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What is an Influencer?

May 10, 2021
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Have you seen young teens performing odd dances at seemingly random times? Likewise, have you ever purchased a product after watching an individual on social media rave about it?

Chances are, in some capacity, you’ve come into contact with influencers—even if you didn’t realize it. 

So, what is an influencer, exactly?

Influencers and Influencer Marketing 101

Before we find out how to find Instagram influencers or any type of influencer, let’s first discover what influencers are and what they do. 

Influencers build communities around a specific niche on social media, and then monetize that social influence. 

Celebrities, movie stars, and pop artists are great examples of traditional influencers. But the term “influencer” is now synonymous with anyone who has a large enough platform on social media channels—Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, etc. 

These individuals can be found in nearly every industry, from fitness to fashion. And beyond their wild popularity and entertainment purposes, influencers hold a vital role in the world of marketing. 

This is why you see more and more companies using influencer marketing services as part of their marketing campaigns. 

Approximately 71% of American businesses report using Instagram to connect with their customers—and that’s not even including other forms of social media.1

Brand Ambassador vs Influencer, how do you tell the difference, or are they the same? Both of them actually have many similarities, but to put it simply, a brand ambassador promotes your product through their image and word of mouth. 

But to successfully market your product or service on social media, you need to build trust between you and your audience. 

That’s what influencers specialize in: trust and community.

How Influencers Make Money

To put it simply, social media is an influencer’s job. 

But how do influencers make money exactly? They monetize their platform by photographing, posing with, and promoting brands they have partnerships with. But to generate a successful promotion, influencers need to curate engagement with their audience. To do this, influencers regularly post non-promotional content and communicate with their followers, building a transparent relationship.

When it comes time to monetize, these advertising-based posts often have a similar feel and look to their day-to-day posting.

Let’s break down some ways influencers make money from social media:

Sponsored Posts

The most common source of income for social media influencers is the sponsored post.

Here’s how sponsored posts work: 

  • When a brand notices that an influencer has a large audience (particularly one within their sales demographic), the company will reach out to set up a deal for one or multiple posts highlighting a product or service. 
  • These posts typically feature an influencer using, wearing, or eating whatever product the company sells. Video creators may discuss the product, how it’s used, and why they love it. Influencers who post photographs will typically include this information in their caption. 
  • Much like a commercial, the brand then pays the influencer for their product or service spotlight. 

The cost of these sponsored posts escalate with the size of an influencer’s audience. Micro influencers (individuals with 10,000 – 50,000 followers) can generate up to $1,000 per post. Mega influencers (those with more than one million followers) can charge in the tens or hundreds of thousands per post.2

influencer marketing agency

Affiliate Links

Many influencers also make money through the use of affiliate links. 

When a customer clicks on an affiliate link or coupon code, then purchases a product, a certain percentage of the total sale goes to the influencer as a commission. Influencers who use or promote products are often given affiliate links as a marketing strategy, a thank you, or an incentive to continue talking about the brand. 

Unlike a single sponsored post, affiliate links and coupon codes are usually created when a brand has a close professional relationship with the influencer.

Affiliate links can be listed in stories, a bio, or in the description box of a YouTube Video. 

Similarly, some influencers are awarded their own discount codes for brands—often using their name or social media handle as the code.

Original Products

Another common source of income for more prominent influencers are original products. 

While some influencers choose to start their own companies—like Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics, or Emma Chamberlain’s Chamberlain Coffee—others work with existing brands to develop new products. 

Why Brands Use Influencer Marketing

As noted above, influencers offer their audience engaging content and then heighten that engagement by regularly communicating with their followers. This helps the community grow organically, and influencers often keep the personal feel despite growing their platform. They do this by regularly posting authentic, original content, and offering insight into their personal lives.

When influencers then post about a brand, it can often feel like the marketing message is coming from a best friend or close acquaintance, passing that credit to the brand itself.

In other words, influencer marketing directly taps into one of the most powerful forms of marketing: word of mouth.

But that’s not the only reason brands should consider using influencer marketing in their overall strategy.

Social Media Popularity

From Myspace to TikTok—social media’s meteoric rise in pop culture is mind-boggling. What’s more, the number of platforms doesn’t deter further engagement. Rather than viewing Twitter and Instagram as competitors, they’re adjacent platforms that help in increasing social media presence.

For brands, this means two things. First, the more omnichannel your social media strategy can be, the better. And two, social media marketing isn’t a suggestion, it’s a must.

The number of people who use these platforms is unbeatable in terms of reach. Take a look at some figures:

  • Instagram – As of 2021, Instagram has 1 billion active monthly users.3
  • TikTok – One of the most recent social media platforms, TikTok has already gathered 689 million users.4
  • YouTube – Finally, perhaps the most far reaching social media platform, YouTube has approximately 2.3 billion active users each month.5

To tap into your target market—regardless of what that demographic is—social media needs to be a part of strategy. And that’s where influencers come in.  

