What is an Influencer?

I have curly hair, and not the cute wavy Blake Lively kind which looks good even when her celebrity husband Ryan Reynolds (also the funniest man on the planet) posts “unflattering” pictures of her on Instagram. Just super curly, untamable, wild, frizzy hair.

I really painted the most beautiful picture of myself, I know, but it serves a purpose as I introduce you to the REVLON One Step Hair Dryer Volumizer Brush: the product that turned my Ms. Frizzle hair to perfectly straight, no flyaways, Instagramable hair.

One of my close friends, who also has equally curly hair, recommended it to me. Seeing its impact on her glossy locks, I had to try it for myself. A two-for-one brush and dryer, my hair transformed in just 10 minutes.

I was a believer and I had the hair to prove it. In more than one conversation, I raved about it to Susan, Laura, Jess, Courtney and Allison, all who wanted in on this magical brush after I described its wonder.

Now an Amazon’s Choice product with 4.5 stars and more than 9,800 reviews, the buzz of this product is clearly not limited to my circle of friends. Its positive sentiment is transparent, and was likely the result of fellow curly-haired humans looking for an effective product.

Straight-haired and a new wave of confidence (pun intended), I noticed that the power of influence can start at the brunch table. It can be short and snappy or long-winded. Filled with visuals, testimonials and/or video. It can be LOLed at or double-tapped for the IG heart. It could impact five people or five million.

The power of influence can be channeled in many ways:

Word-of-Mouth (WOM) – essentially what I did among friends. I talked about a product, made a recommendation and impacted a purchasing decision based on a valued opinion (plus, these people have seen me back in the “frizzy hair, don’t care” days and STILL talk to me)

Credentialed influencers – think of your doctor, your meteorologist, your dietitian and your personal trainers of the world. They’ve worked to establish authority and received an education that has backed that credential, most likely adding a few extra letters to their titles. But you trust them because they earned it.

Online influencers – you’re scrolling through your Feed and see it and stop and watch, cause dang it, Ryan Reynolds is making fun of Hugh Jackman AGAIN and this time, promoting Hugh’s Laughing Man Coffee company (#client). Cue: “Alexa, add Laughing Man Coffee to my Shopping List.” But just like Ryan and Hugh’s onion of a relationship, online influencers have many layers:

Mega Influencer: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Hugh Jackman and the like – these people are brands in themselves and their words/images speak beyond the product they are promoting. Needless to say, if you need me to do more research, I’ll happily chat it up with Ryan.

Macro influencers: Essentially mini celebrities in their own right; they’ve been in the business a while, they know how it works and are selective with brands in which they partner.

Mid-tier influencers: They’re working their way up the ladder – they have an engaged audience, established trust and work with brands they’re passionate about.

Micro influencers: Often the sweet spot for brands these days; these guys are willing to partner with brands to establish a relationship and organically talk about products they love … and have an engaged audience. Triple threat!

Nano influencers: They might have fewer followers, but their impact (especially in masses) can make just as effective of a splash; they organically talk about products and have engaged audiences.


So, I’m an influencer? Sure, by these definitions in one way or another, we all have the power to influence. The level of influence is what we consider in the PR world and how it aligns with program objectives, KPIs and naturally, budget.

When selecting influencers and deliberating how you’ll incorporate them into your PR and/or Social Media plan, consider how you can take that level of influence literally to the next level:

Authentic users – An influencer can fake it until they make it, but eventually it catches up. Fans are intuitive and are aware of when an influencer is just taking a product picture for a paycheck. Pro tip, work with influencers who already use a product before establishing a paid relationship!

Long-term relationships – Just as I like my conversations with Ryan Reynolds, I prefer them to be long-term vs. one-off. One IG post can be effective depending on a specific moment or date for a brand, but the longer you work with an influencer, you foster a relationship and gain credibility not only with the influencer, but with their fanbase.

Maximize content – The devil is in the details … or in the content usage agreement. Great, Ryan is cheesin’ it with PEEPS, but if I don’t have permission to repost on the brand channel, tag Ryan and put ad dollars behind his smiling face, the limits to amplifying can be a detriment. Implement influencer content into your marketing plans as you would coveted digital ads.

Co-create – Consider influencers as authentic partners. Provide them with parameters and guidelines for content, but value the relationship and trust that they’ve got this far for a reason – they know their audiences and what resonates with them – loosen the brand brief and let go of some of that creative control.

It’s not about the followers – Well, maybe a little, but measuring success shouldn’t be determined solely based on follower count. Measure impact through engagement, sentiment and actions taken from posts (clicks, conversions, etc.)

In summary: Yes, you are an influencer, do with it what you may. Buy the hair straightener. Tell your friends. Tell strangers. Post it, tag it. And most importantly, follow Ryan Reynolds.

Megan Schuster, Social Media Strategist
Megan Schuster, Social Media Strategist
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