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How to Become Famous Online: a Step-By-Step Guide
Thanks to blogging and social media, there’s a digital on-ramp to internet fame accessible to anyone with a laptop and internet connection.
Fame and fortune are no longer just for airbrushed supermodels, actors, or political figures.
The world is rewarding the everyday-ness and authenticity of online personalities.
Whether it’s a clever guy who creates amazing video tricks, a big cat who tries to fit into tiny boxes, a musician who can turn balloons into music, or a twenty-something who children love to watch as he plays games, the trajectory to fame is often simple and unanticipated.
In this article, you’ll learn who some of the internet famous are, what they do, how they do it, and what you can do today to get on your own success track. Ready to start?
First things first: what topic will you focus on? What’s different about your approach?
Choose an Online Niche
Discovering your niche is as easy as asking yourself a few questions:
- What are you passionate about?
- What are you knowledgeable about?
- What are your skills?
- What unique thing do you bring to the table? (An interesting perspective? A dry sense of humor? Unique insights? Unique experience?)
There are plenty of individuals who have staked their claim to fame based on their makeup and beauty skills, fashion and design knowledge, car repair know-how, gardening skills, relationship and work advice, a robust understanding of political and governmental inner workings, and photography skills, for example.
Famous Internet Personalities and Their Niches
Here’s a quick look at some internet stars to give you an idea of the wide range of niches that some of the top blogs, YouTube, and Instagram channels are built around.
If you are good at what you do, and you can be consistent with it, then you can become famous with it – whether you are an amateur comedian, enterprising beauty artist or anything else.
Maru the cat:
Who is Maru? Maru lives in Japan with Hana, a tabby, and his owner, who posts simple videos of her cats to YouTube. With over 350 million views, Maru is the most popular feline personality on YouTube. Don’t dismiss the power simple pleasures (like cute pets) have for viewers.
What she does: YouTube videos of tiny home projects, emphasizing sustainability and innovation. Also covers other environmentally-friendly living spaces, like hotels. On-location shoots include overseas sites. Her blog features the YouTube videos.
What she does: Tech, gaming, reviews, fun lifestyle, celebrity interviews. Her irrepressible, outgoing personality shines. Emphasis on YouTube videos with Instagram as a close second. Also has a website and blog.
What he does: Life improvement podcasts, best-selling author, blogger. Holds the #1 rank for business podcasts on iTunes. Evidence-based tips for a better life. Often features little-known but valuable information. Interviews well-known experts.
What he does: Went from SEO blogger to world’s foremost authority on SEO, founder of Moz.com (provider of SEO software tools), MozCon and sought-after conference speaker. Also known for his “Whiteboard Friday” how-to videos. Now launching a new venture, SparkToro.
What he does: Copyblogger teaches you how to create killer online content that engages and drives revenue. Visitors can learn from the blog and join as a member (for free) to enjoy seminars, books, webinars, and community.
Vani Hari, The Food Babe:
Investigates “what’s really in your food.” Advocates for change, getting big brands to select healthier ingredients. Educates audience on the connections between food, fitness, and health.
Online Success: Put Your Best Foot Forward and Stay Focused
Consider a couple of your best attributes or qualities and use those as a means to connect with your audience on a consistent level.
Do you have a killer smile? Keep smiling! A mesmerizing voice? Keep talking to keep the audience focused on you. Are you good at making complicated ideas seem simple? Can you make the steps in a project (like car repair) seem clear and straightforward?
Focus on your niche, rather than trying to cover too many subjects.
Social Media: The Launchpad to Internet Fame
Social media platforms have frequently been the initial springboard launching creators to stardom.
Along the way, these creators receive sponsorship opportunities, advertising revenue, and a high profile they can deploy creatively.
Internet stars with high profiles get remarkable opportunities: here iJustine interviews Dwayne Johnson on the set of Rampage.
Thanks to the tsunami of free information online, anyone can learn to become a savvy user of YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media channels.
Which Social Media Platform Should I Use?
Some social media platforms are better than others for laying a foundation to generate online revenue.
