Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media

Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media

by Brittany Hennessy
Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media

Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media

by Brittany Hennessy


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“I highly advise anyone who has an interest in life online to get this book, sit down, and take notes because you're going to want to hear what Brittany has to say.”
 –Iskra Lawrence, Aerie Model and Instagram star (@iskra)
If you’ve ever scrolled through your Instagram feed and thought, I wear clothes, eat avocado toast and like sunsets, why can’t someone pay me to live my best life? this book is for you . . .
Every one of your favorite influencers started with zero followers and had to make a lot of mistakes to get where they are today—earning more money each year than their parents made in the last decade. But to become a top creator, you need to understand the strategies behind the Insta-ready lifestyle . . .
As nightlife blogger, then social media strategist, and now Senior Director of Influencer Strategy and Talent Partnerships at Hearst Magazines Digital Media, Brittany Hennessy has seen the role of influencers evolve and expand into something that few could have imagined when social media first emerged. She has unrivaled insight into where the branded content industry was, where it is, and where it's going. In this book she'll reveal how to:
*Build an audience and keep them engaged
*Package your brand and pitch your favorite companies
*Monetize your influence and figure out how much to charge
Plus tips on:
*Landing an agent
*Getting on the radar of your favorite sites
*Praising a brand without alienating their competitors
Whether you’re just starting out or you're ready for bigger campaigns, Hennessy guides you through core influencer principles. From creating content worth double tapping and using hashtags to get discovered, to understanding FTC rules and delivering metrics, she’ll show you how to elevate your profile, embrace your edge, and make money—all while doing what you love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780806538853
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 07/31/2018
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 109,665
Product dimensions: 5.47(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.72(d)

About the Author

Brittany Hennessy is the author of INFLUENCER: Building Your Brand in the Age of Social Media, the first-ever Senior Director of Influencer Strategy & Talent Partnerships for Hearst Magazines Digital Media, and the co-founder of Carbon. In 2007, after graduating from Rutgers University with a degree in journalism, Brittany created, which was nominated by Paper Magazine for “Best Nightlife Blog,” and became an influencer for Bacardi, Popchips, Svedka, and the Gap. When she was flown to Germany as the North American ambassador for Nivea just to hang out with Rihanna on a cruise ship and tweet about it, she knew it was time to make the switch from journalism to social media. Learn more at:

Read an Excerpt


The Feed

How do you find your voice and create great content?

Being a creator who is looking for brand partnerships is no different than being an employee who is looking for a job. People will google you before deciding to work with you, and they need to be pleased with what they find.

Head on over to and type in your first and last name. Now take a look at your search results for general, images, videos, and news. All the content on the first page should either be created by you, or provided by you.

If it doesn't look so hot, don't panic. Head on over to and set up an alert with your name in quotations (e.g., "Brittany Hennessy"). Every time new content with your name is indexed by Google, you'll receive an email to let you know you're on the right track. Every three months, do a Google search and keep tabs on the progress you're making. Remember, if you're not telling your own story, someone else will tell it for you.

Sazan Hendrix (@Sazan) is a great example of someone who has her Google search results on point. Type in her name and the first page will pull up her website, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn profiles and a few interviews.

On the video tab, you'll see a link to her YouTube channel along with a bunch of videos she created. Head over to the images tab and it's gorgeous photo after gorgeous photo of Sazan with a few of her husband Stevie sprinkled in. Under news, a bunch of articles and interviews, and under shopping her business, BlessBox.

It really doesn't get better than this, folks. But the only way to dominate your search results is to create, create, create!


Many of you may already have a name, so you're probably side-eyeing this section hoping I don't say something that makes you want to pull out your hair and start over. I can't say that I blame you. Naming your brand may be the hardest part of becoming a content creator. Add in the fact that nothing on the Internet is ever really deleted, and the pressure is on. Now is not the time to choose a name that you will regret in six months, a year, or even five years. Vloggers have some of the best names, and by best, I mean the most ridiculous. I am looking at you, @sexypanda89. I won't name names, because I promised myself I would only call out people anonymously, but you probably can think of a few off the top of your head.

