How does influencer marketing really work and how can companies use this knowledge? Studies shed light on the psychological background of influencer marketing and show how different types of influencers affect their followers.
What psychological impact do influencers have on their followers? And why are so many people fascinated by these internet personalities? A study published in 2018 by the PR agency OSK in cooperation with the market research institute Concept M gets to the bottom of the psychological foundations of influencer marketing.
As part of the study, 40 media users and 15 influencers were questioned in psychological interviews. The respondents represent a cross-section of all age groups up to 95-year-old users. The interview did not follow any ready-made questionnaires, but was based on the principles of morphological research. The attitudes and opinions of the respondents are important so that not only individual answers arise, but entire thoughts and chains of arguments.
Requirements for the influencer boom
Testimonials have always been essential in advertising. There is hardly a product that has been and is being presented without a person. But do influencers differ from famous advertising faces like actor George Clooney for Nespresso or football star Thomas Müller for Müller-Milch? Why are we so receptive to influencer marketing?
The OSK study sees the causes in current social developments. Traditional ways of life are no longer the measure of all things, technical progress has taken a breathtaking pace and globalization is not only opening up countless new opportunities for young people.
The success of influencer marketing is based on four basic needs of today’s internet users:
- Orientation : The complexity of the modern world brings not only numerous possibilities, but also great uncertainty. This increases the desire for easy orientation and clarity.
- Affiliation : The possibilities for individual development have never been as great as they are today. But with all the individualism, a sense of community and the desire to belong increase.
- Break from perfectionism: Increasing pressure to perform and self-optimization only allow failure in order to grow. As a result, the charm of the authentic and imperfect experiences an upturn – even if this authenticity is only pretended.
- Search for identity : Digitization has not only accelerated life, it has also led to a lot of things being only experienced virtually. This creates a feeling of alienation for many people, which can lead to an almost religious search for identity.
Exactly these needs are served by influencers – supported by the constant availability of online content. In contrast to high-gloss celebrities, they look authentic, even if they stage their appearance perfectly. Your posts appear between those of friends and acquaintances. They also interact to a great extent with their followers. That makes them tangible and creates a feeling of closeness. As a projection surface for your own wishes, they make it possible to experience them, provide orientation as opinion leaders and convey a feeling of belonging as a mouthpiece for their respective niche.
Six influencer types by number of followers
Many classic influencer categorizations focus on the key figure that shows their success most quickly at first glance: the number of their followers. Although this reflects the current status of the maximum possible reach of a post by this influencer, it does not say anything about the reputation of its target group, growth or the rate of interaction. Here are the most common terms for influencers based on number of followers and reach:
1. Mega influencers, super influencers or hero influencers
These influencers have a reach of millions and offer the highest level of attention in social networks. They are the stars of the scene and can also charge appropriate sums. For example Bibi or Lisa and Lena.
2. Star influencers or celebrity influencers
This is what influencers are called who have a huge fan community outside of social media simply because of their prominence. They include athletes, film and pop stars such as Toni Kroos, Helene Fischer and Matthias Schweighöfer. For a cooperation you have to offer them a lot due to the celebrity status.
3. Macro influencers or everyday influencers
They still offer a high reach (from around 50,000 followers on Instagram) and are considered role models in their scene. They set the trends and are therefore often imitated by other colleagues.
4. Micro influencers or niche influencers
They are experts on certain topics, for example bloggers or Youtubers with special interest channels. They are considered very credible in their field and have a loyal following. Many are only active on one channel.
This is what influencers are called with a limited range but with intense influence. They enjoy a high level of authority and credibility within certain social groups and stand out for their great commitment.
6. Rising influencer In
contrast to the others, the term does not describe a state, but rather a potential for development. These influencers are considered the upcoming talents. They still have a manageable range, but they are showing high growth rates. A cooperation could be worthwhile with a view to the future.
6 influencer types by appearance
The OSK study also identifies various influencers according to the type of their appearance and the need to convey information. They differ in their content, in the way they are perceived by their fans, in the way they bind their target group and, as a result, in their usability for marketing by companies. With the help of this classification, suitable influencers can be targeted.
The six categories of influencers are therefore:
1. Style inspirers
They celebrate lifestyle in the areas of beauty, cars, fashion, food and travel. They enable the user to daydream, but at the same time remain approachable through their interaction. These influencers are well suited for emotional brand charging.
These mentors take the user by the hand, offer orientation and concrete advice. The subject area can range from do-it-yourself to life hacks and life counseling to every hobby and niche interest.
Although they often only serve a small niche as micro-influencers, they are a great authority in this. Due to their great competence, they offer the followers valuable orientation.
They provide information on everyday, political and scientific topics and offer their followers a sounding board for their own opinion. They draw their credibility from their convictions.
promoters and entertainers These “break clowns” among the influencers offer a short break from everyday life. They create entertainment with ingenuity and lots of character. They are suitable for product placement and humorous forms of advertising.
They are role models through certain ideals from everyday life, politics or lifestyle that they follow. Thanks to them, the followers feel they are part of special truths.
Plan influencer marketing successfully
For influencer campaigns to be successful, companies must first define the campaign goal. Are you interested in increasing your reach, improving your image, presenting a new product or something else?
Once the goal has been set, it is important to find out which psychological need can be served. For example, style inspirers are suitable when it comes to strengthening the brand image, because they inspire dreams and represent the longings of their fans, which are then transferred to a (buyable) brand. Missionaries can also serve this marketing goal, as they can promote the positive perception of a brand by building a sense of belonging. On the other hand, influencers from the fields of coaches, experts and explainer are suitable for presenting specific products.
Choosing the right influencer is not just about their number of followers and reach, but about what needs they serve, what bond they build with their fans and how they communicate.