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What is an Influencer? Defining the Spokespeople of Tomorrow

Wild guess: you’ve persuaded someone to do something, big or small, at least once.

OK, we admit it…that wasn’t such a wild guess. 

Point is, everyone has influence—just to different degrees, in social circles of varying size.

Then what makes someone an influencer?

You’re probably not going around calling yourself an influencer. Most people aren’t. Even those you’d expect to refer to themselves as influencers (i.e. social media personalities) reject the title due to its product-pushing connotation

Personal preferences and connotations aside, let’s keep it simple.

When we use the term ‘influencer,’ we aren’t really talking about traditional celebrities—pop singers, movie stars, professional athletes, etc. While many celebrities blur the boundaries now by actively posting on their social media pages, we still aren’t inclined to call them influencers.

It’s not really about your follower count. It’s about how you built your following.   

So, at least for now, we use ‘influencer’ to refer to social media personalities.


A (social media) influencer is an individual who:

  • primarily creates content for social media
  • has built a following (not just mom and dad) via social media, in one or more distinct niches
  • can influence others’ purchasing decisions due to his or her authority, expertise, knowledge, and rapport w/ fans

What’s the Big Deal?

To match our ever-changing growing tech dependency, businesses are transitioning away from the TV ads to digital marketing. 

Just think, you’ve probably seen kids in restaurants listening intently to their third ‘parent’—the mobile device. 

With each year, Millennials and Generation Z progressively spend more time on smartphones. It appears this trend is here to stay, for generations to come.

DID YOU KNOW?70% of teenage Youtube subscribers relate to social media influencers rather than traditional celebrities. 

How do influencers fit into all this? 

There’s a long history of companies using celebrities to endorse products. 

Think of the revolutionary partnership between Michael Jordan and Nike

Sometimes an unknown actor becomes a star by being a spokesperson. 

Flo from Progressive, anybody? 

Having a ‘familiar face’ for your product proved effective in gaining trust and credibility. 

Think of it this way: If Flo knocked on your front door, would you let her in? Maybe you wouldn’t, but at least she wouldn’t seem like a stranger to you. 

That character Flo who is played by a woman you know nothing about…

flo-spokesperson-influencer-Progressive -Corporation
Photo Credit:

This practice of using a spokesperson has been adapted and refined for social media.

Name your favorite social media influencer. It can be a podcaster, YouTuber, Instagrammer, etc.

Chances are you’ve seen or heard them do an ad read/post. This is a big stamp of approval from the individual, not from an actor. 

We’re not talking about Flo. We’re talking about someone who feels like an actual friend.    

Authenticity is not just an expectation for the viewer, it’s a key selling point for businesses. 

KEY TAKEAWAYAs future generations spend more and more time online, the value of an influencer grows. They make for powerful business partners and trendsetters because of the ‘authentic’ relationships they cultivate with their fans.  

This might seem obvious, but a brand probably wouldn’t want a child star to be the spokesperson for their line of women’s lingerie. You have to find the right spokesperson that can speak to your target consumer.   

That’s why you can’t just lump all influencers into one big heap.  

Differentiating Influencers

You can categorize social media influencers into different ‘buckets’: by their follower count, primarily social media platform, content type, and niche, to name a few. These categories give you a sense of the influencer’s reach and demographics.   

By follower count

Celebrities (5M Followers +) A cross-over social media icon who has transcended their genre and niche(s), and eclipsed many traditional celebrities in terms of fame.   
Mega-influencer (1M-5M Followers)A social media superstar who has developed a massive following in one or more huge niches.
Macro-influencer (500K-1M Followers) A social media star who could be the top content creator in a massive niche. 
Mid-tier influencer (50K-500K Followers) A social media personality who is well on their way to establishing a large audience. 
Micro-influencer (10K-50K Followers)A social media user who has developed a good-sized following and could even be the top creator in a small niche. 
Nano-influencer (1K-10K Followers)A social media user who has a small following, which could be large for their niche. 

While the top influencers have a massive reach, they will probably demand high endorsement fees. The payoff might not be there for brands, especially if they’re not as established. With a small, loyal following and a particular product relevant to the content, nano-influencers can still bring great returns.

By content category/genre

Essentially, what kind of content does the social media influencer make? What is it about? 

It’s likely, for most influencers, there isn’t one answer to that question.

You’ll find that many influencers don’t stick strictly to one category/genre. In fact, the biggest ones often branch out way beyond the social media bubble.

Now, we could give you a laundry list of categories and genres you can find just about anywhere, but what’s the use of that? You’ll find that you can attribute an endless number of categories that reasonably fit that influencer’s content. 

But if you’re curious, here are a few examples:

YouTube’s top 4 content genres are comedy, music, entertainment/pop culture, and “how to.”

Instagram’s unofficial top 4 content categories are inspirational quotes, human faces (!), landscapes/scenery, and food. 

Categories and genres aside, the only one setting the boundaries of their content is each individual influencer. 

Sure, Kanye West heard his fans go on and on about the ‘old Kanye’ so much he made a song about it, but again, there’s that distance between celebrities and fans. 

REMEMBERWhile quality content is crucial for an influencer’s success, so is their personality. 

By platform

You’ve probably heard of YouTubers, TikTokers, Instagrammers, and so on. 

Most influencers have a primary social media platform that (hopefully) suits their main content best. This pertains not only to the functions of the platform but also to the user demographics. 

An influencer who wants to build a photography portfolio probably shouldn’t use YouTube to showcase their work. That would make for poor content for that platform, even though many users go to YouTube for ‘how-to’ photography content.  

Twitch, for example, is particularly popular in the gaming community. People go to Twitch to specifically watch their favorite streamers play games. This means an influencer interested in hosting a live cooking show should look for a different platform if they’re looking to build a following.   

That being said, social media influencers often grow their web presence by posting content that works for each platform. Take the cooking influencer above. They could post a picture of the final product on Instagram. Food is one of IG’s top trending content categories, remember? 

Finding your Niche in a Crowded FieldLearn more about making money as an influencer in our article on the Amazon Influencer Program. 

Let’s recap the questions you should think about before you commit to being an influencer: 

  • What kind of content do you want to make? 
  • How can you optimize it for a particular social media platform? 
  • How big is your niche? How many followers can you expect? (look up top influencers in your niche!)

All that being said, who knows what will resonate with others, really?

Who thought a kid reviewing toys would get so popular…

You should know before you start that it’s going to be difficult. 

You’re just one of many, and with every second, the field becomes more competitive.  

Just getting a few people to discover your content will seem nearly impossible, especially early on. 

Social media platforms have their own unique algorithms, which you’ll need to learn to get your videos ranked in search as high as possible. You also need to get started on your weekly upload, but you don’t even have an idea for that yet. Plus work, plus school, plus your relationships—that’s a lot for you to handle. 

Why don’t you let us simplify your life a bit? 

While your social media platforms will get you traffic, you are leaving a considerable amount on the table. To ensure you’re maximizing your search traffic, Content Portals builds you a homepage maximized for SEO to house all your content in one convenient place. 

Trust us. 

CreatorPortals builds your website, so your content gets seen.