What Is a Social Media Influencer?

Social media influencers are beloved by followers and marketers

A female social media influencer recording a makeup tutorial video.


A social media influencer is an individual who frequently achieves a high level of engagement on their posts and has a loyal following of fans, typically over 10,000, on at least one social network.

Influencers often monetize their successful social media presence by promoting products, services, or a marketing message on their accounts. An influencer may also be successful in traditional media such as film, television, radio, or print, however, this isn't always the case and many tend to build their brand on social media first and then expand to other platforms after reaching a certain level of mainstream popularity.

Social media influencers don't necessarily have to participate in paid promotions to be considered an influencer but many do.

What Social Networks Do Influencers Use?

Some of the biggest social platforms where influencers find success include Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Twitch.

Influencers on these networks typically earn money by creating posts about a product, service, or event but there are slight differences concerning how each platform is used and what the paid promotions look like.

Influencer promotions are frequently incorporated organically into posts or videos as part of the creator's natural conversation with their audience. Occasionally they can also appear like a traditional scripted advertisement preceded by a line of dialog such as "Thank you to our sponsor."

  • Instagram: Instagram influencers are usually paid to promote something in a post with a photo, a description using targeted keywords, and specific hashtags. Sometimes they'll also be asked to place a link to the sponsor's web page on their Instagram profile or mention the promotion in an Instagram Story.
  • YouTube: YouTube influencers tend to promote items or services by personally mentioning them in their videos. This can include reading a script given to them by the sponsor in addition to a link to their web page in the video description. YouTubers who stream video games on the platform can also receive compensation from game studios for playing titles.
  • Pinterest: Influencers on Pinterest post sponsored pins that link back to a product or service's web page.
  • Twitter: Influencers on the Twitter social network get paid to tweet about topics, often using specific keywords and hashtags.
  • Facebook: Facebook influencers often use Facebook pages over their personal profiles to promote their brand and post sponsored content. Such content can take the form of a text post, image, or video.
  • Twitch: Influencers on Twitch are typically those that have achieved Affiliate or Partner status and have a large loyal following. They generally promote video games and related tech items such as gaming chairs and controllers by showcasing them during live streams.

In addition to posting promoted content on their social media channels, many influencers are also often hired to be the face of a traditional marketing campaign in print and on television.

You can usually tell which posts are promotional by looking at its hashtags. If the #ad, #sponsor, or #paid hashtags are used, that means that a company or individual has paid the influencer to create this specific post.

What Is a Micro-Influencer?

While a regular influencer has well over 10,000 followers or subscribers on their preferred social media channel, a micro-influencer can have as few as a hundred.

Many brands choose to incorporate micro-influencers into their marketing strategy as they generally cost significantly less than hiring a regular influencer which allows them to hire more of them and spread their message across a wider variety of users.

Micro-influencers are paid between $50 and $200 for a promoted social media post and are also often invited to events such as early movie screenings to help build buzz before a release.

Popular Social Media Influencers

Social Media influencers come in all shapes and sizes and base their personal brands in a variety of different genres and platforms. Here are several examples of some of the most popular social media influencers online.

  • Ninja rose to fame as one of the most popular video game streamers on Twitch where his channel has over 480 million followers. He's also expanded to most other social media platforms such as Instagram (where he has almost 15 million followers), Twitter (6.6 million), YouTube (22 million), and Facebook (568 thousand). Ninja frequently collaborates with technology and video game-related brands and has claimed he makes over half a million dollars each month from donations, subscriptions, advertisements, and sponsorships.
  • Riaan J. George is an award-winning luxury blogger that focuses on high-end fashion, travel, and lifestyle with an Indian point of view. His primary social media focus is his Instagram account where he frequently collaborates with luxury brands.
  • Nathan McCallum is an Australian fitness influencer who partners with health and gym brands for sponsored content on a very regular basis. McCallum's main focus is his Instagram and YouTube channel.
  • Michelle Phan was one of the first social media influencers to turn her hobby into a career mostly due to her incredibly successful personal YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram accounts which she used to launch her own cosmetics brand, EM Cosmetics.
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