Let’s begin with an unpopular opinion:
Online coaches (or any business person for that matter) CAN be an influencer WITHOUT having millions of followers or a blue checkmark next to their social media handles.
Surprised? Ah, don’t be. We completely understand.
Time and again, it’s been drummed into us that social media — particularly Instagram — is the end-all, be-all when it comes to “influencing.” We’ve been sat down and implored that a compelling social media presence is indispensable if we hope to command any kind of meaningful influence.
And the fact that every top brand is scrambling to create an online presence today further cements the belief that the term “influence” is synonymous with social media.
But when a potential customer is considering buying your course, do you think they’re attracted to your huge following?
Can an elusive blue tick alone inspire trust and loyalty and encourage someone to spend their hard-earned money on your course?
Thanks to the scores of brands/celebrities/entrepreneurs that have managed to influence millions WITHOUT so much as a social media account, we know this NOT to be true.
Influence has little to do with your number of followers, popularity, or the tons of brands you endorse.
Don’t believe it? Let’s dig deeper.
Can you really influence without having a following?
The real question is, what does it mean to have influence?
Where does it come from? Who is truly an influencer?
It’s a fuzzy, gray area but let’s give it a shot.
A person of influence is someone who can change lives with their actions. They inspire their audience to think, challenge, and uplift themselves. They have:
- the authority and expertise to inspire loyalty and trust.
- the power to impact others’ views and buying decisions.
- the ability to create trends and have people follow.
Having influence means sharing a distinct, personal, close-knit relationship with your audience who would go until the end of the world to fulfil their worth or duty towards you.
If you asked them to “show some love” to your new venture, that’s exactly what they’ll do. No questions asked.
When you make a recommendation, they’ll be sure to check it out.
If you launch a podcast, they’ll be the FIRST to download it!
They’ll actively engage with you, support you, and even defend you when need be.
Securing that level of influence usually starts with meeting a need or solving a pain point. Oh, and doing a HELLUVA job of it!
Let’s say there’s a customer who has been battling chronic hair loss for ages that has left their self-esteem fractured. And as a dermatologist, you successfully resolve this major pain point and restore their confidence and self-image.
Do you know what else you’ve succeeded at? Winning their trust and loyalty.
Now, anytime you need their help and support, won’t they GLADLY return the favour? Yes, they will!
THAT connection where your audience trusts you irrevocably, recommends you to their friends out of sheer loyalty, is willing to sign up for your courses, join your events, listen to your podcasts — in short, take action, and support you all through the end — IS THE TRUE MEASURE OF YOUR INFLUENCE.
If you can’t pull that off, sorry to burst your bubble, but you don’t have influence. You have X million followers, which is just what it is — a number.
The point we are making is, you don’t gotta be a big-shot “social media influencer” to have influence.
So what is the key?
You simply need to know HOW to influence.
Let’s further bust the myth by looking at some powerful examples, kay?
Examples: Real-life Influencers Who Affect Masses
They weren’t at the mercy of social media. They just led, and people “followed”.
Starting with the inspirational Malala Yousufzai, need we even elaborate on the far-reaching influence she commands?
The tenacious Pakistani activist and gunshot survivor began advocating for gender equality in education and women empowerment from the age of 11 (long before she was even a global sensation or had accounts on social media).
That Nobel Peace Prize she won in 2014 has nothing to do with social media or her following.
Malala’s story is so courageous and awe-inspiring, her commitment so unwavering, that it’s all the proof anyone needs to believe that anyone with a strong voice can affect millions of lives and bring change.
Even actor Leonardo DiCaprio is a fervent, strong-voiced environmentalist in his own right. With his tireless efforts towards forest and biodiversity conservation, climate change control, and philanthropy, he is committed to creating a sustainable future for our planet.
Now, you might say, “what are you saying; he has close to 50 million followers on Instagram!” Damn right, but the truth is his SM following is just a by-product of his diverse body of work. And, he uses that followership to command even more influence than he would have with just films.
If you still insist, we present Emma Watson as a shining example who… wait for it… doesn’t even HAVE a personal Instagram account!
Does it stop the young actress from continuing her influential work in furthering humanitarian causes and advocating for gender equality? No!
No wonder the beautiful activist has been a UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador since 2014! Emma Watson FTW!
If you take a good look at history, influencers have been around and amongst us for as long as society has existed, be it celebrities, athletes, royalty figures, spokespeople, or even friends and family. In fact, fictional characters like Coca-Cola’s Santa Claus and Marlboro’s The Marlboro Man have also played influential roles in guiding consumer decisions.
