What is an influencer? Making an impact in food and other industries


By now you’ve probably heard the term “influencer,” but what exactly does that mean?

An influencer is someone with a high level of expertise in or insight into a specific industry who can use his or her social media following to impact various businesses, organizations, or products. Influencers usually have a significant credibility in their field, and the work they do to shape a brand’s perception is often done with financial compensation.

The concept of “influencers” — which spans a variety of industries, from food and fashion to beauty and technology — emerged from somewhere we’re probably all familiar with: the blogger. A blogger had long been someone who writes, almost like a public journal, and gains followers when they share expertise in their blog. Bloggers have since evolved to include different levels of multimedia, from podcasts to YouTube to Instagram photos and more.

Bloggers used to make money via banner ads on a website or by using affiliate marketing links (just to name a couple examples), but now there are many more ways to generate income when transitioning from blogging to influencing. They partner with brands, they do guest appearances, they may be asked to speak at conferences or do consulting work.

The best way to think of what an influencer does is as an extension of advertising — and there are many benefits to working with them. In decades past, the most popular ways to advertise were through print media such as billboards, yellow page ads, and newspapers. Now that social media is the No. 1 way people get their information, along with the proliferation of online-centric news outlets, advertising has done a major shift to digital.

When an influencer partners with a brand, you’re going to get information about that product or service direct from the influencer to their followers in his or her own presentation style. Some influencers use humor, some use storytelling, some show excitement, beauty, video, photos, links, and more. In most cases, influencers are partnering with brands they already love and want to talk about with their followers, so while payment is involved to market these products and companies, the excitement an influencer shows is usually quite genuine.

Sometimes brands even give the influencer a special promo code so they can track sales directly from that influencer. Here is one example:

As an influencer myself, this is a product I use and am eager to share with my fans. They get a discount code, they learn about it through me, and hear a personal story. Isn’t this better than a random ad in a newspaper? Most would say yes; they know and trust me, they like the story, they could see how it could help on their farms too, and it’s not in an overly “sales-y” way. It’s more organic.

If you are thinking of being an influencer, you may be asking yourself how you make money. What do you charge? Well, I highly recommend — it’s like the “Kelly Blue Book” of influencers. You connect all your social channels, it calculates your engagement rate, number of followers and demographics, etc., and it tells you what you’re worth per post.

So, let’s say you do that, and it says you’re worth $600 per post. Some brands prefer to do one post at a time, but there’s also value in longer-term partnerships. We all want to be happy, right? Ultimately, influencers care greatly about their reputations and want the client to sign up for collaborations that last months or years. So, maybe you offer two posts for $1,000 a month. It keeps the numbers even, it gives the client a better deal. This is one example. Celebrities may cost hundreds of thousands or even a $1 million+ per post; small startup influencers with barely any followers will be much lower cost. You get what you pay for with reach and influence.

After the month is over, you can then offer screenshots of the insights on your page, which lets the client know exactly how many people your posts reached. This tends to be a way better value compared to billboards, when you don’t really know how many people you reached, how many visited your website, how many clicked, and what sales were from said billboard.

If you do digital advertising, you get digital results. Those screenshots show who saw the post, who clicked, and how many people commented and shared. If they use the affiliate link, that influencer might make a commission, and the brand can track exact results.

Maybe, for that $1,000 a month, the influencer reached 45,000 people, as an example. Those posts will be on the internet forever, especially if someone searches a specific brand hashtag. Those posts will always be on the influencer’s Instagram page, so there really is great value for long-term sales, brand awareness, etc.

Social media and other online channels for growing your business is really where it’s at and the way brands are evolving, there is a wealth of opportunity for partnerships, online sales, and brand recognition through creative content. Hopefully this offers some more insight as to how the process works. Any more questions about it, feel free to ask!


Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker, and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm, which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.

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