What is an Influencer?

At the most basic level, an influencer is an individual or group who have a high level of authority, knowledge, or expertise on a particular topic or industry (such as fashion, make-up, video games, etc.) Importantly, influencers have built a strong and trusting relationship with their niche audience. This means that influencers can actually impact the buying decisions of their loyal followers – an important insight for marketers. In fact, based on Google trends, the popularity of the term “influencer” increased by 40% from 2018 to 2019. In this article, we will dive deeper into the types of influencers, how to include influencers in your marketing strategy, and the growing impact of social media influencers.

what is an influencer

Types of Influencers

It is important to divide influencers into multiple categories in order to drive the results you are looking for and avoid failure. A one-size-fits-all approach will simply not work. Many marketing companies today fail to recognize that. We will be dividing influencers based on followers, type of content, and industry. 


The Mega Influencer

These are the celebrities and famous people (actors, singers, etc.) While they might not be experts on particular subjects, they do provide a lot of reach in one hit. For example, according to Business Insider, Kylie Jenner charges up to $1.2 million per instagram post. Yes, you can read that again if you need to. However, the thing about working with mega influencers is that they are operating based on the one-size-fits-all model. Even if her posts are reaching ten million likes, how many of these potential customers are actually interested in what your brand offers? 

The Macro Influencer

Macro influencers are very similar to mega influencers. The main difference is that macro influencers got their fame via the internet, instead of the ways of a genuine celebrity. Their followers range anywhere between 100,000 to 1 million (sometimes more). For example, Jesse Driftwood is a videographer and photographer with 162,000 followers. His audience is primarily consumers interested in photography equipment and in his every day endeavors. 

The Micro Influencer

While micro influencers have a smaller following than the mega and macro, they are very invested in their niche audience. Ranging from 1,000 – 100,000 followers, micro influencers are dedicated experts on one topic. This gives them respect and authority within one particular field, creating strong trust and engagement from their audience. As a result, micro influencers tend to be very effective in driving consumers towards your business goals. An example of a micro influencer is Miette Dierckx, who is a travel lover and writer. She has worked with popular beverage brands like Alpro and managed to integrate their content in an authentic and consistent manner relative to the rest of her feed. 

The Nano Influencer

Nano influencers fall into the category of “everyday people” who have 1,000 followers or less. The advantage of working with nano influencers is that they have personal interactions, such as with family and friends, on many of their posts. This is a great way to generate high levels of engagement with your brand!

influencer marketing

Type of Content 

The Blogger and Vlogger

A very popular type of influencers are bloggers and vloggers. These are people who enjoy sharing their thoughts about a particular topic, interest, or just their general life and day-to-day experiences. They do this through the form of videos (which is called vlogging) or through blog posts (known as blogging.) It is very common for influencers to use blogs to connect further with their audience or to send quality leads to certain websites via backlinks. In addition, vlogs are an engaging way to reach audiences and create brand awareness.  

The Live Streamer and Podcaster

The most popular niche followed by males is gaming. In order to grow their skills, these audiences watch live streams by famous gamers. One of the first people that comes to mind in this category is PewDiePie who has over 107 million subscribers on YouTube. Podcasts have become increasingly more popular, and these influencers gain fame by discussing hot topics,  interesting stories, and pieces of advice. An example of this kind of influencer is Gary Vaynerchuk and his AskGarvyVee podcasts, which you can listen to in your car or “on the go.”



From fashion and make-up to food and travel, influencers can be found across the board. Fashion and make-up influencers tend to be the most popular, and may actually start their own businesses as a result. For instance, @songofstyle on Instagram is by Aimee Song, who now has her own clothing line. Another example is YouTube sensation @daviddobrik, who recently launched a new perfume line called “David’s Perfume by David Dobrik.” 

One of everyone’s favorite influencer industries is food – one thing we all would love to see on our timelines (or most of us at least.) Foodie influencers lure their viewers in by displaying very appetizing cuisines. Depending on your diet preferences you can choose niche branches, such as gluten free or vegetarian, and also geographical preferences, say Mediterranean cuisine or Taiwan’s culinary world. Lastly, the travel industry is another domain where viewers are lured into captivating sights and scenes. Travel influencers go around the world (often for free) in exchange for reviews of resorts, activities, and/or adventures. 

Of course, these are just a few. The list goes on to include professions like actors, models, journalists, and more. 

What is a Social Media Influencer?

Social media influencers are usually the first to come to mind when hearing the term influencers. However, it’s important to note that influencers have existed before social media. A well connected and influential person will impact their audience no matter what medium they are speaking through. There are numerous examples of this in the 1990s. For example, the Marlboro man, who acted as an icon to make smoking look masculine and trendy. 

Over the last couple of years, we have seen huge rises in the number of people who use social media. Social media is attractive for customers, and influencers are a way to reach potential clients on these platforms. Statistics provided by We Are Social show that in 2021 there are about 4.5 billion people on social media (and growing). This life-changing connectivity has pushed particular individuals to build an online reputation and following based on their knowledge and expertise.

what is a social media influencer

Fake Influencers

When you are trying to find a social media influencer to help you market your business, be aware of fake influencers. Fake influencers can bring a lot of damage to your business. So, keep these points in mind when differentiating them from genuine influencers: 

  • Spot an unusual follower-to-engagement ratio: Low engagement and lots of followers is not a good sign.
  • Examine the type of engagement: Go through the comments and see what type of content there is – is it relevant? Are they generic?
  • Be skeptical of rapid spikes in follower count: These could be bot accounts. 
  • Analyze audience quality: Look at the ratio between real and bot accounts. 

What is an Influencer in Marketing?

The landscape of marketing is continuously growing, evolving, and adapting to new changes. Today, brands are no longer in the center stage – consumers are. So, the best way to reach out to consumers is to join their conversations. How? Influencers can act as a middle ground between a brand and a new potential audience. The goal is to find an influencer that blends with your brand identity and will push your digital marketing strategy to the next level.

More specifically, influencer marketing can involve product placements. Utilizing an influencer is part of a strategy called affiliate marketing. Product placements work by having the influencer include the product or brand within their post in an authentic manner. Commonly seen on Instagram, product placement is an attempt at “hidden advertising.” This is because results are often driven from advertisements that do not look like advertisements. Traditional advertisements, such as TV commercials, are much more forward about their message and intent to sell. But influencers challenge this. Instead, product placement on Instagram looks more like a recommendation or attempt at informing. Younger generations are more impacted by sponsored influencer content than traditional advertisements. 

Social media is not the only place influencers can be paid to promote sponsored content. Other places include podcasts, blog posts, cinema, and TV shows. The most important thing to remember is you need to choose an influencer that blends well with the overall voice of your brand and is a trusted source – that way, audiences won’t reject the message. This will help avoid a negative buzz and accusations of “dishonesty” or fraud. 

what is an influencer in marketing

Celebrity Endorsement vs. Influencer Marketing 

Influencers are specialists in a particular field while celebrities do not need to be. For instance, if Selena Gomez was advertising a perfume brand, it wouldn’t matter that it is outside her field of expertise as a singer and actress. On the other hand, if you have a fashion blogger and a brand sends them a piece of their new clothing line to review, the goal is about creating true recommendations within a niche community. A second difference is that while celebrities are simply displaying an advertising message to their audience, an influencer continuously communicates with their following (like answering questions or going into more details).  

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