The word influencer is tossed around online with a little too much generosity. While there are millions of influencers worldwide, not everyone with a social media following is truly an “influencer.”
Brands have been paying public figures, athletes, tmodels, actors, and celebrities to promote their products since the days when only the newspaper was he only means of getting world or local news.
It’s a little different today.
An influencer is someone who has collected a loyal and attentive audience online based on their expertise. They’re a content creator who produces education, entertainment, and encouraging content that inspires their audience to take action off and online.
The word “influencer” has been around for a few centuries, but the definition has changed over the last few years as influencer culture has skyrocketed. It was officially added to the Miriam Webster dictionary in 2019 with the following definition:
“One who exerts influence: a person who inspires or guides the actions of others” and “specifically, a person who is able to generate interest in something (such as a consumer product) by posting about it on social media.”
These are online creators who share topics and products so effectively that it propels the viewer to do something about it. This could be sharing, engaging, or buying. Every piece of content that’s associated with a campaign will have a specific objective and is designed to suit.
What Makes Someone an Influencer?
Photo credit: Jasmine from our Southwest campaign
Generally, a content creator isn’t considered an influencer unless they have more than 1,000 followers. A nano-influencer lives in the 1k to 5k range for follower count, and they are the smallest category of influencer.
But it’s not just about the numbers. Meme accounts have lots of followers who show up for the content, but they’re not necessarily influencers. The content creator must also know how to engage and affect change in their followers. This requires a few other elements.
A True Influencer Understands Their Audience
They know exactly who they’re talking to at all times and how to tailor what they’re creating to suit that persona. They know what products, styles, and collaborations will have the most impact on their followers.
They Know How To Create Good Content
A true influencer will create every piece of content with just the right mix of intention and authenticity. They can be raw and vulnerable but also polished and curated. They know how to design their feed and their content to match their people and their own personal brand.
A True Influencer Understands Their Platform and How To Feed It
Someone on Instagram will know what Reels and Stories are more effective than Feed posts but will still post all three because the platform wants you to use all of its features.
A creator on TikTok will be familiar with the trending audio and transitions and how to leverage them in a unique way for their audience.
An influencer on YouTube will know how to create videos that get viewed to the end and how to create supporting content on Shorts and Clips.
They Know How To Engage With Their Audience
Engagement is the true metric of an influencer. A skilled content creator will be adept at answering comments, managing Story replies and using polls and other features to encourage engagement.
They design their content to elicit a specific response, be it likes, shares, reactions, comments, or clicks. This is how campaign objectives are met.
What Does an Influencer Do?
An influencer is a bridge in the gap between brands and consumers. Today’s consumer loves to buy but they’re experiencing ad fatigue and are tired of brands pushing their message.
When they see a brand pop up on their social media feed, they already know what they see – an ad. They already know they’re being sold to and it’s easily tuned out.
Influencers can bring the same products and services to consumers but in a natural and authentic way. This approach has a softer impact on the viewer as it’s woven into their organic content.
When you love a product, you tell people about it. You share where you found it, how you use it, how much you paid for it, and how it changed your routine for the better. You may even show them how it works.
This is where the influencers excel. They can tell a story and how a product helped. They can share how easy a product has made a particular process, or they can show that product in action like a demo at a trade show.
Influencers take what happens in real life and simply replicate it online for a much larger audience.
Why Do Companies Work with Influencers?
Photo credit Alex from our Ricola campaign
Every brand in existence wants consumers to buy its products. They need to make sales in order to stay afloat. But they’re hampered by one key point: it’s a company, and nobody connects with a sterile company.
They make commercials, run social media ads, and post fun content online, but the impact isn’t the same. Their potential to connect with consumers is limited simply by the fact that they know they’re selling to them.
Organic, influencer relationships are irreplaceable connection points that companies and brands can’t make. Here are a few reasons why influencers can do a better job at connecting than brands.
They Have A Deeper Understanding of The Audience
Brands will have a more general understanding of the audience’s desires and preferences. An influencer has built their audience from the ground up and will have a deeper connection with them as people, not just buyers.
