How to Become an Online Influencer in Canada and Beyond

Online influencers and ambassadors have become the jewels of online marketing, and with good reason. Influencer marketing has proven to be one of the most effective and economical strategies, with no sign of slowing down. There have been growing pains for both sponsors and influencers, but maturity has brought profit for all parties involved. Now we have agencies and networks in Canada that focus on influencer marketing.

Canadian online influencers are beginning to emerge, but there’s still lots of room for more. Canadian brands are looking for influencers, as are international brands looking to expand into this country. With interest in influencer jobs on the rise, many people are considering it as a career, home business or a permanent side hustle.  The vast majority start building their business on the side, and some continue to do so while holding a “day job”.

“Cristine Rotenberg has nearly seven million subscribers who watch her comedic videos,” reports MacLeans magazine. “But from Monday to Friday, she crunches data for StatsCan.”

Can you still make money if you only work on it part time? Christine Rotenberg’s YouTube channel, Simply Nailogical, is a part time endeavor launched in 2014.  She has built it up to the 19th most-subscribed channel in Canada. SocialBlade estimates she earns between $179,000 and $2.9 million USD per year.

But how do you become a paid online influencer in Canada? Can we hope to one day be social media stars?

We most certainly can, but it takes determination, a lot of work, some business acumen, and patience.

“The influencers that are able to succeed are the ones making smart business decisions and treating their account as an individual production company,” writes Alicja Siekierska for Yahoo Finance Canada.

Get Started

Pursuing your goal of starting an influencer business will follow much the same path as starting any online business. Use our Checklist: How to Start an Online Business in Canada to stay on track.

As you may have guessed, the first thing you need to do is choose your niche. Most people suggest you follow your passion to your ideal niche, but that’s only part of the equation. You’ll also want to consider why you want to become an influencer, your level of expertise, how saturated a niche is, level of flexibility, etc. Before you choose, make sure you’ll be able to offer a unique, fresh perspective of the niche, topic or vertical you choose. Not just now, but indefinitely.

At the very core of influence, is knowledge. You’ll need to have (or acquire) as much knowledge about your niche as possible, so you can create useful content and make educated recommendations. Then, you’ll have to keep up with the latest news and grow with your niche. All of this, while churning out content that is engaging, relatable, and in a way that is uniquely your own.

Combine relatability and expertise and you have an influencer. Paying attention to every detail so your content expresses a part of yourself, will set you apart.

If you’re just starting out, try to picture your endgame. You can’t create a map if you don’t know where you’re going. Do you want to make a lot of money by being an online influencer and leave it at that? Or is your ultimate goal something else, like your own product line, speaking at live events or writing a best-seller?

Establish Your Online Presence

Social Media

If you’re building a personal brand, use your full name on your social media account. Be sure to have a headshot as your social media profile picture. Agencies or publishers can use it for testimonials, client presentations, when they mention you on their website as a “Top Influencer,” etc.

Follow your favourite brands on social media. If they’re international brands, take the time to find their Canadian arm on social media, such as Canon Canada on Instagram, as opposed to Canon USA.

Note brand hashtags and use them when the opportunity arises. For example, they may have a special hashtag for people to use when they post pictures of themselves with their product. Canadian Tire has used #CanadasGarage @CanadianTire on Twitter.

Most also use their brand name as a hashtag, such as #CanadianClub (Canadian Club Whiskey) on Twitter. You could publish a blog post about the best holiday drinks and use brand names in the recipes, then use those brand hashtags & tag them when you share it on social media. Include images of you and your friends enjoying each drink with the brand bottle on the table and tag that brand alone when you share that particular image.

Your Website

Never build your house on rented land. If a social network disappears tomorrow, you’re going to be OK because your website is your home. That’s why I suggest you become an online influencer, not an Instagram influencer or even a social media influencer. Those are only communication tools. Your website shows brands and search engines who you are and what you have to offer. It will help you grow your following, be they fans or brands.

Your website is your homebase. Your branding starts here. Your content starts here. Your community starts here. It’s also an important stand-alone source of revenue.

The most popular website setup is hosting a WordPress.org site (that’s what we do too). Website hosts often have a one-click WordPress setup and may even offer special WordPress hosting packages. WordPress is free and comes with hundreds of free templates, plugins and “widgets”. Find a host that is Canada-friendly through our Checklist: Choosing a Website Host for your Canadian Business.

Plan your website design. At this point, you should know your brand colours and have a logo. The colour scheme and other branding will be used across all social media platforms, so give it some deep thought. You can even try it on your social media accounts before making up your mind.

