Kim Kardashian is not an influencer. None of the Kardashian-Jenner clan are. Neither is Cristiano Ronaldo. Nor Shaq, Nicki Minaj or Taylor Swift. All of these people are celebrities.
Do they have a lot of online followers? Sure. But are the influencers? No. They are celebrities. And there is a difference.
I’ve always though the use of Kardashian as the top-of-mind example of an influencer to be ironic. She does have a lot of followers on Instagram. She is influential there, as she is in other places. But she didn’t become influential because of the content she created there. She became influential because she and her family were on a television show. Without traditional media no one would know who Kim Kardashian is. Without her television show, no one on Instagram would, either.
But Iraqi-American Huda Kuttan, who has amassed 47 million Instagram followers, earned them by providing great content as a beauty blogger, then an Instagrammer. She became influential via social media by providing great content on social media. She wasn’t famous for something else.
That is the key differential in a celebrity versus an influencer. Celebrities are famous without social media. Influencers rely upon social media for their audience and fame.
Why do we are about the difference in celebrities and influencers?
The lines between celebrities and influencers are becoming more and more blurred. The more audience members influencers collect, the more they feel like a celebrity because of the sheer number of people they can potentially reach. Add to that influencers like Jake Paul and Lilly Singh are no longer just YouTubers. One is a boxing star. The other hosts an NBC talk show. Companies like Future Today are actually taking popular YouTubers and content creators and building branded apps for Apple TV, Roku, Smart TVs and beyond. So those like kidfluencers Ruby and Bonnie now have their “shows” distributed on the app version of TV networks.
But at their core, influencers are content creators. They aren’t famous for being famous. They reach a lot of people because they created something of value over time to attract an audience, even if it might just be living an extravagant lifestyle and telling the world how awesome they are. That gives them a degree of credibility over celebrities, in my opinion. They know and understand how to create content that engages and excites their audience. Most celebrities just hold your product and read a script.
Brands should care about the difference in celebrities and influencers because the decision to use one over the other can make or break the believability of your marketing. Using a celebrity means everyone will know you just paid for the privilege. Paying an online content creator at least offers the possibility this very credible person may be genuinely excited about your brand.
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