What Is a Social Media Influencer? Full Definition

Last Updated: July 31, 2022
What is a social media influencer? This guide gives the definition of a social media influencer and different types.
Social Media Influencer
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What is a social media influencer?

Social media has become a huge part of people’s lives, which means that our marketing strategies have had to do a 180.

Part of your social media strategy needs to involve things like paid social media ads, as well as boosted posts. However, there is another approach that helps market your products through social media.

This is what is called influencer marketing, and it involves working with social media influencers in order to expand your reach and discover more of your target audience.

If you are relatively new to this world, then you are probably wondering what a social media influencer is in the first place. Let’s check it out.

What Is an Influencer?

Before we go into what is a social media influencer specifically, it is essential that you understand what an influencer is at all.

What is an influencer exactly? To sum it up, an influencer is someone whose perspective is valued in a specific area, who is able to influence people to purchase things as a result of this perspective.

Before the world of social media, there were a number of traditional kinds of influencers.

Celebrities

When you compare them with everything else, celebrities are actually one of the oldest kinds of influencer. Also, this category is pretty broad.

Models, actors, and singers can become celebrities. Remember the supermodel of the 90s? Back in the day, people looked up to models like Cindy Crawford.

There were lots of young girls around the world that wanted to be like her. These days, we look at different celebrities. People like Kobe Bryant, Rihanna, and Taylor Swift are the kind of individuals that we look up to.

As well as sticking to their main line of business, there are a lot of celebrities out there that endorse different services and products.

Some even begin their own line of products, like Rihanna, and then market them based on their name. This isn’t a new idea.

World Leaders

Of course, there are limits to this, but world leaders are a certain kind of influencer. In contrast to popular opinion, this isn’t just associated with political opinions.

For example, when Obama was president, it was fashionable to craft your own beer. This is because the Obama family liked to do this, and many people took inspiration from them.

Another good example is members of the British royal family. How many people are watching what they wear, and will quickly run out to purchase the same thing?

This is particularly true of the younger Royals, who a lot of people glamorize.

Thought/Industry Leaders

Especially when it comes to B2B brands, thought leaders and industry experts are a really important type of influencer.

Not only are people paying attention to them because of the expertise that they hold in their particular field, but they also like to know what products they are using.

For example, let’s say that your brand needs to buy new machines. There is a good chance that you are going to look through a trade magazine to see what other brands are buying.

Or, you will look for reviews from industry thought leaders whose opinions you value. When you’ve got this kind of information, it is easier to make a decision.

What is a Social Media Influencer?

What is a Social Media Influencer

So, what is a social media influencer exactly?

The definition of a social media influencer is someone who gets their influence from social media. You might be wanting to figure out the kind of people that can gain influence like this.

The easy answer is pretty much anybody can.

Why?

Because anytime people talk about what they are passionate about or interested in online, there are going to be people that share these interests.

Let’s dive into the different kinds of social media influencers on the Internet these days.

The Mom Influencer

One of the phenomena of the Internet is that anybody can publish content. With more mums out there these days looking to share what’s going on with their daily routine, there is an entire community of them who engage with each other on social media.

This can either be through a Pinterest board, a blog, Instagram, or more. Over time, some of these moms are able to garner a community of like-minded moms, where they trade solutions for parenting problems, and recipes.

Brands that sell products including children’s clothing and baby products often make the most of these types of social media influencers, who at this point are everywhere on social media.

The Traveler

With the current travel restrictions and lockdowns, this kind of influencer might not seem particularly relevant. However, this isn’t always going to be the case.

There are a lot of world travelers out there that like to share their adventures online, through videos and images. When these people stay somewhere, engage in recreational activities, and eat in restaurants, they are able to share their opinions.

As a result, travel brands love to work with influencers in this niche.

The Car Enthusiast

Unless you live somewhere where most people take the bus, there is a good chance that you spent a lot of time in your car.

You might be surprised to know that there are a lot of people out there that create content when it comes to the automotive industry.

There are mechanics out there that attract other mechanics to their social media platforms, and there are also DIY guys and girls.

The Generation Z Influencers

TikTok is probably the best place to find Generation Z right now, which has opened the door to a whole new generation of social media celebrities that are really good at entertaining younger people.

One of the things that they all have in common is that they are regular people who are sharing things that they are passionate about online.

Just note here that some of the more traditional influencers are social media influencers as well. When we are trying to explain what a social media influencer is, and how you can collaborate with them, you can approach both kinds in the same way.

What Does a Social Media Influencer Do?

One of the ways of being able to understand what is a social media influencer is by working out what they do. Social media influencers have two things in common, they build community and social media, and they create content.

Over time, people start listening to what they’ve got to say. From here though, there is a bit of a difference on how they make this happen.

They are Content Creators

The first thing that you need to know about social media influencers is that in the beginning, and even still now, they are content creators.

This is because you can’t obtain an influence on social media without content. When we say content, this covers a broad range of activity, from photography to video production and even blogging.

No matter what they’re creating, this content is a certain quality, and has a relevance to their audience. Otherwise, people wouldn’t be interested in watching it or consuming it.

The content also has to be within a specific niche. If it isn’t, then they’re going to have a difficult time building their influence. Having focus is also important when you are trying to build trust up with an audience over time.

Are Influencers Full Time?

There are some social media influencers out there that make a lot of money doing what they are passionate about. This is because they can charge brands high prices for sharing sponsored content.

This is going to be quality content that is made by people who have a huge following. On the other hand, there are some influencers out there that have a full-time job aside from social media.

