With the social media influencer market set to be worth more than $10 billion by 2020, we’re starting to see the influencer marketplace take a recognizable shape. That shape can be split into four categories; mega-influencers, macro-influencers, micro-influencers and nano-influencers — and while it seems that the distinction between these four categories is merely the size of their following, the differences are really far more nuanced. And if you’re looking to dive into the lucrative world of influencer marketing, knowing a mega-influencer from a nano-influencer is absolutely essential.

We asked leading industry experts and practitioners to help CMSWire define the influencer types and identify the best use case for each one.

What is a Mega-Influencer?

Mega-influencers are the highest ranking category of social media influencer, they typically have more than a million followers. Gil Eyal, CEO and founder of HYPR Brands, said mega-influencers “are often more famous than influential. They often have a very diverse audience with different topics of interest. Their relationships with the individual members of their followership tend to be more distant. They aren’t necessarily subject matter experts but they definitely provide a lot of reach in one hit.” Eyal said.

If you’re looking for an example of a mega influencer, think Will Smith and other A-list or B-list celebrities.

Related Article: 8 Tips to Better Influencer Marketing Programs

Should Your Brand Leverage a Mega-Influencer?

In having a substantially large following, mega-influencers provide brands with a notably greater reach, but at a very high cost. At this time of writing, celebrity entrepreneur Kylie Jenner charges $1 million per sponsored social media post. “The pro for [mega-influencers] is that they give you the greatest amount of exposure and are usually accustomed to working with brands and companies on influencer outreach campaigns. However, they're usually more expensive than other types of influencers,” explained John Huntinghouse, director of digital marketing at Epic Marketing.  

Huntinghouse also noted that mega influencers do not have “real converting influencer power” due to their following being so diverse demographically and psychographically. He mentioned that mega-influencers are more suitable for top of the funnel marketing campaigns that promote products that appeal to the masses.

What is a Macro-Influencer?

Macro-influencers are a notch down from mega-influencers. One way to identify a macro-influencer is by their follower count, which should fall somewhere between 100,000 and one million followers. “Your average macro-influencer lies somewhere between micro and mega. There’s no exact science differentiating these categories,” Deepak Shukla, founder of PearlLemon explained.

“Unlike most mega-influencers, macro-influencers usually gained fame through the internet itself, whether that was through vlogging, or by producing funny or inspiring content,” he continued.  

Should Your Brand Leverage a Macro-Influencer?

If you’re looking to target a certain type of customer, but still want to reach the masses, then a macro-influencer might be more useful than a mega-influencer. “If you want to reach a broad demographic — like young females — a macro-influencer is probably the way to go,” Shukla said.  

Related Article: Why Nano-Influencers Are a Social Media Marketers Secret Weapon

What is a Micro-Influencer?

A micro-influencer is someone who has between 1,000 to 100,000 followers. Micro-influencers focus on a specific niche or area and are generally regarded as an industry expert or topic specialist. “[Micro-influencers] have stronger relationships than a typical influencer. This is often driven by their perception as an opinion leader of [a] subject matter. A micro-influencer, as opposed to a celebrity or regular influencer, often has a very uniform audience,” Gyal said.

Tech companies including Adobe and Squarespace are well known to engage in micro-influencer marketing campaigns.

Should Your Brand Leverage a Micro-Influencer?

Micro-influencers have a comparatively smaller following, and don’t often boast celebrity status. Because of that, brands can bank on their followers being interested in whatever made the micro-influencer "internet famous.”

Learning Opportunities

Shukla underscored the relevance of this point, “If a micro-influencer gained a sizeable following through travel vlogging, that’s the ideal option for a travel agency or airline,” Shukla said.  

Huntinghouse also highlighted that micro-influencers will often cost far less than macro-influencers. “[Micro-influencers] typically give you the best bang for your buck. They have a following, but typically don't charge the same rate as those who have a larger following.”

However, Simon Pilkington, digital marketing manager at Hello Social Australia, added that while micro-influencers have high levels of engagement, especially on Instagram, some micro-influencers do charge a hefty fee. “The main [disadvantage] of working with micro-influencers [is what they charge] per posts, sometimes they're extremely expensive, and there's no unification to make sure you're getting a good deal.”

What is a Nano-Influencer?

Nano-influencers are a relatively new breed of influencer. They tend to have a smaller number of followers in comparison to micro-influencers, less than 1,000 followers. “[A nano-influencer is] someone who has influence within their community. This would be someone who has influence in the local neighborhood or community. Some examples might be a local pastor, local community leader or local government leader,” Huntinghouse said.

The idea behind nano-influencers, as noted by Gyal, is to get “regular everyday people” to influence a brand’s product or service to their friends and family. Most of the time this can be achieved through user-generated content.

Should Your Brand Leverage a Nano-Influencer

One of the benefits of utilizing nano-influencers is that they have the highest level of engagement. Because of this, many brands have started to place a larger focus on nano-influencers. “Brands represented by nano-influencers are often deemed more authentic, given the higher likelihood that the nano-influencer has a real-life relationship with the majority of his or her followers,” shared Mike Lu, CEO of Triller.

But despite the high levels of engagement, the typical audience size of a nano-influencer doesn’t allow for a great reach. “The main [drawback] of working with nano-influencers [is] the audience size. For big and ambitious social media campaigns, you'll have to look for more connections and make more orders which is a time-consuming task,” said Pilkington.

How to Choose the Right Social Media Influencer

If you’re still looking for guidance on how to choose the best category of social media influencer, you may want to pay close attention to the words of Joe Sinkwitz, CEO at Intellifluence. “One generally needs to understand that the larger the audience, the less focused it is likely to be, and therefore the broader the offer will probably have to be. It’s no coincidence that we find Instagram celebrities selling green tea diet supplements, which have a broad appeal rather than something extremely specific. [That’s why for] general appeal products, celebrities and larger influencers are great,” Sinkwitz said.

Sinkwitz further explained that, similarly, if a brand is selling a product or service for a specific target market they should consider partnering with either micro- or nano-influencers due to their more “narrow” audience.