So how do you come up with a killer name? Well, that depends on who you ask. Some people invent entire brands, like Heidi Nazarudin (@theambitionista) and Charlotte Groeneveld (@thefashionguitar) or mashup names, like Brittany Xavier (@thriftsandthreads) and Jade Kendle (@lipstickncurls). Others incorporate their name, like Jessica Franklin (@heygorjess), Alyssa Bossio (@effortlyss) and Courtney Fowler (@colormecourtney). And some keep it super simple, like Iskra Lawrence (@iskra), Rachel Martino (@rachmartino), or Nichole Ciotti (@nicholeciotti).

You can make your name as simple or as complicated as you like as long as it's easy to promote (that means forget spelling forever like FOREVEERR, dropping the numbers, and leaving the underscores behind) and consistent. If your website is, but your Instagram is @imaflyfashionistaaa and your YouTube is @flyfashionista4lyfe_, audiences and brands alike won't be able to connect all your profiles to each other. You can get away with having a website name that's different than your social media handles, but only if they're all consistent.

Teni Panosian is one of my favorite influencers. She is a true professional and is one of the best content creators out there. Her website is, but she's @TeniPanosian on every platform. The consistency of her social platforms was key when she changed her site from to She could easily set up a landing page to direct people to the new site, but changing her name on her social channels could have had terrible results. If people see an unfamiliar name in their feed, they're more likely to unfollow. It also means that any article ever written about her that linked to one of her channels would now point to a page that doesn't exist. But that didn't happen to Teni because Teni is smart. Be like Teni.


The first question people always ask is Do I really need to be on every single platform? and the answer to that is no. While I would recommend securing your preferred username on every platform so someone can't steal it, you should only be active on platforms you have plans on updating. Nothing is worse than finding a great influencer on a platform only to find out she hasn't posted anything new in three months.

That said, everyone should have an account on the big four: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. You'll want an Instagram account, because it's where the majority of influencer marketing campaigns take place. YouTube is also a big market for fashion hauls and beauty tutorials and is also a great way to show advertisers your video presence. You may think you don't need Facebook or Twitter, but you would be wrong. The content you make is usually shared by brands on Facebook and Twitter, and if they can't tag you in it, you just lost a huge opportunity to pick up new followers. The biggest reason to keep an updated Facebook page is because at some point, you're going to want to get it verified. The little blue check may seem like no big deal, but if a brand you're working with also has one, Facebook will require that any influencer they work with also be verified. This is why you don't see as many influencer campaigns on Facebook as you do on Instagram, but that is changing, and you want to be ready. If you're a blogger, especially in food, home decor, and DIY, Pinterest can also be a great way to drive traffic back to your site. I've found that most clients don't ask for pins on Pinterest, and won't pay a lot for them unless you have millions of followers, but it's a good platform to join if you think you will dedicate the time to make it a success.


Blogging has come a long way from its early days of anonymous diary entries, and because it was the first medium to produce influencers, advertisers have had more time to become comfortable spending money on sponsored posts. They also love that they can easily provide feedback/edits on the content, unlike a YouTube video, and can give the influencer tracking links to see if anyone has clicked on the content or made a purchase.

Since a blog is pretty easy to set up and maintain, it's great for aspiring influencers who are testing the waters. Unlike a YouTube channel, you don't need video equipment or editing skills, and unlike Instagram you don't necessarily need to shoot your own photos. I have seen many beautiful and highly clicked on blog posts that are made with some text, a brand-provided video, and photos found on the Internet. Given how easy it is to get started it always surprises me how many vloggers are not also bloggers. Granted, creating and editing videos may leave you with little time to do anything else, but you're losing out on so many opportunities when you don't have a blog, because so many advertisers want influencers to create blog posts. Think about it: When you google a product or service, what comes up? Reviews on people's blogs. Sure, you may also see a sponsored YouTube video or a sponsored Instagram post, but advertisers can track how many people came to their site because of a specific blog post, and advertisers love things they can track.

You should also create a blog because you want to establish your home base on something you control. Any of these social media platforms can delete your profile at any time without warning, or prohibit you from promoting your other channels, but if audience members know your blog URL, they'll always know where to find you.

There are many, many resources available to help you set up a blog, but here's a crash course:

Step 1: Buy your domain. You can either do this on (it usually has coupon codes floating around the Internet) or directly from your host. If you're not that tech savvy, I would suggest buying your domain through your host to make your life easier.

