What is an Influencer? The Complete Guide for Entrepreneurs

An influencer is an individual who has built credibility and an engaged following on social media by consistently creating content on specialized topics. They have the power to sway the opinions and purchasing decisions of their audience.

This guide will explore everything entrepreneurs need to know about leveraging influencers to boost their marketing.

A Brief History

Celebrities have always molded popular opinion. But in the last decade, social media has allowed regular people to carve out a niche for themselves as subject experts.

As per a survey by Twitter, 59% of consumers rely on influencer recommendations over brand content. Influencer marketing has been rapidly adopted by brands as it outperforms traditional advertisements.

The industry is projected to grow to $15 billion by 2022, as per Influencer Marketing Hub. More brands are redirecting marketing budgets to influencer partnerships.

What Gives Influencers Their Power?

Unlike traditional celebrities, influencers build highly personal connections with their followers. They are seen as authentic experts on the topics they talk about.

Several traits set genuine influencers apart:

  • Targeted reach: They attract specific niche demographics valued by brands. A fitness influencer drives great engagement among health-conscious millennials.
  • Authoritative voice: Followers turn to them for advice and recommendations based on their expertise. For instance, tech analysts on YouTube review the latest gadgets.
  • Authentic personal brand: They share their real personalities, lives and experiences instead of putting on airs. This fosters trust.
  • Consistency: Posting engaging content regularly keeps them top of mind while providing value.

Essentially, influencers wield influence because they provide real utility to their audience niches. They entertain, inform and inspire loyal follower bases.

Types of Influencers

In a 2021 survey by Twitter, 71% of consumers said they relate more to micro-influencers‘ content over celebrity endorsements. But mega-influencers also drive sales based on sheer reach.

There are tiers of influencers:

Mega: Over 1 million followers
Macro: 100,000 to 1 million followers
Micro: 1,000 to 100,000 followers
Nano: Under 1,000 followers

Then there are optimizers who fine tune their public image to maximize earnings. For instance, @ihartericka pivoted from luxury travel photos to promoting nonprofits and environmental causes after losing brand sponsorships.

Each tier provides unique opportunities to entrepreneurs. Micro-influencers generate the highest engagement and conversions. Macro-influencers drive awareness widely. Megas set trends.

Why Partner with Influencers?

Startups with limited marketing budgets aim for maximizing ROI on every dollar spent.

Influencer marketing provides unmatched returns compared to traditional media buys. Consider that a single post by Kylie Jenner costing $1 million generated $19 million of earned media value for a cosmetics brand.

More specifically, influencer partnerships offer:

Laser targeted reach: Identify influencers in your niche with highly relevant followers. A food blogger provides targeted exposure over general lifestyle influencers.

Virality: Compelling storytelling techniques combined with influencers sharing your content exponentially expands reach.

For example, an influencer marketing campaign by Igloo boosted site traffic by 2,610% over 6 months.

Engagement: Followers find influencers more relatable than celebrities. They genuinely engage with the content and recommendations. This translates into more conversions.

Trend creation: Macro and mega influencers especially can drive mass awareness by kicking off viral trends and challenges. But brands need very large budgets to partner with such influencers. Kylie Jenner charges over $1.5 million per sponsored post.

Identifying the Right Influencers

Aim to discover influencers who genuinely care about your brand promise. Analyze metrics beyond follower counts to gauge influence potential.

Qualitative criteria:

  • Authoring compelling, high quality content
  • Sharing your target audience and values
  • Posting consistently about your product‘s niche

Quantitative metrics:

  • Follower count
  • Average likes and comments per post
  • Engagement rate

For example, an influencer with 80K followers and a 5% engagement rate indicates 4,000 truly engaged followers. Much better than 100K passive followers.

Prioritize relevance and authenticity in partners. A genuinely interested micro-influencer in your niche provides better ROI than a broad mega-influencer mismatch.

Negotiating a Mutually Beneficial Deal

Do not outright pay for posts. This violates FTC guidelines about disclosing sponsored content.

The ideal influencer partnership should be a win-win value exchange.

Offer free products or experiences relevant to the influencers. For travel bloggers, arrange free hotel stays to be reviewed. Beauty YouTubers may exchange content for free cosmetics.

Be upfront about campaign expectations on posts, stories and hashtags but do not dictate rigid promotional text. Influencers create brand value by putting their unique spin while remaining authentic to followers.

Reward influencers for driving measurable objectives liked sales conversions, clicks or coupon claims with performance based payouts and bonuses.

Tracking ROI from Influence

Marketers sometimes hesitate to invest in influencers owing to opaque ROI. Make sure to:

  • Provide trackable links, discount codes and UTM campaign tags
  • Connect analytics between platforms to match conversions
  • Compare performance across partners to optimize

There are also influencer analytics tools like HYPR, Upfluence and Traackr available to quantify reach.

With concrete objectives and robust analytics, influencer marketing provides outstanding ROI compared to other channels.


Influencers have changed marketing forever. Entrepreneurs can generate viral awareness and drive conversions by strategically partnering with relevant influencers.

Authenticity is key both for brands and influencers looking to build sustainable relationships. Together they can create content that provides value to niche communities.

Hopefully this guide has shed light on succeeding with influencer marketing. Reach out for any specific advice on identifying and collaborating with the right influencers for your brand vision!