Influencers are all around us. While it’s common to think that only the trendiest of celebrities are able to hold enough influence to sway public opinion, the role and scope of influencers has begun to expand into daily life, with anyone owning a computer able to become an influencer.
The new era of influencer could be anyone: It could be your cool older cousin who continuously shares Instagram photos of the trendiest spots in towns to their comparatively large base of followers. It could be the person on the table next to you at the restaurant, shamelessly snapping copious photos of their meals.
But what exactly is an influencer? How do they support themselves? And most importantly, how do brands take advantage of them?
Making an influence
An influencer is someone who manages to affect public opinion or make sure they are heard and reacted to. Because of their ability to influence audiences, they work closely with brands – this could be anything ranging from a local restaurant to a large multinational corporation.
It’s quite simple really: Basically, anyone who holds the power to influence any other person can be labelled an influencer. But not all influencers hold millions of followers – some of the best influencers have as few as a couple hundred followers.
Influencers usually have a niche where they write directly to a specific group of people in a given region, industry, or hobby. Larger influencers sometimes encompass multiple niches, increasing their scope while decreasing their level of trustworthiness.
It’s easy to see why brands would be interested in joining forces with influencers – it can be a fruitful partnership for both sides. Influencers are able to monetize their traffic and content while companies get publicity that, if done correctly, comes across as transparent and increases the relatability and trustworthiness of their brand.
Three levels of follower count
There are typically three levels of influencers, ranging from those high-profile celebrities with follower counts in the millions to lesser-known influencers with as little as a couple hundred, also known as: “macro influencers”
1. High follower count – Mega Influencers & Celeb Influencers
The extreme end of this is someone like Kim Kardashian, who retains millions of followers on her social media accounts. While something that a major celebrity promotes on their social media will be seen and covered by a wide array of people, the effectiveness tends to be at a much lower percentage.
Simply put, while the amount of followers for celebrities is much higher, the engagement of each individual follower is much lower as they don’t quite trust the influencer when it comes to making decision about their products. There’s a much higher likelihood that the celebrity influencer will be seen as untrustworthy, with users thinking that they’re simply using a product because they’re being paid rather than actually enjoying it.
While transparency and trustworthiness are major factors, large follower amounts make celebrity influencers perhaps the most valuable – if you can afford them, you can’t beat the brand exposure they bring. When it comes to brands using these types of influencers, they often cost too much money to even think about. There’s a reason why only the most well-known brands are associated with celebrities – smaller companies simply can’t afford their services.
2. Medium follower count – Micro Influencers
The next step down the influencer ladder is those medium level influencers – those with potentially tens of thousands of followers.
These types of influencers vary: You wouldn’t call them celebrities, but they still are able to make a living off their relatively large follower bases. These medium-level influencers can be anyone from bloggers and journalists to instagram models.
Journalists and thought leaders provide high quality, trustworthy insight to a given topic to their followers. If popular enough, bloggers, instagram users and Youtubers fit at this level.
But as with any influencers, the more popular they get, the less trustworthy they seem. The most important influencers currently are those that fill a specific niche, leading to highly engaged audiences at much lower prices: microinfluencers.
3. Low follower count – Macro Influencers
Macro influencers are a latecomer to the influencing game, yet are becoming more and more important to brand strategies using influencers. But what exactly is a macro influencer?
A macro influencer is typically someone with a low follower base, who fulfils a very specific niche, resulting in an audience that is very engaged and willing to interact with the content. Think about a restaurant blogger in a small town, or a Youtuber for a specific industry.
Brands have only recently begun to turn towards macro influencers and the results have been noteworthy. Macro influencers are also many times unaware that they even hold any influence at all, thinking that they are just doing their work as a hobby as opposed to an actual job.
Many times, brands need to reach out to them in order to start a partnership, which macro influencers are often glad to promote the brand for free, happy simply to obtain free things.
When used right, influencers can help companies grow in the modern, hyperactive age. Generation Z is growing up quickly, and influencers allow brands to connect with them in a relatable way. Influencers are here to stay, and brands who refuse to cater their campaigns to them run the risk of failing.