Influencers vs Celebrities - Who Comes Out on Top?

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By Donna Amey, Social Influence Director, FinchFactor

There are now very few brands that aren’t working with influencers in some capacity. In fact, according to recent research just 18% aren’t. And they’re not just being used for their reach. We’re seeing them featured on billboards, TV and print. So what does that mean for our more traditional celebrities?

Even the definition is slightly unclear here, as many actors, musicians, and sportspeople have very high online reach – but the easiest way to set them apart is really about how they built their following. If they create content specifically for online and social channels, then they are an influencer. If they’ve got a large following as a result of their offline career, then they’re in the celebrity camp.

One of the wonderful things about the internet in general is that it’s allowed for so many wonderful subcultures to grow. Now, rather than looking for a brand ambassador to speak about a skin cream, you’d be able to find an online expert in dermatology to speak about it with authority – rather than using an actor who vaguely fits into your brand guidelines. The threat to the celebrity endorsement is really the fact that these experts are now far more trusted than they ever were. It’s no longer a case of them just going through their shopping bags and narrating every single thing they’ve bought. Their followings are too big to not take endorsements seriously.

In most cases, genuine experts really do equal higher engagement in both sponsored and non-sponsored ads. It’s because followers really are looking for this content rather than trying to find out gossip about your favourite celebrity and being bombarded by ads.

Although celebrities are often sold in as influencers if their following is large enough, a common deterrent is the kind of content that they share. If you’re holding an event and want the photo opportunities to be shared on Instagram, the photos provided by a professional Instagrammer who’s built up their following because of their love of photography, and through experimenting with the platform, are going to be able to provide you not only reach, but excellent content for your own channels. A celebrity will of course be able to provide you with some excellent reach, however most likely a blurry selfie on your own feed somehow doesn’t look that impressive no matter who features in it.

However, it’s definitely not the end of the celebrity endorsement. Alec Baldwin for BT recently, and Jeff Goldblum’s Christmas adverts for Curry’s are great examples of how well a popular face and real talent can do. The scripting of both of these relied on their reputations and their performance skills, rather than their specific knowledge of the product or services being sold.

In general, celebrity endorsements are still a lot more expensive – another clear reason for brands to be experimenting with more niche ambassadors. The gap, however, is definitely closing, and for online endorsements especially it looks like Internet influencers will continue to be the obvious choice. 

So in the battle of the influencers vs celebrities, celebrities will need to improve their content and price themselves competitively in order to stay in the running for those lucrative branded endorsements. As for influencers: they should probably learn how to act. 


Alec Baldwin for BT Mobile