What is an influencer?

  • alisa
  • April 4, 2020

There is no doubt that almost every user of the Internet, and especially regulars of social networks, heard the word “influencer” at least once. It’s easy to guess what it can mean if you look from the linguistic side. However, this sensational term of the 21st century is something bigger without exaggeration than just a buzzword in the vocabulary. As you are here, you are likely interested in figuring out what’s what and get an answer to the question “What is an influencer?”

Let’s see what he (by the way, he or she?) has an impact on and also clear up all other details to put together a jigsaw puzzle into an intelligible picture.

Who are influencers?

Let’s immediately turn right to the point, or more precisely to the explanation of the concept. So, how to define an influencer?

An influencer is a media personality with expert opinion in this or that niche. He publishes content about specific products and/or services and gently advertises them on social media. An important thing worth being mentioned is that an influencer has a certain number of followers who have become a loyal audience. Consistently interacting with it, he has already gained trust and recognition.

These digital opinion leaders have the power to affect the purchasing decisions of other people due to their authority, knowledge, point of view or relationship with the audience. They use the tactics of unobtrusive sales, showing the products /services using themselves and as if advising followers to try. Therefore, it makes influencers an indispensable tool of marketing these days.

This new term “an influencer” has been even added to the dictionary. The Cambridge dictionary, for example, explains it the following way:

Someone who affects or changes the way that other people behave.

And one more:

A person who is paid by a company to show and describe its products and services on social media, encouraging other people to buy them.

Influencers are active on various social media: Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, etc., and have hundreds or thousands of like-minded people in their digital space. Being considered an authority, an opinion leader can be easily called a new celebrity of the 21st century.

A brief history of an influencer

old spice man commercial
A separate type of marketing with the participation of influencers (influencer marketing) appeared with the development of social networks. People no longer watch advertisements on TV and do not pay much attention to billboards. People trust people and spend lots of time on social media. If you add up three components, I mean, a trusted person, an appropriate social network, and the product or service that needs advertisement, you get the perfect marketing formula to generate more sales.

Actually, this type of marketing and, therefore, an influencer himself has prehistory. It has been around for a very long time but came to the present in a modern version, adapted to our realities. By the way, the basics remained the same: you need to find a famous personage to demonstrate to your customers that your brand can be trusted.

According to history, the first influencers were the Queen and the Pope. It sounds a little bit weird but it is. They promoted medicine, trying to prove its importance to those people who hardly believed in its efficacy. The Queen and the Pope made it without any material purposes, just for the sake of welfare of the common people.

There is an another example represented by an English potter Josiah Wedgwood. In the 18th century, he got the royal stamp of approval for his pottery from King George III. Those days it was the highest mark of approval and recognition. Josiah Wedgwood was not taken aback but used it as a promotion for his profit. A royal endorsement enhanced the reputation of the potter and obviously boosted the orders.

With the advent and development of different brands, a lot of things changed. The savviest and the most creative started to invent brand characters and mascots, adding a personal touch using them in advertising. The most famous one we still remember until today: Aunt Jemima created by The Davis Milling Company, Ronald McDonald, The Duracell Bunny, Tony the Tiger from Kellogg’s cereal, and, in the end, Coca-Cola’s influencer Santa Claus.

A little bit later, brands started using real people in their adverts. Just remember The Marlboro Man or that unforgettable male Isaiah Mustafa who appeared in the Old Spice commercial. All the figures mentioned above were influencers. Brands chose them to act as advocates for their products and it worked.

There was also the time when brands were crazy about engaging celebrities as faces of their brands. This affection to well-known personalities has not completely faded away but, at the same time, social media influencers have got more power since roughly 2010. The new generation has changed the rules on the market. Brand new strategies and tactics were required to captivate and encourage them to make purchases. Here come bloggers who transformed into influencers we know now.

How to identify an influencer?

identify influencers
There is an opinion that anyone with a large number of followers on a social network can be called an influencer. That’s not exactly true. At present, it’s quite easy to buy followers and impersonate a popular social media personality. However, genuine influencers have built their reputation through knowledge and experience in a particular topic. And I will emphasize one more time, they have gathered around themselves real people who carefully and enthusiastically follow influencer’s way of life, take his habits, buy recommended products.

