The world was a very different place a decade ago. People actually liked the X Factor, men had forgotten how to cut their hair… and social media influencers didn’t exist.
Given their relative novelty, many of us don’t know of the differences between these influencers and their celebrity counterparts. So, how can the two be distinguished and compared?
On a basic level, we can do this by looking at the way they gain their influence and fame. Influencers build theirs through modern media channels; be it social media, online videos, or blogs. Celebrities, however, become prominent through traditional forms of media, like television, radio, newspapers or magazines.
But this is how a dictionary might distinguish the two. When it comes to comparing the two as a form of marketing, it’s barely scratching the surface. Let’s look a little deeper…
To begin with, influencers’ routes to prominence tend to be more gradual and organic than those of celebrities. Influencers work hard to build up a following through the creation of high-quality content. Over time this quality gets noticed – but it will rarely happen overnight.
Celebrities, on the other hand, tend to burst onto the scene in an instant through, say, a TV series or song. They can also be suddenly thrust upon the public through the media, often through stories published in newspapers or magazines. Paris Hilton’s rise to fame is the most famous example of this.
Such instances give rise to another question: did the public choose to know of these celebrities? Often, the answer is no. But for influencers, the situation is different. The public specifically chooses to follow them because they enjoy their content, furthering the notion that their acquired fame is ‘organic’.
But the public doesn’t just follow influencers because they ‘like’ them. They can also relate to them. Influencers come across as regular people, like their audience. They are out in the real world, doing real things – something that can set a brand apart when marketed. Many of us see them as extensions of our friends or families. In fact, 70% of teenage Youtube subscribers say they relate to Youtube creators more than traditional celebrities. Why is this?
Well, celebrities tend to be placed on a distant pedestal. The public knows that much of what they do is not real – Daniel Radcliffe is not a wizard, Cheryl Cole’s songs are autotuned. And when celebrities are marketed, the public can see through it – they know that Kevin Bacon has no real relation to EE, for example. He’s just a famous person doing an ad. So as personas they feel more out of reach, the nitty gritty of their lives not documented like that of influencers.
One of the reasons why influencers feel relatable is that they provide high quality interaction with their followers. On most platforms, users can share and comment on the influencers’ content. And unlike celebrities’ content, influencers often respond to their followers, keeping the conversation going.
Theoretically, the followers are on the same level as the influencer. They too have an account, and by posting high quality content, could one day be as popular as the influencer. It is through such activity that many influencers become famous in the first place – they are not just human billboards.
With celebrities, communication tends to be more one-way. They make media that we passively watch, while their ads and endorsements are posted and then left alone. There are fewer responses to their marketing in the first place, and those responses are unlikely to be answered.
Trust and authenticity
All of the above naturally has an impact on trust. The bond influencers have with their communities is built on such trust and authenticity, and this positively impacts their ability to market products and services.
They tend to be authentic people in the first place, and their capacity to create high quality content only furthers this image, particularly when it comes to marketing another brand. To win an audience’s trust, the marketed brand needs to be weaved into other high-quality content and given an authentic story. This is something influencers excel at – after all, it’s how they became famous. They can promote a product or service in their own voice, with an angle that will interest their audience, in a way that doesn’t deviate from their usual posts.
Celebrities, however, are rarely able to do such things. They can be the face of a brand but will not be able to tell a realistic story as to how that brand has helped them. This, coupled with the fact that consumers are more aware that celebrities can be bought for brand endorsements, means that trust in the advert is harmed.
It is unsurprising that 92% of consumers trust micro-influencers more than ads or traditional celebrity endorsements. Consumers have always turned to friends and family for opinions they trust. Influencers can act as an extension of these in a way that celebrities cannot.
Influencers, particularly long-tail influencers, tend to gain their following in a specific niche. Their followers will naturally also fit into this niche. Take Youtuber ChrisMD, for instance, who became famous for videos about Sunday league football. As such, his audience will be almost entirely young males, all of whom will have an interest in football. Companies can use these niches to easily market to their target demographic, and see incredibly high engagement rates as a result.
Meanwhile celebrity marketing is more about broad popularity. Their reach is greater, but their influence is lower. Clare Gore, head of affiliates at Vouchercloud, said “an audience of 2,000 where 50% are directly interested is far better than an audience of 2 million where 0.005% are interested. It’s targeted, it’s cost-effective and it’s efficient.”
In a purely practical manner, there are big differences in how influencers and celebrities can be obtained for marketing too.
Firstly, influencers have more control over their schedules. Their work is generally completed independently, by themselves, for themselves. This equals higher flexibility. Celebrities, however, are often signed up to big projects, and could become involved in a TV series or studio album at any time. Of course, this would send their confirmed marketing plans with a company into instant disarray.
But this is not the only potential risk. Other pitfalls include the higher potential for a brand and celebrity mismatch, and the possibility of celebrity scandals (they face greater press scrutiny than influencers).
A further logistical difference is the greater ease of campaign tracking and optimisation that can be employed through use of influencers. But with celebrity endorsements, such tests and coverage can’t be easily carried out, and so determining whether an advertising message has been successful does not become apparent until the campaign has finished.
And this brings us to the most brutal logistic of them all – costs.
Simply put, influencers don’t charge as much. By looking at two of the most popular influencers and celebrities respectively, we can gauge the rough differences in cost. The Webfluential Influence Estimator estimates that top celebrities like Selena Gomez may charge between £30,000 and £40,000 for a single tweet about a brand. This is while a top influencer like NikkieTutorials will charge around £2,000 to £3,000 per tweet. The difference is quite staggering.
The price of the celebrity aside, additional fees for lawyers, agents, managers and others surrounding the celebrity can inflate these figures further. Unsurprising, then, that for many brands, celebrity endorsements are simply not an affordable option.
So there you have it, the big differences between influencers and celebrities. But the main one is that when marketed, influencers prove more effective than their more traditional cousins.
When looking to take advantage of this in the hospitality industry, Swayy’s tool is a must. It is the industry’s leading influencer booking, campaign, and relationship management tool. Its closed-loop process puts you in full control and provides an easy route for both companies and reliable influencers to meet and come to mutually beneficial agreements.
Swayy also offers downloadable reports to assist you with measuring ROI, while the influencers themselves are pre-vetted for quality control. The tool is cost-effective, and saves time and effort.
Influencers are their own type of people, with very different traits and values to traditional celebrities. Their ability to market themselves and other brands is unmatched, and their use of visual media like Instagram makes them ideal for marketing in the hospitality industry.