When marketers think about social media influencers, typically they think of two groups of people: celebrities, and internet celebrities.

What these two groups have in common, and what marketers find appealing about them when devising an ‘influencer strategy’ or ‘influencer program’, is that they both have significant social reach.

The issue with limiting our definition and view of social media influencers to these two groups, however, is that reach doesn’t necessarily equate to influence or relevance, and it also doesn’t address the number of other groups of people that can have significant influence over your targeted audience segments.

A more complete view of the groups of people that can influence your target audience segments via social media activity will greatly assist you with developing more effective social media and content strategies, as well as ‘influencer programs’, if you’re parsing that out as a separate component of a broader strategy.

In my estimation, there are five main classifications of influencers that should be accounted for as part of your social media and content strategy, and implementation tactics:

  1. Personal Influencers
  2. Experienced Influencers
  3. Expert Influencers
  4. Biased Influencers
  5. Celebrity Influencers


Personal influencers are the people that your target audiences know directly. Typically, these people are friends, family members, or acquaintances.

Friends, family members, and acquaintances can be highly influential because their opinions, experience, and knowledge is trusted, and the people you may be hoping to influence understand the specific context from which their opinions are formed.


Experienced influencers are the people that have direct experience with your business, brand, product or service, but with whom your target audiences do not have a personal relationship.

Even though your target audiences do not have a personal relationship with these people, they can be highly influential because of their relevant experience or knowledge with your product or service as customers, consumers, or users.


Expert influencers are the people that have expert knowledge is it relates to your business, brand, product, service, or category in which you compete. This can include pundits, educators, media, consultants, and more.

The degree to which experts can influence your target audiences is typically correlated with their proven authority, education, experience, and the trust they have established with their audiences. These qualities are often developed over a period of time.


Biased influencers include your business, or people or organizations that are, or could be perceived to be, directly tied to your business.

Typically, the influence that your business or related organizations or people can have is extremely fragile, and is correlated with the level of trust that has been cultivated and maintained amongst target audiences.


Finally, I’m lumping celebrities and internet celebrities together. These are people that have some sort of aspirational quality, or professional or societal position, that typically results in also having mass social reach.

Celebrities can wield high levels of influence, however, savvy consumers (read: virtually every consumer today) understand that often celebrity endorsements lack authenticity in that they are in fact paid, or are part of a mutually beneficial business arrangement. Celebrity endorsements are most effective when they are truly genuine, which can make planning them a challenge.


When developing a social media strategy, devising implementation tactics, or creating an ad hoc ‘influencer program’, I urge you to think beyond the typical internet celebrity types, and consider each social media influencer classification listed above.

Not every influencer type will be of equal relevance to your targeted audience segments, but thinking more holistically about the array of people that can have significant influence is sure to strengthen your social media plans.

How do you activate against each type of social media influencer?

How do you typically identify individuals that have the strongest influence amongst your targeted audience segments?

Do you have any recommendations to share with others about how to effectively identify and activate influencers?

It would be great to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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