The social web has created a new surge of influencers. Think of bloggers who are read by thousands of visitors each month; Twitter stars who have gathered fans in the millions; or YouTube sensations who seem to produce one viral video after the next. It seems that anyone can become an influencer with the right combination of skills.

Since influencers have a broad audience of loyal fans, sometimes surpassing even the most coveted brands in the industry, they often get approached by brands who seek new marketing opportunities. The exchange of service is often beneficial for both parties: the influencer usually gets compensated, either in the form of a complimentary gift or money, while the brand gets its message in front of a niche audience.  But what happens to the consumer – the third party involved in this transaction? Will this influencer-brand synergy manipulate his/her purchasing decision?

Before someone makes a purchase, they will be “influenced” by dozens of individuals. Some recommendations will carry a lot of weight, while others will simply be pushed to the side. The importance of each recommendation depends on the nature of the relationship between the influencer, the brand and the consumer. If the influencer is a digital star, then the message will not have the same impact as if it comes from a family member or a close friend.

In Influence Marketing by Danny Brown, I recently stumbled on a great table that shows the different degrees of relationships within a person’s list of personal contacts. Brown defines the nature of each relationships – Inner Circle, Social Friends, Acquaintance, Followers – Colleagues, and Followers – Competitive – then goes to explain how this new landscape creates a multitude of pathways through which brands must try to deliver their messages. Everyone is an influencer, however, not everyone has the same influential pull.


Tier Categorization Description Relationship Activity
First Inner Circle Personal contacts such as family, neighbors, friends and coworkers with whom you share frequent and personal communication both online and face-to-face. In-person and digital gathering such as meals, social engagements, telephone and video calls, text messaging, etc.
Second Social Friends Contacts with frequent personal communications but where the relationship began and, for the most part, remains online. Digital gathering such as social networking, video chats, etc.
Third Acquaintances Contacts formed or solidified through a one-time or infrequent meeting such as at a trade show or past friendships such as old high school contacts reconnected solely through social channels. Infrequent contact via social networks, mainly focused on business relationships.
Fourth Followers – Colleagues Impersonal relationships where no face-to-face connections were made; where communication is limited to the consumption of digital content. Two-way, impersonal activity including reading each other’s blogs, following each other on Twitter, etc.
Fifth Followers – Competitive Impersonal relationships where no face-to-face connections were made; where communication is limited to the consumption of digital content. One-way, impersonal activity where one monitors the actions of another such as a competitive analysis.

Reference: Influencer Marketing by Danny Brown

When creating an influencer outreach program, brands must try to understand the various types of influencers and the nature of their relationship with the buyer. Should they focus their attention on the blogger who can get thousands of fans to share his post on Twitter and Facebook; the women who leads the local group of mommy bloggers; and/or the Twitter star who can get the message go viral. The landscape is often blurry and requires time to understand.

If you plan on creating an influencer outreach program or if want to know more about how to reach a luxury influencer, read our recent post, or simply reach out to us.

Roxanne Genier