Marketing, Public Relations, Strategy
October 3, 2019
What’s the difference between an influencer and a thought leader?
What’s the difference between an influencer and a thought leader?

Influencer Marketing and Thought Leadership are really buzzy terms that are thrown around a lot these days. Of course, as consumer behaviour shifts, new marketing strategies will start trending. The question is… Are you using these new strategies in the best way possible? And when it comes to influencers and thought leaders, what’s the difference?

There is a significant difference between influencers and thought leaders and the marketing strategy for each differs as well.

What’s an influencer?

We’ve talked a lot about influencers and the shift in the media landscape. You could argue that the media landscape has shifted in the digital world to include anyone that is an influencer. If that’s the case, let’s look at defining what an influencer is. Influencers are content creators, they aim to tell brand stories and amplify messages to their community of followers (their audience) through product and service reviews and general brand shout outs. For digital influencers, their worth is often tied to the size of their following, but brands need to realize that engagement is a better indicator of how much you should be paying to work with an influencer.

As their title suggests, the thought is that influencers will have an effect on buyers’ decision-making process. The reality is that product reviews are always going to be an effective method to help you reach new customers. Influencers, if they are building their own strategy in the right way are doing the work to become relatable and a little bit aspirational so their followers will trust their reviews and your brand will be top of mind.

How do I use Influencers in my marketing?

Even though influencer marketing is focused primarily on social media, it started long before social media was even a twinkle in the tech giants’ eyes. It just used to be focused more on celebrities promoting products they believed in (and we paid to advertise). 15 years ago, it wasn’t unheard of to just send out your product for a celebrity to try – and the would try it. Now, because of the social media noise and the influx of brands looking to connect with influencers, you need to jump through more hoops to actually get your product in the hands of celebrity influencers. Sometimes, it is easier – and more effective – to work with influencers with smaller, but more engaged followings.

For your own influencer marketing strategy, it helps to build a relationship with an influencer before you reach out for them to try your product. Interact with their content, get to know their style of communication, and make sure that it is a great brand fit for them as well. Once you know it is a good fit, reach out to see if they are interested in creating a partnership where they will help you get your brand message out to their audience.

What’s a thought leader?

While an influencer focuses on honest (hopefully) reviews and telling others’ brand stories, a thought leader is someone who focuses on becoming the go-to expert in their field. Their strategy is based on expertise, knowledge, and credibility rather than just pure numbers (followers and engagement). The content a thought leader shares is based on fact and expert opinion as much as it is industry commentary. They look to add genuine value to their industry.

How do I use Thought Leadership in my marketing?

Thought leaders aren’t necessarily someone you connect with for a brand partnership when it comes to your marketing, they are someone you work to become. If you are a brand that offers expertise in a specific area, then you could aim to become a thought leader on the subject – the go-to expert in your field. To build this into your marketing strategy, you would want to make sure you are blogging regularly, active within online and offline forums discussing the topic, engaged in meaningful dialogue on social media, and readily available to interact with potential customers needing your expertise.

There is no silver bullet that will get you to thought leader quickly, but over time, as people see you more often, they will come to see you as a thought leader.

The trending tactics of the month or year don’t need to be gimmicky – they need to be well-thought out and deliberate. Influencer marketing and thought leadership are great elements to add to your strategy if you use them in the right way.

Need help with building a great influencer marketing strategy? Want to become the go-to expert thought leader in your industry? Email us at to find out how we can help you!

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