Before you delve into the world of influencer-generated content, you need to know the answer to an essential question: What is a social influencer? The answer varies slightly depending on your industry and goals, but you can spot a social media influencer by looking for a few key traits.

Social media influencers are people who have:

  • Credibility in a specific subject area
  • Access to a large group of followers
  • Built a brand around their personalities, interests, hobbies, or skill sets
  • The ability to encourage followers to take certain actions
  • Learned how to engage with their audiences
  • Developed a unique voice that identifies them to their followers

Let’s break down these qualities so you can better understand your options.


If your friend lies to you once, you might not believe anything she says down the road. She’s lost all credibility with you.

Online, social influencers build credibility through transparency. They build trust with their audiences by telling their truth, keeping promises, and demonstrating as much authenticity as possible.

Influencers can establish credibility in numerous ways. For instance, some are established authorities in a specific industry. A physician could turn into a social media influencer because of his established medical knowledge.

Still, others create credibility simply by showing up for their followers. They post on a regular schedule, provide content their audience likes, and otherwise remain truthful.


It’s true that some social media influencers have small but devoted audiences. These influencers typically post or blog around a very targeted niche, so they don’t need a big audience to make a difference.

Depending on your industry, however, you might want to work with a social influencer who has a larger following. You’ll reach more people and gain enhanced brand visibility. Keep in mind that an influencer’s reach doesn’t stop with the people who follow her on Twitter or Facebook. Followers can share her content, extending the reach even further.


Even though a social influencer might not have a company, he or she still has a brand. In fact, the brand matters more than anything else.

Consider dooce, the so-called “Queen of Mommy Blogging.” She has a huge following and has participated many times in sponsored posts as a social media influencer. Her brand is unique in several ways:

  • She curses fluently and refuses to apologize for it
  • Her children take center stage in her stories
  • She got fired for sharing too much information on her blog, which makes her a cautionary tale
  • Her gift for storytelling comes through in every blog post

If you can recognize a person’s content from a single glance, you’re probably seeing a brand. Some influencers, for instance, edit their photos using specific filters for posting on Instagram. They might add text overlays in certain fonts or use specific hashtags. All of these qualities make up the influencer’s brand.


Influencer marketing

Influencers know how to convince their audiences to take action.

It doesn’t matter how many followers a person has on Instagram if nobody listens to what she says. Social influencers not only amass audiences, but they also prove skillful at convincing their followers to take specific actions — for example, to buy products.

Back in 2015, clothing brand Lord & Taylor proved the power of social media influencer marketing. The company got 50 influencers to put on the same dress, to photograph themselves in the dress, and to post the photos to social media.

In just three days, Lord & Taylor sold out of the dress. More importantly, they got eyes on the brand’s new collection, which resulted in further sales spikes.

If you notice that people follow a person’s advice on social media or in the blogosphere, you’ve probably spotted an influencer.


Most social influencers don’t maintain their clout long if they fail to respond to their followers’ comments or otherwise give their audience attention.

When you think you’ve spotted a social influencer, pay attention to his or her social media activity. Do you see @ replies on Twitter? Do Instagram or Facebook comments receive responses? Can you find long threads of back-and-forth on the influencer’s blog?


Most people don’t “develop” a voice. Instead, they let their own voices come through the computer screen, which leads to transparency and authenticity, ultimately drawing larger audiences.

As a result, influencer-generated content has become key to marketing success. If you’ve been following someone on Twitter for several months, then see a Tweet that sounds nothing like the person, you’ll know something’s off.

Who is a social influencer? Someone who combines the above six qualities and uses them to his or her advantage. If you’d like to harness the power of influencer marketing, we’re here to help. Just download our case study to see how we make a difference in our clients’ lives.