How do you categorise influencers in social media? A standardised terminology is now emerging. But is it any good? Quick Links

Brand collaborations: Not all influencers are equal creators

Besides being a public relations expert, I’m actually also a linguist. And I do think that naming new phenomenons matter. During my PR career, I often made it a point to distinguish between social media naturals and brand ambassadors, for instance. I’ve also championed the importance of targeting the magic middle in influencer marketing.

Finally, the practice of categorising social media influencers is maturing to the point where we could start to establish general standards. But are we there yet? STIM, the Standard Terminology of Influencer Marketing, is an effort to clearly define different tiers of social media influencers. Here’s the suggested influencer tiers via Mediakix for Instagram and Youtube:

How to categorise influencers in social media.

I would argue that this is a good start — but not good enough as far as naming conventions go. Since micro influencers has risen to become an accepted and widely used term, it makes sense to follow that metric prefix nomenclature with nanomacro, and mega. But why use mid-tier? Is this a way to try and rebrand the magic middle influencer — or is it just a lack of consistency? Also, I understand the temptation to brand top Youtube creators elite, since Youtube’s creator partners are often referred to as elite creators, but still. I think this could be done with much more consistency.

Categorise influencers with four tiers instead of five

The Swedish branch of IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau), IAB Sweden, instead suggests keeping it to four tiers instead of five for Instagram:

InstagramNanoMicroMacroIcon
Followers1K-10K10K-100K100K-1M1M+
Organic reach75-100%60-100%20-60%10-50%
Engagement6-15%4-10%3-8%2-6%

I think four tiers works well enough and simplicity is often the best principle for nomenclature decisions. Still, while elegantly removing the mid-tier category, IAB Sweden suggests naming influencers on Instagram with 1M+ followers icons. I think this is a bad call for two main reasons; mega is both consistent and neutral while I personally think that it should require quite a bit more to be named an iconlegend, or idol for just having 1M+ followers on Instagram.

Why primary metrics must be useful for brands first

Instead, I would advise using the following four tiers for all social platforms (with different primary metrics based on the advertiser perspective):

PlatformNanoMicroMacroMega
Instagram avg. reach/post or story
Youtube avg. views/video
Blog avg. reads/post
Podcast listens/episode

Why avg. reach/post or story on Instagram? There are simply too many ghost followers and bot followers on Instagram. And since collaboration are usually based on a per post or story basis on the platform, the most deciding metric for a brand ought to be what type of reach they can expect from collaborating on a specific number of posts or stories.

Why avg. views/post on Youtube? Youtube’s algorithm is very strong when it comes to pushing popular content also to non-subscribers. Hence, the performance of a Youtube creator would be more indicative by calculating the average number of views for a video either within a specific time-frame and/or a specific content type.

Why avg. reads/post on a blog? Unique monthly visitors is a poor performance score for a blog, mainly because the frequency of posting will mess up the validity for such a metric. Some blogs post evergreen long-form content rarely, but each such post earns a powerful organic reach and cannot be compared to a more frequent blogger with less valuable content earning the same monthly reach in total.

Why avg. listens/episode for a podcast? For the same reasons as for the blog platform; brand collaboration is often engaged on a per-episode basis.

A job for industry organisations to fill in the gaps

So, where should we draw the line in terms of metrics for these influencer tires? I won’t suggest such metric intervals in this blog post, because I think that this is a task for national industry associations to do. 

PlatformNanoMicroMacroMega
Instagram avg. reach/post or story????
Youtube avg. views/video????
Blog avg. reads/post????
Podcast listens/episode????

It’s an important job to find the optimal balance for these missing metrics. 

The right balance would help brands to target the right influencers with the right expectations (and the right budgets). And it would certainly help the influencers themselves to understand their market value.


About the Author

This article was written by Jerry Silfwer, an awarded freelance consultant specialising in digital strategy and public relations. Based in Stockholm, Sweden. See more.