Recent studies have counted more than half a million active social media influencers on Instagram alone. That’s a lot of niche-specific clout. So, how should a marketing department choose to leverage the potential for brand enhancement offered by this myriad of influencers? The first question brand managers should answer is “which sort of social media influencer should I hire?”

To answer this question, we need to take a look at several different ways influencers operate on social media. This will give savvy brand managers the information they need to determine which kind of social media influencer will work best for their campaign. Here are some examples to consider:

Bloggers (Vloggers)

Bloggers and video bloggers (vloggers) work well as influencers within niche-specific campaigns, because those content producers are already connected with a market niche. People consume their content for a specific reason, so brands with products that fit that niche can work with the niche-specific influence the blogger has already built.

Bloggers who work on a specific schedule also bring a sense of immediacy that allows brands to track response. If they see an uptick in interest or purchases that coincides with the blogger publishing content, they know the influencer campaign has some traction.

Social Connectors

Social media influencers do not necessarily have to create original content like bloggers. Some just offer fans a glimpse into their day-to-day lives. These influencers work on consistent engagement with their fans to build rapport and deepen trust. They may have some interesting knowledge to share, or they may just lead a compelling life. Either way, they have eyes on them.

One of the biggest differences between paid celebrity endorsers and these social connectors is the perception of the fans that these are, in general, “regular people,” rather than manufactured celebrities. Because of this dynamic, fan trust tends to run very high.

Activists

While many brands have misfired when trying to connect with consumers through social or political causes, others – Patagonia for example – have built their brands around these issues. For brands interested in leveraging a cause to build brand awareness or engagement, connecting with an activist influencer can be a good move.

This can be a dicey proposition. The key is to know going in exactly what the message is, and maintain creative control of that message, as well as an “out” if the activist goes off-script while promoting the brand. This way, the brand manager reaps the benefits while distancing themselves from the potential blowback.

Thought Leaders

Brands that want to connect with the cutting edge of a specific industry or niche would be well-advised to look for thought leaders in that industry to be influencers for their brand. Fans do not follow these thought leaders because of their preferences but because of their vision. Brand managers could position their product or service as part of that greater vision, creating a connection with the vision of the thought leader. Who better to make that connection than the thought leader themselves?

Hiring a thought leader to help define a brand as part of the overall vision, helps define the mission and vision of the brand for the consumer. When the consumer is already connected with that social or political ideal, they gain respect for the brand because of the perceived connection.

The niche-splitting that can be done with influencers is nearly endless. Brand managers should consider influencers that would work for single campaigns as well as those who might work across multiple campaigns. 

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.