It’s just that the word “influencer” started gaining traction with the rapid rise of the internet, and people began fashioning themselves the title to push #sponsored content.
Anyway, with that sorted, we are back on our original question — how can you influence your audience without being a social media influencer?
Here are five powerful guiding points for online coaches to inspire influence — they have nothing to do with your followers or brand partnerships, just like we promised!
1. Create content that inspires, makes the audience think, and is unique to you
It’s possible you feel you are not cut out for social media. You probably have zero interest in securing brand deals or affiliate links. But you still need to somehow earn your customer’s trust in order to encourage them to buy your products, don’t you? You’ve got to remind them that you exist, right?
One way to do this is to create inspiring, thought-provoking content and share it with your audience.
No, no, we mean post content on your SM to simply share it, not for clout.
For instance, when you have something relevant to say or something you truly feel passionately about.
Demonstrating expertise and authority definitely works in your favour when vying to create influence, but nothing draws the trust and support of masses like being a real human being does.
Even an effective ad can only so much as tempt people, but who they put their faith in depends on the relationship they share with them. That’s what makes an influencer so powerful!
Give insight into the person you are; be honest and transparent. Don’t hesitate to get personal, if need be.
It can be a well-written Medium or YourStory post on a cause you feel passionately about, a true-life incident that inspired you to change, personal experiences you’ve had in your line of work, behind-the-scene snapshots, a not-so-picture-perfect selfie — anything that helps forge that personal connection with your audience and makes them relate with you.
Content that is UNIQUE to you and inspires emotion within readers is often what drives influence.
And it’s no secret that social media is a place to exchange content, whether with your friends or family, target audience, or the general public. So, leverage it to build your influence.
In contrast to social media influencers who keep singing praises of their products or updating their audience on the current specials, you can take a step further and share the story of how you got where you are (without airing your dirty laundry — pun intended!).
Another interesting subject to share is your WHY — why you chose the field of work, what motivates you, and so on.
Oh and, don’t just post your content and call it a day. Be kind enough to acknowledge everyone who engages with your posts.
If there’s one thing to remember, it’s to be who you are. Keep readers enriched by your words the few times you choose to speak.
Pull your audience in with your flair, and watch them reciprocate with support.
2. Be approachable: Connect with your audience in real life and be there for them
It probably doesn’t happen enough, but influencers do meet or connect with their fans time and again to tell them that they’re there for them.
To the audiences, it’s proof that their idols are so much more than just online celebrities, and interacting with them just further strengthens that bond.
An excellent example of how influence goes beyond just following people on social media is Kim Kardashian’s surprise donation to a single mother of 4 after her husband passed away as a result of Covid.
When you think of Kim Kardashian, you think of an unapproachable, up-there-with-the-rest magical beings that are impossible to get a hold of. But, their influence isn’t limited to their work; it goes much beyond it.
There’s your cue, online coaches! Get off of the internet once in a while and do something for your customers in real life. Better still, invite them to a meet-and-greet event, learn about their struggles, and see how you can impact them.
Getting up close and personal with your audience could mean participating in trade shows, holding press meetings, workshops, in-person classes, etc., attending conferences or seminars, and hosting live discussion events with colleagues.
For public personalities like yourself, it is critical that your audience views you as someone approachable.
So, go out of your way to encourage them; keep channels open for communication so they can approach you for such 1:1 or group meetings.
There’s your chance to help them through their problems by giving them personal attention and winning their trust.
3. Build a tribe, not a follower list
You are probably all too familiar with the “your tribe is your vibe” hashtag, aren’t you? Almost every social media influencer has said it or posted it at least once on their pages.
In fact, it’s often said that building a tribe is the most authentic way to connect with your audience. But, what does a “tribe” even mean?
In a nutshell? It is the ONE thing that can help you secure EVERY building block of influence we’ve talked about so far (without being an “actual” influencer).
Talk about trust, commitment, loyalty, favour, unwavering support, love — your answer lies in building a tribe!
American journalist and writer Jane Howard says: “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”
- A tribe is a group of like-minded individuals from different walks of life who support each other in being the best versions of themselves.
- It essentially means fostering a close-knit, loving, supporting online community where everyone shares the same interests, values, and pain points.
It usually begins with becoming vulnerable in front of your audience, perhaps by sharing a struggle or a tough situation you are going through or have been through.
For instance, Komal Pandey, the go-to fashion queen of Instagram in India, wasn’t always this confident, loved, and appreciated celebrity she is today. She’s had her fair share of struggles, from battling clinical anxiety and failed relationships to facing the wrath of trolls.
