Influencer isn’t always the best word to use to talk about popular social media users. What are the best influencer synonyms and when should I use them?
For anyone on social media these days, it feels like influencers are everywhere. And with good reason. The influencer marketing industry has been growing steadily over the last few years and is now worth billions in market value.
But this rapid growth—and the increase in selfie-taking wannabes across social media—has led to a somewhat negative connotation of the word influencer.
So let’s look at this word, what it means, and what influencer synonyms are out there.
What exactly is an influencer?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an influencer as:
- one who exerts influence, a person who inspires or guides the actions of others.
- a person who is able to generate interest in something (such as a consumer product) by posting about it on social media.
The first definition is more traditional. The word was first used in 1662, way before we had any notion that social media would even exist. At that time, influencers were religious leaders, politicians, or wealthy aristocrats. Think King Louis XIV of France, who influenced fashion trends around Europe.
The second definition is what we today know as influencers: people who have significant social media followings that they can influence with the content they post.
The influencer industry was born when brands realized they could capitalize on this, and started paying influencers to promote their products. To take an extreme example of this, Kim Kardashian once reported that she makes more money off of Instagram than she does from Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
So why is this sometimes considered a bad thing? Well, the Kardashians are a good example to illustrate how many people feel about influencers today. Public opinion has shifted and the word influencer now sometimes conjures the idea of someone who has gotten rich and famous without really doing anything.
Which is the case for lots of people on social media, like the dime-a-dozen Instagram models. But it’s not the case for everyone.
What’s the best influencer synonym used today?
There are lots of hardworking people in the social media industry. We may have once called them influencers, but in order to distinguish them from the type of profile mentioned above, we’ve started calling them something else.
Content creator is a newer, less-tarnished influencer synonym. It doesn’t yet appear in most dictionaries, but you can infer what it means.
A content creator is someone who creates content, with the implication that this content is created specifically for social media.
For example, I write blog posts here at Heepsy, but I wouldn’t exactly be a content creator. A content writer or a content marketer, sure. But content creator conjures the image of someone who creates images, videos, and posts for social media, usually about a specific topic.
Chloe Xandria is a good example of a content creator. She’s known among her 106K followers for her body-positivity fashion content.
Creator on its own is another influencer synonym and means the same as content creator. This word can be a bit ambiguous out of context, but in the social media sphere, it’s frequently used. It’s quicker, easier, and less encumbering than having to always say content creator.
This is how Instagram itself refers to the people we used to call influencers. Their @creators account is dedicated to supporting creators and the work they do on Instagram.
What are some other synonyms used in the industry?
There are a few other influencer synonyms used in the social media industry.
A brand ambassador is an influencer who has a long-standing relationship with a specific brand.
These people post repeatedly about products from a specific brand, and usually offer discount codes their followers can use when shopping at that brand.
Brands recruit influencers for ambassadorships because long-term collaborations generally yield better results than one-off campaigns. Regular branded posts build consistency among the ambassador’s audience, leading to greater familiarity with and trust in the brand.
Fabletics is a brand known for working with a full roster of ambassadors.
Personality is a way to denote that a social media influencer is also famous for some other talent. We could call athletes, singers, actors, and writers personalities.
These people generally aren’t content creators. While they post on social media, they often just share photos from their lives or news about their careers, instead of producing content specifically intended to inform and entertain on social media.
Beyoncé is known around the globe, but more so for her singing and acting career than her social media content.
Key opinion leader
A key opinion leader, or a KOL, is kind of like an influencer on steroids. These are people who have risen to the top of their respective fields. They don’t just influence individual decisions, they lead the opinions of the masses.
Oprah, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Anna Wintour, Gordon Ramsey, Serena Williams, Kate Middleton, and Megan Markle. These are just a few examples of KOLs. Their influence exists beyond the context of social media and what they do, say, or wear can cause massive ripples across society.
What are channel-specific influencer synonyms?
There are also influencer synonyms for specific social media channels. Here’s a quick list below of some of the most common ones:
- People who regularly post on Instagram could be Instagrammers.
- Those who create videos for YouTube are YouTubers.
- TikTok content creators are also known as TikTokers.
- People who live stream on Twitch are streamers or Twitchers.
- Writers who maintain blogs are called bloggers.
You can also of course combine the network name with the words we’ve looked at above. For example, Instagram content creators or TikTok creators.
What does the dictionary say?
Finally, to round this off, let’s look at other influencer synonyms we can find in the dictionary.
Some of these could be fitting to talk about social media influencers (trend tastemakers, consultants on a topic, experts in a field, mentors to a community).
But some feel a bit old-fashioned and not so relevant. I haven’t heard anyone use bellwether or doyen in a while. In case you were curious, bellwether is defined as a person or thing that assumes the leadership or forefront, as of a profession or industry, and doyen as the senior member, as in age, rank, or experience, of a group, class, profession, etc.
To wrap up, keep these influencer synonyms in mind when you’re interacting with people. If you’re a brand looking to land a collaboration with an influential social media user, you might want to address them as a creator to show that you see the work that goes into their content.
Or you could always call them a bellwether. Up to you!