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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jana Gross

Influencer marketing - Basics

Understanding and defining 10 important terms of influencer marketing.



Since recent years, influencer marketing is booming. Unfortunately, influencer marketing is often misunderstood. This is partially due to practitioners and researchers who use the same terms to express different things. Unsurprisingly, it is very challenging to differentiate those terms and have a clear understanding of what influencer marketing is and what not. Similarly to the last article on 7 terms of social media marketing, this article introduces and equips you with 10 different terms of influencer marketing you should know.



Influencer marketing Influencer marketing is a form of marketing in which companies strategically integrate influencers as endorsers of their brands, products, and services in their marketing communication.


Influencer marketing is a two-step flow of communication. While companies directly communicate to their target audience in a one-step flow of communication, influencers are strategically embedded as endorsers to communicate to a final target audience. The two-step flow of communication is based on the idea that most people are not influenced by mass media, but rather form their attitudes, opinions, and behaviors based on influencers (or opinion leaders) who put the information into a specific context.

Social media Social media are computer-mediated applications or sites that facilitate the creation and sharing of content. You find more on social media in my article 5 different forms of social media.

Influencers Influencers are individuals who enjoy credibility and trustworthiness, thereby exerting personal influence on others. They influence the attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and decisions of others. Examples are experts, entertainers, content creators, celebrities, scientists, as well as you and I.


On social media, influencers can be distinguished based on the number of followers on their social media profiles:


  • Megainfluencers: Megainfluencers have more than 1'000'000 followers on their social media profiles.

  • Macroinfluencers: Macroinfluencer have between 100'000 and 1'000'000 followers on their social media profiles.

  • Microinfluencers: Microinfluencer have between 10'000 and 100'000 followers on their social media profiles.

  • Nanoinfluencers: Nanoinfluencer have between 1'000 and 10'000 followers on their social media profiles.

  • Picoinfluencers: Picoinfluencer have less than 1'000 followers on their social media profiles.

Content creators Content creators are individuals or a group of individuals who create and share content on their social media profiles, thereby building up their own following base and audience. Content creators make their living mainly with social media (i.e. producing and uploading content to their social media profiles). Their business models include a wide range of services, ranging from monetising content to personal webshops. Content creators are often referred to as (social media) influencers.

Audience The audience on social media are individuals who regularly consume a social media profile’s content. They are also referred to as community or followers. The audience of a social media profile can either be passive, active, or engaged.


  • Passive audience: A passive audience consumes content without actively participating to content. These individuals often watch a video, read a blog article, or look at an Instagram post without interacting with the content or the profile.

  • Active audience: An active audience not only consumes content but also actively participates to content. Examples include clicking the Like button, writing a comment, or reposting a post. In contrast to an engaged audience, these individuals participate sporadically and irregularly.

  • Engaged audience: An engaged audience not only consumes content but also regulary participates to content. In contrast to passive and active audience members, these individuals are most involved with the content and its producers.

Reach Reach is the number of people influencers reach with their social media profiles. Reach is often referred to as the number of followers or subscribers of a social media profile.


A common misbelieve is that more reach implies more influence. Yet, this is not the case. Personal relationships with people we know are perceived as particularly credible and trustworthy. The larger the reach on a social media profile, the less likely people know each other personally which, in turn, might affect credibility, trustworthiness, and influence. Thus, even with a small reach, influencers can be very influential.



This is why reach can be differentiated between potential reach and actual reach. While the former represents the number of people a piece of content potentially might reach, the latter represents the actual number of people a piece of content reached. For example, the number of followers presents potential reach because a piece of content might be seen by more or less people than the number of followers of a social media profile.

Engagement Engagement is the audience’s interaction with a piece of content or social media profile. The engagement is an indicator of the audience's activeness and involvement with content and a social media profile. Moreover, engagement provides important feedback to influencers about how they and their content are perceived. In particular, engagement metrics includes — amongst others — number of views on YouTube or likes, comments, and shares on Instagram posts. The audience indicates and expresses different emotions and feelings with each engagement metric. In an upcoming blog article, I will explain the meaning of the different engagement metric in more detail.

Collaboration Collaboration is the relationship between a company and an influencer. Companies might pay influencers to help promote their brands, products, or services on their social media profiles. Influencers produce sponsored content for companies and upload the sponsored content to their social media profiles. Influencers are compensated by companies to do so. Company's goals of a collaboration might differ. For example, some companies want to reach a new or specific audience, others want to reach a large audience, or and engagement audience. Collaborations include one time campaigns to long-term brand ambassadorships.

Organic content Organic content is a piece of content that influencers do not get paid for to produce and upload to their social media profiles. Even though organic content might include brands. products, or services, organic content is not produced in cooperation with companies. Organic content is also referred to as unsponsored content.

Sponsored content Sponsored content is a piece of content that influencers get paid for to produce and upload to their social media profiles. Sponsored content contain advertising messages about brands, products, or services. As such, companies pay influencers to help promote their brands, products, and services in their content on their social media profiles. Sponsored content by influencers is also referred to as a new version of paid or native content.


This blog article is an updated version of one of my original articles. Read the original article here.


More readings on influencer marketing:

Katz, E. (1957). The two-step flow of communication: An up-to-date report on an hypothesis. Public opinion quarterly, 21(1), 61-78.

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