Website Pages:

Your “About Us/Me” page should speak to your readers, while also telling potential sponsors what they need to know to determine if you’ll be a good fit for them. Advertiser campaigns can have a very specific target market in mind. Don’t ramble on about every little thing you do and love, but offer up a profile of yourself as it applies to your audience. Let us know you have a couple of kids, a cat, a health condition, what your hobbies are, your lifestyle highlights, and any other information about what makes you, YOU. If you have a tech blog, for example, make sure you include more about that part of your life. Keep it friendly, brief and to the point. Include your video intro/trailer (if you have one) and a range of social media examples that demonstrate what your readers and potential sponsors can expect from you.

Your “Work With Us” page is going to be focused on attracting and informing potential sponsors, be that a brand or their agency representative. Include more of your professional profile and a few other things about yourself that could be of interest for specific campaigns. Don’t waste this space telling them you love coffee unless that’s a primary niche of yours. Also define the kind of campaigns or collaborations you’re most interested in, along with what you have to offer them (video, blog post, photo shoots, event coverage, travel, etc).

The “Contact Us/Me” page should be as simple as possible. Include a brief intro and all contact information. You can use a contact form or only your email address, but both can’t hurt. All pages should contain your basic contact info or at least a link to your contact form. If you make it too difficult to contact you, they simply won’t.

Your social media links should be featured on every page of your website. Don’t bury them at the bottom, feature them so brands and other visitors can easily check you out on each platform. Social media plays a major part in most influencer partnerships, yet there are many sites that don’t include links to their social media at all. Make it easy to share your content with social sharing buttons and plugins, like Click to Tweet or direct image pinning to Pinterest.

If you want brands to work with you, make it easy. These are very busy people and they often work with many influencers at once. Give them the basics in your social media profiles, such as your niche, location and contact info. Make sure they can find your website, where they will uncover more details.

How to Become an Online Influencer in Canada

8 Ways to Create Content That Brands & Followers Will Love

  1. Look for content inspiration on successful influencer blogs and social media feeds of those who have a similar target market as you do, but don’t stop there. Research award-winning PR/advertising/marketing campaigns and find ways to make a similar concept work at the social media level, specifically for your audience. You can learn a lot about what’s working and identify any shortcomings. You’re going to get good at seeing opportunities to create content that hasn’t been done yet, or you may be inspired and find a way to do it better. Note that inspiration and ideas are not the same as copying (which can be influencer suicide).
  2. Make sure all of your content, from photos to videos to blog posts, offer exceptional value to your followers. Sometimes brands don’t understand how much more effective that is than anything remotely resembling an ad, so educate them if necessary. Both your followers and your sponsors are going to get more out of truly helpful, informative, meaningful content. That will keep both of them coming back for more and encourage them to share your content with others.
  3. Include people other than yourself in your photos (with their permission). Not only is it more interesting and realistic, but brands may also be interested in working with all of you on suitable campaigns. The same applies to collaborating with your fellow bloggers and influencers, as brands often like to work with groups.
  4. Pets can really grab the attention of most followers. Bring them into your photos and other content when you feel they’ll add something special to it.
  5. Go easy on the photo filters. You’ll get the best results with filters if you go with a few favourites or your own unique filters. This way, the filter becomes part of your brand like your colour scheme.
  6. Eliminate your annoying writing and speaking habits, such as saying “Like” or “Um” in most sentences, using too many exclamation marks, overusing caps or bolded words for emphasis, writing an entire post in one-sentence paragraphs, profanity, and the list goes on.
  7. Readability/viewability, sincerity and presentation are critical and should become part of your personal style.
  8. Mention your favourite brands in your content and make sure you tag them on social media.

Equipment

The type of equipment you’ll need depends on what kind of content you’re going to create. We recommend the Logitech Pro Stream Webcam, the Blue Yeti USB Mic, and the Canon Powershot SX540. All have lots of blogger-friendly features at a reasonable price.

Growing Your Following

Your income is going to rely heavily on your engaged followers. How many followers you have isn’t really the point of today’s influencer marketing. Brands quickly caught on to “influencers” who bought followers and now understand how useless they are. They also learned that engagement is often lower on large accounts, than on those with a smaller following. In fact, there’s a whole different category in influencer marketing known as “micro-influencers” or “nano-influencers”.

