What Is an Influencer?
What is an influencer, and what can they do for your business? You’ve come to the right place to find out!
Influencers have recently transformed how customers and brands use social media.
For most brands, influencers are part of a core marketing strategy that drives awareness, traffic, and sales. If you can get an influencer to endorse your product or brand, you can tap into the considerable audience at their disposal.
When I talk about influencer marketing, I’m not just talking about people with many followers and a huge reach. Instead, there’s a growing crowd of niche influencers who leverage their expertise and rely on user-generated content to engage their audience.
In this article, I’ll explain what an influencer is and how influencer marketing works. I’ll also detail some costs and tips for finding an influencer.
Ready to increase your reach? Then let’s begin.
What Is an Influencer and What Is Influencer Marketing?
To define an influencer in the simplest terms, it means any person who influences the behavior of others. In a marketing context, influencers are individuals who collaborate with brands to promote products or services to their audience.
Influencers may be high-profile personalities like Kylie Jenner or Dwayne Johnson, who are already famous in their own right. Alternatively, it could be someone who has established a large audience online and can use their vast influence to promote products.
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Now that word-of-mouth recommendations and criticisms spread through social media faster than fire in a dry field, influencers are more important than ever, acting as brand advocates and niche promoters.
According to research, 90 percent of respondents say influencer marketing is effective, and the number of sponsored social media posts is growing fast.
What Is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is a social media marketing strategy that enables brands to leverage the audience of social media influencers to drive awareness and sales. Influencers are paid to endorse or promote a product to their audience, who, in turn, buy the product from the brand.
Influencer marketing has been growing in popularity for years and was one of the leading marketing trends in 2022. Currently, marketers are allocating up to 40 percent of their budgets to influencers.
Considering influencer marketing’s growth in such a short time frame, we know the industry is thriving. In fact, it’s a $16.4 billion global market.
Who’s driving this growth? Let’s take a look.
Who Uses Influencer Marketing?
While it seems that some companies don’t want to let go of their outbound marketing practices, fashion e-commerce sites are an example of a segment targeting influencers.
Many are reaching out to reputable fashion bloggers and sending them clothing and accessory items for review. The blogger then posts photos and writes about the garments, often linking back to the site where their audience can buy the items.
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ModCloth, a vintage clothing site, does a great job of this. It actively shares images of audience members wearing ModCloth’s clothing. This helps their audience feel like they’re part of a more exclusive group and encourages them to check out their clothes.
A fashion brand might also send its items to an influencer, and followers could enter a contest to win them. Or sometimes, they send a credit to an active fashion social media influencer, magazine writer, or blogger so they can go to the site, pick out some clothing, and then review the experience as a whole.
Other brands that succeeded in influencer marketing include the soccer league Bundesliga, the marketplace Mecari, and Universal.
What Are the Five Types of Influencers?
There are several different types of influencers.
Typically, you can group social media influencers into the following five categories depending on their audience size:
Nano-influencers have the smallest audience size, with 10,000 followers or fewer. These people may be experts in niche areas or just starting their influencer journey.
Their audiences may be small, but they are incredibly engaged and may be ideal for small businesses testing influencer marketing.
NYC-based self-care and exercise Instagrammer Jen Lauren is an excellent example of a nano-influencer. She has a small but highly engaged community and creates niche content.
Micro-influencers have audiences that range from 10,000 to 50,000 followers. These people are typically niche experts with reasonably large and engaged audiences. However, they aren’t celebrities; you’d walk past them in the street without knowing who they are.
Travel and lifestyle blogger Miette Dierckx is a micro-influencer with a carefully curated audience who follow her globe-trotting adventures. She works with various companies like sunscreen brand La Roche Posay and chocolate brand Cote D’or.
These influencers have 50,000-100,000 followers. They’re social media personalities who have amassed a dedicated following but aren’t quite at the level of mega-influencers like Kylie Jenner or Kim Kardashian.
One key advantage of working with mid-tier influencers is that they often have highly engaged audiences. These followers trust and value their opinions, meaning any product or service promotion will likely resonate strongly with them.
Established mid-tier influencers include fashion and lifestyle influencer Liz Adams and Jamie Paige, who focuses on beauty and fashion.