YouTube has been the top pick for fame seekers for years and has been the preferred means to increase public visibility and generate mass income.
YouTube stars are very good at what they do. Take time to watch a variety of YouTube videos and you’ll see there’s no set format that wins: some popular videos are sophisticated and some are the opposite.
Rich YouTubers: Who Are They and How Much Did They Make in 2017?
Here’s a sampler of what YouTube success can do for you.
- Dan Middleton (DanTDM) (TDM stands for “The Diamond Minecart”): Over $17 million.
What does he do? He plays games online, like Minecraft and Pokemon.
- Evan Fong (VanossGaming): Over $15 million
What does he do? Gaming.
- DudePerfect: $14 million
What do they do: Outdoor/sporting stunts
- Ian Hecox (Smosh): Over $11 million
What does he do: Comedy.
- Ryan ToysReview: Over $11 million
What does he do: Ryan is a 6-year old who reviews toys.
- Lilly Singh (||Superwoman||): Over $10 million
What does she do: Satirical takes on Punjabi culture and everyday life. (See video below)
Case Studies: A closer look at successful YouTube personalities
YouTube stars focus their videos on a personal passion: something they really enjoy doing and are good at.
They carved out a specific niche and build upon that niche step by step.
Success isn’t about a rigid plan though. Often, YouTubers adjust and adapt to what emerges from their initial success.
For example, sometimes their main audience winds up being different than they expected, as we’ll see in the case of one of the most successful YouTubers: Dan Middleton, aka DanTDM.
Dan the Diamond Minecart: the top gaming YouTuber
Dan Middleton (known as DanTDM or “Dan the Diamond Minecart”) is a successful British YouTuber who plays games online. That’s his niche. His videos show an inset of himself narrating the action while the rest of the screen displays his gaming moves.
Growing up, Dan’s family moved frequently, due to his father’s career in the military. It was difficult for Dan and his brother to sustain friendships. As a result, the brothers grew very close, enjoying a shared passion for video games.
Years later, after obtaining a university degree, Dan realized none of the available career paths in the “real world” appealed to him. That’s when, with the encouragement of his new wife, he decided to focus on YouTube.
He had already created a channel focusing on Pokemon. He quit his job and threw himself fully into YouTube.
Soon his subscriber counts were up to 100,000. Growth followed rapidly and he quickly hit 300,000 then 500,000 subscribers. Dan turned his attention to the ever-popular game Minecraft.
Dan’s YouTube channel now boasts over 19 million subscribers and a staggering 12 billion views.
The audience for DanTDM wound up being mostly made up of 5 to 10-year-olds. Be prepared for some surprises when you launch your own channel, and be willing to experiment. Your audience may wind up being a bit different than you anticipated.
The DanTDM audience demographic then influenced his future videos.
Dan is so popular that he scored his own YouTube Red Original show. In this video from the series, you can see how they are catering to their audience with bright colors, simple humor, animated characters, and having fun.
Michelle Phan: sharing beauty tips led to fame and fortune
Makeup and beauty guru Michelle Phan started out on YouTube as a teenage girl with a profound interest in makeup techniques. Phan said she had fun filming herself demonstrating the different techniques she employs for a broad range of makeup looks.
Showing users complicated concepts such as contouring, highlighting, and more, Phan’s YouTube fame skyrocketed, with millions of women and girls coming back for more advice on makeup application.
Phan was consistent with her video posting. Her footage was clear, her voice was engaging, and she took the time to carefully describe each step of her makeup techniques.
The quality and consistency of Phan’s videos rendered her an internet star and talent in a short time, with international makeup companies clamoring to sponsor her.
Today, Phan’s YouTube channel is home to millions of followers and subscribers and remains one of the best examples of how to achieve YouTube fame and revenue.
Then Phan stopped creating videos. She left her channel and took a year off. Fame and fortune had taken a toll, as she describes in this remarkable video below.
In this video, Michelle Phan explains why she took a year off from creating YouTube videos. It offers what many appreciate: an authentic, personal story.
