The Ins and Outs of Influencer Marketing

By: Olivia Price

You may have a favorite influencer whose content you love, but have you ever considered why that is? There are many ways to go about social media influencing, and influencers can be categorized by how they choose to market themselves. Due to this, you will most likely find a trend in the type of influencer you typically choose to trust and respect.

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Influencer v Celebrity

To understand why influencers are trusted, we must identify what type of influence they’re utilizing. There are two main types of influencers. Influencers may be informationally or normatively influential (Ouvrein et al., 2021, p. 6). This means users look to them either to increase their knowledge on a subject or as a role model for “how to behave” (Ouvrein et al., 2021). Many influencers produce content that is a combination of both. How is this type of influence different than celebrity endorsements? The main difference is most individuals trust influencers as opposed to traditional celebrities because of the assumption they are more relatable (Ouvrein et al., 2021, p. 7.) Why do they feel this way?

After interviewing a few influencers, Ouvrein and colleagues found four reasons why influencers appear more trustworthy (2021, p. 7.) The first reason is influencers do not typically view themselves as “famous” and are not always recognizable in public. The second reason being content creation is their job, not just something they do on the side such as an endorsement. Thirdly, their content should be more authentic since much of their content is not paid advertisements (although some of it may be). Finally, many influencers have a community of followers who they often interact with, making the content appear more intimate.

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In Ouvrein’s research, influencers can be categorized based on what they are passionate about, how much online admiration they receive, and how they strategize their influence. Many influencers have a “domain-specific passion” or a love for what they do, such as fashion, cooking, or makeup (Ouvrein et al., 2021, p. 16). The other type have an “entrepreneurial passion” or an excitement to earn money from what they do (Ouvrein et al., 2021, p. 17.) According to Ouvrein and colleagues, many start off with one of these types of passion but end up with both kinds later in their career (2021, p. 18). Personally, I am more likely to trust an influencer who cares more about their craft than the money they make from it. I find influencers to be more authentic when they are not constantly posting paid ads.

Online admiration is another factor to take into consideration when categorizing influencers. Many influencers must grow their following from the ground up, but others, such as celebrities, start with a following (Ouvrein et al., 2021, p. 20). Ouvrein states “to acquire online admiration, social media influencers must be perceived by audiences as skilled and/or interesting role models, whose advice they actually want to follow” (2021, p. 21). This may be why individuals tend to trust influencers more than celebrities, as their respect had to be earned solely through their social channels.

Influencers can build trust through the use or lack of tactics. According to Ouvrein and colleagues, “some do, and some do not, use strategies to exert influence over their audiences” (2021, p. 21). Influencers who use specific tactics to influence their followers may not be seen as trustworthy as influencers who use little to no tactics. Influencers who post what they like, with no intention of manipulating their followers can be seen as more personable to the average social media user.

Types of Influencers

Ouvrein and colleagues have categorized influencers into five potential categories, Passionate Business Influencers, Passionate Influencers, Celebrity Influencers, Dreaming Business Dormants, and Passionate Topic Enthusiast.  Passionate Business Influencers are driven by both money and love for their craft. Passionate Influencers are driven solely by the love for their craft. Celebrity Influencers are driven by entrepreneurial reasons or money (Ouvrein et al., 2021, p. 23). On the other hand, Dreaming Business Dormants have an entrepreneurial spirit but do not have online admiration yet while Passionate Topic Enthusiasts only post for the love of what they do, not for admiration (Ouvrein et al., 2021, p. 23.) These last two types of influencers may develop admiration later, but they have not yet gained online traction.

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Influencers in IMC

This research, specifically the categorization of influencers is important to companies who hire influencers to promote their products. A company must know which type of influencer they are hiring to understand the audience that will be receiving the message. If they have a target audience in mind, the categorization of influencers can help them choose which type would be the best option for them. Marketers are always looking for new ways to advertise, and there is a lot of money in influencer endorsements.

Information from:

The web of influencers. A marketing-audience classification of (potential) social media influencers
by De Backer, Charlotte; Ouvrein, Gaëlle; Hudders, Liselot and others
Journal of marketing management, Sep 02, 2021, Volume 37, Issue 13-14, p 1313