Following are effective ways to grow your audience:

  • The people who are already in your circle of friends & family are a perfect place to start. Share your website and content with them, but don’t go overboard.
  • Join LinkedIn and Facebook groups. Some will provide knowledge, support and fellowship from the influencer community. You can join others that cater to your target market and use it to reach them and learn more about them. Make sure you comply with group rules regarding self-promotion.
  • Whatever platform(s) you publish original content on, do it often, be consistent and stay on-topic.
  • Different social media platforms can attract a different type of audience. Keep that in mind when you post on each network, tailoring your posts to better target who hangs out there. You might be able to post the same link, image or video on each platform, but the accompanying text and hashtags can vary according to the visitor profile. For instance, that image of you enjoying a brand’s tablet could target home business owners on Twitter or moms on Instagram.
  • Advertise on social media platforms and take the time to really target your campaign by interest, demographics, etc.
  • Use hashtags on each platform but don’t get carried away. If you use too many, you’ll only look spammy and invite unwanted attention from bots. I usually stick with three. Yes, only three.
  • Collaborate with other influencers & bloggers on promotions, projects, content and brand campaigns. One the best things about joining an influencer network is access to their community of influencers.
  • Giveaways featuring your favourite brands will draw traffic. In fact, thirty-two percent of people who were recently surveyed by Rakuten Marketing, said they found a new influencer to follow through a contest or giveaway that invites them to follow the influencer in exchange for a chance to win a prize. Make sure the brands attract your ideal followers, however, so you can hang onto them beyond the giveaway closing date.
  • Once you settle on which social media platforms you’ll focus on, learn everything you can about utilizing and optimizing them. Each platform will have tutorials and you’ll also find countless independent courses or books about them.

You’ll use different tactics to grow each social media channel, with lots of crossover. For example, becoming a Twitter influencer will differ from becoming an Instagram influencer.

Use the social media insights on each network to monitor and test the response to posts and advertising. You’re going to have to learn about analytics, which will guide your growth strategy and play a big part of campaign reports. Luckily, there are plugins and platform features that do the tracking for you, then present it in an easy-to-follow format. WordPress has JetPack to help you. Social media analytics will be provided by each network. Google Analytics can have a bit of a learning curve, but they’re a preferred source of traffic analytics. You can also go through your website host to access traffic analytics.  Try these Top Web Analytics Tools Used by Marketing Experts.

Engagement

Comments, likes and any interaction between you and your followers is golden. Savvy brands aren’t focused on how many followers you have, but how engaged those followers are. It’s a sure sign that they value your content, at least at the Business-to-Consumer (B2C) level. Business-to-Business (B2B) followers are less inclined to engage, but just as likely to seek out good content on social media networks like LinkedIn and Twitter.

To increase engagement:

  • Ask questions
  • Post about hot topics
  • Share interesting content that isn’t always your own
  • Reply to comments to keep the conversation going
  • Make sure you’ve chosen a social media network where your target market actually hangs out. For example, just because many influencers have a huge following on Instagram, doesn’t mean that’s where your audience is too. If you’re trying to reach retired male Canadians, you’ll be wasting your time on Instagram. One of the best ways to find out which social media platform is effective, is to follow successful influencers in your niche (or related niches). If they’re getting engagement on a certain platform, chances are you will too.
  • Above all, be genuine and don’t aim for perfection. Imperfection is more relatable. If people want everything to be all glamour & glitz, they can follow celebrities.
  • Think of creative ways to further engage your followers, such as a “challenge” that’s related to your niche.

“Lee Vosburgh is the blogger and top Canadian social media influencer behind the Style Bee, and a successful fashion designer,” writes Izea. “She has nearly 32,000 Instagram followers, in large part because she’s also the creator of the 10 X 10 Challenge, which encourages people to choose 10 pieces from their closets, create 10 outfits from those pieces and then wear those outfits for 10 days.”

Working with Brands

How to Become a Social Media Influencer in Canada and beyond

Once you’re set up online, it’s time to find brands to work with. Sometimes they’ll come to you or you may join influencer networks, but you also have the option to pitch brands or their agencies. Read How Online Influencers Find (and Pitch) Brands for further guidance.

How Much Should I Charge?

One of the top concerns of new influencers is how much to charge.

There are many variables that will influence your rates, including:

  • The size of your audience & how engaged they are
  • How unique or popular your niche is
  • How difficult it is to find influencers like you
  • If an agency is involved
  • The value of any product or service being provided
  • Holidays
  • Any exposure you’ll gain for your own brand
  • Type of content
  • Your skills
  • Expenses

Figure out your hourly rate first, then determine the approximate time it will take to complete each collaboration. You can start by practicing with products you bought on your own. It will help you figure out how much work each task takes and you’ll end up with examples to show potential sponsors. Give some thought to special requests, such as photo usage rights.

