A Complete Marketing Guide to Influencer Types and Categories
GRIN also recommends this free guide:
How to Find Influencers Guidebook
The world of content creators is far more vast than influencer marketers originally thought. Celebrity endorsements have by and large taken a backseat to niche interest groups and vibrant online communities.
But high-profile social influencers are by no means irrelevant to today’s social commerce growth. On-brand content is more popular than ever, because creator-brand collaborations have reached new levels of authenticity.
“Trusted endorsements are the linchpin to effective influencer marketing. But if you can’t buy trust…how do you build it? The same way you do in real life: Through cultivating genuine relationships… Brands need to see influencers not as a transaction, but as a real connection.”– GRIN, Authentic Influencer Marketing
What is an influencer?
An influencer is an online creator and/or social media power user who nurtures an online community around a particular industry, lifestyle, or set of values.
Today, the influencer space contains many different categories of content creators, as well as people with varying degrees of professional aspirations. For example, talented creators are able to build a business around their personal brand, while others prefer to develop their creator portfolio on the side.
Regardless, brands now have a better creator selection than anyone ever imagined. In fact, it’s hard to be picky enough when you can easily discover thousands of influencers for every preference, industry, style, and niche.
What kind of influencers are there?
In this guide, we’ve included 23 influencer types, plus an additional category (industry and lifestyle niche) that literally contains infinite options. At the risk of oversimplifying, we’ve broken these influencer types into the following categories:
- By Follower Count
- By Role as an Extension of Your Brand
- By Content
- By Social Channel
- By Industry or Lifestyle Niche
23+ Influencer Types – Ways to Categorize Your Influencers
For starters, remember that a single influencer can be more than one type or category. You can make your influencer workflow more efficient by applying relevant tags to each influencer on your team, since most creators typically do a few different things well on more than one channel.
The goal should not be to “pigeon-hole” but to recognize each creator’s unique talents and potential reach. As such, these types and categories are essential to helping you focus on those influencers that are ideal for your brand.
By Follower Count – 4 Influencer Types
Nano Influencers (1,000-10,000 followers)
Nano influencers have small audiences when compared to other other influencer types. Because of their audience size, they typically enjoy deep connections with members of their audience. Those influencer-follower connections easily translate into high conversion rates during nano influencer campaigns.
Micro Influencers (10,000-100,000 followers)
Micro influencers are currently the most popular influencer size. They are small enough to still maintain genuine connections with their audience and large enough to significantly raise brand awareness.
Macro Influencers (100,000-1,000,000 followers)
Macro influencers offer a wide reach for the brands they partner with. While their audience may not be as deeply engaged as those influencers with smaller followings, macro influencers are valuable for a wide variety of marketing objectives, such as brand awareness, website traffic, and organic social growth.
Mega/Celebrity Influencers (1,000,000+ followers)
Some creators are so popular that they achieve celebrity status online. This category encompasses actors, athletes, musicians, and premium content creators.
Like any celebrity endorsement, mega influencers are quite costly. But when one of them mentions your brand, it’ll probably make a “big splash” and generate a high volume of online chatter for your products/services.
By Role as an Extension of Your Brand – 5 Influencer Types
Influential Customer (Customer Advocate)
Some of the best influencer campaigns come from influential customers online. These customers aren’t necessarily looking for a formal partnership – they just love your brand.
You can empower these influential customers by organizing a customer advocacy program. Doing so can help you track positive user-generated content, organize it, and then gather critical feedback to help your brand be an even greater success.
Affiliate marketing harnesses the power of industry experts with at least one reliable medium for publishing online content and sending referrals to brand partners. As it happens, many content creators are also capable affiliates.
In most affiliate programs, the goal is to drive sales. But when brands integrate influencers into their affiliate program, they can achieve the best of both worlds: conversions and authentic social content.
Brand ambassadors typically include a variety of nano influencers, micro influencers, influential customers, and affiliates. Most ambassador programs are formal and exclusive. Brands that manage ambassador programs tend to be picky about who may join.
