One of the most significant and successful marketing trends over the past two to three years is influencer marketing. 

It’s not a new concept – it’s getting someone with a fan base to endorse your product or service. I know this shows my age, but I remember back in 1974 when the New York Jets quarterback “Broadway” Joe Namath donned a pair of Hanes Beautymist pantyhose for a commercial. We’ve seen celebrities not only promoting products but even developing them (Rachael Ray pots and pans) as an extension of their brand. So, nothing new there.

The interesting twist that modern-day influencer marketing has brought to us as marketers is that we define celebrity very differently today. Joe Namath was a household name. Anthony Bacopoulos is not. Anthony is a 16-year-old entrepreneur who reviews tech products on YouTube and has a little over 1,300 subscribers to his YouTube channel, Anth.Tech. He reviews products (phones, laptops, phone cases, microphones, etc.) and has produced almost 140 episodes.  

If you scoffed at 1,300 subscribers, it’s a good thing you don’t work at Apple, Google or Samsung. Every day the UPS truck pulls up in front of Anthony’s parents’ house to deliver the latest and greatest products these companies have to offer. Why? Because they have identified Anthony as a micro-influencer. When he reviews a product, his loyal audience buys (or does not buy) that product. 

Today’s influencers come in all shapes and sizes. Their audiences are defined by a very narrow niche (tech products, makeup for 50-plus African American women, dentists who are looking for ways to leverage their income outside of their dental practice, etc.) and they are credible because they have a subject matter expertise or, as is often the case, they are just like me, the viewer. There are also mega influencers like Xenia Adonts, who has an Instagram following of over 1 million people. She posts about fashion and style for young adult women. This is her full-time gig, and she is at all the major fashion shows and hot parties and hobnobs with the rich and famous. 

But whether they are mega, like Xenia, or micro, like Anthony, today’s influencers have all gained their fame through the internet itself, whether that was through Instagram posts, vlogging, podcasting or by producing entertaining or inspiring content in some other channel.  

What is fueling Xenia and Anthony’s success? The internet, of course! Everyone is capable of being a media mogul in our world today. Producing content is very accessible, and the channel distribution is vast. We are never going to live in a world where everyone is an influencer. It requires too much focus and work. But we definitely live in a world where you can find an influencer in just about any category, attracting just about any very specific audience.

One significant shift in influencer marketing is the “celebrities” themselves. Back in Joe Namath’s days, the appeal was “I wish I was like Joe Namath. He’s an incredible athlete, is always with an attractive woman, makes great money, and seems to be living the life.” Today, the appeal is “Anthony is a 16-year-old high school student, just like me. I AM like him. I don’t aspire to be him. He’s not a celebrity or someone famous. He’s just like me.” 

In some cases, like Xenia, the influencer transcends into becoming a celebrity themselves. But in most cases, they may achieve some element of celebrity status within their core audience, but the rest of the world has never heard of them. That is a critical distinction. 

In next week’s column, I’m going to walk you through some new research that will demonstrate why that distinction is so important to understand and how you can take advantage of it in your marketing efforts.