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5 (now six) Characteristics of Top Influencers [updated 2023]

Social Media Influencer

You know that feeling you get when you pick up the phone to call your cable or phone company?

You’d almost prefer to go to the dentist I bet!

It’s easy to get frustrated with those automated systems, especially the “voice recognition” ones that I find myself pressing lots of random numbers in the fruitless hope that I will inadvertently shut down the entire thing.

Alas, none of that works, but we’ve all tried anyway, haven’t we? If we could just reach through that phone line to a competent individual, we’d be much more likely to behave when we do find a person.

But what if we had the kind of influence necessary to change the situation?

The problem is that we are rarely in control when it comes to marketing messages hitting us from every angle.

We have no voice.

We are not being heard and no one is listening, except maybe some Google algorithm deciding what we want for us.

Historically, companies have rarely actually listened to their customers. Even in this age of data-driven marketing, it is still uncommon.

Sure, there are companies that like Pepsi that did the consumer taste testing thing, but that was then.


This lack of really listening, really paying attention, was one of the main drivers behind the #occupywallst movement several years ago and the driver of so much anger online lately.

Companies have always broadcast their message to us through the TV, radio, mail, magazines, and ads.

Basically, anywhere they could stick them, including our children’s clothes, our video games, movies, and even our phones.

Now they are broadcasting to us through social media and on our mobile devices without really understanding much beyond what their data tells them.  They just want what drives the most sales.

For instance, Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and Amazon have all launched a video-based live shopping experience very similar to what QVC has done.  It works at driving sales, which is why name brands use these tools, but it misses out on engaging with people.

Few Brands Understand Social Engagement

The real power in social media is that it gives everyone a voice, even if that voice is sometimes (or more than sometimes) wrong.

There is no single person behind social media.

It is group chaos at best.

But one voice can influence and sometimes redirect the whole conversation.

It’s kind of like a flock of birds.

One bird decides to change direction, and rapidly one or two follow, but then the entire flock may go along, all within a few milliseconds of each other.

The question on every corporate marketer and government leader’s mind today is, how do you control this flock that loves you one moment and is ready to tear down or cancel everything the next?

There is no answer to that question as long as people have free will, but we can strive to be influencers of the flock.

How Can Your Brand Improve Social Engagement?

To understand social media engagement, a brand can take the following steps:

  1. Define engagement goals: Start by identifying the specific engagement goals for your brand, such as increasing likes, comments, shares, or driving traffic to your website. This will help you focus your efforts on the most relevant engagement metrics.
  2. Track relevant metrics: Monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) related to engagement, such as likes, comments, shares, retweets, mentions, and click-through rates. These metrics provide insights into how well your content resonates with your audience and how effectively you are engaging them.
  3. Analyze audience demographics: Gain a deeper understanding of your audience by analyzing their demographics, including age, gender, location, interests, and preferences. This will help you tailor your content and messaging to better connect with your target audience.
  4. Evaluate content performance: Regularly review the performance of your social media content to identify what types of posts are generating the most engagement. Take note of trends and patterns, such as the optimal posting times, content formats, and topics that resonate most with your audience.
  5. Use social listening tools: Utilize social listening tools to monitor mentions of your brand, products, or services across social media platforms. This will help you gauge sentiment and understand how your audience perceives and interacts with your brand.
  6. Benchmark against competitors: Compare your engagement metrics with those of your competitors to identify areas where you may be underperforming or excelling. This will help you adjust your strategy accordingly and stay competitive in your niche.
  7. Engage with your audience: Respond to comments, answer questions, and engage in conversations with your followers to build relationships and show that you value their input. This will help foster a sense of community and encourage further engagement.
  8. Test and optimize: Continuously test different content types, posting times, and promotional strategies to identify what works best for driving engagement. Use the insights gathered from these tests to optimize your social media strategy and improve engagement over time.
  9. Measure ROI: Assess the return on investment (ROI) of your social media efforts by comparing the cost of your campaigns to the engagement and conversions they generate. This will help you determine the effectiveness of your strategy and make data-driven decisions for future campaigns.
  10. Stay updated on trends: Keep an eye on emerging trends and platform updates to stay relevant and adapt your strategy accordingly. This will help you maintain or improve engagement levels as social media platforms and user preferences evolve.

