Choose the Right Digital Influencer for Your Brand

As we saw in our most recent State of Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report, the influencer marketing industry is rapidly expanding, with some pundits predicting it will be worth $16.4 billion by the end of 2022. This compares to a mere $1.7 billion in 2016. Moreover, our survey found that 90% of our survey respondents believe influencer marketing to be an effective form of marketing. And as a result, 77% of our respondents indicated they would dedicate a budget to influencer marketing in 2022. And influencer marketing works for businesses of all sizes, from the smallest solopreneur to the largest enterprise. 

But not every firm succeeds with its influencer marketing. Some campaigns fail and have brands wondering what went wrong. In most cases, however, unsuccessful influencer campaigns result from brands selecting inappropriate influencers for their campaign. This post will examine the importance of choosing the right digital influencer for your brand, particularly for enterprise businesses, who too often select famous-name celebrities over genuine influencers and thought leaders in their niche.

Choose the Right Digital Influencer for Your Brand:

What Are Digital Influencers?

You would think that we wouldn't have to ask this question. After all, many "influencers" have made media headlines recently, and you have chosen to read this article at the Influencer Marketing Hub. Unlike small and medium-sized businesses, enterprises can afford specialist marketing teams, so you would expect they would understand the different types of digital influencers. 

However, too many brands equate influence with celebrity status. And many enterprises have sufficient budget to pay celebrity fees, imagining "bigger is better." But it doesn't always work that way, as Pepsi discovered when they partnered with Kendall Jenner in 2017. Instead of transferring her fans' support to drinking Pepsi, she sparked outrage by people feeling that Pepsi was trivializing a genuine concern people had.

Quite apart from possible distaste at the ad's content, this brings up another issue – the "digital" part of digital influencers. This ad (briefly) played on television, as well as being shared online. Therefore, was it digital content created by a celebrity influencer, or was it a television ad featuring a celebrity that was also shared online?

We could think of digital influencers as anyone you partner with who shares content relating to your brand with their social audience. But that is a very generic definition. For example, you might partner with your employees to share content on their social accounts, but many of these may only have friends and families as followers. Sure, they are "digital" when they share your content on Facebook, TikTok, or Instagram, but do they influence anybody with their posts?

What Are Digital Influencers


In What is an Influencer? we saw that there are two necessary components to make somebody an influencer:

  1. The power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of their authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with their audience
  2. A following in a distinct niche with whom they actively engage. The size of the following depends on the size of the topic of the niche.

To be a digital influencer, someone needs to meet both criteria, and uses that influence online, usually on social media but sometimes on a blog site or podcast.

Many celebrities don't meet the definition of a digital influencer because they don't operate social accounts in a distinct niche. Sure, they have social accounts with millions of followers, but often the only common factor about their audience is recognition of the celebrity's name. They share content on various topics, and most of their followers only take a casual interest in what they post.

Types of Digital Influencers You Can Partner With

The most common way people categorize influencers is by follower size. There is a significant caveat with doing this, however. You can't necessarily assume that influencers with the most followers have the most influence. 

Therefore, if you are an enterprise with deep pockets, it doesn't necessarily follow that you should chase the most followed influencers. They may not be the best digital influencers for your brand. It all comes down to whom you are trying to target. Which influencers are most likely to have won the hearts and piqued the interest of those people?

Unfortunately, there's no formal definition of digital influencer types. For example, you will often see references to the term micro-influencer online, partially because there is much evidence that they often make excellent influencer marketing partners. However, there is no official definition of what makes a micro-influencer. Sure, there is agreement that micro-influencers have a relatively small following, but how small? Sources vary in their opinions.

types of digital influencers

In the previously cited What is an Influencer? post we split digital influencers into:

  • Mega-Influencers – people with a vast number of followers on their social networks, typically more than 1 million followers on at least one social platform. Most celebrities would count as mega-influencers – as long as they post in such a way to influence their followers' thoughts
  • Macro-Influencers – people with between 40,000 and 1 million followers on a social network. These are usually B-grade celebrities who haven't yet made it to the big time or successful online experts who have built up more significant followings than the typical micro-influencers
  • Micro-Influencers – ordinary everyday people who have become known for their knowledge about some specialist niche and have usually gained a sizable social media following amongst devotees of that niche. Views differ as to size, but we suggest micro-influencers have between 1,000 and 40,000 followers on a single social platform
  • Nano-Influencers – people with only a small number of followers, who people recognize as experts in an obscure or highly specialized field, i.e., the proverbial big fish in a small pond. In most cases, they have fewer than 1,000 followers, but these will be keen and interested followers, eager to engage with the nano-influencer and listen to their opinions.

