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Social Influencers, and Why Your Business Needs Them

You can use influencers to extend the reach of your brand by getting them to mention or reference your brand to their audience. Or, you can set up a special event or production and have the influencer be a part of it.

Gladiators are one of the most iconic types of people in Roman society, and did more than just fight. They were celebrated figures in Roman society, and shrewd merchants could see there was an advantage in using their reputation to help their own business. Roman gladiators were paid to endorse products, and for figurines to be made in their likeness. This was in an age where most information only spread as fast as a person could ride a horse.

This practice continues to be used today, except with slight differences (people no longer fight to the death). They please audiences by entertaining, educating, and engaging with them. Their reach is far faster and wider than ever before.

Today, we call them influencers.

What is an influencer?

An influencer is an individual who has the power and authority to affect the opinions of a larger audience. This is due to the influencer’s appeal, which stems from their knowledge, expertise, position, personality, and opinions.

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You can use influencers to extend the reach of your brand by getting them to mention or reference your brand to their audience. Or, you can set up a special event or production and have the influencer be a part of it.

Connecting with influencers benefits your business in multiple ways:

  • You are able to reach a wider or highly targeted audience with a minimum of effort
  • The influencer’s association gives your brand much more weight
  • Influencers provide a lot of value to your audience
  • Influencers help you drive conversions

So now that we’ve established that influencers can be a powerful force for your brand, let’s learn more about the different kinds of influencers you’ll encounter.

5 Common Types of Influencers

Influencers can be classified according to several broad categories based on who you want to work with. These categories are usually based on their profession, subject matter, and size of audience.

Celebrities

Like we mentioned in the gladiator example, celebrity endorsements are one of the oldest styles of influencer marketing around. A celebrity’s fame and visibility make them especially suited for becoming an influencer. Brands can sometimes be so tied to an influencer that their names are practically synonymous (Air Jordans, anyone)?

Celebrities are often photographed and do live appearances, and so are suited to working with fashion brands. Certain celebrities may be well suited for tech if they express an interest. For instance, Ashton Kutcher is a tech investor, and Tom Hanks has his own iPhone app

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Celebrities are aware of the power their name brings to a brand, and so can be very cautious about which ones to work for, or will charge high rates to promote your product. There are celebrities who dislike influencer marketing and refuse to work with brands altogether, so don’t get too hung up on a single candidate; have options.

Micro-influencers

Micro-influencers are the complete opposite of celebrities, but can be even more valuable for bringing awareness to your brand. They are completely ordinary people who have achieved influencer status by being an authority or a popular presence within a particular group or niche.

Their subscriber base is usually in the range of 1,000 to 100,000 followers, and can usually be found on social media platforms. These ground-level influencers usually have a very close relationship with their fanbase and are protective of their hard-won reputation.

Because of this, brands must ensure that the relationship provides value to the micro-influencer’s audience, either by providing opportunities for more content (a test drive in a new vehicle, maybe) or by supporting the influencer’s operations (sponsoring an episode or providing new equipment). Personal or niche brands work well with micro-influencer campaigns.

Experts / Thought Leaders

These are business professionals, journalists, or academics who have gained a following because of their professional experience or expertise. Their popularity can also be attributed to where they work or their job title, although it’s usually a mix of all of the above. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, for example, is a very well-known astrophysicist, and is an influencer because of his expertise.

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Journalists are constantly searching for new and interesting things to cover, so an information or publicity campaign may work well with this type of influencer. This type of coverage is generally free, although you do not have control over what they say and when it will be released. Sites like HARO and Quora are excellent places to find experts who may be receptive to an influencer relationship.

Content Creators

Bloggers are linked to journalists, but the scale and independent nature of their content separates them from the previous category. Bloggers tend to focus on a specific niche and become authorities within that community. As such, any brands approaching them should be appropriate to their specialization; a stroller company reaching out to mommy bloggers, for example. Many bloggers are open to sponsored posts that are written by a brand, so long as that post is relevant and provides value to the audience.

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Video content has much more variety than blog content, with content creators producing videos on a large number of formats and topics: short films, product critiques and reviews, short video essays, slice-of-life journal videos, and even simply unboxing a product. Brands can potentially interact with video creators through use of product placement or sponsoring episodes. The chosen method has to be unobtrusive to the audience and not excessively commercial.

Lifestyle Influencers

Lifestyle influencers are those who aren’t experts, or athletes, or fans. They don’t teach or engage. They’re influencers because their social media accounts simply amuse or entertain audiences in a compelling way. These can be Instagram models who share curated moments of their daily lives, or the daily lives of their incredibly grumpy-looking cat.

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Lifestyle influencers tend to be very informal and tongue-in-cheek, making them ideal for campaigns that are irreverent or focus on engaging the influencer and their audience.

This kind of variety allows a brand to find an influencer most suited for their unique brand personality. But there are certain situations where influencer marketing might not be the best choice.

When not to use influencers

Influencer marketing is a powerful tool, but it’s not a perfect, one-size-fits-all solution. There are certain situations when influencer marketing is not appropriate:

Your brand has no social media presence or engagement. What use is LeBron James mentioning you on social media if you have no social media account to begin with? LeBron is not going to link to your company website, nor will his audience go out of their way to Google you. Don’t waste the boost from your social media influencer if you don’t have a way to take advantage of it.

Your influencer is not on board. Money only gets you so far. An influencer’s audience can tell whether or not the celebrity is being genuine, and sooner or later the lack of enthusiasm will show. Just ask Kylie Jenner, whose unfortunate tweet against Snapchat caused immense damage to the brand. Brands should choose influencers who are likely to be genuinely enthusiastic about the relationship.

The product is not appropriate. Is your industry receptive to influencer marketing in the first place? If your customers tend not to pay attention to those things, don’t bother investing time and effort hunting for influencers. Or perhaps the problem is that you’re focusing on the wrong type of influencer. B2B brands won’t pay much attention to the likes of Justin Bieber, but they may sit up if a reporter from the New York Times writes a feature on you.

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Get influencing

Influencers are an excellent way to extend your brand’s reach and boost its influence among your target market. If handled properly, you’ll be able to connect with hundreds or even thousands of motivated and active prospects and have a high chance of converting them.

Now that you know the different types of influencers out there, start thinking about what might be the best fit for your brand. In our next post, we’ll go into detail about how you can find them and get them on board.

Kelso Kennedy

Kelso Kennedy

CoFounder @RedStampAgency - Time Magazine's 2006 Person of the year. He likes Business, Technology, Hockey and Life.

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