An influencer is an individual with the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of their authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with their audience. Alternatively they are an individual who has a following in a particular niche, with which they actively engage with, the size of their following very much dependent on the size of the niche.
Social media has grown rapidly in importance in the past decade, and is now actively used by more than 3 billion people – that is 40% of the world’s population. What is more, the majority of these people have real buying power, which makes the role of influencers on social media very powerful because others look to them for guidance when it comes to decision-making.
Influencers in social media
Influencers in social media are people who have built an online reputation for their knowledge and expertise on a particular topic. They make regular posts about that topic on their preferred social media channels and generate large followings of enthusiastic engaged people who pay close attention to their views.
Types of influencers
There are four broad types of influencers:
- Industry experts and thought leaders
- Bloggers and content creators
- Micro Influencers
The use of celebrities to promote or endorse a product is nothing new, and there are still many cases of businesses, particularly high-end brands, using celebrities as influencers. Think, for example, of actor George Clooney and Nespresso coffee, or Nicole Kidman and Chanel perfume.
The problem for most brands is that there are only so many traditional celebrities willing to participate in this kind of influencer campaign, and they are unlikely to come cheaply. Clooney, for example, is said to have cost Nespresso US $40 million. The exception will if a firm makes a product that a celebrity already likes and uses. In that situation, the celebrity may well be prepared to use his influence to say how good he believes the product to be.
One problem with using celebrities as influencers is if they may lack credibility with a product’s target audience. Kim Kardashian may be a member of one of the most successful “social media families” but her endorsement of Charmin toilet paper was not her finest hour.
Celebrities may have many fans and gigantic social media followings. However, it is debatable exactly how much real influence they hold over those who follow them.
Industry Experts and Thought Leaders
Industry experts and thought leaders are respected because of their qualifications, position, or experience about their topic of expertise, although the respect may be more due to where they work than their detailed knowledge of any subject. These types of experts include:
- Industry experts;
- Journalists; and
- Professional advisors.
Bloggers and content creators often work with industry leaders and thought leaders, and it is not uncommon to see them quoted in blog posts and even used in social media campaigns.
Bloggers and Content Creators
There are many influential blogs on the internet and, if a popular blogger mentions a product in a post, it can lead their supporters and followers wanting to try it out.
Many bloggers have built up sizeable followings in specific sectors. For instance, there are highly influential blogs about personal development, finance, health, sport, music, and many other topics, including blogging itself. The key thing successful blogs have in common is the respect of their readers.
A variation on having your own blog is guest posting, where somebody is invited to contribute to a popular blog, and is normally allowed to place a link to their own site in the author biography.
In terms of YouTube, a popular variation of a blog is a vlog – literally a video blog. In this case, a video maker will create their own YouTube channel, and encourage their followers to watch and share it in turn, often through heavy promotion and the use of links on other social media channels.
The fastest growing type of influencers are micro influencers, who are normal, everyday people, who have become known for their knowledge about some specialist niche. As such, they have usually gained a sizeable social media following amongst devotees of that niche.
These micro influencers have become stars in their own right connecting with millions of fans, through an increasingly wide array of mediums and formats.
Whether through social posts, stories, or videos, top social media influencers are creating and sharing new and innovative content at practically every moment. Here are the current top 5 across all social media platforms:
PewDiePie – 97.4 million Followers
Swedish Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, is a Swedish social media influencer. With a subscriber base of 60 million, he is the most followed YouTuber of all time. He also entertains enormous audiences on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, reaching a total of nearly 100 million followers across the four platforms.
Though he’s been criticised on multiple occasions for creating inappropriate and insensitive content, the social media superstar maintains extreme popularity online and allegedly earns around $12 million each year. He has also leveraged his online fame to launch a limited edition apparel line.
- YouTube— 61.2 million subscribers
- Instagram— 13.7 million followers
- Facebook— 7.4 million page likes
- Twitter— 15.1 million followers
Whinderson Nunes – 59.2 million Followers
Whinderson Nunes is a Brazilian actor, comedian and social media star, who posts hilarious photos on Instagram and Facebook and takes to YouTube to publish music parodies.
- YouTube — 27.5 million subscribers
- Instagram— 18.9 million followers
- Facebook— 5 million page likes
- Twitter— 7.8 million followers
Logan Paul – 53.6 million Followers
Logan Paul has diversified across social media platforms relatively evenly, maintaining equally large audiences on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. His videos typically infuse humour and surprise, a formula that has helped him amass a large and engaged fan base. However, his content has been highly controversial, specifically in January 2018 when he made light of suicide in a YouTube vlog.
- YouTube — 16.9 million subscribers
- Instagram— 16.1 million followers
- Facebook— 16.2 million page likes
- Twitter— 4.4 million followers
El Rubius- 53.5 million Followers
Ruben Gunderson is one of Spain’s most famous influencers and created the Spanish YouTube channel elrubiusOMG in 2011. On YouTube, the majority of his videos are gameplays, though he does occasionally post vlogs.
- YouTube — 27.8 million subscribers
- Instagram— 7.7 million followers
- Facebook— 7 million page likes
- Twitter— 11 million followers
Dude Perfect – 53.4 million Followers
Dude Perfect is a sports entertainment company started by five friends and former high school basketball players. The group rose to fame soon after publishing its first viral basketball trick shot video on YouTube back in 2009.
In the time since, Dude Perfect has become famous for showcasing tricks shot videos, competitions, and challenges of all types across social media. The group has also started an online merchandise store, its very own television series, and multiple mobile apps.
- YouTube— 27.7 million subscribers
- Instagram— 6.8 million followers
- Facebook— 18.5 million page likes
- Twitter— 382 thousand followers