According to WOMMA - Word of Mouth Marketing Association - an influencer is defined as "a person or group of people who has a higher-than-average potential to influence others given the frequency of their communications, their personal persuasive skills and the size of their audience on social networks". The influencer is a figure that is difficult to categorize because it is constantly evolving, but one that stands out precisely for its ability to significantly influence a community and to establish a relationship of trust with the consumer in order to assume a key role in their purchasing decision.
We can categorize influencers into 5 main categories:
1) Digital Content Creators (or simply Content Creators)
They are figures who create eye-catching video and photo content for influential brands with cutting-edge production and editing techniques. Usually, this type of influencer collaborates with big brands willing to create innovative content to fill digital channels and launch new products on the market, surprising their consumers. Content creators remain detached from the dynamics of the number of followers and likes reached on social channels, which are typical of other forms of influencer marketing.
2) Opinion leader
Thanks to their credibility and authority, they are able to influence the public opinion on a specific topic. Influencer opinion leaders position themselves in a precise niche and therefore their audience will also be targeted with the nice itself. Compared to mass media, this figure is more spontaneous in the promotional and persuasive actions he or she undertakes online.
They are celebrities who are already well known for their careers in television, film, music or fashion world. This type of influencer is contacted by brands for the launch of new products on the market and their faces become the protagonists of the respective advertising campaigns. Although they attract a large audience, only some of them are exposed to the point of creating a real community willing to buy a product just to feel closer to their idol.
4) Media Profile
They are the influencers who have built their profession through a blog, a YouTube channel or an Instagram profile. They live and share daily their interests, hobbies, and passions on social media, creating a close relationship with their audience. Their content, updated on the latest trends, generates hundreds of likes and comments.
5) Virtual Influencers
They are avatars created by computer graphics experts (CGI, Computer Generated Imagery) with perfect human looks that perfectly reflect the physical and behavioural characteristics of a real person. Just like human beings, Virtual Influencers support human rights battles (such as 'Black Lives Matter', to name but one, committed to the fight against racism) and encourage donations. The first Virtual Influencer to win over the Internet was Miquela Sousa (@lilmiquela), in 2016, who is now followed by more than 3 million followers, and has collaborated with some of the most famous international fashion brands such as Prada, Gucci, Diesel and Calvin Klein. Like a true Hollywood star, Miquela Sousa gives interviews and has a YouTube channel that reaches over 2 million views. After her, other two profiles appeared on the Instagram feed, such as Imma.gram, a girl with Asian features and pink hair, and Shudu (@shudu.gram) created by artist and photographer Cameron-James Wilson, who also become the first digital supermodel, as she calls herself in her profile bio. She reached the peak of her popularity thanks to her collaboration with Fenty Beauty, Rihanna's make-up brand.
Each influencer, just like an employee's CV, has its own media kit that summarizes personal data, which certifies the authenticity of the profile, and includes the number of followers, statistics, insights, past and current collaborations, and all the platforms on which they are present. By consulting it, companies can immediately understand which influencer meets their objectives, values, target audience and the type of investment to make. But let's look in detail at all the aspects to consider when choosing an influencer.
Target audience: who the product or service is addressed to and what interests and needs the consumer identifies with.
Objectives to be achieved: in addition to the mere sales objective, which certainly remains the key for a company, other types of objectives should not be underestimated, such as consumer loyalty, brand repositioning strategy, increasing brand awareness and visibility, and sharing values or social causes.
Values: knowing a brand's values allows you to choose the right person to share them with; communities are now able to recognize when an influencer believes in the product they are promoting or not. Content will be more spontaneous, authentic, and immediately engaging. Choosing an influencer who perfectly embodies the brand's values enables the target to be achieved much more effectively.
Platform of use: one aspect not to be underestimated is definitely the type of channel in which to post content, considering that influencers on Instagram also have a blog or YouTube channel. For example, LinkedIn is the most suitable channel for employer branding, Instagram for consolidating brand awareness and YouTube for in-depth use or reviews of a product or service.
In Italy, the Influencer Marketing market is estimated to be worth around 272 million euros, confirming how companies increasingly rely on collaborations with people working in this business, whether they are Content Creators, YouTubers or Influencers. During the pandemic an increasing number of sectors have embraced Influencer Marketing strategies, from beauty to fashion, from food to travel, from consumer goods to automotive.
Today, companies are faced with four categories of influencers to choose from, based on the size of their fanbase in the classification proposed by the American ANA (Association of National Advertisers):
This is the first choice of small and medium-sized companies that do not have large budgets, but also a strategic choice for large companies who want to rely on smaller influencers with a more loyal and targeted audience on specific interests.
Regardless of the market they belong to, influencers are proving to be able to completely drive not only the communication industry, but also advertising and entertainment. The values related to reach, i.e. the users reached by the published content and the engagement rate, i.e. the ability to engage with the shared content, should not be underestimated. These data are crucial because an influencer with a high number of followers might reach more users but have a low engagement rate.
We just have to wait and see how this figure will evolve and how it will adapt to the changes that social media itself will undergo over time.