Brands Can Reach More and New People
Strong and social media content has the potential to go viral. This will put their company in front of new and adjacent audiences that they may not even be targeting. Or by leveraging more than one influencer in related niches, the word will spread to more niche audiences without the brand promoting itself.
Influencers Start Conversations
It’s more than just putting the brand’s name out there on the internet. It’s about connecting the product with the people. That happens through conversation, sharing, and engagement.
They Build Brand Awareness and Credibility
Influencers promote products and services to a large audience, generally more than 1,000 up to a million or more, all at once. They have built credibility with their audience on this platform, and brands get to borrow that influence to lend credibility to their own brand.
Influencers Have A Unique Creative Perspective
No two influencers would create exactly the same campaign. Even the most skilled marketing and creative teams cannot match the creative output of a single influencer, let alone when you leverage multiple creators.
They’re a real person talking to real people. Not a brand selling something. They can tell an authentic, believable visual story and tie it in to fit their audience. There’s simply no comparison.
Influencer Marketing Brings A Strong ROI
Did you know that 43% of internet users across the globe followed some type of social media influencer?  That’s a glimpse at how large the market really is.
In a marketing survey conducted across several countries, it was revealed that 60% of respondents believed influencer marketing had a better ROI than other more traditional advertising channels.
It was also discovered that 53% of all respondents working in leading online markets reported influencer marketing as the most effective way to promote beauty or personal care products. In second place at 45% response was clothes and accessories.
These are just a few of the numbers that make influencer marketing services make sense for brands and products.
How Do You Hire an Influencer?
Photo credit: Britt from our PurePail campaign
There are multiple ways to find an influencer match for your company. The trick is finding the right one that will help you achieve your campaign goals. Here’s where to start.
Match Your Influencer To Your Campaign Objectives
You must know what you want to achieve with each campaign. This will help you select an influencer who excels at the strategy you want to implement.
If your goal is to reach as many people as possible at the top of your sales funnel, you will be looking for an influencer with a high follower count in your niche.
If you’re looking to drive brand credibility and trust, aim for an influencer with a smaller follower base but strong engagement metrics.
If you want to drive conversions or sales, a micro or mid-tier influencer who is well-niched would be the best match for this type of campaign.
Pick Your Platform and Pick Your Player
You should have a strong understanding of who your buyer is, what is important to your audience, and how they respond to content. Based on that data, choose the platform where they’re most likely to spend their time.
Google search for content that matches your brand’s messaging and see what you find. Who is making this content? Find them on your chosen platform and dig through their other posts and sponsored content to get a comprehensive view of what they’re about.
Have a strong handle on current hashtags that would be relevant to your niche. Check out the current trends and dig through the tags found there. Follow that tag to find content creators who may be in your niche.
Comb your own audience to see what influencers or tags they’re already following. This is an easy but effective way to connect with content creators who are already having conversations that would be relevant to your brand.
Use Influencer Marketing Platforms
A lot of content creators use online platforms to organize and manage their campaigns, affiliate deals and run their accounts. These platforms offer a wealth of data to sort through potential influencers. A few platforms to try are:
Social Blade is a free tool that serves data and reports about influencers and their account growth. It reveals their account metrics based on engagement and follower count. Social Blade also assigns each creator a grade to reveal how “influential” they could truly be.
Influence.co houses a database of thousands of influencers and is FREE for up to 30 contacts in one month. Search for content creators by category, location, and follower count to narrow down your short list of potential partners.
For a small price, you can use Zoho Social to tag and engage with influencers on the platform. You can also monitor your own social media account metrics in real-time.
Work With an Influencer Marketing Agency
Leveraging the expertise of an influencer marketing agency gives brands access to their expertise, their database of pre-vetted talent, and done-for-you influencer marketing services.
Full-Stack of Services
They take the wheel from beginning to end, helping you select the right influencer (or influencers) for your campaign and managing the implementation and reporting throughout.
An agency will provide full-service capabilities using its own proven process, from partnerships and detailed campaign strategies to content execution, campaign optimization, and comprehensive reporting.
Their teams will always have their fingers on the pulse of current trends and effective campaign strategies. They’re the experts you hire when you want the job done right without having to learn an entirely new skill set.