Michelle’s heartfelt story has been viewed more than 11 million times.
Remaining true to herself only boosted her fans’ appreciation of her. We look forward to seeing what new path this creative young woman will take.
Start with an enticing, original, and interesting page that has your audience coming back for more.
The strategies involved are not difficult and include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Post consistently and frequently
- Create content that’s relevant and valuable to your target audience
- Create engaging and original videos
- Comment on other people’s pages consistently to achieve additional exposure and the possibility of users linking back to you.
A great rule of thumb to follow is to endeavor to be different, to provide something different, and cater to an audience who is used to seeing the same mundane material every day from other pages.
Achieving Facebook fame is possible. It takes work, consistency, and imagination — but the payoffs are significant and can result in users making upwards of a thousand dollars per day.
Pro tip: Aim to achieve a roughly equal proportion between likes, comments, and shares. This is a sign that your content is relevant and valuable to your target audience.
Blogger (and similar blog-style sites)
Blogging is the perfect medium for the internet citizen who wishes to gain fame but might not necessarily feel at home in front of the camera. Via blogging platforms like Blogger or Ghost, internet users can carve out a niche and develop an audience base by the same means found in achieving YouTube fame – consistent, original content that is relevant and valuable to their targeted audience.
Don’t let your blogging platform become stagnant: you want readers to have a reason to come back. This is where consistency comes in.
Consider how you could create content that cannot be found anywhere else. What’s original about it may be your particular take or insight into a situation, problem, or topic. Or it could be your personal experience or sense of humor about it. It could be life lessons that you have to share with others, learned in the “School of Hard Knocks.”
While many blogs focus on the written word, others incorporate video as well. If you develop an active YouTube presence, your blog may be another channel that your videos appear in.
- Watch out for annoying typos. Pro tip: Use the Grammarly browser plugin to catch and correct typos.
- Avoid redundancy (fluff).
- Don’t waste your readers’ time. Get straight to the point.
- Make your content engaging and visually attractive. What images or video can you add? If you’re writing about business or finance, are there embeddable charts and graphs you can find on the internet to add value to your blog post?
- Break your content up visually into logical sections and label these with subheadlines. Use bulleted and numbered lists where possible to make your content easily “scannable.” (These “scannability” tips are just as relevant today as when they were first published.)
- Add value with relevant links to further reading or videos.
Having a Twitter account is an easy way to achieve public recognition, however, not particularly on the levels found on YouTube and Facebook. Twitter “notoriety” is easy to achieve and is reliant upon posting a storm of tweets and acquiring Twitter followers.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that even if users can rally a million Twitter followers to follow them, the related profits may be only a few hundred dollars per day.
Twitter is like social media purgatory. Its potential for fame-seeking and income-earning is limited.
Achieving Tumblr fame requires creating a large audience base.
As is the case with sites such as blogger, Tumblr users must create original, innovative, and engaging content to grow and engage their following in order to have a shot at becoming internet famous and earning matching revenue.
Using Social Media as a Springboard to Sell Products and Services
Do you have any associated products or services that you intend to sell?
If the answer is yes, consider how you can create content that supports your sales goals.
Haven’t launched your products yet? Think about the audience for your future products: You can be using your current content to attract and build that buyer base.
Content Tips for Becoming Internet Famous
Now let’s take a look at practical how-tos. You’ve chosen a niche and platform. What do you do next?
How do you get good at this?
Some YouTube stars, like Andrew Huang, take on challenges from viewers or create offbeat video ideas themselves— like making music out of Lego blocks.
Content is King
Remember that content is king. Your audience wants well-crafted, engaging, and original content. It’s worth considering that if your content can be easily found elsewhere, why would someone online choose to follow you and your site?
Take the time to create quality content. Expect it to take more of your time than you anticipate.
Quality always supersedes quantity.
Scheduling: Consistency and Frequency Pay Off
Scheduling and prioritizing is important in creating sustainable fame and related income. Don’t get lazy! Schedule time for each day to work on your content and focus on making it engaging.
