Building Brands With Influencer Marketing

Jon DavidsFebruary 21, 20246 min

When you hear the word “influencer,” what comes to mind? Perhaps a YouTuber doing makeup tutorials? Or a 20-something streaming video games on Twitch?

Those are certainly good examples, but it’s just scratching the surface. The world of influencers touches all aspects of modern content and entertainment. And if you’re a brand leader, you need to know how it works.

A Brief History Of Influencers

Let’s start with a definition of what an influencer is. In the media world, an influencer is a person who builds an audience across one or more dedicated channels, such as social media, podcast, or email. They typically create a specific type of content, say sports commentary or food reviews. And they produce this with regularity.

You may listen to a particular political podcast, read a daily fitness newsletter, or stream a comedy show on YouTube. The people behind these channels are all considered “influencers” or “content creators”.

And the power of their influence has grown exponentially in the age of social media.

But it’s not a new thing. Before we were able to swipe through content on our smartphones, these creators travelled in other ways. Television, radio, newspapers, and movies.

Four Categories of Influencers By Size 

You can narrow down influencers by size of their audience. There are 4 big categories we look at.

  1. Mega Influencer: At the high end, a mega influencer is an individual with more than a million followers.
  2. Macro Influencer: Next we have influencers in the 6-figure range, say 100,000 to 999,000 followers.
  3. Micro Influencer: Moving down the ladder, we have influencers with 10,000 to 99,000 followers.
  4. Nano Influencer: Finally, the last group are those with 1,000 – 9,999 followers.

The mega and macro influencers get lots of attention as they’re the most visible and active. The micro-influencers get some visibility because they’re in high-hustle mode. And the nano-influencer often gets overlooked entirely. But they can be very influential, as they have small but engaged audiences.

Remember, though, these are broad categories, and there are big differences depending on the subject matter. For example, in a highly specialized category like psychiatric medicine, a very influential creator might only have 30,000 followers. But given the nature of their specialty, they might be quite impactful.

Likewise, in a saturated category like beauty, a content creator with 250,000 followers may only be mildly influential. Use discretion when evaluating your category and compare the influencers to a set of others within the same vertical. That will give you a strong sense of reality.

Popular Influencer Platforms

Some creators focus on a single platform, while others diversify among many. Here are 7 of the top creator platforms today.

Platform #1: YouTube

YouTube first came on the scene in 2005. Two decades later, the video-streaming giant is still going strong, and a dominant platform for content creators. Notably, YouTube is the only major social media platform with a major monetization program for creators. Mid-level and high-level creators can make 6- or 7-figures per year through YouTube’s revenue-share program.

Platform #2: LinkedIn

LinkedIn launched in 2003 and flipped from a resume site into a full-blown social network; professional content creators, like entrepreneurs and C-suite executives, are now building identities for themselves on the platform. Written content tends to work well in both long form and short form. Creators are also posting videos and photos.

Platform #3: Instagram

Instagram is used by influencers, creators, and celebrities alike. This highly visual social network has evolved a lot over the years, from static photos to real-time stories, to short videos called Reels.

Platform #4: TikTok

TikTok has swiftly become a global phenomenon, captivating users with its short-form videos ranging from 15 to 60 seconds and sometimes much longer. Its algorithm tailors the user experience, fostering a sense of community through collaborative features. More than just a social platform, TikTok has redefined digital culture, providing a dynamic space for self-expression, trend discovery, and global connections through engaging, visually compelling content.

Platform #5: X (formerly Twitter)

Twitter made its debut as a social media platform in the early 2000s, and in 2023 was rebranded to X. Sometimes referred to as a “digital town square,” X is known for real-time discussion on world events from every area of society.

Platform #6: Email / Newsletter

A stalwart of digital communication, newsletters have evolved into powerful tools for content dissemination and audience engagement. Creators gravitate to newsletters because they’re direct channels that can’t be swayed by an algorithm. With the ability to tailor content to specific audiences and the convenience of direct delivery, email newsletters are seeing a renaissance in 2024.

Platform #7: Podcast

The podcasting landscape has been through a meteoric rise in the last decade, offering listeners an immersive, long-form experience. Podcasts are intimate, on-demand, and cater to modern consumers’ preferences. Creators know this and can develop deep relationships with their fans here. 

How Do Influencers Make Money?

Across all categories, influencers generally make money in a few ways.

1. Brand Collaborations and Sponsorships

Companies pay influencers to promote their products or services, leveraging the influencer’s engaged audience. This partnership model benefits both parties, as influencers authentically endorse products to a targeted audience, while brands gain exposure and credibility through the influencer’s trusted voice.

2. Platform Revenue

For influencers with substantial followings on a platform like YouTube, ad revenue plays a significant role in income generation. Platforms share a portion of the advertising revenue with content creators, rewarding them for their ability to attract and retain audiences.

3. Selling Merchandise or Products

Many influencers have successfully launched their own merchandise lines or products. Leveraging their personal brand, they sell items ranging from clothing to beauty products, allowing followers to support their favorite influencers while acquiring exclusive items associated with their online persona.

4. Exclusive Memberships and Subscriptions

Some influencers offer exclusive content or perks to followers through paid memberships or subscription services. Platforms like Patreon or OnlyFans enable influencers to provide premium content to a dedicated fan base, with subscribers paying a recurring fee for access to exclusive material.

5. Public Speaking and Events

Influencers who have established themselves as industry experts or thought leaders may monetize their expertise through public speaking engagements, workshops, or hosting events. This contributes to their income and enhances their credibility and influence within their niche.

Adding Influencers to your marketing mix

In every industry, influencers are an essential piece of the marketing mix. We see this across B2C and B2B. And though the platforms change, the strategies stay the same.

If you’re looking to ramp up your influencer programs, please get in touch with our team at Influicity and/or if you are looking to learn influencer marketing strategies this course if for you.

About Influicity

For almost a decade, Influicity has been helping clients like Toyota, Disney, and Bank of America build modern marketing programs that drive real business results. We do this across influencers, podcasts, social media, and more. Our clients range from 50-person startups to 50K-person institutions. The tactics might change, but the goal is always the same: Empowering our clients to own their influence.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by Jon David, CEO, Influicity

At The Blake Project we are helping clients from around the world, in all stages of development, define or redefine and articulate what makes them competitive at critical moments of change. Please email us to learn how we can help you compete differently.

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