Upfluence uses different definitions for influencer types. They split influencers into:

  • Mega-influencers – greater than 1 million followers
  • Macro-influencers – 500,000 – 1 million followers
  • Mid-Size influencers – 100,000 – 500,000 followers
  • Rising influencers – 50,000 – 100,000 followers
  • Regular influencers – 15,000 – 50,000 followers
  • Micro-influencers – fewer than 15,000 followers.

Comparing Digital Influencer Types

Whichever way you classify influencers, there is a general trend. Mega- and Macro-influencers cost the most. Micro- and Nano or Regular Influencers cost the least. Brands pay the most to partner with the influencers with the largest followings.

This limits the types of influencers with whom small and medium businesses can partner. Mega- and probably macro-influencers will usually be outside their budget, no matter how suitable they would be for a campaign. On the other hand, large businesses and enterprises have an advantage, however. They could potentially partner with any influencer willing to work with them.

As a general rule of thumb, the larger the influencer, the lower the engagement rate. This is because mega-influencers and celebrities don't have the time to engage with their vast numbers of followers as micro-influencers do. Also, many mega- and macro-influencer followers only have a casual interest in the influencer's posts. They recognize the person's name but aren't necessarily interested in what they have to say or share. On the other hand, many micro- and nano- influencers have highly interested followers who are willing to take their advice; however, there usually aren't all that many of them.

For example, the average engagement rate of mega-influencers on Instagram is 1.23%, yet the engagement rate for micro-influencers is 4.84%. Raw numbers, however, mean there will be more engagement overall with a mega influencers post. However, partnering with a mega-influencer will cost considerably more than partnering with a micro-influencer. Therefore, you will have to do your own math to determine whether it will be more effective to partner with one mega-influencer or multiple micro-influencers.

If you operate in a very niche field, you might not have any relevant mega-, micro-, or even mid-size influencers. In that case, you will probably see better results working with multiple small influencers than an irrelevant celebrity or prominent influencer in a different field.

Questions to Ask When Choosing the Right Digital Influencer for Your Brand

How you select your digital influencers will, to some extent, depend on how you decide to undertake your influencer marketing campaign. Many brands, particularly enterprises and big companies, work with advertising agencies for all their marketing needs. In that case, you may find that your usual advertising agency offers influencer marketing as one of their services. Alternatively, you might go for one of the many specialist influencer marketing agencies. In this case, you will probably leave influencer selection to your agency. They typically have connections with many digital influencers and select those they believe will be the best fit for your brand.

However, in our State of Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report, we found that 71% of influencer marketing campaigns are run in-house, with only 29% opting to use agencies or managed services for their influencer marketing needs. Alongside this, we found that almost half (49.9%) admitted using tools developed in-house to execute influencer marketing campaigns.

Therefore, many companies need to discover the right digital influencers for their brand themselves. They can use many influencer marketing platforms to find specific influencers, but they should ask themselves a few questions before they use these.

How to choose the right influencer for you brand


1. Why am I Carrying Out a Marketing Campaign?

This is probably the most crucial question of all, and in all honesty, you should ask yourself this before any type of marketing campaign, digital or not. Before you even consider choosing the right digital influencers, you must first understand why you are about to engage in a marketing campaign. What are you hoping to gain from it?

Your answer doesn't have to be increased sales, by the way. You could be marketing to increase your brand recognition, or improve your social following, for instance. You might even be carrying out marketing to show off your company's green credentials or some other less tangible purpose. But there must be some reason for your campaign.

2. Who Am I Trying to Target with My Marketing Campaign?

Once you know why you're about to engage in a marketing campaign, you need to consider who you are trying to reach with your message. Who will be the target audience for your campaign?

This is very important, as your choice of marketing medium and potential partners depends on it. There would be little point in working with TikTok digital influencers if you're trying to gain a food supply contract to a retirement complex chain, for instance.

3. What Type of Marketing Will Best Help Me Find My Target Audience and Meet My Overall Goals?

Okay, you now know who you want to reach with your marketing campaign; you need to decide the best marketing type you should use. If you're using an agency, they can help you make this decision, and if you have an experienced internal marketing team, they are likely to have a good idea of what will be successful for your brand. You can find many articles on this site to advise you on the various types of online and digital marketing

Assuming you decide that influencer marketing could bring beneficial results to your brand, you can move on to setting up a digital influencer campaign. Whichever method you use to find your influencers, you should consider the following questions for each potential influencer. You will find much of the necessary data on influencer platforms, or you might choose to research a potential influencer's social activity organically by examining their social channels.

4. Who is the Audience of Your Potential Digital Influencer Partners?

As we have previously seen, successful digital marketing depends on the nature of an influencer's audience. So, what types of people make up their most avid followers? 