There are several tricks you can use to identify whether you come across a true opinion leader or a fake one:

  • Assess the quality of the content a person produces. Usually, both pictures on social media and captions are flawless. True influencers are crazy about the style of their profiles as well as the tone of voice.
  • Leaf through the photos in the account and see whether there are any collaborations with brands or not. Influencers usually hold an advertised product in their hands or somehow gently insert it into a frame, tag clothing brands in their photos or write a post about some service they recommend. If you have found such posts, you have identified an influencer.
  • Pay attention to the comments under the posts. If there are just emojis or write something like – beauty, cool pic, wow, chances are they are written by bots. You are able to distinguish comments from real people and automatic texts, aren’t you?
  • If you would like to check the authenticity of an Instagram account, use a specially designed tool such as trendHERO. It will check any account for cheating, as well as analyze comments and mentions, find mass followers and commercial accounts (if there are any among followers), etc. In a word, the tool will help you understand whether you are dealing with a real influencer or someone who pretends to be.
  • Opinion leaders usually have several social media accounts where one is the main source of influence. For example, if you are checking an account on Instagram, pay attention to whether this person has a YouTube channel, an account on TikTok, a website or a blog.

It is vital for companies to check digital media stars for authenticity to engage them in collaborations. Although ordinary users also need to know who they follow and whether it is safe to trust the expert opinion of this or that person.

Types of influencers on social media

what is influencer
We have cleared up that influencers’ field of action is mainly social media. It’s high time we outlined the types of influencers. They can be separated based on different parameters: by niche, by the number of followers, by type of content, by social media channel. These are more or less established categories, but you can dig deeper and find others.

By niche

  • Beauty influencers

They do reviews on care products, cosmetics, and teach their followers how to care for themselves, correct deficiencies and highlight advantages. Among beauty bloggers, you can see Instagram models or make-up artists. Besides always looking spotlessly well-groomed, they should prove their expertise regarding this or that beauty product.

  • Fashion bloggers

Stylish and crazy about shopping. These people create publications or shoot videos related to the fashion industry. They are often invited to fashion shows, collaborate with clothing brands, keep abreast of trends, and give pieces of advice regarding style, outfits, etc.

  • Travel bloggers

They show photos of places that they personally visited accompanied by personal experience, tips, warnings, and recommendations.

It is possible to continue this list on and on. There are also food bloggers, lifestyle bloggers, gaming bloggers, sex bloggers, sports bloggers, etc. In a nutshell, there are influencers in any niche you may think about. Some of them are very competitive, while there is a couple of people in others as they require more knowledge and detailed studying.

By the way, the title “influencer” itself is a little blurry. You can meet such names as bloggers, content creators, mentors, relationship builders, opinion leaders, etc. Actually, they signify almost the same but with some distinctions.

By number of followers

Here we a going to debunk the myth that opinion leaders should obligatory have several millions of followers. Let’s make it out in more detail.

  • Celebrities can really a huge following – from 5M followers and ad infinitum. These people are well-known not only on social media but outside of them too. Famous actors, singers, models, sportsmen fall into this category. Usually, they had gained popularity long before social media boomed. Their offline fans migrated to social media to support their favorites online as well as follow their lives and quickly find out the news firsthand.
  • The audience of Mega-influencers varies from 5M to 1M. This category consists of less recognizable celebrities who took part in reality shows, for example, and are known just by a certain group of people. There could be successful businessmen or niche experts who build their personal brand both offline and online. The audience of Mega-influencers is quite diverse but most of the followers share the influencer’s position and values.
  • Macro-influencers have from 1M to 500K followers. Here could be well-known people as well as those who were brought up by social media. They started to run their accounts or channels on social networks as soon as they appeared. There were several times less competition and getting into the top was, therefore, easier. Current Macro-influencers have been gathering their audience for years. Now they enjoy reaping benefits due to their resourcefulness and opportunities they didn’t miss.
  • Middle-influencers or mid-tier influencers can boast of the audience from 500K to 50K. As far as you see, the follower count is quite immense. The representatives of this category have chosen a particular niche and do their best to prove the expertise. Besides advertising, they sometimes share news from their personal lives, work, travels.
  • Micro-influencers have from 50K to 10K followers or subscribers. To be honest, they are the main game-players on the market for digital advertising now. Micro-influencers have gathered such a social club of people who share the same interests, therefore, their audience is very loyal. Micro-influencers do not pretend to be social media stars. They do not seem unattainable compared to Macro-influencers and behave like ordinary people. They are celebrities of the new age. Generation Z adores them and completely trust.
  • The counter following of Nano-influencers is from 10K to 1K. Their audience is mostly people who they know personally or who joined them because of similar interests. Nano-influencers can do reviews or recommend products or services just because they adore and use them themselves. Brands offer collaborations to this category of opinion leaders more often because advertising in their accounts does not look like advertising at all. It’s more like gentle advice to a friend, and, believe, it gains better results than a recommendation from a celebrity.

