While there are many definitions for the term influencer, Influencer Marketing Hub defines these social media users as having two characteristics: the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of their authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with their audience, and a following in a distinct niche, with whom they actively engage. The number of followers is generally dependent upon an influencer’s specific niche market, and researchers have found a way to categorize their impact.
Meso and macro-influencers are typically what society refers to as celebrities. These influencers have a background in some specific area that ultimately led to their social media following, making influencers. Celebrity influencers include people in film, television, theater, other forms of entertainment, sports, modeling and entrepreneurs. Actors, singers, athletes, models, inventors, and reality television stars alike make their name known to an audience on one platform before taking to social media and where their following naturally forms.
Undoubtedly, celebrities have influence over their audience’s purchasing habits as the everyday social media user looks to these celebrities for entertainment and inspiration. However, it has been argued that another group of influencers may have a greater impact on purchasing decisions.
Content creators tend to be micro and meso-influencers with the occasional macro-influencer. These social media users, unlike celebrities, do not have a background in an area of entertainment, but rather grew a following through the content they post online such as photography, videography, blogging, and more. Take Audrey Muse, for example, a 25-year-old from Jackson, Mississippi, who currently lives in New York City. She has an Instagram following of just over 12,000, which she says “just kind of happened.” Leeza Edmundson Smith, a registered nurse from Poplar Bluff, Missouri, with over 10,500 Instagram followers, had a similar experience.
“I can’t really pinpoint a specific start, but I do remember when Instagram stories came out,” Smith said. “I saw it as a way to share my thoughts and life with others on a bigger scale.”
Micro-meso influencer Louise Rudow of Dallas has more than 8,000 followers on Instagram, over 18,000 on TikTok, including 459,000 likes. She first created a blog while in high school but let it go dormant during college. Rudow recently started sharing again and said “consistently posting every day” is what has led to her renewed platform growth. These stories are common, and research suggests that brands should be looking for these types of influencers.
In one experiment, a celebrity endorser and an influencer were selected to promote products. The researchers found that the influencer’s endorsement proved to be more effective because the participants identified and trusted the influencer more. (Schouten et al., 2019). Additionally, the researchers found that, for maximum effectiveness of influencer endorsements, the product or service endorsed must have similarity or relevance to the influencer doing the promotion. The findings revealed that authenticity and trust between an influencer and their audience are what sets their promotion efforts above celebrities.
Influencers who are aware that authenticity sells are harnessing this power over celebrities daily. Rudow said her strategy for growing her platforms is “to stay organic and genuine. … There are so many phonies out there that are just in it for the money, and I’d never want my followers to think I would try to sell them something I didn’t truly love.”
Likewise, Smith attributes her success to being relatable.
“I share it all – the good, the bad, the ugly,” Smith said. “I only collaborate with brands that are products or places I have either used or visited often and would recommend to my best friend or my family.”
Muse has a similar view and believes it will help her to build her audience.
“I always want to stay true to myself,” Muse said. “I want to always stay positive on social media, but I never want it to seem like my life is perfect, which can be a hard balance.”