Influencer Insights: : Understanding What an Influencer Is and How They Impact Today's World

February 7, 2024
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Influencer marketing is now a 21B dollar industry.. As many would say, our society is in its “influencer era.” You've likely heard the term "influencer" thrown around a lotBut, what is an influencer? And how are they shaping our world today? Let’s peel back the layers of what it means to be a social media influencer. 

10 years ago, the term ‘influencer’ was only an emerging concept in the realm of social media. Today, influencers or content creators (terms we use interchangeably here at Creatable) are seen as the most powerful marketing tool for brands. So powerful that many brands are turning to influencer marketing agencies like Creatable to maximize Return on Spend (ROAS) by harnessing the creative power and influence of creators.

What is an Influencer?

At its core, an influencer is an individual who has the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others due to their authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with their audience. Think of it like this: an influencer is “the cool kid” at school who everyone wants to be friends with — you know, the one who always seems to know what's trending and has the power to make anything look cool.

Influencers exist in a variety of forms:

  1. Celebrities: These are the ones you probably think of first when you wonder, "what is an influencer?" Celebrities have been influencing our purchasing decisions for years, from endorsing beauty products to promoting upcoming films.
  2. Industry Experts/Thought Leaders: These influencers are respected for their knowledge and expertise in a specific field. It could be a renowned chef recommending the best cooking utensils or a fitness guru suggesting the most effective workouts.
  3. Bloggers/Vloggers: These influencers share their lives and interests with their followers, often through blog posts or YouTube videos. They've built trust with their audience, so when they recommend a product or service, their followers listen.
  4. Micro, Macro, and Nanoinfluencers: These are everyday people who have gained a following on one or more social media platforms  due to their passion for a particular niche. They might not have the millions of followers that celebrities do, but their audience is often highly engaged and trusting.

See the difference? Each type of influencer has unique strengths, and they all play a significant role in shaping consumer behavior. But more on that later. For now, next time someone asks you, "what is an influencer?" you'll have a ready answer!

Types of Influencers

Now that we've grasped the basics of "what is an influencer?", let's dig a bit deeper into the different types of influencers. Beyond the broad categories of celebrities, industry experts, bloggers, and micro-influencers, there are more specific types that can play a key role in your marketing efforts.

  1. Mega-Influencers: These are individuals with over a million followers on social media. They typically have a wide reach and are well-known celebrities or public figures. Some mega-influencers in Creatable’s influencer network include: @recesstherapy, @aimeesong, and @heididamelio

  2. Macro-influencers: Falling somewhere between micro-influencers and celebrities are macro-influencers  who have follower counts in the hundreds of thousands or millions. They have a wider reach than nano and micro-influencers but maintain a more personal connection with their audience than most celebrities. Some macro-influencers in Creatable’s influencer network include: @skylarmarshai, @allisonbornstein and @saracovey

  3. Micro-influencers: A micro-influencer has a relatively smaller but highly engaged and niche audience on social media platforms with followers ranging from a few thousand to tens of thousands. What sets them apart is the high level of trust and authenticity they maintain with their audience. Brands often collaborate with micro-influencers for targeted and authentic marketing campaigns.Some micro-influencers in Creatable’s influencer network include: @chlobellexx, @yasminnnie, @lexialcala, and @hillary.bowles

  4. Nano-influencers: These influencers may have a follower count as low as 1,000, but don't let that number fool you. With a tight-knit community and high engagement rates, nano-influencers are often highly trusted by their audience. If your brand is looking to make a splash in a niche market, nano-influencers could be your secret weapon. Some nano-influencers in Creatable’s influencer network include: 

Remember, the type of influencer that works best for your brand will depend on your target audience, your product or service, and your overall marketing goals. Each type of influencer falls under a certain niche categoy and bring something unique to the table. These categories include food, family, lifestyle, fashion, home, beauty, fitness, etc. (or a combination of a few).  Understanding these types will give you a better idea of how to leverage influencer marketing for your brand, which is what Creatable is here to help with!

How Influencers Impact Consumer Behavior

Let's shift gears and examine how these influencers actually sway consumer behavior. A key part of understanding "what is an influencer?" involves understanding their impact on buying decisions.

Influencers, regardless of their type or niche, have a unique ability to shape perceptions and guide choices. They've built trust and credibility with their audience, and this bond allows them to subtly influence their followers' decisions. According to TikTok’s own research, 78% of TikTok users purchased a product after seeing it featured in TikTok creator content.

Firstly, influencers provide authentic product reviews and recommendations. When a food influencer suggests a new kitchen gadget, or a parent influencer raves about a time-saving app for busy moms, their followers listen. These testimonials often hold more weight than traditional advertisements. 

Secondly, influencers create a sense of aspiration. When followers see a travel influencer on a breathtaking adventure or a fashion influencer sporting the latest trends, it creates a desire to experience or own the same.

Thirdly, influencers foster a community around their brand. They engage with their followers, respond to comments, and create a space where individuals feel seen and heard. This sense of community can greatly enhance brand loyalty among consumers. In this TikTok, we discuss the power of influence and how the real impact is in the hands of the influencer’s community.

In short, influencers have the power to shift consumer behavior in subtle yet significant ways. They're not just promoting products or services—they're shaping lifestyles, setting trends, and building communities. The more you understand this, the better you can harness the power of influencers in your marketing strategy.

Influencers and Social Media Platforms

So we've talked about the impact influencers have on consumer behavior, but where do they carry out most of their work? The answer is: on social media platforms. These platforms are the stages on which influencers perform, and understanding this relationship forms a crucial part of the puzzle that is "what is an influencer?"

