What is an influencer? Definitions and examples

Influencers have a large reach, many followers, and an influential social media presence. They produce content pretty much daily and frequently interact with their fans. More and more companies are working with influencers for targeted marketing. They use social media tools to, for example, increase their reach on Instagram, implement advertising campaigns, and present their products to a wide audience. Keep reading to find out what exactly influencers do, who they are, and how you can become one yourself!

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Definition: What is an influencer?

Influencers are people that have a large reach on social media and are relatively well known. The term ‘influencer’ comes from the word ‘to influence’ and has been used on social networks since the 2000s. Influencers use their reach to spread the word about certain topics or to advertise products or businesses. Thanks to certain analytics features and statistics, influencers can find out how many people they’ve reached with their posts and how people have reacted.

Influencers have a significant effect on the people that follow them, meaning that they can influence the views or purchasing habits of their followers. They’re active on various platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube. The most famous influencers have millions of followers and fans. Most of these so-called ‘mega influencers’ don’t limit themselves to a single area and instead tackle a wide range of topics.

There are also micro influencers, who have between 1,000 and 100,000 followers. Their reach is more limited, but they’re usually specialised in a specific area and have a close connection with their followers. This makes them especially interesting for companies.

Targeted marketing with well-known influencers is called influencer marketing. Companies can benefit significantly from the reach of influencers and learn more about their target group and potential customers, thanks to social media monitoring. They typically use influencers as brand and product ambassadors to promote their brand or a specific product. Companies and influencers can work together in the form of longterm cooperations, short campaigns, or even shorter testimonials.

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What kind of influencers are there?

Various kinds of people can be influencers and work with companies on social media marketing. Celebrity actors, singers, and athletes are often also active as influencers on social media. Since they’re already very well-known, they can easily spread the word about products. Journalists and bloggers also use social media to share their opinions and increase awareness about issues they care about.

Some influencers don’t have a day job - these full-time influencers have been active on social media for years and use various platforms. The topics that influencers take up are diverse. Some people specialise in niche areas and target a very specific audience, while others cover a broad range of issues and appeal to a wide audience. The most common topics among influencers are:

  • Fashion
  • Beauty
  • Food
  • Babies
  • Fitness
  • Travel
  • Gaming
  • Entertainment
  • Technology
  • Home items
  • Animals

Influencers will publish different content based on which platform they’re currently using. In general, videos are the most common kind of content, not only on YouTube but also on Instagram and TikTok. In so-called vlogs, influencers talk about their lives in video diaries; there are also hauls, in which products are presented. Reviews and challenges are also popular formats. Fashion influencers often use look books, in which they show different outfits.

Examples: Who are some well-known influencers?

Some influencers have been active on social media for years and have built up their follower base there; others are celebrities that garnered their fame offline. Kim Kardashian, for example, was an early influencer and remains one of the most well-known worldwide. She used the fame that she gained from reality TV to work with brands and promote products on social media. Her sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner are also big names.

In the realm of fashion and beauty, Zoe Sugg (Zoella) has done very well for herself. Many consider her the world’s premier influencer in the fashion and beauty niche since starting her blog in 2009. She is especially popular on YouTube and is also an author.

British model Iskra Lawrence has a very big following on various social media channels. What sets her apart from many other models is that she doesn’t allow any of her Instagram photos to be retouched in any way. She also actively criticises body shamers.

But influencers don’t always have to do with products. The Internet is also home to numerous activist influencers who are out to educate their followers, such as Emma Watson, who has taken on women’s rights activism and was appointed as a UN Women Goodwill ambassador in 2014. And of course, no list would be complete without mentioning other celebrity influencers like Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, and Selena Gomez.

Tips: How to become an influencer

There’s not one sure way to become an influencer. There also isn’t a set point when you can crown yourself with the title. Instead it’s a kind of status that you’ll need to work daily to maintain. Whether or not you’re successful will depend on how the public reacts to you and perceives you.

There are a few tips that any aspiring influencer should take into account:

  • Before you do anything else, you should ask yourself why you want to become an influencer. What are your dreams and what are your strengths?
  • You should choose a specific topic that you’re passionate about.
  • Keep in mind that being an influencer can be a full-time job that takes a lot of time and energy.

Once you’ve found the topic that you want to specialise in, you should take a close look at the competition. That way you’ll get a lay of the land and build some important knowledge. Focus on one platform when you’re getting started and always tailor your content to your target group. Once you’ve set up your account or channel, spread the word about it in your social circles.

Note

If you’re doing social media advertising as an influencer, you’re required to mark your posts as such. If you’re getting money for a post, doing paid advertising, or receiving free products, you always need to make that known.

As an influencer, the most important thing is to regularly publish posts and offer varied and interesting content. That way you’ll keep your followers engaged. It’s also very important to interact a lot with your followers and build a relationship with them. Networking with other influencers can also be helpful, as you may be able to benefit from their reach. Stay true to yourself and keep expanding your network bit by bit.

Check out our guide ‘How to become an influencer’ for more detailed tips on how to become an influencer.

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