So what is a social influencer for good?


  1. They Are Trustworthy.  They are a trusted source of information, a real person, with original thoughts, and aren’t just retweeting stuff other people say.
  2. They Are a Respected Thought Leader.  An influencer is typically interested in just one main topic with lots of sub-topics from that main idea. They have a loyal following of readers and people they engage with.  They actually interact and react to the interests of their audience, even though they may not agree with them.
  3. Their Words Have Impact.  They can often impact other influencers and buyers in a given space because of their knowledge and passion for the topic.
  4. They Are Engaging. They regularly interact and engage with their followers.  Engaging in real-time is extremely important these days.
  5. They Go To Their Audience.  They use the same tools (usually Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Discord, Instagram) as the crowd.  It may not always be the sites you are used to though.  It may be private communities with tools like Slack.
  6. They Have a Growing Audience.  An influencer is constantly trying to grow reach.  There are tools like MobileMonkey for Instagram and really helpful tips on audience growth that you can use to reach more people.  Some influencers experience fast growth, others are slower, but their reach is constantly growing.

What characteristics should you look for in a social media influencer?

A good social media influencer possesses a combination of qualities that make them effective in promoting brands, products, or services. Here are some key characteristics to look for in a successful influencer:

  1. Authenticity: A genuine influencer shares their true opinions and experiences, rather than promoting products solely for monetary gain. They have built trust with their audience by being honest and transparent.
  2. Relatability: Good influencers connect with their audience on a personal level, sharing their lives and experiences in a way that makes them feel approachable and relatable. This connection fosters a sense of trust and loyalty among followers.
  3. Engaging content: Successful influencers create high-quality, engaging content that captures the attention of their audience. This can include visually appealing images, informative or entertaining videos, and well-crafted written content.
  4. Consistency: Regularly posting and interacting with followers is key for maintaining an engaged audience. Good influencers have a consistent posting schedule and make an effort to respond to comments and messages from their followers.
  5. Niche expertise: Influencers with a specific area of expertise or interest are often more effective in promoting products within their niche, as their audience is already interested in that topic. This targeted approach can lead to higher engagement and conversion rates.
  6. High engagement rate: A good influencer has an active and engaged audience, which is demonstrated by a high engagement rate (likes, comments, shares) on their content. This indicates that the influencer has a strong relationship with their followers and can effectively influence their purchasing decisions.
  7. Large and growing follower base: While the number of followers is not the only indicator of a successful influencer, a sizable and steadily growing audience indicates that the influencer is gaining traction and that their content resonates with people.
  8. Professionalism: Good influencers maintain a professional image and are easy to work with. They understand the importance of meeting deadlines, adhering to contracts, and maintaining open communication with brands and partners.
  9. Adaptability: Successful influencers are able to adapt their content and approach to suit different platforms, trends, and audience preferences. They are also open to feedback and willing to make changes to improve their performance.
  10. Strong personal brand: A good influencer has a well-defined personal brand that sets them apart from others in their niche. This unique identity helps them stand out and attract a loyal following.

Are you an influencer in your space?

Actually, we are all an influencer, it just depends on how far your influence goes.

If you want to influence this generation or the next, if you want the flock to follow your lead, it is something earned with a lot of hard work.

There are rarely any shortcuts.

For business leaders, it means being honest and actually engaging with your teams and with your customers for the first time.

For you parents out there wanting to impact your digitally inclined kids, it means being a courageous (more than just a best buddy) role model your kids can look up to and emulate.

For bloggers, it means having a voice that doesn’t simply repeat what others are saying but challenges the status quo.

Bring evidence that you know what you are talking about.

Bring knowledge that only you have and share it.

Don’t worry, no one is going to steal your idea, but they may begin influencing their friends.

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John Paul Mains

John Paul Mains is the Chief Marketing Scientist at Click Laboratory. He loves all things digital, but especially SEO and analytics. If you're interested in learning more, his LinkedIn profile is

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