Influencer is a buzz word in the marketing industry right now. Why? Well, by utilizing influencers in the right way, you can drive brand awareness, traffic and sales. You can make significant changes in an industry. Bottom line, if you are an influencer, or simply have mastered the craft of influencer marketing, you can accomplish your goals much easier.

In this post I interview John Lincoln, CEO of Ignite Visibility, teacher at UCSD and marketing consultant. Lincoln has just published a book title, Digital Influencer, A Guide to Achieving Influencer Status Online, giving him a unique position to tell us what digital influence is all about.

Question 1: What is a Digital Influencer?

I define a digital influencer as, "An online persona with the power to stimulate the mindset and affect the decisions of others through real or perceived authority, knowledge, position, distribution or relationships."

So basically it is a person who has the power online to make things happen. Many people talk about influencers, but they fail to cite the difference between a normal influencer and a digital influencer. The main difference is that online element. There are many influencers offline who have no idea that they could be using their status to develop a significant online marketing channel for their business.

Question 2: Why should people want to be an influencer?

Every business that dominates, I mean really dominates a market needs someone with real influence running it or at least helping lead the charge. Without influence, your company will always be missing out on a key factor for success.

Influencers will drive more traffic to your website, increase the size of you online communities, help you grow your distribution, improve your industry status and increase sales. It is one of the most powerful forms of marketing for your business. As the internet has grown, it has lost the human element. Influencer marketing is bringing it back.

I can speak from experience. I have done this for myself and hundreds of clients. Our own business generates hundreds of new leads each month through this channel.

Question 3: What are some of the key characteristics of influencers?

Good question. There is actually a science behind this and 6 main characteristics that I can point to. The baseline for these ideas comes from Robert Cialdini, a psychology and marketing professor and author.

The first is reciprocity. Influencers generally treat others extremely well. They give more than they should to others. This leaves other people feeling as though they are in their debt. Others want to help these people.

The second and third is commitment and consistency. Influencers are consistent and committed, in that, they are always getting in front of the people the way to influence. Whether it is through blogging, YouTube, media coverage, speaking, email, etc. It is proven that the more you are exposed to someone, the more you like them. This concept is true in influencer marketing as well.

The third is social proof. Influencers had large followings on social media and other channels that are important to their industry. This gives them credibility.

Likeable is the fifth quality. In that, they have qualities that their demographic holds in regard. These likeable qualities might be different for each industry and persona.

The six quality is authority. Influencers know how to use authority and position themselves as authority figures.

Now, there is a science and a lot of information behind each of these items. But these are some of the basics. The key is knowing how to use these concepts in an online digital marketing strategy.

Question 4: How long does it take to become an influencer?

It does take work! But, if you know the right steps to take you can become an influencer much faster. You can shave decades off your journey to influencer status.

But the amount of time it takes depends on a few things. The first is the level of exposure you have to your demographic. That is a critical factor. For example, it is much easier for someone with a TV show to grow a following than someone who is a marketing intern. The good news is, no matter where you are now it is possible.

Other important elements are your knowledge and abilities in your industry and your online know-how.

I have developed a model of 3 levels of influencers to help describe this process.

Most people are already micro-influencers, or people who can effect change in a small group. But generally a dedicated person who knows the right steps can reach the next level, a subject matter expert influencer in as little as 1 to 5 years, depending on where they start. The next level up is known as a macro influencer. This would be someone as large as Oprah, Michael Jordon or Tony Robbins. To reach this level, it generally takes more time, as this is the highest level. But for business owners, it is most important to get to the subject matter expert level. That is where you are a top expert in your industry and people want your business.

Question: You talk a lot about tools that digital influencers use, what are some of your favorites?

There are so many great tools online for influencers. But some of my favorite are BuzzSumo, a tool for finding the best content and who shared it and FollowerWonk, a tool by Moz that helps you find the top people on Twitter. Some other great ones are Google Analytics, Klout, Help a Reporter Out, Screaming Frog and SEM Rush. You can read about my top tools here.

Question 5: What are the main things influencers do that set them apart?

It's really all about a dedication to continually grow. This means their education, contributions to industry innovation, helping others, building relationships, self-improvement and taking all of this and knowing how to merge it in a way that is effective in online marketing. They know the online channels to use to drive their influencer status to the next level. For example, a digital influencer would know that spending the bulk of their time on Reddit is unless when their customers are on LinkedIn. They would also know how to use LinkedIn to acquire those customers.

That is one of the key points. So many people have the potential to be great influencers. They just have no idea where to start in the digital space.

Bonus Question: Why did you decide to write this book?

I knew this information was highly desired and would solve two major issues. Issue one, if you have all the qualities of an influencer, how do you bring that online and leverage the power of the digital powerhouse that the internet is? The second issue, if you are a new college grad or someone stuck in a dead-end job with no advancement potential, how do you breakout?

This book solves both these issues and more. It is the only work of its kind and in classic influencer fashion it gives away almost too much. The book provides the keys to influencer success. I am excited to help those who want something more!