How to Become a Digital Influencer

(Episode 1 of 2 with Neal Schaffer)

How to Become a Digital Influencer

In the United States, adults use digital media for an average of 7 hours and 50 minutes each day (Source: eMarketer). This includes an average of 145 minutes on social media every day (Source: Statista) plus additional time spent on the web, CTV, digital video, and digital audio. The consumer is spending more and more of their time living in a digital world, and if we want our businesses to succeed, we should market in that same digital world. 

Neal is the author of four sales and marketing books including Maximize Your Social and The Age of Influence, a groundbreaking book redefining digital influence. He’s also the host of the podcast, Maximize Your Social Influence.

Neal Schaffer is a leading social media strategist who helps innovative businesses digitally transform their sales and marketing strategies. He’s the founder of the digital marketing consultancy PDCA Social and is a fractional CMO for several companies. He also teaches digital marketing at Rutgers Business School and the Irish Management Institute. 

In today’s episode, Neal shared how we can become digital influencers and build our online presence. 

Becoming an Influencer 

I asked Neal to share the biggest business tectonic shift he sees in today’s marketplace and he told me it is the growth of the digital world. Over the past decade, businesses have started waking up and seeing that consumers live in a digital world. They shop online, they consume content online, they communicate online, and they go online for entertainment and solutions to their problems. If we want to succeed, we need to be digitally engaging. 

“People are still searching on Google, people are still reading emails, and people are spending a ton of time on social media. You have to nail those three areas,” Neal explained. “They’re equally important for different stages of the funnel; they all have the unique roles they play, but [being digital] should be the 100% focus of your marketing today.”

Neal said if we’re not creating a digital presence for our businesses, we’re going to be invisible to our consumers. We can begin by building our own platforms such as a website or social media account. By expanding our reach, building an audience, and providing unique value to customers, and establishing trust we begin to become influencers in our specific niche.

Neal shared four tips we need to consider as we become digital influencers.

1. Create Content 

To be an influencer, we need to create content. “How are influencers influential today? They have a platform, and they’re creating content,” Neal said. “You have got to create a platform. You have got to create content. If you can’t do that, you want to tap into other people who can.” 

During Neal’s entrepreneurial journey, he began tuning into the challenges and issues other people had. He listened to and stayed in direct contact with his customers. While he was paying attention to the people around him, he found there were a lot of issues about marketing technology. He specifically noticed a lot of questions about social media marketing and influencer marketing.

From the problems his customers had, Neal found a way to be a solution. He wanted to give a unique perspective on marketing, so he wrote a book on it and became known for influencer marketing. Not only did he create a book, but he also built a website, created blog content, and started a podcast. If we want to create influence online, it comes down to having a platform and creating content. Most powerful influencers post at least once a day and this often includes posts on multiple platforms. If we want to build influence, we should start creating consistent, frequent, and valuable content at least once a week, but daily would be much better. 

2. Be Passionate

In the United _Blog

If we want to become an influencer, we need to build an audience of people who are willing to listen to us. To do this, we should start by connecting with our customers’ passions, what I call passion marketing. Instead of solely focusing on our own passions, we can find ways our passions overlap with our customers’. As we do this, we begin to establish and build strong relationships with our audience. 

“If you want to tap into people with a certain passion, you need to show it yourself,” Neal said. “That’s what social media is great for. I think if you do that and share your passion, you will attract these people with that similar passion, who won’t mind spending money with you.”

As we share our passions with the digital world, we will eventually find our tribe. People will connect with us through our passions and be more willing to spend money on our product or service if it is something they love. 

“When you’re really passionate about something, you will invest the money in it,” Neal said. For example, Neal shared that he has a passion for music and so he is willing to spend money on building his CD collection. If we can connect with our customer’s passions, we will have a much higher chance of monetizing our businesses.

3. Stay in Direct Contact With Our Customers

We want to be in direct contact with our customers. It’s the only way we will know enough about their problems to effectively solve them. 

The biggest mistake Neal made was caused by a lack of connection. While he was working with a company, they lost one of their biggest clients. “We did not know what was going on in the decision-making process and technical evaluations, but our partner was saying, ‘Oh, you’re a shoo-in,’” Neal said. “[But] then we didn’t get the deal.” 

He continued, “You can never assume anything in business. A lot of people internally assume because they’re working through a partner, [they already have] direct sales. And to this day, although I see the benefit of working through distributors, you’ve got to understand what’s going on with the client with your own ears.”

We should understand what is going on with our clients and customers at all times. We have to pay attention to what is going on and how their needs and wants are changing. If we aren’t in direct contact with our customers, we may have a miscommunication and end up losing them. 

“Even if you work through distributors resellers, you have got to keep your finger on the pulse directly because everybody else in between is just out; they have their own business objectives,” Neal said. “You need to check in and really keep your finger on the pulse of that end customer if you ultimately want to be successful.”

4. Use Failure as an Opportunity for Growth

Despite his failures, Neal was able to push past them and find room for improvement. “With every mistake is an opportunity to improve,” Neal said. “If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re going to make mistakes. You just don’t want to make the same mistake twice.”

As we develop our digital influence, it is essential to remember it will take time and failure to get to the point we want to. We have to accept failure as a lesson and make changes accordingly. 

When people hit a roadblock or brick wall, they often get frustrated and want to give up. While it’s natural to feel discouraged, we can shift the way we look at challenges so they become less of a roadblock, and more of a hurdle we can jump over. It is about a mindset and attitude shift. If we can look at a mistake as an opportunity to pivot, it will bring so much more success. 

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We will deal with rejection. Every successful entrepreneur has experienced or will experience rejection. We should view rejection as a sign we need to do something differently to improve. We can take every bad customer review as feedback and a way for growth. As we learn from the feedback, we can build something that will resonate with our customers so we can start to get testimonials and reviews. Positive testimonials and reviews are key to building our influence, but it may take some bad reviews and changes first. 

We should remember to keep our vision and final goal in mind. There will always be times of danger, however, if we are serving our community and keep our end goal in mind, we will have the mentality to push the small mistakes aside and not let them get in our way of fulfilling our mission. 

Key Takeaways

Thank you so much Neal for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

1. The consumer is spending more and more of their time living in a digital world. If we want our businesses to succeed, we should do the same. 

2. If we want to build digital influence, we need to create content. We should start creating consistent, frequent, and valuable content at least once a week. 

3. As we connect to our customers’ passions, they will be more willing to spend money on our products or services.

4. We want to be in direct contact with our customers. It’s the only way we will know enough about their problems to effectively solve them. 

5.  If we can look at a mistake as an opportunity to pivot and grow, it will bring so much more success. 

Connect with Neal

If you enjoyed this interview and want to learn more about Neal or connect with him, you can find him on LinkedIn or visit his website at You can also find his podcast online and his books on his website. 

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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