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You’re running a solid social media strategy.
You’re sick of the returns on paid posts from your brand account.
You saw your competitor’s influencer campaign and it was on point.
(Although you won’t admit that part out loud.)
You think your brand is finally ready to take the leap and connect with some relevant influencers for a campaign.
Smart move. Brands earn an average of $5.78 USD per $1 spent on influencer marketing. That’s why 91% say influencer marketing is effective.
There’s just one problem: You have no idea where to start.
Why are there so many different types of social media influencers? What do they all mean for your brand objectives? Are they really worth the money? And hey, why do some types of influencers cost so freaking much?
These are valid questions. After all, two-thirds say they’ve been on the receiving end of influencer fraud.
Don’t let the nightmare scenario scare you off. Read on to learn about the different types of social media influencers, how to choose, and what red flags to keep in mind.
HBO released a documentary recently called Fake Famous where the journalist director runs an experiment to elevate “normal” people to influencer status.
He buys them fake followers and engagement. Brand deals roll on in.
The subjects don’t even know he bought them the followers, likes, and comments! Although they are suspicious as to how so many followers appeared overnight.
One subject gets angry when he finds out and quits. But another subject digs the idea as a boost to her acting career. She decides the free gym memberships, vacations, and other perks are too good to pass up.
These fake influencers? They’re everywhere.
You can’t avoid 100% of fraud 100% of the time. That’s just the nature of social media. But you can use due diligence to prevent 90% of fraud 90% of the time. These figures are totally made up but the odds sound good, right?
First, keep realistic expectations.
How much do you spend each month on clicks from PPC ads that never convert? Even in the worst-case scenario with influencers, they’re still humans with some real followers. PPC ads will always be ads.
By doing some research before each influencer campaign, you’ll probably never wind up in that worst-case scenario either.
The first four types of influencers are all categorised by follower count. These are also the easiest qualities to fake.
It’s a little harder to construct a fake identity around a career or hobby – but it happens. And when it does, inflated follower counts are usually involved.
Nano influencers have small yet mighty audiences: Up to 7x the Instagram engagement of mega influencers. It’s easier to spot fake engagement with lower follower counts too.
Choose nano influencers to reach super-niche audiences, humanise your brand, or work within a small business budget. Be patient with them. They may not have experience working with brands yet.
Micro influencers boast decent followers but still tend to invest lots of effort engaging their audience. These types of social media influencers often have a clear niche too.
Look for micro influencers when you want to reach a decently large yet targeted audience. They haven’t attracted a generic audience yet so there’s plenty of human connection. Plus, they usually have a bit of brand experience.
Macro influencers are often content creators of some kind. Podcasts, YouTube, food blogs, minor celebrities – there’s usually a reason for their high follower counts. (Which could also be inflated with fake accounts or bots.)
These influencers work well when you have a large budget, and you want to spread brand awareness. Choose carefully based on who best represents your brand.
Mega influencers have won the internet. These types of social media influencers can include traditional celebrities or public figures too. Mega influencers tend to attract fake accounts (to help the accounts appear real, of course) and their followers span every group you can imagine.
Only use mega influencers if you have a massive budget and you need a high-visibility campaign.
These types of social media influencers are categorised based on claim to fame.
We didn’t think it was necessary to list off each type of influencer content (ex: fashion, pizza, extreme grilling, etc.). That’s overkill when you already know what niche you need. These are general categories based more on the type of content they create.
These types of social media influencers create content in a specific niche like baking, car repair, or hiking. Their vast content makes it easy to feel out their values and personality.
These types of influencers might include doctors or nurses, academic podcasters, beekeepers, and more. Most have a full-time career but are just really good at social media.
Reality TV stars, indie movie stars, TV stars, musicians, comedians – these types of social media influencers are your traditional celebs.
Activist influencers tend to have an authentic social media presence and focus on a single cause. Make sure to vet their affiliated orgs and respect the authenticity.
Parenting, local attractions, travel, wellness: Published writers may have a slightly different audience makeup than their blogging counterparts.
Photographers who stick with specific subjects are excellent for product promotions, no surprise. It’s also easy to find a photography influencer with the right vibe and culture for your brand.
Thought leaders can include entrepreneurs, industry experts, CEOs, and academics.
By now you probably understand what general types of social media influencers would work best for your brand.
Great. But how can you decide which influencers are genuine and the right fit for your brand? Real followers mean nothing if they don’t match your target audience.
Where do you want to expand or build a presence?
If the best types of social media influencers for your brand seem to congregate on one app but you’ve been investing in another, take a hint. Go where the followers are.
Otherwise, choose influencers with followings on your brand’s preferred app.
TikTok tends to skew younger but offers an impressive Creator Marketplace. You can search for influencers and filter the results. Plus, TikTok can help negotiate the details.
EAT stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. It’s Google’s standard for deciding what content deserves to rank. Take it to heart when investigating possible influencers.
This matters more than anything else. If an influencer’s audience doesn’t match your target audience, their reach or engagement is irrelevant.
Narrow your search by analysing the type of content influencers share. BuzzSumo makes this easy. You can run a keyword through their influencer search across Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and authors.
Save influencers who seem to match your target audience and investigate their profiles.
Who do they create content for? Who comments on their posts? Who are their most engaged followers?
Make sure these answers fit into one of your audience personas.
Influencer campaigns are most effective for brand awareness and sales in that order. Don’t base your objectives on CTA like you usually would for social media campaigns.
You’ll see better ROI if you think in terms of demographics or market segments you want to reach.
Do you want exposure across your main target audience? Do you need a foot in the door with a new market for your upcoming product release? How about boosting loyalty in another audience segment?
Influencer marketing should serve a specific purpose in your broader social media strategy. It takes some time to figure out what exactly your brand needs from the different types of influencers.
Whether your goal is brand awareness or sales, numbers aren’t everything. Very rarely do followers and visible engagement tell the whole story. In fact, inflating followers is extremely affordable – especially considering the potential payoff.
Take your time researching specific influencers and paying close attention to their engagement quality before you reach out to them.
Most agencies are book smart. We’re street smart. We understand the dynamics of social media and what kind of content it takes to stand out while delivering results. Check out some of our recent work to see how.