If you’re on YouTube, strive to release videos on a regular schedule. You might start with one video a week, but endeavor to work towards publishing more frequently. Successful YouTubers often wind up publishing daily.
How to Build a Content Calendar: Hub, Help, Hero to the Rescue!
The YouTube company created a simple and powerful framework for thinking about, organizing, and planning your content – and it works for any kind of content, not just video.
That is the Hero – Hub – Help framework.
- Hero content is content designed for big “tent-pole” events that might occur once, twice or a few times annually. An example of “hero” content is the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.
- Hub content is episodic: it’s a series that occurs regularly. Rand Fishkin’s “Whiteboard Fridays” for Moz.com are an example of “Hub” content.
- Help content provides answers to questions your target audience is asking. An example of “Help” content in the form of a Q&A with an audience is this simple video from psychology professor Jordan Peterson, which has over a half a million views.
Learn more about Hub, Help, and Hero content, and how to use the concept to build a content calendar, in the video below:
Start Today: YouTube Creators Academy
One of the most valuable, yet overlooked, resources on the web for the creation of successful online content is YouTube’s Creators Academy. Here you can take a slew of excellent online courses from top experts. Did we mention it’s free?
While the content focuses on video, the principles can be applied to any type of content.
Some of the most popular videos in the Creators Academy are:
- Get discovered
- Make money with YouTube
- Create great content
- Live streaming on YouTube
- Grow your community
- Building an educational channel on YouTube
- Build a business on YouTube
- Develop a beauty channel
Hone Your Skills and Build Your Audience
One of the things you’ll learn in the Creators Academy is that honing your skills and building your audience comes first, before monetization.
The best way to ensure you have a shot at revenue generation is to take a patient and disciplined approach to your new online venture.
Honing Your Skills
The Creators Academy offers courses on the practical side of video production and creation of excellent content.
Growing and Engaging Your Audience Base
YouTube and Facebook offer advertising platforms that are powerful because they enable you to reach your targeted audience.
You can target your ads to specific demographics and according to the interests of those demographic groups.
For example, Facebook ads allow you to select who sees your ads based on which Facebook Pages they like. Want to reach millennial fans of Grumpy Cat? No problem. Want to reach baby boomers who love John Wayne and old Westerns? Easy.
Pro tip: Use Facebook ads to drive initial awareness of your project. Use YouTube ads to get your audience thinking about what you offer and to return to your channel to watch more videos.
Tactics: What’s Surprising or Unusual?
Take a cue from expert writers: lead with whatever is most surprising or unusual about your story. This applies to all media, whether a blog, video or podcast.
Also, consider “setting the scene.” Think about how a good movie begins. There’s a sense of time, place, often weather. How could you evoke a sense of place or an atmosphere?
This video below is a classic use of these tactics: an everyday scene (a girl snowboarding) that contains a big surprise: she’s being chased by a bear and seems unaware.
This video actually was manipulated to appear real. (And that’s another surprise, isn’t it?) Photoshopping is a tactic some use to create unusual and surprising (but fake) scenes.
Online citizens love photoshopped creations. From memes to hilariously crafted pictures, image manipulation can bring delight by providing something surprising or unusual.
Tactics: Campaigning for a Cause
Becoming a part of a campaign is an uncomplicated way to associate and integrate yourself into a cause that already has a massive audience base.
You can take advantage of the existing audience base by crafting your own project within this realm and getting fans and followers to join you via a campaign’s (or charity) cause or overarching message.
How do Famous Internet Personalities Make Money?
- Ads Whether it’s allowing YouTube ads to run on their videos or using Google AdSense to serve up relevant ads to their blog audience, savvy online entrepreneurs aim for automated revenue generation.
- Product reviews: As soon as your blog or YouTube channel starts to take off, corporations will notice and request that you review their products and send you the merchandise to review. (Many reviewers are careful to note that they aren’t being paid for the review itself. They include pros and cons of the product. And they often buy their own gear and review it. Still, it must be nice to get all that world-class gear in the mail.)
