Deconstructing Social Media Influencers
If you’ve been a part of the internet culture in the last couple of years, you’ve come across the term “influencer.” Influencer this, influencer that. There are memes, there are jokes. There are inspirational stories as well. But the question still remains: what is an influencer?
What seems easy on the surface is actually a very challenging job, and that’s putting it mildly. In the basic sense of the word, an influencer is someone who influences people.
Very anticlimactic, right?
All because influencers sway the opinions and decisions of other people not by compulsion but purely by skill. Influencers don’t wield a magic wand to get followers. They have authority in their domain through expertise, education, or experience.
Think of it like this: A layman would consider the opinion of someone with better knowledge of a subject higher than their own.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is influence.
Table of Contents
What is an influencer?
Nearly everything you need to know
Let’s move away from technicality for a bit and understand the very crux of who is an influencer. An influencer is you. It’s your best friend. It’s your older brother or sister. Your parents? They are influencers too.
Way before the world of social media, our opinions, thoughts, and actions were influenced by our family. And in reciprocity, we influence their actions too.
Try and rewind back to your childhood. Who would you ask what kind of clothes to wear for a party? Your older brother/sister or a cousin, probably?
To you, they had knowledge of the world and expertise in navigating life. Their suggestions come from a place of experience, so you are better off listening to their advice. So, they became influencers.
With the birth of social media, influencers have become people on Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube. Anyone with authority on a topic started creating content to educate, inform, or entertain others, and so became an influencer.
So, when you need fashion advice, you’d look towards a fashion influencer making Reels on Instagram instead of your sibling.
Why would someone listen to a random person on the internet?
For the same reason, you listen to your friend when it comes to how to handle relationships better. They know what they’re talking about, either through knowledge or first-hand experience. They specialise in it and can be relied on.
Call them social media influencers, internet celebrities, content creators or any other influencer synonym. At the crux, the definition of what is an influencer remains the same. It’s a person who uses a social platform to publish content for their community.
What is a social media influencer?
The birth of social media across the internet gave people the ability to reach a potentially larger audience and foster a relationship with them. And that gave rise to social media influencers.
In short,a social media influencer is a person who has:
- a significant online following and
- has cultivated that following by creating valuable and entertaining content online.
A person needs to tick all the boxes of creating content, delivering value, and fostering a community to be called a social media influencer.
Think Instagram influencers, YouTubers, podcast hosts on Spotify, people with huge followers on Twitch or even good old Facebook.
How powerful are influencers?
Influencers have more power than that aunty in your neighbourhood who has a PhD in gossiping.
Here’s an example of what an influencer can do and their power. Assume ITC runs a campaign with creators for their brand, Dark Fantasy. Over the span of 2 weeks, these creators talk about the biscuit with their community, generating not only chatter but also sales for the brand.
That’s the power of social media influencers.
Influencers have higher trust and rapport with their communities. So, they can sway purchasing decisions as well as shape the opinions of their followers.
Why do brands choose an influencer over a celebrity endorsement?
We are living in the creator’s economy, so an influencer-brand partnership is a win-win for both parties.
A celebrity actor or model endorsing a product is barely ever believable. No one really knows or trusts celebrities or whether they use the products they endorse.
Inversely, influencers aren’t just out to sell. They engage and start conversations with their audiences. They address pain points and solve problems.
- Wider reach: Influencers have a curated niche audience. Most have high rates of engagement and a wider reach than celebrities. It’s easier for brands to tap into diverse sections of their target audiences through influencers – audiences that weren’t accessible to brands before.
- Better performance: The trust, authenticity, and credibility that an influencer has drives awareness, intent to purchase, and even actual sales.
- Proven effectiveness: Today, people are savvy by half. They can sniff out an ad from a brand in seconds. On the other hand, they are more open to accepting an influencer’s advice, making them an excellent way to sell.
What are the jobs of an influencer?
If we rewind to what an influencer is, it is someone with whom a common person can relate easily. A person with high authority and even higher reliability. What an influencer does is directly related to it.
The first is value addition.
Influencers of any kind have know-how and expertise in their field. When they endorse brands, products, or services, they are the first consumers.
What influencers do is add their knowledge to their experience and post about it. As a result, people can skip a step or two in their decision-making process about whether to buy the product or not.
The second is simplification of information.
Let’s take the example of finance influencers, or “finfluencers” to understand the job of an influencer.
Finance and money; although important, are the most boring topics. Finfluencers use comic sketches, role-playing methods, and other methods to simplify the most complicated money problems.
They have been able to cut through the jargon and present information in a clean and simplified manner, from investment information to money management.