What Makes Influencers Effective

Influencers can be thought of as bridges into secret communities. When brands partner with an influencer, they’re able to cross that bridge and communicate directly to people who immediately trust you. This allows brands to expand their reach and build dedicated audiences. 

There are several factors that determine why influencer marketing is so effective:

  • Trust – First and foremost, influencers have built a sense of trust with their followers. This is prevalent in many promotional campaigns, particularly when influencers assure their audience that “they wouldn’t promote something they don’t use.”
  • Admiration – Not only do followers trust influencers, but they often admire them as well. Perhaps the influencer promotes a healthy work-life balance, or they encourage lots of love and connection with their family. Whatever thread sets the influencer apart in their daily life is then transferred to further the advertising efficacy.
  • Audience – Not only is the audience trusting of the influencer, but the size of the audience can be massive. Simply put: Influencers have a lot of followers. While brand accounts may have more followers than the standard social media user, their numbers often pale in comparison to larger-scale influencers. By utilizing this large number of followers, brands can increase their visibility and potential customers.
  • Demographics – When working with influencers, companies have more control over the demographic they’re advertising to. For example, a company that sells vitamins may select a fitness influencer, while a craft beer company will opt for a different influencer more aligned with their target audience.

Engagement, Not Just Eyeballs

While a high follower count is the first step to becoming an influencer, it’s not necessarily what brings in the money—nor is what brands are seeking. Rather, brands are seeking a different metric: engagement.

Follower engagement metrics measure how many likes, comments, shares, and views an influencer’s post will get and compares them with the follower count.

For example, take two different accounts:

  • A professional chef with 30,000 followers – By regularly posting easy-to-make recipes and tantalizing photos of professionally plated meals, this chef has watched their platform skyrocket. Eternally grateful, this chef responds to every person who reaches out and, as a result, averages 4,500 likes per post and 56 comments.
  • A fitness guru with 80,000 followers – Despite regularly posting fitness routines and pictures of themselves at the gym, this fitness guru doesn’t have time to curate a dedicated audience. Their posts average 6,000 likes and 64 comments.

Now, consider a health food brand that has two different approaches into the social media world. They could target healthy foodies, or healthy gym-goers. When looking at these two influencers, despite the chef having lower overall likes and comments, the engagement metrics are far higher. Especially when you consider the fitness guru has well over double the follower count, but only slightly more average likes and comments.

In summary: Brands opting for influencer marketing want engagement with their product or service, not just eyeballs.

Influencer Marketing In a Nutshell

In 2021, it’s nearly impossible for companies to succeed without a social media presence. In fact, approximately 72% of users report making purchases based on products they saw on Instagram.6 To capitalize on social media—you need to partner with the individuals who have the most clout.  

Compared to traditional advertisements, influencer marketing increases engagement, instills trust in the audience, and creates a strong sense of brand awareness. 

Power Digital: Influencer Marketing at its Best

Here at Power, we partner with a qualified and diverse database of over 11,000 influencers to help increase your company’s brand awareness. Our influencer marketing agency services make it easy to get in touch with popular social media figures, without sacrificing brand quality or values. We also ensure that companies maintain creative control over their messaging, in order to nurture a productive, professional relationship.

Bring your branding and social media strategy into the 21st century, with Power Digital Marketing.


  1. Oberlo. 10 Instagram Statistics Every Marketer Should Know. https://www.oberlo.com/blog/instagram-stats-every-marketer-should-know 
  2. Vox. How and why do influencers make so much money? The head of an influencer agency explains. https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/11/28/18116875/influencer-marketing-social-media-engagement-instagram-youtube 
  3.  Sellfy. How many Instagram followers do you REALLY need to start making money in 2021? https://blog.sellfy.com/how-many-instagram-followers-to-make-money/ 
  4.  Insider. Morphe Parts Ways with James Charles Amid Sexual Misconduct Reports. https://www.insider.com/morphe-parts-ways-with-james-charles-amid-sexual-misconduct-reports-2021-4 
  5. BackLinko. How Many People Use Instagram?  https://backlinko.com/instagram-users  
  6. Oberlo. 10 Twitter Statistics Every Marketer Should Know in 2021. https://www.oberlo.com/blog/twitter-statistics 
  7. Oberlo. 10 tiktok statistics that you need to know in 2021. Https://www.Oberlo.Com/blog/tiktok-statistics 
  8. Oberlo. 10 youtube stats every marketer should know in 2021.  https://www.oberlo.com/blog/youtube-statistics 
  9.  4 Ways Influencers Can Build Brand Awareness—And Why They Work. https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/4-ways-influencers-can-build-brand-awareness-and-why-they-work/567963/ 
  10. Retail Touch Points. 72% Of Users Make Purchase Decisions Based On Instagram Content. https://retailtouchpoints.com/resources/72-of-users-make-purchase-decisions-based-on-instagram-content 

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