- Merch: Branded t-shirts and accessories like iPhone cases fall into this category.
- Downloadables: Music, software, e-books, and photos fall into this category.
- Online courses: Anything that you know well can be turned into a course. Some successful courses include photography tutorials, how to become an online entrepreneur, how to create a successful podcast, using video effectively, and how to rid your life of toxic people.
- Consulting: Digital guru Neil Patel’s one-on-one coaching to grow your website traffic is an example.
- Donations: Major internet stars don’t need donations, but those whose trajectories are rising rapidly sometimes add a PayPal donation button as an option for those who appreciate their work.
- Patreon: Depending on the venture, Patreon may be a major or minor revenue channel for a successful online personality. Jordan Peterson, a college professor who creates videos to help people live better, recently enjoyed a meteoric rise on Patreon to over 9,000 patrons. In tandem with this, he’s enjoyed an explosion in online popularity.
- Services: These range from software products (like Moz.com’s) to online self-improvement tools, to marketing services, and more.
- Books: Whether it’s PewDiePie’s This Book Loves You, Tyler Oakley’s Binge, or Grumpy Cat’s No-it-All, internet personalities — including the feline variety— often release books once their fame rises.
- Speaking tours: A top internet personality can easily score a 5-figure fee for speaking.
What happens after you become Internet Famous?
Keeping a picture in your mind of what life can be like can be a huge motivator. Here’s a list of 11 things that happen when your life is transformed by online success.
- You’re now considered an “influencer” which means corporations will be chasing you, sending you expensive gear in hopes you’ll review it, and even asking you to interview a star on the set of a movie.
- You inspire others to take the entrepreneurial dive too, or successfully spread your ideas and values and inspire others to improve their lifestyle
- You get to ditch the daily commute and the boring day job and work on what you’re passionate about.
- You get to be a kid again: namely, you get paid to do every fun thing that you can think of, from setting up a teepee so it’s smoke-free to making music with fidget spinners.
- You think of new ways to make money, like Patreon, PayPal and Bitcoin donations, or taking appointments to help people with whatever’s bugging them.
- You get to participate in the democratizing of entertainment in media.
- Think of new lines of merch, whether it be new t-shirts with a cool new design, laptop skins, phone cases, or something else.
- Your revenue is at the whim of major rule and algorithm changes. (Okay, this is a negative item, but keep it in mind: don’t put all your eggs in one digital basket.)
- Soon you’re being interviewed on mainstream media.
- You put a book out.
- Corporations send you cool merch to give away in contests.
Conclusion: Oh, the places you’ll go!
If you focus on taking a step-by-step approach, applying the wisdom of those who’ve been successful and taking advantage of key resources like the YouTube Creators Academy you will make progress.
What you supply: the ideas and the dogged commitment.
While no one can guarantee you’ll become famous or earn millions, following tried-and-true principles will give you the best shot at that. It will enable you to achieve far more than you thought possible.
For many that will mean success in:
- Selling their products and services
- Establishing themselves as a thought leader
- Proving their digital savvy in order to get that promotion
- Learning to generate automated online revenue
What if I don’t become a multi-millionaire?
Once you start to earn any revenue, you’ll know you’re on to something and can double-down on what’s working. Who doesn’t want additional revenue coming in?
There are plenty of people making a part-time and full-time living using just YouTube and similar platforms.
Once you start though, don’t stop. Only you can determine how far you’ll go.
Come back and share what you’re doing in the comments below. Ask us questions: we’re here to help.
We can’t wait to see what you create.
Wait, I’d like some more tips on making it online!
We thought you’d never ask! Seriously, here’s a buffet of goodies to get you on the right track to more fun, more happiness, and making money online.
Photo credits: Rand Fishkin, courtesy of SparkToro; iJustine by Faruk Ateş courtesy of a CC license; Tim Ferris by Matteo Pezzi courtesy of a CC license; Brian Clark by Michael Dorausch courtesy of a CC license; Kirsten Dirksen by Nicolás Boullosa courtesy of a CC license.