Influencer marketing may seem new, but it’s actually quite familiar. In the past, influencers were celebrities paid to endorse products – athletes put their face on cereal or sports equipment, beautiful actresses did commercials for cosmetics, and celebrities of all types stood up for charitable causes.

Brands always paid to attach equity to actors, actresses, athletes, and musicians in talent partnerships. In a way, influencer marketing is no different, but it takes place on social media instead of traditional media like radio and television.

Are influencers celebrities? The answer isn’t quite that simple. Some influencers are celebrities, and some celebrities are influencers.

Celebrities vs. Influencers

A celebrity is a famous person with broad public recognition, such as Brad Pitt or Meryl Streep. They’re household names and most people with an understanding of pop culture would recognize them. There are celebrities with national or international recognition, as well as local celebrities like news anchors or local radio personalities.

An influencer is distinct from a celebrity in a few ways. Though they may be well known, their power lies in the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending brands and products, which is usually on social media.

Influencers are typically more known within niche audiences, rather than on a large scale like celebrities. They also appeal to a specific group, whereas celebrities usually have diverse audiences.

Celebrities tend to have huge audiences, which limits their intimate interactions with their followers. People may also struggle to relate to celebrities, since many of them live luxurious lifestyles – influencers are more down-to-earth.

Celebrities also gain their fame through talent in their field, whether it’s sports or acting or music. Influencers gain their following by demonstrating expertise in their niche or industry, which is often more valuable to brands.

Choosing Between Influencers and Celebrities

Brands have a dilemma – is a traditional celebrity or a top influencer the better choice for an influencer marketing campaign? Both have merit, but choosing between them depends on your needs.

Influencer marketing campaigns are one of the most beneficial marketing strategies for modern brands, especially if they have a big social media audience. Traditional celebrities may be beneficial for some campaigns, while others may be better off with niche influencers with a small but dedicated audience.

There’s also a third option – celebrity influencers. These are people who gained a reputation from traditional media channels, such as movies or music, and then began creating content on social media. They leverage their existing celebrity and fame to reach wider audiences, and often engage with their followers readily.

Choosing a celebrity influencer bridges the gap between the two. Celebrity influencers are nationally or internationally known, popular, and cater to diverse audiences. They’re also active on social media and engage with their followers, so they have a built-in audience.

The Right Influencer Is More Important Than a Famous One

Whether you’re choosing between a known celebrity or a big-name influencer, it’s more important to find the right brand alignment and values than a name.

One of the benefits of influencers – especially celebrity influencers – is that they work within a niche or industry. They built an audience that’s interested in the types of products or services you offer, and therefore more likely to listen to a recommendation.

That said, sometimes, having the right celebrity can significantly boost a campaign. Sports figures often endorse related products for brands successfully, such as Misty Copeland acting as a spokesmodel for Under Armour or Tiger Woods partnering with Nike. Cosmetics and lifestyle brands get positive results from celebrity endorsements with well-known and beloved actresses, such as Julia Roberts for Lancome or Charlize Theron for Dior.

Big names may have a lot of flash, but that doesn’t mean their audience will take any endorsement they offer. Many times, micro influencers have more passionate and loyal audiences that consider them on the level of friends and family with recommendations, so the audience trusts them more. This is the equivalent of word-of-mouth referrals.

Supercharge Your Campaigns with Influencer Marketing

Celebrities and influencers are similar, but have some key differences. With the rise of influencer marketing, a third category emerged – celebrity influencers – who have a combination of traditional and social media fame and influence. There’s no clear line between the two, but brands can make the best decision for their marketing campaigns by considering the celebrity or influencer who aligns with their mission and values and offers a dedicated audience that’s more likely to act on recommendations.