Don’t underestimate your value. Most marketers actually overestimate how much influencer marketing will cost. Chances are you won’t shock them, but make sure you can prove your worth.  Overall, marketing professionals in Canada budget for up to 13 times more than influencers actually charge.

Be Selective

Turning away brands and declining money may not sound wise, but I strongly encourage you to do so if they aren’t a good match. Focus on featuring products and services that you actually love and use, along with some that you’re certain your audience would appreciate even if you don’t personally use it. Do it even when you aren’t getting paid for it. Of course, it’s important to turn away brands that don’t reflect your values and ethics as well.

Your most valuable fans are those who are interested in you and want to be your virtual friend. They’ll want to know the real you and so will brands. It’s going to hurt when you have to turn away a $10,000 project because they’re not a good fit for your audience (or you), but you’ll make up for it over the long-term. Your followers are EVERYTHING to you. Without them, you’re not of any value to brands.

Be professional and gracious when you turn down campaigns. Don’t be indignant if you’re low-balled or asked to promote a $13.99 product free of charge. There could be a million reasons why they’re asking you to consider it. It’s not a statement about how much they value you, it’s a business request. If you don’t want to work for the amount they’re offering, respond with a professional rejection. Always leave the door open, because they could walk back through it two years from now with a bigger budget.

Imposter Syndrome

Influencers really put themselves out there and it takes a certain amount of bravery. You may doubt that you have anything to say that a lot of people would be interested in. You may think you’re not attractive enough to include yourself in photos.  You might doubt that your level of knowledge on a topic is high enough.  You might believe you don’t deserve success.  This is all part of Imposter Syndrome and frankly, you’re going to have to get over it.

Influencer Laws & Guidelines

What Laws and Rules do Canadian Influencers Need to Follow?

The Canadian government, provinces, and each social network have rules that influencers must follow when working with brands.

>> The Competition Bureau requires the following when posting reviews and opinions on social media:

  • Ensure that disclosures are as visible as possible
  • Disclose material connections in each post
  • Use clear and contextually appropriate words and images
  • Ensure disclosures are inseparable from the content so they travel together when shared
  • Base all reviews and opinions on actual experience
  • Avoid ambiguous references and abbreviations, such as “Thank You Company X!”, “Ambassador”, “Partner”, “Company X”, “SP”, “Spon”

>> In the U.S., the Competition Bureau’s counterpart is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If your readers are in the US, you must comply with FTC guidelines. If your readers are outside of North America, you’ll have to research each country’s laws to ensure you’re in compliance.

>> Sponsored posts in social media should be identified with a hashtag, such as #ad.

>> Influencer Marketing Steering Committee Disclosure Guidelines: Ad Standards, the Canadian advertising industry’s self-regulatory body in Canada, administers The Canadian Code of Advertising Standards.

>> The International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) Online Reviews and Endorsements Guidelines for Digital Influencers have been developed to provide general guidance to digital influencers (such as bloggers) when they are paid or induced to talk about goods or services.

>> Google and other search engines use “backlinks” (the quality and number of other websites that link to a website) as one factor when determining the quality of a site. A high number of backlinks can improve search rank, which makes it a target for “blackhat” SEO techniques. For Google search compliance, all sponsored or affiliate links must be HTML tagged rel=”nofollow” to let Google know they should not count the link as natural (not compensated).

>> You’re also legally responsible for any data you collect from your website visitors or online customers. Read Canadian Website Hosts and the Legal Reasons to Use Them for more information.

It’s a Marathon

Top influencers hire help along the way, but they continue to work hard at what they do best. This is not a fast or easy way to make money online for most people, but many love what they do and it keeps them motivated.

That said, you will hear from brands earlier in the game and your income will grow with the size and engagement of your audience. If you’re lucky enough to be in a unique niche with high demand, you’ll get there that much faster. In the meantime, you can monetize your blog in other ways and still make a comfortable living online. If you want to become an online influencer in Canada and beyond, start right now and see where it takes you!

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3 Responses to "How to Become an Online Influencer in Canada and Beyond"

  1. Tam  April 11, 2019

    Traffic can be crazy hard to get but then it kind of takes off for no apparent reason LOL at least in my case. I’m taking a break for awhile but you make me want to jump back in to the influencer scene.

    Reply
  2. It’s a marathon indeed, a lot of working hours (days and night), persistence, and…fun!

    Reply
  3. Tawni T  March 31, 2019

    I’ve been inspired by some popular Canadian influencers but I didn’t think I had it in me to reach for the stars. I want to thank you sincerely for this wonderful post that makes me believe anyone can get there if they want to learn and work hard. YOU are an inspiration TOO!!

    Reply

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