By type of content

When it comes to the type of content, there are the following opinion leaders:

  • Bloggers. Basically, these are people who keep an online diary, a “blog”, and regularly publish new entries in it. Bloggers cover one or two subjects and are performed in the form of texts, videos, photos. Super popular bloggers work on several social media channels at once. Being a blogger means creating only unique content, enriched with personal experience.
  • Vloggers (video bloggers). These are opinion leaders with an active presence on YouTube and a community of engaged subscribers. Brands are actively attracting vloggers to create and distribute video content.
  • Podcasters. Followers sometimes don’t know these people by sight, but they certainly recognize their voices of a thousand voices. The popularity of podcasts is at its peak. So do podcasters.
  • Viners and prankers. These two are united by fun. Viners create short (20 seconds – 1-minute videos), lifelike and funny videos. Prankers play tricks on people, creating strange situations to provoke emotions. This is a kind of hooliganism but mainly with good intentions.
  • Gamers and streamers. Quite important characters on the market at present. By the way, the Gaming category became the most popular among advertisers in 2019.

Who else? There are journalists, creators, activists, brand ambassadors, agitators, industry experts, etc. Everything is developing so fast now, chances are some kind of new category is being created right now, who knows?

By social media channel

It’s pretty simple. Each social media channel has its own social media stars. Thus, we can distinguish YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitch, Snapchat, TikTok influencers. As we have already mentioned, most of them are present on several social media channels. However, there is always the main one that made his owner popular.

What is an influencer’s job?

Kylie Jenner product placement
Being an influencer means to combine work and hobby in one. Everyone who did not take social media personalities seriously until now is likely to change their minds.

Basically, opinion leaders earn money for creating engaging content and publish on their social media channels. They know how to reduce the distance between consumers and brands. People follow influencers because they trust their opinions and want to imitate their lifestyle. As a result, they listen to their recommendations. Brands, in turn, use it to their advantage, collaborating with social media stars and advertising their products or services with their aid. If in short, influencers earn money from advertising (read collaborations with brands). Depending on the channel, influencers produce videos, take photos, write texts to highlight this or that product, show their positive attitude towards it and prompt followers to purchase.

Opinion leaders are always in full view of everybody. They share personal things with their followers to make them feel closer and, therefore, gain more loyalty.

The biggest social media influencers

There are the biggest players on each channel and each niche. Each of these people has come a long way before gaining such overwhelming popularity. And what is more important is that they did not stop and keep moving!

Cristiano Ronaldo


The well-known soccer has more than 200M followers on Instagram. The best football player in the world shares lots of family pictures and other nuances of his life. He was the first to set a historic achievement, receiving 200 million followers on Instagram that gives him the title of the most followed Instagram influencer. Only the account of Instagram itself has more followers.

Jamie Oliver


When it comes to food blogging, this man is the most recognizable figure. Jamie Oliver is a cooker, restaurateur, TV presenter, popularizer of home cooking and healthy eating as well as the author of cookery books. He shares his experience on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and each channel has millions of followers.

Kayla Itsines

View this post on Instagram

WHY MY WORKOUTS ARE 28 MINUTES⁣ #BBGathome #SWEATathome⁣ ⁣ True story: when I started out working in a gym, you could book time with a personal trainer in blocks of 30, 45, or 60 minutes. There was a bit of a running joke that none of the clients could handle more than 30 minutes of my training style. 😅⁣ ⁣ When women would try to book a long session with me, people at the back of the gym would shout across the floor “don’t do it, not with Kayla – just do 30 minutes!”. I was at the desk just smiling 😬, but if anyone did a 45 or 60 minute session they would usually need to stop after 30 minutes and then the rest of the time was spent stretching. 😂⁣ This time in my career taught me so much because I started to see that for most of my clients, they were extremely time poor and could ONLY fit in a 30 minute session – the women would do training before school pickup, or before or after work.⁣ ⁣ I looked at that situation and thought: “how can I make a safe, awesome workout in that time?”. So I came up with the 4 x 7 minute circuits, which was 28 minutes in total, and it just clicked. ⁣ ⁣ I knew they were effective because they followed basic exercise principles, I started to see INCREDIBLE results for my clients, and it was so amazing to see their success with a training style that actually worked for their lifestyle. The women I was training were so happy to see how much more progress they were making with just 28 minute workouts – and that’s where #BBG really began! ⁣ ⁣ So if you’re spending time at home at the moment and want to train, I’ve got you!!! I’ve changed BBG so that you can do the first 24 weeks with very little space and just a chair, a skipping rope and dumbbells!! You can do it on your phone (iOS or Android), Apple Watch or Apple TV using the @SWEAT app. I’m still getting my @SWEAT on at home because health and fitness is always a priority for me. 💪