Macro-influencers have audiences sized between 500,000 and 1 million followers. These are some of the most accessible social influencers with the biggest audiences. They tend to be B or C-list celebrities or online-native influencers who have worked hard to build up a big audience.
Fashion blogger Amy Jackson is a macro-influencer who works with many brands, including Celine and Cuyana.
Mega-influencers have the biggest audiences and have at least 1 million followers.
These are usually celebrities who have gained fame offline and translated that into online earnings—think Ryan Reynolds or the Jenners. Some, however, are native internet and social media users. People like Zoella or MrBeast are great examples of this.
How Much Do Influencers Cost?
As you can see from the chart above, successful influencers do not come cheap.
The cost of influencers depends on several factors, including:
- Audience size
- Engagement levels
Rates vary broadly. A report by Fox Business recommendations from a third party found that influencers with over 1 million followers can charge more than $100,000 per post. Conversely, micro-influencers charge up to a few thousand dollars per post and can make upwards of $100,000 per year.
There are several ways you can pay influencers. Most will charge a flat fee for a post. Some may request an affiliate commission rate where they receive a percentage of every sale they make.
While you can send free products to nano-influencers, don’t expect much traction. Influencers with larger audiences don’t work for exposure, and campaigns can quickly reach five, six, and seven figures.
Whatever you pay for influencer marketing, ensure it makes financial sense for you and gives a worthwhile ROI. A good average is $5 for every $1 spent, and $1 for every $1 spent is a starting benchmark.
Why Do Influencers Matter for Your Brand?
Consumers trust a third party’s recommendations more than a brand itself, particularly if they are seen as knowledgeable and trustworthy. A social media influencer is an excellent example of this kind of third party. Working with influencers helps position your brand as trustworthy and makes you seem much more credible.
It makes sense if you think about it. In a more personal context, you don’t usually trust a person at a cocktail party who comes up to you and brags about themselves, spouting fun facts about their personality to convince you to be a friend. Instead, you often believe your mutual friend who vouches for that person.
An influencer is the mutual friend connecting your brand with your target consumers.
A social media influencer also significantly expands your brand’s reach. When you align your brand with an influencer, they bring their audience’s network along with them. Because of the loyalty of their audience, an influencer can:
- drive traffic to your site
- increase your social media exposure
- build brand awareness
- help you understand your audience
- target your ideal customers
- flat-out sell your product through their recommendation or story about their experience.
Additionally, social media influencers use their large followings to promote your brand and can help bring your product to life with demonstrations and reviews.
How To Get Started With Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is about getting the most out of every interaction with your target audience. However, if you want to get the best from your relationship with influencers, you need to know how to work with them.
Below are some tips to help you do that.
Determine Your Goals
What do you want to achieve by working with an influencer? It only makes sense to team with an influencer if you know the results you want and have a firm strategy.
For example, you may want to increase brand awareness or make more sales. These are the two most common goals of influencer marketing campaigns, but achieving them requires significantly different strategies.
Let’s say you want to make more sales. In that case, you may focus on micro-influencers with small but engaged audiences. However, if you care about raising brand awareness, it’s probably better to work with a handful of macro and mega-influencers.
Think About Your Audience
As a marketer, you already have a solid idea of the audience you should target for your brand. However, to locate the ideal influencer, you need to take it one step further and consider the types of topics, blogs, and Twitter handles your audience would follow.
Since I market a blogger outreach tool for my company, the social media influencers I target are PR and marketing bloggers focusing on content and influencer marketing. Followers of these blogs are usually PR professionals and marketers who want to keep up with the latest technology and trends.
Thus, hopefully, they find my company relevant when a blogger they follow recommends it. However, had I gone after bloggers who write about finance, their audience most likely wouldn’t care.
Qualities to Look For In an Influencer
With your goals and target audience established, you can start to find influencers who are a great fit for your brand. There are three factors I recommend considering when choosing influencers.
- Context: Is your social media influencer a contextual fit? This is the most important characteristic when targeting the right influencers for your brand. For example, Justin Bieber is among the most influential social media users, with 37+ million followers. Would his tweet about your software bring in sales?
- Reach: In addition to wanting an influencer from your field, they’ve got to have reach. You want influencers to share their awesome content or positive recommendation of your brand with as many of the right people as possible. If your online business sold clothes for “tweens,” then maybe a mention to 37 million girls from Justin Bieber wouldn’t be so bad after all.