Remember, the focus here is on the influencer's followers, not yours. These are the people whose behavior and views an influencer influences. 

This is the stage that too many brands get wrong. They look for well-known digital influencers without considering the types of people they influence. 

You should think carefully about where your target market spends its time online. And that can be quite different from where you do, particularly if you don't match the demographics of your target market. So, for example, if you're older, you might be tempted to ignore TikTok as being "just a kid's thing," but if you are hoping to reach young people, then you should focus on successful influencers on that platform. 

5. Would This Influencer Fit with Your Brand?

Once you have a list of potential digital influencers, you should look at each and consider how well they are likely to fit with your brand and company culture. Ideally, you want them to have an audience that matches your ideal customer profile. First, however, you should examine the posts the influencer typically makes. You will want to see evidence that the digital influencer will not likely make a post that will embarrass your brand.

For example, if you're targeting rebellious young males, somebody like Logan Paul might be an excellent digital partner. He's made a name for himself with a particular edgy audience on YouTube. However, suppose your business stresses family values, e.g., Disney. In that case, Paul, who has been involved in several controversies, including filming a suicide victim, might be a poor choice of digital influencer for your brand.

6. Does the Influencer Make High-Quality Original Content?

One problem that some brands encounter when engaging in influencer marketing for the first time is that they expect to provide the posts (ads) for an influencer to share. After all, that's what they do with their own social accounts. And indeed, it's typically what they do with other types of advertising, or at least they will often exert creative control over their advertising agency. 

Influencer marketing is different, however. The only reason influencers have large audiences, and are popular with an audience, is because they create and share quality content in some niche: that is how they establish a reputation as a thought leader and build up an interested following.

Most influencers are creators, and people follow them because of their creations. Their followers will take little interest in content that doesn't follow the usual style and nature of the influencer. Many will feel that the influencer has "sold out" if they merely share ads your brand has given them.

YouTube broadcaster City Planner Plays provides an example of how an influencer can adapt his content to include promotions without making them too much like a traditional ad. City Planner Plays produces "Let's Play" type videos with the game Cities Skylines. In this video, he has a partnership with NordVPN. He doesn't hide the fact; indeed, the existence of a paid promotion shows from the first frame of the video. Instead, he creates a "creepy" Cities Skylines character, Phillip, who he uses to demonstrate how NordVPN can help his viewers.

7. Do Your Potential Influencer Partners Engage with Their Followers?

Finally, you will want to examine each potential influencer partner and whether they engage with their followers. The better their engagement, the higher the likelihood that people will take notice of what they share. 

For example, If you look at the above YouTube video by City Planner Plays, you will notice 86,000 views and 3,300 likes on this video. In addition, there are nearly 300 comments on the video, the first of which is an additional shout-out to NordVPN, which, in turn, has received 20 likes. If you were to investigate more closely, you would also see that City Planner Plays operates a successful Discord server for his channel, with more than 15,000 members. 

Some influencers manage to expand the conversation with their followers to talk about the brands that sponsor them. For example, they might operate Q&A sessions or run a live stream to walk their supporters through the benefits of a product.

It is vital that you make an effort to select the right digital influencer for your brand, not just a famous name that you recognize. Fame and influence do not necessarily go together.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the most popular virtual influencer?

These are the top 5 most popular virtual influencers:

  • Lil Miquela, 2.9 million followers
  • Guggimon, 1.5 million followers
  • Knox Frost, 1 million followers
  • Noonoouri, 404,000 followers
  • Bermuda, 263,000 followers

What is meant by virtual influencer?

Virtual influencers are also known as virtual persona or virtual models. These computer-generated fictional characters are used for marketing-related purposes, but mostly for social media marketing, instead of influencers.

Who is the richest influencer?

Cristiano Ronaldo is a famous Portuguese football player as well as model and public figure. Ronaldo is one of the most-recognized people in the world. He’s a well-known celebrity and one of the richest social media influencers.

Who are the top five social media influencers?

These are the top 5 social media influencers on Instagram:

  • Cristinao Ronaldo, 443 million followers
  • Kylie Jenner, 339 million followers
  • Lionel Messie, 328 million followers
  • Selena Gomez, 320 million followers
  • The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, 315 million followers
About the Author
With over 15 years in content marketing, Werner founded Influencer Marketing Hub in 2016. He successfully grew the platform to attract 5 million monthly visitors, making it a key site for brand marketers globally. His efforts led to the company's acquisition in 2020. Additionally, Werner's expertise has been recognized by major marketing and tech publications, including Forbes, TechCrunch, BBC and Wired.