Existing Influencer Partnerships
An influencer marketing agency will have access to many experienced and trustworthy content creators. This removes the need to spend hours searching and vetting, and interviewing strangers on the internet.
They already work with niched influencers of all tiers who can be relied on to provide the campaign you need to reach your objectives.
This is a roadblock for many brands and influencers alike. They’re not sure what to pay someone who “posts on the internet” to promote their brand. This element alone stops many partnerships from getting off the ground and requires its own set of specialized skills.
An influencer marketing agency will be adept at navigating this element of your marketing campaign. They’re familiar with their influencers and know how to thread the needle of financial negotiations with finesse.
Scale Your Efforts With an Influencer Marketing Agency
Depending on your objective, one influencer running one campaign may not be enough to reach your goals. Now you have to start over, look for another one, begin new negotiations, and set up new contracts and partnerships.
Or you can work with an agency that already has a multitude of content creators that can be easily deployed simultaneously. This is a powerful way to scale your offer without starting from scratch with every new influencer partnership.
Working With Your Influencer
When you find influencers you want to work with, follow their account and engage with their content. Interact with them on a personal level.
Always remember that you’re coming to the influencer to access their audience in order to leverage their creative expertise. Treat them like the experts they are. Give them a place at the table to share their valuable input and insight.
Does a Big Follower Count Make You an Influencer?
No it doesn’t. There are many accounts, like meme and gossip sites, that have hundreds of thousands of followers, but they do not have the influence to affect their decisions or opinions.
Celebrities at the top of the influencer food chain, such as the Kardashian/Jenner clan, and global soccer/football stars like Cristian Ronaldo and Leo Messi, have massive global followings.
However, people follow them because of their offline celebrity and fame, not because they trust what they say. They would still have millions of followers even if they only rarely posted.
The engagement metrics tell the story of a large account’s ability to influence its audience. Do their videos get watched more than once? Do they have real comments? Do they respond? Are their posts shared? Do they get likes that are proportional to their followership?
Typically, mega accounts will have low engagement rates. Celebrities and mega influencers often don’t have time or don’t feel the need to dig deep into their audience so they can stay more general and appeal to a wider audience of people. Their campaigns will typically stay at the top of the sales funnel to generate brand awareness.
What Kind of Influencers are There?
There are many types of influencers in nearly any niche you could imagine. A niche influencer is someone who focuses their content to suit a narrower audience. This gives them a high level of trust with their audience and establishes them as credible authority.
Here are some of the more common and popular niches for influencers of all tiers.
This is one of the most popular niches and encompasses everything from jewelry, shoes, apparel, and accessories to luggage and eyewear. Within this niche are influencers who will propel variations in labels, styles, budgets, and designers.
Beauty is another of the most profitable influencer niches. This content focuses on skincare, cosmetics, hair care, and hair styling, as well as general themes of personal care.
A successful beauty influencer creates an authentic connection with their audience on a highly personal and often vulnerable topic. Within the beauty niche, you will find the glam and the natural and everything in-between.
In the travel influencer niche, high-quality photography, videography, and content are of prime importance. Their job is to inspire social media users to recreate their own experiences. These creators range from five-star luxury resorts to backpack hikers.
A lifestyle influencer will be someone who shares their life, from mundane to enviable. They have a gift for curation, storytelling, and cohesion.
Lifestyle content is more nuanced but is still highly effective at creating connections with a common audience. The busy working big city mom will attract a different audience from the homeschooling farmstead mom.
Celebrities and Entertainment
Most mega influencers have amassed their following outside of social media. However, in some cases, as with Huda Kattan and Jeffree Star, they have manufactured their own celebrity status by starting out as a content creator in their niche. Now, they can take a step outside their narrow niche and generalize.
Athletes and sports enthusiasts are particular about the equipment and gear they use. This is a great door for brands to cultivate relationships with their target market as their product is promoted from a trusted source.
Content creators who exist in the animal niche are influencers who care about their animals and are eager to share their life with them. This includes products, antics, exercise, and training, as well as food and even apparel.
Did you know that in the first quarter of 2022, Twitch surpassed YouTube by more than five times for the total hours watched of live-streamed gaming content? Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook Gaming are where you will find gaming sub-niches that span types of games being played and game selection.
