Why You Need to Ditch Celebrities for Authentic Influencers

Influencer Marketing
Modern Marketing
Social Media Marketing


Standing before a number of brands at a recent tradeshow, I asked this one question: If I gave you a choice between access to social celebs—like Kim Kardashian and LeBron James—or an assortment of people on social media with 10k–250k followers, who would you take? Without fail, the audience emphatically went with the celebrities. Their response was predictable. However, I beg to challenge this ideology that having more followers is always better, especially in the context of influencer marketing.

Historically, the average person was not privy to the opportunity to connect with throngs of people and as a result, celebrities like Kim K., LeBron and Beyoncé were the most effective way to maximize exposure and engagement. But, that is not the case today. Social media has transferred the previously inaccessible power of influence to the average person. Now that anyone can be heard and seen throughout the globe, everyone has the ability to be influential.

Introducing “Power-Middle” Influencers

Most online influencers are not powerhouses like Lebron or Beyoncé, but that doesn’t diminish the average person’s ability to have influence. Meet the “power-middle.”

Influencers in the power-middle are commonly defined as people with an audience of 10k–250k followers. Power-middle influencers may not have the massive reaches or impressions of a celebrity, but they have a more intimate, authentic community.

Followers of a power-middle influencer see them as a trusted friend who is relatable and authentic on the level a celebrity can never be. Therefore, these intimate, trusted connections are the main reason why celebrities like Beyoncé are losing their power of persuasion to influencers with smaller followings. Many reports tout 16x higher engagement rates on user-generated content than paid media and at a significant lower individual cost than A-list celebrities or professional influencers.

So, why is there an extreme disconnect between celebrity influencers and the power-middle? I present to you the psychological phenomenon coined “diffusion of responsibility.” This phenomenon simply states that “a person is less likely to take responsibility for action or inaction where others are present.” When a brand leverages an A-list celebrity directed at a large audience, a call-to-action is decreasingly persuasive as the group size increases.

For instance, if a person falls in the street and needs help, an individual is less likely to offer assistance if there are a ton of other people around. This phenomenon translates to digital life as well. The diffusion of responsibility is why influencers with smaller audiences have more engagement than celebrity audiences. Power-middle influencers may reach less people, but their audience is more likely to interact with their content because they’re part of a more intimate group.

Power-middle influencers have spent time cultivating authentic relationships with their community through two-way lateral engagements instead of traditional unilateral engagements. It’s common for these powerful influencers to engage with their audiences (thanking them for commenting or direct messaging followers) on social media. But would you see Beyoncé thanking a fan for commenting on a post? I don’t think so. Power-middle influencers have turned social influence into a contact sport that involves interacting with their audience and making them feel special. This facilitates a more personal relationship with their community and therefore the foundation of their influence is engagement.

Moving forward into 2017, it is imperative for brands to locate and leverage these power-middle influencers.

Benefits of Using the Power-Middle in Influencer Marketing

Influencers in the power-middle have numerous benefits when compared to leveraging celebrities.

Cost Effective – Power-middle are significantly cheaper than celebrities, often accepting a variety of compensation packages.
Available – This group of influencers is more readily available and less likely to be used by competing brands.
Authenticity & Engagement – As stated earlier, these influencers have higher authentic engagement levels compared with high-flying influencers.
Brand Lover – Power-middle influencers are motivated by different factors when compared to A-list celebrities.

  • See your brand as benefiting their personal brand
  • Gain unique experiences and exposure through a working relationship with your brand that they wouldn’t gain elsewhere
  • They love and appreciate access to product and inside access to product information

Reach your brand’s influencer marketing objectives by carrying your brand’s key messages with authentic voices from different perspectives. Influencers in the power-middle can be marketing gold if used correctly. Follow these 9 tips for creating a winning influencer marketing program for leveraging this group influencers.