A post shared by KAYLA ITSINES (@kayla_itsines) on


This woman is a fitness blogger and certified trainer, author, and entrepreneur from Australia. Kayla advocates a healthy way of life and motivates people to go in for sports. On Instagram, she shares the successes of her clients, showing how they got in shape. At the moment, her follower count is more than 12M on Instagram and almost 30M on Facebook.

Tyler Blevins (Ninja)


This is an American streamer, YouTuber, a professional gamer with the audience more than 23M on YouTube and nearly 15M on Instagram. Currently, he is playing Fortnite and making progress. People adore Ninja because of his energetic personality and incredible impressions he brings to people.

Nikkie de Jager


Nikkie de Jager is better known by her name NikkieTutorials, and is a famous beauty vlogger and makeup artist. Her loyal audience counts more than 13M on YouTube and 14M on Instagram. She is of the most popular bloggers on YouTube in the beauty segment.

Ariana Grande


An American actress, singer, songwriter, music producer, Grammy Award winner has more than 180 M followers on Instagram. She shares her professional or personal life on social media. Fans keep an eye on her life with pleasure.

The Bucket List Family

View this post on Instagram

IF YOU HAVE NEVER clicked through to watch our channel we hope today might be your 1st.. We just uploaded the Sizzle Video for @thebucketlistcartoon!! (link in bio) ❤️💙💚 It was about a year ago that Garrett and I began making plans for our cartoon and writing out episodes. I remember when Garrett flew to Hollywood for his 1st meetings with Netflix, Disney+ and others. SUPER NERVOUS. He said, “The meetings didn’t go so well. They want to see something called a sizzle reel video.” 😟 So, Garrett wrote up a script, I did the voiceover on my phone, and Garrett edited 5 years of treasured family memories and poured his heart into a 2 minute sizzle video. 🌎 We just shared that video on our channel. WE HOPE YOU WILL WATCH IT and please do share your thoughts with us! The link to find the video is in our profile and on our Instagram stories TODAY! ❤️💙💚

A post shared by The Bucket List Family (@thebucketlistfamily) on


The family of travel bloggers and vloggers with more than 2M of Instagram followers and more than 1M followers on YouTube. They work full-time as family travel journalists, enjoy life and share their travel adventures with followers.

Chiara Ferragni


This is the big player in the fashion industry with almost 20M followers on Instagram and more than 1M on Facebook. Chiara Ferragni is an entrepreneur, fashion blogger, designer who collaborates with fashion and beauty brands. She is a good-looking woman with ambitions and lots of successful projects that motivate people and make them follow her.

Richard Branson

View this post on Instagram

Always time for tea.

A post shared by Richard Branson (@richardbranson) on


This man is a British entrepreneur and founder of Virgin Group. He does not neglect using social media and is constantly present on Twitter (more than 12M followers) and Instagram (more than 4M followers). He is among the richest residents of Great Britain and a famous influencer in the business category.

Tim “Shmee” Burton (Shmee150)


Having more than 1.5M followers on Instagram and 2M subscribers on YouTube, Shmee150 is a British car blogger and YouTuber. He has his own collection of vehicles and also travels to see exotic cars.

Conclusion

Influencer marketing is not the future anymore, but the present. An opinion leader is a brand-new profession that appeared in connection with changes in the world: human relationships, habits, consumption of information and much more. Influencers are indispensable people for marketing and advertising now without exaggeration. They are also a great example of the fact that you can turn your hobbies into a favorite job and get genuine pleasure from it every day.

Get Blogger Verification Case Studies

We analyze in detail what examples you will see in the report of different types of accounts.