The Rise of Influencer Communities

Becky Doles

The Rise of Influencer Communities
Photo by devn on Unsplash

Every year, it seems like a new kind of influencer is having a moment. Celebrities, bloggers, micro-influencers, Twitch streamers, TikTok stars; they’ve all had their time in the spotlight. Is this year any different? With the fallout from COVID-19 forcing the global economy into greater uncertainty, digital communities have an important role to play as individuals look for answers, inspiration, and support.  

Trying to navigate the economic impact of the last two years will be a challenge for many businesses in the months ahead. Brands that are looking for the right mix of insight and empathy to reach consumers in these uncertain times may want to explore partnering with influencer communities. Here’s how to get started, from the basics of who influencers are to the best ways to meet and work with them.      

What is an influencer community? 

Influencers are members of self-selected social groups who have the trust and respect of their peers — their communities. They come from all walks of life, and build their followings through shared passions and authentic connections. They are not celebrities — at least, not in the traditional sense. Often, they’re not even professional marketers.  

Instead, these influencers are brand fans, knowledgeable product users, and role models within niche communities across social media. Most importantly, influencers with dedicated communities are powerful advocates for the brands and products they love.  

Scott Ginsberg, vice president of client development at BrandCycle, an influencer affiliate network, explains:  

“Influencers use short-form content and strategic deals to offer benefits to their social communities. Their consumers value their recommendations, and often engage multiple times per day. Because these influencers enjoy niche followings across a wide range of verticals, they are perfect for brands looking to attract a new, diverse group of consumers.”  

– Scott Ginsberg, BrandCycle

For influencer communities, authenticity is paramount. It is the social capital that builds and maintains the bond these influencers have with their followers, and it can’t be faked. This is especially important in the era of COVID-19 and social distancing. Since 2020, more people than ever before have turned to the digital ecosystem for their everyday needs, searching for authentic connections to replace the human contact they miss. 

Brands may find these influencers to be a windfall in the current economy, but there’s a caveat — companies have to be willing to put in the work to drive organic growth, too. Above all, brands must allow these influencers to stay true to themselves and their followers.  

Where influencer communities shine 

What verticals and product categories are influencer communities good for? 

It sounds like a cop out, but almost all of them. Any direct-to-consumer brand that has an online presence and an engaged customer base should be able to find influencers with communities that fit their marketing needs.  

Take financial services company Topstep, for example. Topstep provides an online platform for training and trading in the forex and futures markets. They target a very specific audience in a very narrow field. So, Topstep turned to the futures and forex trading education community. There, the company enlisted the help of educators to introduce new traders to the Topstep platform.  

The world is full of diverse, passionate people who advocate on behalf of brands for free every day. For marketers, it’s solely a question of finding them.  

What are the platforms that these influencers use? 

Again, almost all of them. Instagram and Facebook remain the top platforms of choice for influencers, but TikTok is quickly catching up. Yet different communities use different channels. It really depends on where your customers are.  

  • Instagram 
  • Facebook 
  • TikTok 
  • Twitch 
  • YouTube 
  • Snapchat 
  • Twitter 
  • Reddit 
  • Pinterest 

What marketing goals can influencer communities help to achieve? 

Today’s consumers don’t want to be sold to; they want to be engaged with.  

Influencers excel at engagement. They build organic relationships with their followers by replying to comments, participating in discussions, and sharing user-generated-content — interactions outside of the sales funnel. When the conversation turns to a brand or a product, consumers feel less like they’re being sold to, and more like they’re getting a recommendation from a friend. 

  • Sales 
  • Lead generation 
  • Cross-sells 

Working with Influencer Communities

It can be easy to forget that behind all the images and posts, influencers are just regular people. Influencer marketing is often a part-time job or a side gig for them; they may be juggling multiple jobs and projects at any given time. Understanding their struggles and motivations, especially in these unprecedented times, will help you work more effectively with them.  

Some of the most common hurdles for influencers:  

  1. Getting started and building scale 
  2. Finding enough time to create quality content and manage administrative tasks 
  3. Maintaining work/life balance and splitting focus between engaging with their communities and being with their families 
  4. Communicating their unique value proposition to brands, and avoiding being lumped into a generic “promotional category”  

Tips for marketers working with influencers: 

  1. Allow freedom of expression in influencer promotions and user-generated content (UGC) 
  2. Be open to creative payment models (such as free product in lieu of commission) 
  3. Consider shorter pay windows or higher commission rates to help minimize the upfront risks for new partners 
  4. Communicate often — too much communication is always preferable to too little 
  5. Use an unbiased tracking platform to track conversions when possible, and use promo codes (clickless tracking) for everything else 
  6. Scale your program by using a network, such as BrandCycle or CLOUTA 

Influencers and Partner Marketing 

Will more brands embrace influencers this year? How will the economy change how businesses and influencers engage with their audiences? Only time will tell.

When you’re ready to get started, download our Influencer-Affiliate Blueprint: Building High-ROI Creator Communities. Created in partnership with growth agency ZeroTo1, this e-book covers everything brands need to know to successfully add influencers to their affiliate program, increase revenue, and prove affiliate ROI.

Influencer-Affiliate Blueprint: Building High-ROI Creator Communities e-book

This article was originally published on in April 2020 and has been updated with new information and insights.  

Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.

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