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It’s likely you’ll have worked with an online influencer to support your organisation’s social media efforts. But how do you define an influencer? Are ‘content creators’ influencers? Are your employees influencers?

Here’s how I define them… and why the catch-all term isn’t ‘influencers’.


When it comes to maximising your marketing communications, working with ‘External Experts’ is nothing new. However, these collaborators are often collectively described as ‘influencers’, which is confusing. There is a whole array of objectives, skills and roles to consider.

This means it’s far better to use specific definitions. That way, if someone fulfils one role for one campaign but a different role for another campaign, it’s all clear. And if someone covers two roles at the same time, that’s fine as well.

Consider these nine types of ‘external expert’:

1. The Content Creator

The traditional model of an in-house team or agency creating all of the content for a brand is long gone. Identifying individuals who can create brilliant, authentic, creative content with flexibility is attractive. But they’re being paid to create content, not necessarily publish it to their followers. In fact they might be explicitly asked not to.

2. The Collaborator

The impact of someone else talking about your business/products/services is super powerful. That makes appropriate collaborations with experts – or opinion leaders – a real draw for marketers. These experts of course need a level of credibility and authority for this to have an impact, but that doesn’t mean they have or need a big social media presence. Often they just feature in the organisation’s social media posts/ads.

3. Employee Advocate

Many of your employees will have significant authority and credibility in your industry, especially in the business-to-business space. Others might have a small, but still important, professional network on LinkedIn. Either way, they bring additional (external) support, which can be used in multiple ways, but which is subtly different to other external experts.

4. The Brand Ambassador

The brand ambassador specifically develops a long term relationship with the organisation, striving to achieve the same goals as the brand. They will definitely tick at least one other box on the list.

5. The Nano Influencer

With a relatively small following (under 10k), this group offers a high level of credibility with and engagement from their audience, tempered with limited reach. Organisations will often be tapping into their ability to create interesting content, with any organic reach as a bonus. Paid media boosting and/or posting the content on the organisation’s accounts will be very common.

6. The Micro Influencer

With typically 10k-100k followers, this group retains credibility and audience engagement, but has started to hit some scale. Like their nano-counterparts, organisations will probably still want the content to go beyond the influencer’s organic reach.

7. The Macro Influencer

These influencers are now well established, with audiences sizes ranging upwards into the many millions. The level of engagement will be lower than nano and micro influencers, but for the organisation the organic reach they offer becomes a legitimate alternative to a ‘paid media buy’.

8. The Celebrity Influencer

Today’s version of the old school celebrity endorsement. They might have a passion for the organisation’s product or service, but really it’s about tapping into audience eyeballs on them for whatever they have reached ‘celebrity’ status for.

9. The Talent

To steal a term from TV. The ‘talent’ is there to present a campaign or activity. They will also tick at least one other role on the list (e.g. Collaborator, Celebrity).


Like many things in social media, different definitions and standards will continue to be used, but hopefully you might find that breakdown helpful.


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