It wasn’t until she bared it all for social media – her insecurities, grievances, experiences with slut-shaming, depression – that her audience began to connect with her on a human level and respond to her with gracious and unswerving loyalty.
Now, it’s nothing but millions of well-wishers in her comments, standing by her through thick and thin.
If anyone so much as dared come at her with a hateful comment, her tribe is ready to give it back to them and defend her selflessly.
That’s the POWER of a tribe!
Too many influencers have a massive follower list, but not everyone can build a thriving tribe that has their back.
Author and Speaker Jeff Goins rightly puts it, “It doesn’t matter if you get more eyeballs if they’re not looking at you.”
If you think about it, there’s not much of a difference between social media and real-life; you need the support of your friends and family no matter what.
And an online tribe gives you the chance to forge that special connection with people who then prioritize you as their “go to” person. Not to mention, the support you reap from the masses is phenomenal!
Check out the outpouring of blessings and positive energy on fitness trainer Hope Isabel’s after-surgery post.
Of course, simply posting about your struggles and skedaddling away to attend to other business doesn’t quite cut it. You need to RESPOND to the responses you receive.
Return the favour of listening to their pain points as they listened to you. Be considerate and empathetic, and uplift them with positive energy every chance you get. (Tip: Compliments go a long way! Insert them organically in your responses anytime anyone is vulnerable).
4. Create opportunities for your audience
For example, let’s say your online course is designed to teach people how to adopt a vegan diet. Naturally, people who take your class are passionate about pursuing a sustainable lifestyle. It’s possible plenty of them would even like to contribute to the cause in a more meaningful manner.
What do you do?
You step in and give them that opportunity — possibly by collaborating with an NGO or starting a foundation that actively allows people to participate in activities that align with their values.
That’s bound to establish ringing influence, we tell you! Actions like these never go unnoticed.
A good place to look for inspiration is the COVID-19 pandemic when every (social media or not) influencer brought their A-game to combat the disease’s devastating impact.
From providing helpful guides and resources to arranging hospital beds, raising funds, and airlifting citizens from pandemic-stricken countries, the rapid response from the celebrities and common people alike was unequivocally impressive.
We are all too familiar with Bollywood actor Sonu Sood’s philanthropic efforts during COVID that turned the reel-life hero into a real-life hero! When millions of migrants found themselves without a source of income amid the pandemic, Sood took it upon himself to arrange hundreds of buses to take stranded migrants home.
What’s more, countless other willing people could join in and lend their support towards the humanitarian cause through him.
Another example is when Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli leveraged their collective influence to raise over ₹11 crores in funds to provide oxygen to critical COVID patients in just the nick of time!
See? We are talking about creating opportunities in the same vein!
The idea is to enable your audience to achieve something they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
Whether it’s by doing a project together, participating in a social cause, organizing blood drives, or volunteering at animal shelters — encourage your audience to expand their horizons and achieve their goals in whatever way possible.
Be the person to pave the path for them.
5. Build a strong network (of influencers and non-influencers)
Your influential reach need not always be organic. Borrow it from others to help your audience, if need be.
Better still, develop your network from scratch to help other influencers widen their reach.
For example, check out this live discussion event where world-renowned intellectuals Sam Harris, Eric Weinstein, Bret Weinstein, Maajid Nawaz, and Douglas Murray address a massive crowd to share their profound wisdom on neuroscience, mathematics, religion, politics, and more!
What a wonderful experience for everyone involved, right?
So, go on and reach out to influencers and non-influencers in your niche. Build a solid, mutually beneficial relationship with them. Engage in activities together, host collaborative workshops and events, indulge in live discussions, support causes you believe in.
There are several benefits to this:
One, your sphere of influence grows faster and wider.
Two, networking with colleagues or influencers serves as social proof of sorts.
If an influencer you know has loyal followers who trust them, seeing you collaborate with them can get you to secure some of that trust for yourself.
And remember, you need people’s TRUST. That’s the foundation influence is built on.
But even before that, you need people to KNOW you and LIKE you.
If they don’t know you, they don’t have a chance to like you.
If they don’t like you, fat chance, they’ll ever trust you.
If they don’t trust you, you can’t possibly have any meaningful influence over them.
So, it all comes tumbling down. We don’t want that, do we?
Get out there and form your network of comrades — derive from each other’s influence to take your influence to the next level!
You don’t need sponsored posts or hashtags to drive influence
Influencers, in every walk of life, share a genuine connection with their audience. They have access to their relational space, and thus, people trust them.
By understanding how influential personalities encourage others to listen and take action, online coaches can establish a positive connection with their potential customers.