Behind the Follower Counts: What You Really Need to Know to Become an Influencer

UPDATED: May 7, 2024
PUBLISHED: January 31, 2022

Influencers are internet ballerinas. They have to impress audiences with a beautiful performance, without revealing the years of hard work and choreography it took to get there.

That’s why becoming an influencer isn’t as easy as people think. And it’s why aspiring influencers seek out guidance from Christina Galbato, who teaches people (especially women) how to build their online brands.

Galbato’s own influencer career took off by mistake. The travel blog she was writing on the side of her corporate gig started attracting readers, and she found herself receiving invites to press trips and brand partnerships. She also started selling courses on building online audiences. 

It’s not just influencers who can benefit from her insights: A personal touch can help every brand connect with its audience. “No matter your business, you have to weave in that personal branding with selling,” Galbato says.

In this episode of SUCCESS Stories, Galbato tells SUCCESS’ Madison Pieper how to build a basic content strategy, why understanding the unique angle only you can bring to a niche is essential, and what happened when she dropped her glossy image to be vulnerable with her followers.

Curate your content.

Contrary to popular belief, top influencers don’t just publish whatever they feel like in the moment. They carefully plan every post, creating an experience that is consistent and relevant to their brand. 

“You want to make sure that every single piece of content you put out there is purposeful,” Galbato says. “It adds value in some way—it teaches people something—or it’s storytelling that connects with your audience… building that connection with them.”

Creating a constant flow of compelling content helps build loyalty: An audience that knows what to expect and when is more likely to keep coming back.

Here are the first steps in putting together your influencer strategy:

Identify your niche within your niche. You’ve chosen the area you want to build influence in, for example travel, business or food. Now identify your unique angle. 

Ask yourself, What perspective do I bring to this niche that no one else can? Do you have startup experience that influences the way you think about business? Do you only make food using kitchen staples? 

Once you understand your angle, make sure all the content you create ties into it. That’s how you build a distinctive brand in a competitive space.

Divide your content into pillars. Identify three to five types of content you want to create: Galbato calls these pillars. For example, a travel blogger might focus on destination tips, hotel reviews and airport hacks. Everything you create needs to fit under one of these pillars. 

Galbato recommends assigning each pillar to a different day of the week. For example, every Wednesday you publish a video or blog post that fits into the destination tips pillar. 

This makes it easier to achieve that consistency that’s so important for building a loyal and engaged audience. “When people come to your page, they see very clearly what your page is about,” Galbato says.

Connect with your audience across three types of platforms.

There’s a myth that to be a top influencer, you have to be active on every single platform. In reality, this just uses up time and energy you could put towards making monetizable content. It also spreads you so thin that you can’t get the most out of those engagement opportunities.

Instead, Galbato recommends building a presence on three types of platform:


Content that will be just as helpful to your audience in five years as it is when you posted it, hosted on a platform designed for longevity and searching. For example, blog posts, podcasts and even YouTube videos. Make sure the subject matter you cover on this platform is evergreen too. For example, instead of “The Most Popular Places to Get Engaged in 2022,” go for something like “The Most Popular Proposal Spots in the World.”

Email list

Influencers are often ranked in terms of their social media follower counts—but Galbato says that your email newsletter is the most powerful platform to communicate with followers. “You’re able to get direct access to your audience: It’s not dependent on an algorithm,” she says. 

Social media

Social media is most effective for building close relationships with your audience in real time, which makes them want to follow your brand and consume your content. You don’t have to master every platform: Choose the one you’re most comfortable with. For example, Galbato has a lot of success with Instagram Reels, but isn’t on TikTok because she didn’t click with the platform.

Three is the magic number: Not so many that you don’t have capacity to do your best work, but without betting everything on one platform that may not work out. (Exhibit A: the 2021 Facebook outage.)

People connect with vulnerability.

For many years, being an influencer meant only sharing the most fun and aspirational parts of your life. The assumption was that people came to blogs and social media to look at pictures of beautiful beaches and perfectly baked macarons: any hint of personal struggle would result in a mass “unfollow.”

Galbato wrestled with this. Although her Instagram was filled with pictures taken on press trips to incredible destinations, behind the images, she was worried that her alcohol consumption had gotten out of control.

Galbato decided to completely cut out alcohol in April 2021. Five months later, she opened up about her experience and her sobriety journey to her followers. Far from triggering a backlash, she found that it made people feel more connected to her.

“I got thousands of messages from people that could relate, but who also couldn’t relate and were just like, ‘This is so cool, thank you so much for sharing, no one talks about this,’” Galbato says. “It was the most rewarding experience of my life.”

Being an influencer requires you to be strategic about your content, but also genuine. Being vulnerable reminds your followers that there’s a real person behind those posts—and that only makes them want to know you more.

SUCCESS Stories with Madison Pieper is no longer releasing new episodes on the SUCCESS Podcast Network, but you can still listen to the full conversation below.

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