These people aren’t going to charge as much for a post, and they don’t spend all their time creating social media content. They might have just started out as well and haven’t grown their brand yet.

In the middle of the road, there are people that make a bit of money on the side from sponsored content, but they don’t really want to work a traditional job. A good example of this is stay-at-home moms.

How Many Followers Should You Have to be an Influencer?

What is a Social Media Influencer - how many followers

Of course, if you know anything about social media influencers at this point, the first thing that comes to mind when we define what a social media influencer is is the fact that they have a huge following.

However, this isn’t always true. There are some influencers out there that do have a lot of followers, but you don’t need a huge number to become an influencer, or to be paid for a sponsored post.

In fact, the trend is gearing towards micro influencers, which is someone who has between 1000 and 10,000 followers.

Brands are figuring out that these kinds of influencers have a super high engagement rate, which makes them really valuable.

What Kinds of Influencers Exist in Social Media?

Influencers can be put into different categories. First, they are classified by how many followers they have. As we mentioned, micro influencers are those with between 1000 and 10,000 followers, and then you’ve got celebrities who have a million followers or more.

This has been the traditional way of looking at influencers, and has been promoted by influencer marketing agencies, as well as the marketing industry in general.

The other thing to think about when it comes to influencer marketing is how much brand affinity the influencer has. This is how much commitment they have to a given brand.

An influencer might be a brand ambassador, or they might work for a brand part-time.

How Does an Influencer Earn Their Money?

Brands have a number of different ways that they can pay influencers. How they decide to pay their influencers depends on the content they are wanting the influencer to share, the kind of influencer, how long they want the campaign to run, and how many followers they have.

Again though, there are a number of different ways that you can pay an influencer.

Giving Them Product

This is the most popular way of paying an influencer if they are a micro influencer, because it is of little cost to the company.

It also has an advantage for influencers of all sizes, because it lets them experience your product, and they can do so for an extended period of time. This is good if you’re wanting them to review your product.

Affiliate Marketing

This is one of the more traditional ways to implement influencer marketing. With this, influencers are going to get a commission on each sale that results from the work that they’ve done with the company.

This approach has its advantages. For one, brands are going to only pay if they get the results they want. As far as the influencer goes, an affiliate agreement means that they are going to get a bigger payout if they do a really good job.

However, there are downsides. One of the biggest downsize is the fact that affiliate marketing can’t be done on all platforms.

There’s also the chance that the influencer isn’t going to get a big payday if the content doesn’t end up doing really well.

Pay Per Post

Another way to pay an influencer is to pay them per post, which is a flat rate. With this approach, the brand and influencer are going to agree on the price of the service.

The price is going to depend on a few factors, including the number of followers, and how much work they have done to create their content.

There are some influencers out there that are going to have a flat rate that they charge the majority of brands. Just make sure that the flat rate correlates closely with your brand.

This can be difficult to figure out because there is no standard market price.

Brand Ambassador Contracts

Lastly, we’ve got what is called a brand ambassador contract. This is similar to a salary contract, where you are paid a fixed amount every year in return for being a brand investor.

This is the most expensive way to employ a social media influencer, but if you are wanting a long-term relationship with that influencer, this cost can be worth it.

It also allows you to test out the working relationship, and then work out whether it is worth continuing or not.

How to Find a Social Media Influencer

When you really think about it, finding the best social media influencer for your brand is actually the biggest challenge.

This is because there are lots of people out there these days that are social media influencers, so finding the right one can be like finding a needle in a haystack.

The good news is that there are some resources that you can make the most of to make your life a little bit easier.

Look in Your Backyard

Sometimes, your own suppliers, employees, or even clients are the best influencers for your brand. A portion of the answer to what a social media influencer is can be anybody that has a social following, as well as brand affinity.

This way, you can easily pick out who is already interested in your brand, and who of these is an actual influencer.

Capitalise on Social Media

One of the easiest ways to find a social media influencer is to look at social profiles that belong to your brand and its competitors.

The right influencers are those that are going to have interest in your industry, which means that they’re going to follow profiles that relate to your niche.

If you find someone that has a lot of social media followers on your page, then have a look to see if they are an influencer.

How to Work with Social Media Influencers

Having a good relationship with social media influencers can be done in a number of different ways. Some brands choose to work with them one time, while others prefer to establish a long working relationship.

Show Your Appreciation

No matter what type of influencer that you are employing for your brand, it is really important that you show them that they are valued.

This is because influencers can bring a lot of value to your customers, but if you don’t show them appreciation, they can also put you on blast and complain about your brand.

This is why you want to take care of them and make them feel that they are valued.

Allow Them Creative Freedom

Of course, every brand needs to protect itself from poor taste and bad behavior, but at the end of the day, you are hiring an influencer for a reason.

This reason is the influence that she or he has, and it is also the quality of the content that they produce. Just make sure that you allow your influencer enough creative freedom, so that they’re actually going to enjoy what they’re making.

Also, the more creative freedom you give them, the less forced the content feels.

What Is a Social Media Influencer: Final Thoughts

What is a Social Media Influencer - the definition of a social media influencer

At the end of the day, figuring out what is a social media influencer is pretty easy. It is defined as someone who is influential on social media.

Some of them make the most of this influence and earn money from it, and others don’t. Make sure that you do the proper research, so that you can figure out exactly the right kind of influencer for your brand.

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Written by Jason Wise

Hi! I’m Jason. I tend to gravitate towards business and technology topics, with a deep interest in social media, privacy and crypto. I enjoy testing and reviewing products, so you’ll see a lot of that from me here on EarthWeb.