- Actionability: This is the influencer’s ability to cause their audience to take action. This characteristic comes naturally when you target individuals that are in contextual alignment with your brand and have a far enough reach.
However, you need to think about the size of the influencer’s audience, too. For example, if you’ve got a niche store, a nano or micro-influencer is a great starting place.
Where to Look for Your Ideal Influencer
The final step in getting started with influencer marketing is finding influencers who meet the criteria we’ve listed above. Here are my favorite ways of finding them.
Social Media Monitoring
Brand advocates are the loudest influencers your brand can have. Not only does their audience follow them because what they write aligns with your brand, but they also talk loudly and actively about how much they like your company. By tuning in to your social media mentions and blog posts about your brand, you can find social media influencers and advocates you didn’t realize you had.
Social media monitoring also allows you to find influencers who advocate for the genre or niche you outlined in the first step. For example, someone may post and tweet heavily about yoga gear but not mention your website as an awesome place to buy yoga apparel or equipment. Well, you can engage with them and expose your brand to a wider audience.
Identify the hashtags that your target influencers are using. For my company, I follow #bloggeroutreach and #influencemktg. By tuning in to the conversations surrounding these hashtags, I have not only identified active talkers in these categories, but I’ve also identified blog topics that I wrote to appeal to these influencers.
Once you start finding influencers that seem like a good fit for your brand, I recommend putting them in a Twitter list so that you can organize and follow them most effectively.
Set alerts for keywords related to your business to identify people who actively write about topics in your realm. You also should create alternatives for your brand’s name so that you can find posts and articles containing your mentions and identify active advocates.
How do you use these alerts to find influencers? Start by looking for individuals regularly mentioned or featured in articles related to your industry. Then, view their social media profiles and see if they have a significant following or engagement with their audience.
In addition, use Google Alerts to monitor conversations around specific products or services to gain insight into which influencers may promote those offerings.
Mention allows you to type in your company’s name to discover mentions on different outlets, such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, just to name a few.
However, Mention isn’t just for monitoring your own brand name or products; it’s also handy for identifying potential influencers in your industry.
With Mention, you can easily find popular bloggers, vloggers, or even celebrities who have mentioned keywords related to your business, allowing you to reach out and potentially collaborate with them.
Bloggers are arguably the strongest spoke in the wheel of influencers. One of the bonuses of targeting bloggers is they are almost always active across many social media platforms.
When locating influential bloggers for your brand, search for blogs in your genre and find the niche(s) by reading through the posts to determine if they write about relevant post topics. After making a list of contextually relevant bloggers, it’s time to locate their SEO stats and social media information to pinpoint the ones that equal the best reach for your brand.
Other ways to connect with influencers
There are various ways to connect with influencers; most of the time, you just need to be online. To make it easy, here are some more outreach techniques.
1. Create Valuable Content
The only way to gain respect is by earning it, and influential people didn’t get to their position without earning the respect of their followers.
The best way to attract qualified influencers is by providing valuable information they can use. Meaning if you want quality influencers, you need to publish high-quality content.
My infographics are an excellent example of this, even if I say so myself.
Researchers always need statistics and graphics to include in blogs, videos, and other publications.
Creating a steady supply of these infographics is a step toward letting the right influencers find you.
You’d be surprised how many backlinks I get just from infographics alone.
2. Conferences and Events
While the internet lets us connect to people through various means, there’s no better way to build rapport with someone than in person.
When journalists want to know which brands are doing what in a particular industry, they attend the tradeshow and conference circuit.
As bloggers, we can think like seasoned journalists and do the same thing.
Every year, there are dozens of blogger conferences you can attend. There’s also VidCon, the online video conference for the top stars of YouTube and other video platforms.
Attendance at one of these events is a great way to bump into popular video influencers with large audiences. Don’t forget after parties and auxiliary events.
3. Free Products
Learn what type of partnerships influencers are interested in. Knowledge is one of my products, so I typically offer a guest blog, infographic, or any of my services to influencers.
Building an ongoing working relationship with influential bloggers, YouTubers, and social media influencers through free products goes a long way.
Calculate the lifetime value of one customer, and that’s how much you’ll spend on each influencer in your program this way. For every dollar you spend on influencer marketing, you should see about $5 in ROI.