Each social media platform has its unique characteristics, and influencers often choose the one that best suits their style and audience.

Instagram and YouTube are the go-to platforms for lifestyle and beauty influencers, thanks to their visual-centric approach. From posting Instagram stories about their daily routine to sharing detailed makeup tutorials on YouTube, these platforms allow influencers to reach and engage with their audience in a visually appealing manner.

X and LinkedIn are more text-based and are popular among thought leaders and industry experts. Here, influencers share insights, engage in discussions, and network with other professionals in their field.

TikTok, the newest player in the game, has rapidly become a favorite among younger audiences. Its short, entertaining video format is perfect for dance challenges, comedy skits, and quick DIY tutorials, making it a hotbed for a new wave of influencers.

In a nutshell, social media platforms are the lifeblood of influencer marketing. They provide the tools and audience that allow influencers to share their message, interact with followers, and ultimately, influence consumer behavior. And as these platforms continue to evolve, so too will the role of influencers.

Creatable takes this a step further by running creator campaigns not only on social but on the brand’s e-commerce site as well, gaining new traffic & sales from creator audiences and new content to lift conversions on-site.

The Role of Influencers in Marketing Strategies

Let's move from the digital stages on which influencers perform to the business strategies they're influencing. Ever ask yourself, "What is an influencer's real role in marketing strategies?" 

A report from Influencer Marketing Hub states that businesses are making $5.2 ROI for every $1 spent on influencer marketing, while the top 13% of businesses are seeing a revenue of $20 or more for every $1 spent.

In the marketing world, influencers serve as a bridge between brands and consumers. They add a personal touch to marketing strategies that traditional advertising can't.

Convincing an audience to trust a brand isn't always easy, but with their loyal followers and authentic content, influencers can make this process more seamless. They're able to embed a brand's message within their own narrative, making it feel less like a sales pitch and more like a genuine recommendation.

Now, this doesn't mean throwing a product into every post. Instead, it's about creating a story around the brand that aligns with the influencer's image. For instance, a fitness influencer might weave a sports drink into their workout routine, demonstrating its benefits in a natural, authentic, and relatable way.

Influencers also offer brands unique insights into consumer behavior. By monitoring their followers' reactions to different types of content, influencers can help brands tailor their marketing strategies to better resonate with their target audience.

In essence, influencers are more than just content creators or spokespersons—they're partners in marketing strategies, helping brands communicate more effectively with their audience. As the marketing landscape shifts, the influence these figures hold is only expected to grow. 

Case Studies: Influencers Who Made a Difference

When it comes to understanding "what is an influencer?" real-life examples truly bring the concept to life. Let's look at a few case studies of influencers who made a significant impact, not just on their followers, but on society as a whole.

First off, let's talk about Greta Thunberg. This young climate activist started out by sharing her solitary climate strikes on Instagram. Her passionate advocacy for the environment soon gained worldwide attention, influencing millions to join her in demanding action on climate change.

Next, we have Brandon Stanton, the man behind Humans of New York. His powerful storytelling brings everyday people into the spotlight, demonstrating the influence one can have by simply lending an ear and sharing others’ stories.

Lastly, let's talk about Marie Kondo, the queen of decluttering. Marie's unique approach to tidying up has not only influenced people to rethink their relationship with material possessions, but has also sparked joy in homes across the globe.

These influencers have used their platforms to drive meaningful change, showing us that the question "what is an influencer?" extends far beyond brand partnerships and product endorsements. Influencers can, and do, make a difference.

Future Trends: The Evolving Role of Influencers

From our previous discussions, it's clear that the influencer landscape is dynamic, and like everything in the digital age, it's evolving rapidly. So, what does the future hold for influencers? 

Firstly, look out for the rise of micro-influencers. These are creators  with a smaller follower count, but a strong, engaged community. Brands are realizing the value of this authentic connection, so expect to see more collaborations with these 'power-in-small-packages' influencers.

Next, there's an increasing shift towards values-based influencing. As people become more conscious consumers, influencers who align themselves with meaningful causes and showcase their authenticity are likely to gain more traction.

Finally, expect to see the rise of employee “influencers” and creator content living on a brand’s website. Creatable helps incentivize store associates, affiliates, and other brand ambassadors to sell for you online. Creatable creator storefronts create more points of sale and drive conversions. 

How to Engage with Influencers for Your Brand

After understanding "what is an influencer?" and observing the transformative role they play, it's time to delve into the practical aspect: How can you effectively engage with influencers for your brand?

Identifying the right influencer is the first step. Remember, this doesn't always mean the person with the most followers. Instead, look for influencers whose values align with your brand and who have an engaged audience that matches your target demographic.

Once you've found your ideal influencers, establish a genuine relationship with them. Instead of just viewing them as a marketing tool, treat them as valued partners. In the long run, a strong relationship can lead to more authentic content that resonates better with their audience.

Next, provide creative freedom. Influencers know their audience best, so let them have a say in how your product or service is presented. This not only ensures that the content is authentic but also increases the chances of it being well-received by their followers.

Lastly, monitor and measure the results of your influencer collaborations. This can help you understand what's working and what's not, allowing you to make more informed decisions in the future.

Engaging with influencers can be a game-changer for your brand.Creatable is the #1 influencer marketing platform for e-commerce to help you plan, ideate, and execute intelligent campaigns. Request a free demo today -

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