Influencer Categories: Does Size Really Matter?

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There are a number of ways to categorize influencers, and perhaps the most common is by size of following. But the categories themselves are relatively undefined and agencies, brands, SaaS companies, and even traditional media outlets like the New York Times, use different ranges and nomenclature.

We’ve seen categories like celebrity, mega, power, macro, mid-tier, micro, and most recently, nano used to group influencers. At Julius, we like to keep it simple and somewhat scientific, and tend to favor this breakdown where each category is an order of magnitude higher than the one before:

Nano influencers - 0-9,999 followers

Micro influencers - 10,000-99,999 followers

Macro influencers - 100,000-999,999 followers

Mega influencers - 1,000,000+ followers

When we surveyed 300 influencers for our State of Influencers Report earlier this year, we took the opportunity to see what categories influencers think they fit into, how this aligns with their declared follower counts, and whether our breakdown is appropriate.

We asked “What category of influencer do you consider yourself to be?” and provided “Nano,” “Micro,” “Macro,” and “Mega” as options. We also provided a text entry “Other” option. Of the 15 respondents who selected “Other,” one person wrote “Medium,” but none wrote “Celebrity,” “Power,” or “Mid-Tier.” Admittedly, the other 14 wrote comments such as “not sure,” “no clue,” and a rather candid “I have no idea, nor am I interested in trying to figure it out.”

But 95 percent of respondents did choose a category, and 275 shared their total follower counts across platforms. Interestingly, some respondents gave us approximate numbers, yet others were as specific as “731,778” followers. Below, we take a look at each of our categories, and count how many influencers fit into each of our ranges.

Nano – 50 responses

Nano influencers have the fewest followers, are virtually indistinguishable from your average social media user, and brands have only recently started using them in influencer marketing campaigns. The advantages of working with nano influencers include the more personal relationship they have with their followers, higher engagement rates compared to influencers with larger followings, and a lower cost per influencer, which allows you to work with more influencers and generate more content.

In our survey, 63 percent of respondents who self-identified as nano influencers have less than 10,000 followers, which confirms our range nicely. (Although some in the influencer marketing industry consider nano influencers to have fewer than 1,000 followers, just two respondents had under 1,000 followers across platforms.)

0-9,999 followers - 31

10,000-99,999 followers - 14

100,000-999,999 followers - 4

1,000,000+ followers - 0

(1 respondent didn’t provide follower count.)

Micro – 184 responses

Next up are the micro influencers, who at over 10,000 followers have curated more of an audience than just their friends, family, and close acquaintances. This time, 58 percent of respondents who self-identified as micro influencers fell within range, having 10,000 or more followers but fewer than 100,000.

0-9,999 followers - 52

10,000-99,999 followers - 104

100,000-999,999 - followers 23

1,000,000+ - followers 1

(4 respondents didn’t provide follower count.)

Of the 23 respondents who self-identified as micro influencers with 100,000 or more followers, we did get one "micro influencer" with a million followers and another at 675,000, but the rest had audiences of well under half a million. And of the 52 respondents with fewer than 10,000 followers, only 13 had fewer than 5,000 followers.

Macro – 44 responses

In our view, macro influencers are those who have achieved six-figure followings across platforms but haven't quite made it past a million followers. This time, just 47 percent of respondents who self-identified as macro influencers fell within range, suggesting that the macro group may start below 100,000 followers. Alternatively, the 17 respondents below that number who consider themselves macro influencers may be over-inflating their success and status on social – the five respondents with under 10,000 followers certainly are.

0-9,999 followers - 5

10,000-99,999 followers - 17

100,000-999,999 followers - 20

1,000,000+ followers - 1

(1 respondent didn’t provide follower count.)

Mega – 3 responses

And finally we come to the mega influencers, who have broken the magic number of a million followers online. Although this level of influencer launched the industry and undoubtedly offer greater reach than macro, micro, and nano influencers, marketers have moved away from mega influencers due to their elevated compensation expectations and lower engagement rates.

We actually had two respondents with such large audiences, but neither self-identified as mega influencers, perhaps humbly comparing themselves to the 100-plus million followers of actual celebrities and feeling they fall short. This time, none of the three respondents who self-identified as mega influencers fell within range, having just 43,000, 70,000 and 150,000 followers across platforms.

0-9,999 followers - 0

10,000-99,999 followers - 2

100,000-999,999 followers - 1

1,000,000+ followers - 0

While this exercise was worthwhile and largely confirmed our ranges and category names, there are more important aspects of influencers for marketers to consider than reach alone. Engagement rates, quality of output, content style, authenticity, level of expertise, and the topic or vertical served all matter more to the success of your campaign than size of following. And perhaps most important of all is brand fit – whether an influencer’s aesthetic and attitude align with your brand.

July 02, 2019
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