Health and Fitness
Health and fitness influencers have an added responsibility to practice what they preach. Their audience watches along as they take their own journey and inspire others to do the same. Sub-niches range from bodybuilding and yoga to body-positive fitness and gut health.
Family and Parenting
Family and parenting-focused accounts are a blend of lifestyle, education, and inspiration. These accounts can emphasize a large variety of content from surrogacy, adoption, infertility, family-friendly crafts, homeschooling, homestead parenting, LGBTQ+ families, and culturally blended families.
Business and Technology
This niche will range from product reviews and tech tutorials to DIY marketing and entrepreneurial endeavors and would even include NFT creators and experts. These are influencers who are doing and teaching, giving them an added level of authority.
How Do You Become an Influencer?
With the right strategy and abilities, it’s possible to start the journey toward becoming an influencer. But it’s a lot more complex than “creating good content.” There are FCC regulations, ethics, and specific skill that make a successful influencer. Here’s our recommended path!
Find Your Niche
What do you love? What could you talk about all day, with no preparation? Reflect this in your content.
Pick Your Platform
Where do people who connect with your topic spend their time online? That’s where you should be.
Study Your Audience
What do they want to see and read? What content, images, and messaging resonates with your target market? That’s what you need to create.
Be Consistent and Engage
Create content in batches and post on a predictable schedule. Don’t neglect in-real-time content that’s great for Stories. Reply to comments and messages and encourage engagement and sharing.
Connect With Other Influencers
You need a network! Follow and connect with other influencers in adjacent communities that can inspire you and keep you accountable.
Work With An Influencer Marketing Agency
An agency can help you make strong brand connections and build lasting relationships. They will bring negotiations to you and value the expertise you bring to the table.
Take A How-To Course
There are several outlets that have detailed influencer training ready to go so you can skip the guesswork on how to make it happen. Explore the following options:
- IAP Career College’s Lifestyle Expert Certificate Course
- New Skills Academy’s How to Become a Social Media Influencer
- Udemy’s many courses on growing followers, hashtags, and social media strategies
What Qualities Makes A Good Influencer?
These are the qualities and components that create a successful social media influencer.
- Someone who is relatable
- They can speak with authority on their topic
- Someone who can create top-quality content
- They’re trustworthy
- People like them
- They think strategically about their approach
What is an Influencer? Frequently Asked Questions
An influencer inspires, educates, and entertains while also being successful at product and brand promotion.
What’s the Difference Between a Brand Ambassador and an Influencer?
A brand ambassador would be a social media user who already uses and raves about your product. An influencer is someone who may be new to your brand and is hired because they have an audience match.
Is an Influencer a Brand?
An influencer runs their social media account like a business. Many of them often create their own brand or branded products.
Is Being an Influencer a Career?
Absolutely! Influencers of all tiers can collect payouts for their content that varies from tier to tier. Successful mega influencers bring in thousands or more per post, whereas micro-influencers can expect a few hundred per sponsored piece.
How Do Influencers Make a Living?
Every negotiation is different, but most are a flat rate of money per post or campaign. Some will also negotiate for a commission-based payout depending on how many sales are made.
Why Do So Many Influencers Work With Influencer Marketing Agencies?
Most influencers work with an influencer marketing agency to manage pay negotiations and to get easy access to brands who are looking to work with an influencer.
Is Influencer Marketing a Good Investment?
Absolutely! No other marketing channel unlocks the same level of reach combined with a depth of connection, and no brand can do this on its own.
What Kind of Social Media Platforms Do Influencers Use?
All of them! From LinkedIn and YouTube to TikTok, Pinterest, and Facebook. However, the most popular platform is Instagram.
How Do You Know if an Influencer is Authentic?
You will know by their engagement. Are the comments real? Is the content high-quality? Do the likes match the number of followers? These are easy ways to tell.
Now You Know What an Influencer Is. It’s Time to Leverage the Power of Influencer Marketing
This market has exploded over the last few years and is set to keep growing. Don’t miss the golden opportunity to leverage this channel for your brand or your career.