Types Of Influencers
There are a zillion types of influencers. Luckily, we can categorise all niches and types into a few broad categories based on their follower counts, the platforms they use, and the medium they use.
An Instagram influencer will be quite different from a LinkedIn influencer. A blogger will be different from a YouTuber or podcast content creator. You get the idea.
If you’re a creator reading this and wondering which types of social media influencers brands work with, rest easy. A healthy marketing mix for a brand includes many types of influencers. Why? Because it helps brands cast a wide net and rake in as diverse an audience as possible.
What are examples of influencers?
The number of followers is the simplest way to distinguish different types of influencers.
First, we have the nano-influencers. Consider these people as the newbies to the content creation game. They may not be full-time creators and are likely getting their feet wet to test the waters.
- They have a following of less than 10,000.
- They also have a very highly engaged audience.
- The cost of working with nano-influencers is quite low. Often, they’re paid in exposure and/or in exchange for products.
Lipsa Das, a freelance mentor who goes by the username @itslipsadas is a nano-influencer example.
Micro-influencers are the most common type of influencer in India. They are littered across our social media pages and make up most of what we know as the “creator economy.”
- Their followers range from 10,000 to 500,000.
- Do note that some define creators with 10,000 to 50,000 followers as micro influencers and creators with 50,000 to 500,000 as mid-tier influencers.
- They have crossed the first creator hierarchy of needs: create something, and moved on to the second: build an audience. So they are serious about content creation.
- They’re consistent with content and have higher credibility.
The kahunas of the creator economy are macro-influencers. They have a strong presence across multiple social media platforms and create professional quality content. Their followers range from 500K to 1 million. Shreya Kapoor is a perfect finfluencer example.
These are the elite, the crème de la crème of influencers, with a minimum of 1 million followers on social media. These creators have diversified revenue streams, like their own merchandise of some sort or TV shows. A fantastic mega-influencer example is the quirky Krutika, who goes by the username @themermaidscales.
Each type of influencer category comes with pros and cons. While working with mega-influencers can increase a brand’s reach, it will not increase engagement. Inversely, working with micro- and nano-influencers might not give you reach, but they bring in the hottest leads and customers who have an intent to purchase.
How To Become An Influencer?
Anyone—and we mean literally anyone—can be an influencer.
That’s why we love and trust influencers in the first place. At the heart of it, influencers are common folks who fostered a community through dedication, hard work, and knowledge and retained the audience through mutual love and trust.
But like everything in life, #thngs are never so binary, and just like in Fight Club, there are unwritten rules.
Separate the meaning from the word “influencer”
Forget about becoming rich, famous, and affluent through Instagram (or any other social media) and think about providing value and fostering good decision-making. Now, whether that’s through your food vlogs, travel reels, or motivational Twitter threads: anything and everything is game.
There is no shortcut to becoming an influencer
It’s a journey, not a destination. There is no rite of passage to becoming an influencer, and everyone’s journey is different and unique.
Key to being a successful influencer is to be authentic
Authenticity comes from personal experience and belief systems.
Say, for example, you are an influencer promoting a vegan brand. There are two ways to go about it. You can simply take a photo, copy the caption provided by the brand, and post the #ad, hoping your audience guzzles it down.
The other is when you use vegan products even before you start creating content online. In the second scenario, you’re advocating, which makes you more authentic. And that’s what your audience wants to see.
Steps on how to be an influencer on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or any other socials?
The first step to becoming an influencer is just starting. Dive head first.
The second step is to identify your niche and see what you’re good at. There are no limits to the niche. Health and wellness, education, travel, finance, and lifestyle are just the broader examples. You can narrow them down as you see fit.
1. Find your relevant platform
The one you choose is pivotal to growth. You can’t make fashion videos for LinkedIn. Or post long blogs on Instagram. So, choose the correct medium for the kind of audience that you are looking for.
2. Create, create and create
Create. Content. Always.
These should be the words that influencers need to live by. Both quantity and quality are important.
You need to show up. Not every day, but on a regular schedule with value-filled information. You can post once a week, once a day, once a month, or on any other schedule that works for you. The number is not important. What’s crucial is consistently sticking to it.
3. Foster an audience
An influencer is only as good as their audience. Forget about the metrics and the numbers. Cultivate a loyal and authentic community, and everything else will follow. And that brings us to a very important and oft-asked question.
There is no fixed number. You can be an influencer with 100 followers, and you can be an influencer with 100,000 followers. What makes a difference is the engagement rate. You need a community that regularly engages with your content and trusts your opinion to truly be called a social media influencer.