How to think about influencer marketing—nano, micro, mid, macro... celebrity??

Note: This post is part of the series, How to think about influencer marketing. As we learn about the challenges and successes marketers are having with influencer marketing, we’ll share them with you.


So I log into LinkedIn the other day, and I find some pretty aggressive words at the top of my feed. There’s a post just totally demolishing influencer marketing. Same in the comments.

But I noticed one thing, everybody used the words celebrity and influencer as if they meant the same thing.


I thought to myself, is this why so many people balk at the mention of influencer marketing? Do they think it’s code for pay-famous-people-ridiculous-amounts-of-money-to-promote-product-they-don’t-use marketing?

I’m learning that it’s what a lot of people think. For many, “influencer” does mean celebrity. And it’s unfortunate because celebrities only make up a tiny fraction of people with influence.

It might help, then, to define what influence means in the online world, and in the context of influencer marketing, specifically.

People with influence online are known for something—healthy living, DIY, interior decorating, fashion, parenting—and they have enough credibility in their area of expertise that they get their audience to take certain actions, and they can get them to think in certain ways.

That’s why marketers team up with them to sell their products, build communities, and position their brand. That’s why marketers turn to influencer marketing.

Now back to the celebrity thing: they could do good things for your brand, but be selective. Some celebrities have influence, and others don’t. People who are famous for being famous, without any authority or expertise in a particular category, are NOT creators. Their influence is not proportional to their fame (if they have any real influence at all). I’d be careful with working with celebrities like this. They do very little for your brand.

Instead of talking about nano, micro, or macro influencers, we’ll break creators into three groups: 

  • Celebrity creators
  • Category creators 
  • Micro creators

Traditional and digital-first celebrities

Traditionally these have been your athletes, actors, and musicians. They’re known for something offline, or on traditional channels, and transported a lot of that influence online.

But more recently, this group has expanded to include people who’ve built celebrity from the ground-up online. You might call them digital-first celebrities. Give them credit. Because getting an audience to millions and millions of followers requires a lot of attention and care.

If you’re broadcasting a message, celebrity creators are a great option. Their audience is diverse and reaches large groups of people with a general common interest.

Established category creators

These people aren’t famous, but they’re well-respected in their particular communities. Whether it’s fashion, beauty, health, sports, cars, wherever it is, they’re leaders in the category, and people follow them for specific content. This group might include what people refer to as mid-tier and macro creators.

Unlike celebrities, these audiences are more targeted, which means you can get way more personalized and targeted with your message and content.

Emerging category creators

Emerging creators have category knowledge, but they’re not as well-known as their established peers. They’re not a household name yet. But they have a dedicated following that is attentive and engages. Their stock is increasing everyday. This group includes the nano and micro tier of creators. 

This group is gold. Because their audience is very niche, very focused, and very targeted. This is fantastic news because it means you can get hyper personalized with your content.


So when it comes to the question of nano vs. micro vs. macro, the answer is that it depends on your goals. That might be a frustrating answer, but it’s the truth. 

Smaller creator audiences often mean more targeted audiences. As creator follower count grows, their audience becomes more diverse, which makes it harder to deliver personalized messages to a specific audience segment. So while brands may pay premiums to partner with those large influencers, the message may only appeal to a fraction of that influencer’s total audience.

Brands should try collaborating with creators with smaller follower counts. Isolate your target segments and create content that speaks to each group. If your appeal is broad enough, larger and more established creators still make sense.

Word of caution: follower counts are deceiving. There’s a lot of fraud with influencers. If you’re doing this without a platform like #paid, make sure you’re vetting well. Look at whether people are legitimately responding to their posts. Look at engagement metrics. Have them drive traffic to a page, so you can compare creators from different platforms.