With enough smaller influencers, you won’t need to spend money on the big fish with huge asking prices.
Getting products into the hands of the right people ensures they can confidently sell them to your customers.
Influencer marketing is no different.
A Legal Caveat From The FTC
I can’t write a piece about influencer marketing and not mention the legal responsibilities that come with it.
Many influencers have faced significant fines for failing to clarify in their post that they received payment for endorsing/sharing a product with their followers.
To avoid any confusion, be sure to have a solid endorsement contract with specific language to clarify at the top of sponsored posts. Your contract should also state that the influencer has to disclose the material connections with your brand.
In the case of reviews, the influencer should state they received the product directly from the company.
However, even with a contract in place, it’s still your responsibility to ensure your influencer abides by the FTC guidelines, and it’s well worth regularly checking to ensure that there are disclosures in their content.
Making these necessary disclosures protects you, the influencer, and the consumers. It provides transparency and lets them know how you connected with the person on the other end.
You can find an endorsement contract template at RocketLawyer to get you started or get a lawyer to draw a contract for you.
Examples of Influencer Marketing Matches
For influencer marketing to be effective, you must team up with the right people. Here are some examples.
Callum Snape and Sun Peaks Resort
Macro-influencer Callum Snape is one of Canada’s best-known wilderness and travel photographers. That made him a perfect partner for Sun Peaks Resort, an alpine ski resort in British Columbia. His incredible images and videos created hundreds of thousands of views and likes, driving massive awareness for the resort.
Chrissy Teigen and BECCA Cosmetics
Launching a new product alongside a mega influencer can result in a huge boost in awareness. That was the case for BECCA Cosmetics, which launched its new Be a Light palette with Chrissy Teigen. Her promo video garnered 2.7 million views, which has helped launch an incredibly profitable product line.
Gymshark and Multiple Influencers
Gymshark has built a billion-dollar business on the back of influencers. The brand’s 66-day challenge is a great example of how you can raise brand awareness and engagement on a massive level by working with multiple social media influencers across several channels at once. By partnering with influencers like Melanie Wilking and Laurie Elle, Gymshark garnered 241.3 million views on TikTok and 750,000 posts on Instagram.
Through its Creator Platform, Walmart gives social media users access to thousands of product links. Additionally, the platform provides influencers with valuable data so they can build their followers.
The retailer works with influencers on Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, and YouTube. Social influencers promote clothing and groceries and get a commission when some clicks on their affiliate links.
Do influencers get paid?
Yes! In fact, many influencers make a living out of their social media presence. Brands pay them to promote their products or services to their followers. Over the past few years, influencer marketing has become one of the most effective ways for companies to reach potential customers.
What is an example of an influencer?
Influencers come in many shapes and forms, from social media stars to bloggers and YouTubers. One example of a top influencer is Kylie Jenner, whose social media following reaches hundreds of millions of followers.
Does influencer marketing actually work?
Influencers have a loyal following of people who trust their opinions and recommendations. By partnering with an influencer, brands can tap into this trust and reach a wider audience than ever before. Plus, influencers often create visually appealing and engaging content that can help capture viewers’ attention.
How successful is influencer marketing?
With millions using social media platforms daily, influencers have become crucial to many successful marketing strategies.
As long as there is social media, they’ll be social influencers. So it makes sense for brands to collaborate with influencers in their niche to help promote products and reach new audiences.
Recent research shows that if brands were to reallocate spending based on the study’s results, they could achieve an engagement rate of up to 16.6 percent.
However, levels of success vary depending on the influencer’s originality, follower size, and brand prominence.
Further, 86 percent of brands interviewed consider it effective and say influencer marketing works as well as or better than their other marketing efforts.
Not all influencers are the same, and influencer marketing strategies are just as varied. However, if you can afford it, a team of influencers can raise brand awareness.
Otherwise, a large number of influencers with smaller, focused followings can be just as effective.
While the Internet may have changed, there’s nothing new about businesses wanting to get products into the hands of influential people.
We just have more efficient ways of doing it now.
Spend time finding the right influencers and building relationships with them. It’s something you need to do sooner than later to be successful.
You want to be part of the conversation.
You can drive that conversation with the right influencers.