Step 2: Set up your hosting provider. I use because it's the only provider whose dashboard doesn't confuse me. It also has great customer service via chat so there's none of this waiting on the phone business when you inevitably break the code on your blog. Back up your blog. Back up your blog. Back up your blog. You will try to experiment with a new theme or plug-in and you will break your code and be shown the white screen of death. There is no reason for that heart attack. Pay the extra handful of dollars each month and let your host automatically back up your blog for you.

Step 3: Install Wordpress. I love Google and all of its products, but why anyone is blogging on a platform that isn't Wordpress is beyond me. is the free version, but you can't control the back end and customize it to your needs, so I would skip it. requires a host, but that's how you can upload custom themes, plug-ins, and tweak things until they are exactly how you'd like them to be. Your host should have a shortcut for installing Wordpress directly on their server. If you're not sure, ask them before you sign up.

Step 4: Install a theme and some plug-ins. Wordpress has really stepped up its game; there are tons of free themes that are absolutely gorgeous. Of course, if you find one that you absolutely love that isn't free, by all means, buy it. If you've seen a blog you like, you can head on over to one of my favorite tools,, to find out what theme the person uses. It's also a great resource to find out the plug-ins your favorite bloggers are using, or you can do a quick Google search for the best plug-ins for your type of blog. When you're buying a theme, you can also check out how many people have downloaded your theme. It is part of your brand and you don't want it to be a carbon copy of someone else's site. If you have the funds and can swing it, I would recommend hiring someone to design a theme for you. It's not a necessity, but it is definitely nice.

Step 5: Add in your social media accounts. Sometimes I will end up on an influencer's blog before seeing any of her social channels, and my favorite thing to do is to search high and low for her Instagram and/or YouTube profiles. JUST KIDDING. So many themes come with options to make these front and center. Use them. And make sure you link them to the proper account. This may seem like a no-brainer, but apparently it is not.


I was working on an event and I needed to find influencers to promote it. I found this one influencer who was great, so I went to check out her Instagram and got hit with the "Page Not Found" message. I went back to her blog and clicked on a different Instagram icon and got hit with the same message. I told her about it, and she told me she had changed her Instagram name but forgotten to update it, and that was the end of me trying to work with her. If you can't even manage the links on your own website, there's no way I'm going to trust you to manage a campaign. It sounds harsh, but there are millions of dollars at play here every day, and you need to always remember to put your best foot forward.

When looking at themes, the type of layout you choose really depends on your personal preference and how often you think you'll be posting. Just make sure your site looks modern. Wordpress has come a long way, and anyone can make their site look like a million bucks, so why people insist on having their sites look like they were created with duct tape and a dream is beyond me.

I love reading blogs for fun, and I recently noticed that many of my favorite sites were created by the same person, so I asked her to give five tips to aspiring creators.


1. Have a point of view. Being unique is the only way to get ahead in the market today. You could be talking about the same subject as someone else, but your perspective is what makes you stand out and be remembered.

2. Trust your instinct and don't let social media drive your decisions. Be aware of what is happening and take it into consideration, but put your own aims and goals ahead of anything else and use your blog and social media to achieve them.

3. Content is still king queen. Although there are lots of different forms of it that are popular (written, video, podcasts, imagery, etc.), creating compelling content that speaks to your reader will create a bond between you. This allows you to create a community — which is different, and more important, than a following.

4. Trust your gut; however, use data to aid your decision making. We are lucky that we have the means to learn what our readers like and don't like, enabling us to tailor our product (the content) to what they want.

5. Networking online and offline helps keep a blog/brand alive. You need to have visibility in your niche in order to stay relevant and also grow.

— Chloé (@chloeadelia), founder and CEO of chloédigital, a tech support and strategic planning membership for style publishers


Vlogging may seem like a completely different world than blogging, but they're very similar, and many influencers who have found mega success are great both in front of the camera and behind the keyboard. While high-quality content with a point of view is also the goal, there are some unique aspects of video making that you must master.

