language and grammar skills. You can learn that. What you really need to learn, however, is how to use said good language and grammar to get your point across without offending the other person.

For example, if you’re reviewing a restaurant and their main course was so terrible you wanted to douse it with acid, don’t say

‘the main course was horrible, it tasted like they hadn’t cooked the chicken well enough’,

say ‘the main course could have been better. The chicken wasn’t up to what I expected however feedback was given to the kitchen’.

You’ve advised the person viewing your post about what was lacking, but did it in a way which didn’t necessarily make the outlet seem like the worst out there. Because it isn’t the worst out there. Be objective and tactful, not least because you need to protect your own interests.

Legal concerns aside, your reviews need to focus on advising your viewers, not confusing them. If there are three hotels you visited in one month and they were all really great experiences, use a rating system for their various offerings.

For e.g.
Hotel 1:
Room comforts: *****
Food: ***
Pool options: ****

Hotel 2: 
Room comforts:***
Food: *****
Pool options: Pool under renovation/too small/too far

By providing a range of things they can enjoy or avoid, you give the reader a choice based on what they may find interesting. You also give the property you reviewed a good feeling on what they got right as well as what they could improve based on competitive reviews.

2. Don’t create a rate card

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Unless you have hundreds of thousands of organic followers or very high engagement ratios you’re simply creating a bad impression. First of all, brands will not pay you based on your rate card, and PR firms will talk you out of it in favour of getting you freebies. No, the only people who actually get paid lots of money by PR firms or brands to use their influence are people like Max of Arabia or Huda Kattan. Between the two of them they boast a follower count of almost 15 million.

Does this mean no influencers get paid if they’re not easily recognizable in public? No, not at all. An influencer doesn’t have to be a public figure or a socialite. It’s your words that matter, or your pictures, not your social life. Your job is to convince the reader to make a choice of purchase. If you can show your posts have done that successfully, you will be able to convince brands and PR firms.

Until such time, don’t create a rate card. The market is getting smarter and leaner, and it’s  only a matter of time before someone calls you out on your prices as well as whether any price is justified at all based on your clout.

Just look at some of these examples:

Influenza A: cwo_m1kwiaag2gl

Influenza B: cwo-tb3xgaatfif
(Images shared by the fabulous Nick Rego)

Even the most seasoned photographers in the Gulf who have studied photojournalism and went to media school don’t charge US$ 2000 per photo. For US$ 2,300 I can hire a professional film company to shoot a clip for me. For goodness’ sake what is wrong with the idiots who created these rate cards?

3. Create a presentation of your metrics

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The smarter the brand or PR firm’s digital arm is, the easier it is for them to check the accuracy of your claims when it comes to your clout. It is 2016, and the tools exist already to see how many of your followers on Twitter or Instagram are fake or real, bought or bots. Klout scores also showcase just which topics you’re influential on and which you’re not.

To avoid getting into an embarrassing conversation regarding your authenticity, first of all don’t claim something you’re not.

Second, if you really do have great numbers to show, showcase them prominently and clearly. Create a single slide that has screenshots of your metrics: Blog views per day, most successful review in terms of engagement (likes, comments, shares), affiliate sales if you use affiliate marketing, comments on your blog in general etc. We – brands and PR firms – LOVE it when you show us actual engagement evidence. In some cases we even put you on retainer. Don’t you want to be the influencer that can boast being on retainer by PR firms?

If you’re good at design, create an infographic about your influence. Here’s a way to do so, using a neat concept by Worona:

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Remember, you’re only an influencer if people are actually being influenced by you. Nothing proves this more than the numbers you can show.

4. Proper language skills

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Look, I’m not going to sugar-coat this: if you have atrocious English language skills, people will notice, call it out and make fun of it. This is the way the world works. For many influencers, a few mistakes and a typo here and there are excusable if the general content has been good and with relatively few errors.

A mistake every few posts is good. Not a mistake in every few lines!

Always write your posts in Microsoft Word first. This allows Word to underline any spelling and grammar concerns that you can correct.

You can also use Grammar Check, which is more powerful.

PR firms are always overworked and underpaid. In many cases, much of their time is spent correcting mistakes by writers. The last thing you want is to appear on a PR specialist’s ‘block’ list because they spent to much time cringing over your use of ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’.

You want to get better at the language itself? I’ll cover that in another post. For now, use the two options above (Word and Grammar Check) to keep yourself in check.

5. Get your blog/handle reviewed

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Everyone’s a critic. Some are actually good at it. Find people you respect who’re from the influencer, media, PR or literary industry and ask them if they would review your intellectual property. You’d be surprised at how many things you may be doing wrong without even realising it.

Uninteresting or useless hashtags, ineffective SEO tags, no proper image naming for your blog images, and so on.

Before sending off your stuff for review, first do your own research and educate yourself. There are a myriad of great sources for this, including other blog posts, Youtube videos and templates. Here’s two I find very handy:

13 Instagram Marketing Tips From the Experts

A Simple Guide to Using Hashtags on Twitter [Infographic]

Part 2 will cover 5 more topics which focus on the actual content you post and a review of some actual influencers you can learn from. See you soon!

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