An influencer is a person who promotes products, services, or events via social media. Common platforms include Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Paying influencers to promote brands is a popular means of social media marketing.

The number one qualification of an influencer is a large number of followers. Small influencers may have under 100,000 followers, while the most popular influencers have several million followers. Some influencers build their follower base from scratch by posting photos, videos, or tweets that gain a lot of attention. Other influencers use their existing celebrity status to build a follower base.

An influencer must also have expertise or authority in his or her fields of influence. For example, a weight-lifting champion may have the credibility to promote workout equipment and training videos. An experienced cook may be able to influence people's decisions regarding diet and nutrition. A technology expert may recommend specific hardware and software products.

Influencers often sign contracts with companies, which may require that the influencer publishes a certain number of posts per week or month. The company may also require specific words, mentions, or hashtags. For example, a clothing company might pay an influencer an ongoing fee to post at least two photos of the person wearing the brand each week. Companies may also pay influencers a one-time fee for a single post or a series of posts. This is a common way to promote brand launches or local events, such as concerts.

NOTE: In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) instituted rules influencers must follow when promoting brands online. For example, Instagram posts must include wording that clearly states when they have been sponsored.

Updated May 7, 2019 by Per C.

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