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Social media platforms now claim 2.2 billion users globally—that’s nearly one-third of the earth’s total population (Statista). As the prevalence of social media grows and the effectiveness of traditional advertising methods (i.e. television, print, radio) erodes, brands are now discovering that collaborating with top social media influencers (also called “digital influencers” or “digital stars“) is the best way to reach massive social audiences and “influence” the purchasing decisions of millions.
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Social media influencers are digital personalities who have amassed large followings across one (or sometimes several) social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, or on their personal blogs. Often, these social media stars are regarded as trendsetters within a specific niche—popular categories include fashion, gaming, healthy living, travel, lifestyle, and food—and publish content that relates to their “area of expertise.”
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Social media “influencers” are called such because they produce original digital content that enables them to connect with audiences in an authentic way. Because they have spent years cultivating relationships with their followers/subscribers, digital influencers are considered tastemakers who have the power to sway purchasing decisions and influence the opinions and actions of their social media audiences.
Related Post: Why Are Social Media Stars So Popular With Audiences?
As social media stars achieve more notoriety, the lines between digital stars, celebrities, and brand ambassadors are blurring. Salient differences still exist between the three types of digital entities, however, and it’s important for brands to know each entity’s role and how each functions within a comprehensive marketing strategy.
One of the key differences between social media influencers, traditional celebrities, and brand ambassadors is the source of their popularity. Unlike celebrities, who have earned fans through professional careers as actors, models, or performers, social media influencers have amassed large followings by creating content for the internet/social media platforms. Brand ambassadors, too, are different from social media influencers in that they are tapped by a brand to function as an expert about a particular company, product, or service.
Social media influencers are also different from traditional celebrities in the way they engage directly with their audiences through social media comments, contests, and follower-suggested content. Because social influencers have spent years developing meaningful relationships with fans, audiences find social media influencers be more accessible, genuine, authentic, and trustworthy.
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Social media influencers are often categorized by the platform where they produce the most content or have achieved the most notoriety. The most popular types of social media influencers are:
With over 500 million active users, photo-sharing app Instagram is now one of the best platforms for brands to develop influencer marketing campaigns. Because Instagram influencers, or “Instagrammers,” are adept at creating beautiful, aspiration content and organically integrating products and/or services into their posts, many brands are now collaborating with top Instagrammers to target large niche audiences (including fashion and beauty enthusiasts, travelers, men’s lifestyle audiences, fitness gurus, foodies, and more).
Top YouTubers are able to attract millions of followers (called “subscribers”) and generate billions of video views by creating content that is engaging, humorous, shocking, informative, and/or educational. Like Instagrammers, YouTubers often occupy a specific niche and appeal to a specific audience segment, though some of the platform’s most famous digital stars (like YouTube gamer PewDiePie) now attract a wide range of viewers. Some of the most popular ways brands can partner with YouTubers include:
With over 150 million active users, Snapchat has quickly become the go-to social media platform for teens, Millennials, and, increasingly, older social media audiences (Adweek). Snapchat influencers now generate millions of videos views (which disappear after 24 hours) by creatively and authentically sharing every aspect of their lives with audiences.
Related Post: The 10 Best Snapchat Influencers To Follow
Vine may be losing ground to up-and-coming social media offerings like Snapchat and Facebook Live, but the platform’s top digital stars still attract millions of video views (called “loops”) by creating content that succinctly conveys a message or tells a story in unique, humorous, and engaging ways.
Bloggers attract large social media audiences by regularly publishing articles that appeal to a specific audience (i.e. fashion, travel, family, tech, etc.) and offering value in the form of entertainment, information, tutorials, and/or advice. Because bloggers are considered “experts” within their niches, recommendations from these social media influencers are often highly influential.
Related Post: 7 Top Tips For Working With Blog Influencers