Intro/Catchphrase. This is usually the theme music followed by the "Hey guys, welcome to my channel" intro you see at the beginning of every video. This will set the tone for your channel and will immediately tell brands if your aesthetic and tone are in line with theirs. If your audience really skews in one direction (bubbly teenagers/moms/gamers) you can make an intro that is heavy on a theme. From the music, down to the fonts, go crazy with it. But if you want to cast the widest net, and make the most money, your intro and catchphrase should be simple, chic, and brand friendly. That means no cursing. Most brands are not too keen on their content running right behind your potty-mouthed intro, so make sure you'd be cool with your mom, grandma, and kindergarten teacher watching your intro and you should be in a good place.

Thumbnails. These should follow the same guidelines as your intro and catchphrase. Any thumbnails that have crazy fonts, wacky colors, and special effects automatically put the influencer into the juvenile casting bucket. It's totally cool to have text on your thumbnails, especially if you want to call out something special from the video, but remember to keep it minimal and easy to read.

Trailer. This may be the most important section of your YouTube channel, and it's sad to see it replaced on many channels by the latest video. Not only is it a tool to convince viewers to subscribe, but it's also a place to tell brands who you are, the content you create on your vlog, and why they should hire you. And please keep your trailer current. Some vloggers have trailers that are four years old. You look at that video and then at the other videos on their channel and you can't even tell it's the same person. Updating your trailer quarterly is best because it will be reflective of you in that moment. It would be a shame to lose out on an opportunity because you're a brunette in your trailer, even though you're a blonde now, and I was looking for blondes to dye their hair black for a campaign.


For me, my trailer is all about keeping it real. My YouTube channel is a place where I share relatable beauty videos and occasional travel vlogs. I think it's important to look into the camera and speak directly to the viewer. In my trailer I shared an overview of my channel and what they can expect. I end the trailer by encouraging the viewer to subscribe for more.

— @sonagasparian


Since the majority of social branded content occurs on Instagram, this is where we are going to focus most of our energy. Of course, you can take some of these concepts and apply them to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat, but Instagram is the Coca-Cola of influencer marketing, and it isn't going anywhere.

Profile Picture. Why people continue to have photos that are not of their face is something I will never understand. This is not the place for your logo. This is also not the place for your #OOTD. It is a teeny tiny little circle and people are absolutely nuts to try and cram a full-length photo into it. What influencers don't realize is that when people like me are pitching talent for a campaign, we have to make presentation decks to explain why you are the right choice. Decks are extremely visual, so when we need to quickly grab a photo of you, your profile picture should suffice. But it won't if it's of some random object, or it's so low-res that you look like a pixelated cartoon character if I need to zoom in. Your profile picture should be from the shoulders up, you should be smiling (with or without teeth), and it should be a well-lit photo. If you follow those three guidelines you'll be golden.

Bios: So Much to Say, So Little Space. "Coffee drinker. Sunset Watcher. Random Song Lyric. Smiley Face, Lips, Zodiac Sign." You may think you're being witty and mysterious, but all I see is a bio with a bunch of words that isn't even saying anything. Not exactly how you want to come across.

Bios are super simple, so I don't know why people make them so hard. "Creator of XYZ, a beauty and style site. NYC-BASED influencer." Add in a location pin with your current city if you travel a lot and your blog/vlog or latest post in the link section and you're good to go. I know who you are, what you do, where you live, your current location, and your contact information.

And please, list your real name. Even if it's just your first name or your first and middle name. Your username twice isn't making anyone's job easier, and my presentations look silly when I have to address you by your handle on every slide because I don't know your real name.


Excerpted from "Influencer"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Brittany Hennessy.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction 1

Part 1 Building Your Community

Chapter 1 The Feed: 13

How do you find your voice and create great content?

Chapter 2 The Audience: 51

How do you get people to follow you?

Part 2 Packaging Your Brand

Chapter 3 The Edge: 77

How do you stand out from the crowd?

Chapter 4 The Press: 99

How do you get sites and brands to notice you?

Part 3 Monetizing Your Influence

Chapter 5 The Money: 131

How do you determine and negotiate your worth?

Chapter 6 The Contract: 159

How do you decipher all this legalese?

Chapter 7 The Agent: 189

How do you know when you're ready and where do you find one?

Part 4 Planning Your Future

Chapter 8 The Goal: 213

How do you prepare for what's next?

Conclusion 231

Glossary 239

Acknowledgments 253

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