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Influencers and celebrities can play a big role in promoting brands, but sometimes the distinction between the two is confusing. While it’s true that celebrities can be influencers — and influencers can become celebrities — there are differences when it comes to influencers vs. celebrities that affect not only how their messaging is delivered, but how followers interpret it.  

Both influencers and celebrities enjoy significant followings on social media platforms, which makes them attractive to brands who want to reach a particular audience. Understanding what each one does and how that affects their reach can be an important part of deciding whether an influencer or a celebrity is a right fit for your brand. 

Influencer vs. celebrities: What’s the difference? 

As the name implies, an influencer is someone who can help guide or influence the buying decisions of their audience by recommending services or products on their social media channel. Most influencers became famous through the use of social media platforms, and they grow their audience by creating content that is relevant to a specific niche. 

These days, there are influencers for just about every vertical imaginable; they can specialize in areas such as health, food, business, fashion, music, and lifestyle. Because they specialize in a certain niche, their followers trust their recommendations and look to them to discover new products, trends, and services. 

Celebrities also have the attention of their followers, although their path to prominence is quite different from social media influencers. Celebrities can be actors, musicians, athletes, writers, or people in some other high-profile career who found fame by excelling in their particular field. In most cases, they first became famous through formats like television, radio, movies, etc., and they are followed on social media because their fans enjoy their work or are interested in their lives outside of the spotlight.

One difference between celebrities and influencers is the way they interact with their followers. Because influencers are usually “regular people” who have built a following, they tend to be considered more relatable. They know what their followers want and expect, and they’re happy to provide them with that experience. 

Celebrities, however, have a different appeal to their audience, and much of the attraction to celebrities is that they showcase a life most people can only enjoy vicariously. While fans enjoy getting an “insider’s view” of their life, they can also seem distant or aloof; their image and messaging tend to be carefully tooled to create their public persona. And, overall, their endorsement of products is viewed much differently than endorsements by influencers.      

When a celebrity endorses a product, followers know that while the celebrity is the face of the brand, the message behind it comes from the brand itself. It’s driven by a marketing team and carefully scripted content creates the messaging the brand wants to deliver. 

Influencer marketing takes a completely different approach; the influencer and brand decide whether the product or service is a good fit for his or her following, and the influencer then creates the content. They own the process of writing, creating and editing the video or post, and distributing the content. Because they know what their followers want, they’re careful to present it in a way that is consistent and authentic with their individual voice and style.  

Benefits of using an influencer

While celebrities offer big-name appeal and a large audience, they might not always be the best choice for a brand. Even though they might have millions of followers, those followers represent a variety of ages, geographic locations, incomes, and other demographic factors that can drive brands’ marketing decisions. So, while they’re effective at reaching a large number of people, it’s more difficult to ensure that they are reaching a specific demographic a brand wants to reach.  

Although influencers may not have the massive reach of celebrities, they bring something else to the table that’s crucial for brands: the loyalty and trust of their followers. When looking to reach a specific niche, influencers have the advantage. Brands that work with an influencer have a fairly transparent view of who their followers are and what their reach is. That means brands can find influencers who are the right fit for their product and are already engaging with their target audience. 

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