These creators usually showcase their brand partnerships in their account bios and have their own referral/affiliate links. Many ambassadors promote the brand in exchange for free products or commissions.
“A creator is a production company in a box… Because they are partnering with a creator, a brand doesn’t have to go out there and hire a production company or hire an agency or hire actors to star in content. There is a lot of value that the Creator brings.”– Justin Moore, Founder & CEO of Creator Wizard
Influencers are dynamic content creators. Many of these individuals create as good or better graphics and videos than professional studios. But even those who can’t be as presentable as a production company can have a greater impact than their professional counterparts.
This professional-homemade content hybrid is wildly popular with consumers today. For smaller brands without an ad budget suitable for Super Bowl commercials, creators can craft on-brand content that goes viral online and achieves as good or better results.
When incorporating influencers into your social media and content marketing strategy, the more you can make them feel like an extension of your marketing team, the more authentic your online content will become.
Furthermore, appealing creator content can help you build out your content library. From this content library, you can select high-performing organic content to replace your traditional ad design. Not only will this lower your production costs, but it should enhance your return on ad spend (ROAS).
Brand and Product Collaborator
One of the most popular ways to incorporate industry experts and celebrities into your influencer program is to collaborate on product design or new product launches.
The best recent example of a celebrity collaboration campaign occurred between Nike (an unknown startup at the time) and Michael Jordan in the 1980s. Many other brands have followed in Nike’s footsteps, including Mission Apparel, Casamigos Tequila, and Sephora.
By Content – 4 Influencer Types
Social Media Posts (Words and Images)
Social media creators are the most common influencer content type. They typically master post features on 1-2 social channels and over time, they may expand their personal brand onto other platforms.
Video creators exist on and off social media, though the easiest places to find them are on Youtube, TikTok, and Twitch.
Video creators often possess impressive videographer skills. But some of them are self-taught and highly endearing to viewers.
Many creators were prolific bloggers before they ventured onto social media. These wordsmiths usually have deeply engaged readers and can organically promote brands in a variety of ways.
Creators with a knack for discourse and banter often take to radio-style content through podcasts. Popular podcasters may add sponsors through formal advertising in between podcast segments, or they may feature their favorite brands sporadically while on air.
By Social Channel – 10 Influencer Types
Instagram used to be the primary location for all types of images: professional photography, digital albums/collections, memes, and more. Today, the platform is a formidable channel for images, video, and all things visual.
Instagram is also the leading platform for social commerce and influencer marketing. In all likelihood, more than half of every influencer program focuses on Instagram content.
Youtube is the longstanding platform for long-form video creators. Despite the rise of Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitch, Youtube remains the most popular platform for vlogs, how-to guides, and entertainment.
Arguably, the debut of Facebook makes all other social media possible. Also the “mother” company of Instagram, Facebook offers a little bit of everything – short-form posts, long-form posts, images, video, groups, and more – while constantly pushing the envelope on behalf of brands and creators.
Twitter is the home of short-form written posts, or Tweets. Influencers with strong political or social values often leverage this platform to share their thoughts and views. Twitter is also a place for making formal announcements, engaging on current issues, and passing information.
TikTok is the hottest addition to social media with vertically-formatted, short videos. Users can interact with these videos in countless ways and mesmerize audiences for hours at a time.
Pinterest is a favorite platform for DIYers, designers, B2B creators, travelers, and more. Visually-focused like Instagram, Pinterest is unique in that it encourages users to create their own vision boards. Influencers on this platform tend to be especially focused on inspiration, whether for meal planning, renovating, or gift wishlists.
Twitch is the primary destination for gamer creators, musicians, and other long-form media streamers. Similar to Facebook Live or Instagram Live, Twitch creators remain highly-engaged with their live audiences through real-time comments and replies.
For B2B influencers and key opinion leaders, LinkedIn offers the most advanced vocational-focused creator features. In many ways, LinkedIn imitates Facebook when it comes to posting types and groups.
