How Do You Define an Influencer? The Answer Has Shifted

Influencer 101

Influencer marketing: the bandwagon everyone is jumping on, and with good sense. The industry is exploding with new players and opportunities. In fact, a new report shows that influential social accounts are growing despite the backlash of issues like fraud. So let's consider, because the answer has shifted in even the past decade: How do you define influence?

What is an Influencer?

Influencers come in many shapes and forms, so it is hard to pinpoint a common thread among all of them. At a basic level, influencers in the digital vernacular are individuals or sometimes small groups who exert a topical influence over a certain group of people through their online presence. In marketing, these people can be used in a variety of ways to promote a brand.

Like an endorser? Yes and no.

Yes, because they do end up using your product or service and letting people know about how good it is.

But also no, because endorsers are valued for their overall celebrity and not their particular expertise and rhetorical clout within certain limited circles.

You see, an endorser would be Brad Pitt selling Chanel No. 5. If you think about it, why would you trust Brad Pitt when it comes to perfume? Does Brad Pitt make perfume? Is he a known perfume enthusiast? Has he ever had any particular episode in his life that linked his name specifically to perfume? No. Brad Pitt was merely chosen because he is a celebrity, one that is popular among the target market of Chanel No. 5, but this popularity only goes as shallow as knowing about him, not necessarily talking to him or engaging him.

Influencers are actually known by their audience, as much as one can know someone from talking to them over a computer screen or smartphone. Influencers know particular products because they use them in one of the main aspects of their lives. For instance, mothers know baby food. Athletes know sports drinks. Fashionistas know clothes. So when one of these individuals start talking about these products, then they are influencers. A little-known chess player may be more influential and therefore impactful than Justin Bieber, if you're selling chess boards.

A little-known chess player may be more influential and therefore impactful than Justin Bieber, if you're selling chess boards.

Another important facet of being an influencer is that these people have leverage within a certain community due to their personal engagement with these people that allowed them to build a rapport. Essentially, this means they could regularly communicate with their fans—your target market—to the point of knowing some of them by name.

Today's influencer marketing landscape is somewhat incredible, because it empowers otherwise average people to demonstrate immense influence, with only a social media account and their own creativity or knowledge.

Why Partner With Influencers?

Since influencers are already engaging with your target market, you can engage with them simply by partnering with the influencer, allowing you to reach the same people they reach on a regular basis. You will not have to go through the trouble of building your own fan base, as these influencers have already done it for you. This is especially important when you consider that very few people actually want to constantly engage with a brand. They would much rather engage with a human being who shares their interests. This is why influencers can potentially create better brand equity. It is as if your brand is directly engaging with these people, it’s just that your brand is represented by an influencer.

What's more, people are statistically less trusting of advertising today. That means you have to pay more and work harder to achieve the same results with traditional marketing as you may have several years ago.

But you can't achieve success with any influencer. You need to consider a few factors: Their audience, engagement levels, likelihood of fraud. Plus, how are you going to get in touch with them, convince them to utilize your offering, and measure the results to actually prove brand lift and ROI?

A comprehensive influencer marketing platform like HYPR can help — look for features that allow you to discover, engage, evaluate, activate, and measure the performance of creators across social media channels.

Get inspired and read our latest influencer marketing case study here.

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