What Constitutes An Influencer?

What Constitutes An Influencer?

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Influencer Definition And How It Became A Thing

The term “influencer” may seem like a fairly new addition to our lexicon, but first uses date back to the 1660s. Still, its application to social media—relatively new in its own right—is a more recent phenomenon.

While the “very first” commercial influencer may be lost somewhere in the annals of history, product packaging and magazine adverts of yesteryear provide a breadcrumb trail that tracks the early evolution of influencer marketing. From Aunt Jemima, to the Marlboro Man, to Santa Claus, fictitious characters have offered tried and true ways to establish a personalized connection between products and consumers.

Celebrity product endorsements, another form of influencer marketing, first appeared in the 18th century, where royalty was used to advertise the prestige of luxury goods. As celebrity endorsements evolved, popular figures in the arts, such as actors and musicians, as well as athletes and businesspeople, were tapped by brands to promote a variety of products and services.

Social Media Disrupts The Celebrity Endorsement

As valuable as celebrity endorsements have been to marketing, they aren’t without their limitations. Celebrities sometimes lack the kind of relatability that is often effective for recommending and selling products.

Blogs surfacing as early as the late-1990s were some of the first ways everyday people were able to communicate and interact with each other online. So-called “mommy bloggers” emerged as go-to resources on the internet and as a result, are some of the first recognized social media influencers.

More blogging influencers appeared as social media grew to include social networks, where experts in areas such as cooking, fitness, makeup, “how to,” gaming, and others, lent their powerful voices to the social sphere. Today, influencers have become so popular that some have even larger online followings than traditional celebrities.

Brands recognizing the potential of influencer marketing have tapped online creators to help grow their social media presence, transmit messages, as well as sell a variety of products and services. This reckoning has helped grow the influencer marketing industry which is projected to reach $5-10 billion by 2020.

Related Post: Differences Between Brand Ambassadors, Influencers, & Celebrities

Younger Generations & Business Trends Are Shaping The Next Era Of Advertising

influencer definition

As millennials and Gen Z move on from traditional modes of entertainment, how they learn about and choose their products is changing as well. With 70% of teenage millennials on YouTube preferring YouTube creators over celebrities, and 85% of Gen Z learning about new products through social media, influencer marketing is offering relevant solutions to an evolving commercial world.

Though still in its infancy, influencer marketing has not only displayed its effectiveness over the last several years but, also its adaptability to social, cultural, and business trends.

A universal social media influencer definition (as well as the number of actual influencers in the world) may still be under debate, but influencer marketing continues to mature to fit the needs of brands. Platforms like Instagram and YouTube are incorporating more influencer-friendly advertising options to service the booming industry.

So, What Is An Influencer, Really?

Today, asking for the definition of an influencer—or even an influencer marketing definition—could result in a myriad of different answers. However, at their core, influencers are social media personalities with loyal audiences earned through the value of direct communication with their followers.

Influencers Of Different Sizes And Scopes

Social media influencers are generally broken down into two types—micro and macro influencers. While micro influencers have followings between 1,000 to 100,000, macro influencers have audiences in the hundreds of thousands or millions.

Each category of influencer has their own advantages and disadvantages for businesses depending on the goals of a particular initiative or campaign. For example, macro influencers are able to reach broad audiences, while micro influencers can sometimes give campaigns a more insider feel.

Related Post: What Is Influencer Marketing?

Influencers Are Dictating What It Means To Be A Relevant Voice In Today’s Digital World


While the dictionary definition of an influencer has remained fairly consistent over the years, social media has given influencers more opportunities for extending their appeal, reach, and, impact. The potential to broadcast 24/7, 365 days a year and the ability to interact directly with their followers enables today’s online influencers to connect with their audiences like never before.

As influencers have demonstrated the value of relating and connecting with their followers, celebrities in music, film, sports, and more, have taken to social media to share directly with their audiences as well. In this way, the line between what defines an influencer and what defines a celebrity is blurring.

Along with its social and commercial value, the influencer definition continues to evolve. Yet, finding the right influencer—whether micro, macro, or celebrity—remains paramount for brands looking to effectively execute influencer marketing.

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August 31, 2018 By Mediakix Team