The company has announced its intention to expand social commerce features on the platform which may open the door for increased B2B influencer marketing.
Many influencers invest in their own website to manage their content portfolios. Blogger influencers may not be as active on social media if they devote the bulk of their time to their own website.
Forum and Messenger Boards (WhatsApp, Discord, Reddit, etc.)
Forums and messenger boards often supplement creator content on main social channels. That said, these platforms – WhatsApp, Discord, Reddit, and even Slack – possess incredible community-building potential for influencer and brand communities.
“We use our content creators to drive people to our Discord. ‘Hey, if you like my content, you’ll also like this Discord server, because there are like-minded people like you that enjoy the game.’” – Dwayne Waite, Marketing Manager at Schell Games
By Industry or Lifestyle Niche
For as many niches that exist in the world, there are online communities that support them all. As such, it is impossible to quantify just how many lifestyle niches there are online.
When looking for influencers that match your target audience, it’s important to know the keywords that your audience uses to describe your niche. That way, you can search for those keywords via hashtags and social channels to find the right creators for your brand.
How to Measure Success for Each Influencer Category
Please include attribution to grin.co with this graphic.
Influencers and Your Marketing Funnel
To properly identify whether or not your influencer campaigns are working, it’s critical that you map out your objectives and align those goals with your marketing funnel.
Top of the Funnel – Brand Awareness
Top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) objectives usually focus on broadening your reach among members of your target audience. For those creators you’ve assigned TOFU goals and KPIs, you can use the following metrics to track performance.
- Number of active influencers
- Number of campaigns and posts
- Size of reach
- Follower growth on your branded channels
- Ongoing user-generated content (UGC)
- ROAS on repurposed influencer-generated content
Middle of the Funnel – Audience Nurturing
Once your audience knows who you are, then it’s time to use your influencer content to stay “front-of-mind” with that audience. Key middle-of-the-funnel (MOFU) metrics are:
- Number and quality of influencer engagements
- Top performing types of content (based on engagement)
- Number of influencer reviews
- Organic social growth
Bottom of the Funnel – Conversion
If you’ve properly honored the buyer’s journey by moving customers through your funnel, then they will respond positively to your bottom-of-the-funnel creator content. Your BOFU objectives should focus on various conversion metrics, such as:
- Link clicks (CTR)
Top 3 Key Performance Metrics for Each Type
Influencers Categorized by Follower Count
For those influencers whom you’ve segmented by follower size, you can track performance using the following metrics:
- Engagement Rate
Creators as an Extension of Your Brand
When you partner with influencers to incorporate into your social media and content marketing strategy, tracking performance shifts primarily toward the size and quality of your content library.
It’s also possible that you would want your affiliates and ambassadors to be an extension of your sales team. In this case, conversion metrics are most important.
- Content Volume
Influencers Categorized by Content Type
When tracking influencer success by content type, you’ll want to measure how well your audience receives different forms of content. Also, you can further enhance your content library using pieces of creator content.
- Content Volume
Influencers Categorized by Social Channel
Working with influencers on multiple social media platforms allows you to extend your reach to various audience segments. With strong engagement from your creators’ followers, you can also increase the effectiveness of your brand’s organic social strategy.
- Engagement Rate
Influencers Categorized by Industry or Lifestyle Niche
Within each social channel, you can use your creators to help you build relationships with members of your target audience. This approach grows more effective as you build out your ideal customer profiles (ICPs) or buyer personas.
- Engagement Rate
Conclusion: The influencers that you recruit must match your target audience.
“If I did my research right, then my audience will be their [the creator’s] audience. If what the creator is saying or doing works for their audience, then it should work for our audience.”– Dwayne Waite, Marketing Manager at Schell Games
Influencers should represent members of your target audience. That’s why brands that know their audience well generally do a good job of vetting their influencers.
You can also achieve great influencer marketing success by going the extra mile to understand your ideal customer and matching that information to the kind of creators you recruit for your influencer team.
Updated: August 2022
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