4 Ways Community Influence Marketing Differs From Influencer Marketing

Influencer Marketing

time to read 5 MIN READ
4 Ways Community Influence Marketing Differs From Influencer Marketing

Creator partnerships, influencer marketing, ambassador campaigns, and now community influencers - with all these categories and terms, it starts to feel like marketers are splitting hairs. Are there differences between these different terms and tactics? And if so, do they matter?

Brands seek authentic engagement and growth from members of their target audience. Influencers help them get there when those influencers match the brand's persona and genuinely love the products they promote.

But as influencer marketing grows more popular, it's becoming less clear whether or not these product endorsements from social media power users make a tangible impact. One campaign yields 20x ROI while the other barely makes a ripple with followers. And it's from all these different terms and categories that marketers try to distinguish between profitable and less profitable partnerships.

acquisition-method-700x299Image Source: Smart Insights

So yes, these terms do matter. Community influence marketing and influencer marketing share many similarities but are not the same thing. Let's take a look at key terms to understand why these differences matter for your brand.

Creator Economy Terms - What Do They Mean?

Seasoned influencer marketing managers seem to have their own lingo when it comes to their creator partnerships. That's okay, so long as their teams understand what these terms mean. 

When it comes to what's best for your brand, you need to have a basic knowledge of top creator economy terms, such as influencer marketing, creator, community influence marketing, and some of the subcategories within each.

What is Influencer Marketing?

An influencer is a social media power user who leverages their popularity to guide consumers, raise awareness, or establish trends.


Of all the terms we'll use here, influencer marketing is the broadest. Programs can include brand ambassadors with 1,200 followers, or celebrities with millions of online fans. 

Think of influencer marketing as any brand collaboration with social media or online creators who have more than 1,000 followers. These campaigns are planned (versus unsolicited mentions) and brand sponsored. Your goal is to build connections with the influencer's followers, boosting brand awareness and sales.

Are Creators and Influencers the Same Thing?

A creator is someone who leverages their artistic abilities to connect with others online. They have content creation tools, and they know how to use them.


No, creators and influencers are not the same thing. That said, many influencers are also creators (and vice versa).

To keep things simple, here are the biggest differences between an influencer and a creator:

  • Creators love to create, regardless of how many people follow them online. To become an influencer, brands expect that individual to have at least 1,000 followers on their primary social channel.
  • Creators are both amateurs and even professional content marketers (including Yours Truly as I write this blog). But to be an influencer, the creator becomes the face on their online brand.
  • Some macro and celebrity influencers actually hire creators to help them build content.

Is "Influencer" a Bad Word These Days?

It's true that inauthenticity among fake and wanna-be influencers has given the rest a bad name People also poke fun at others who do influencer-like things, such as trying to get that perfect shot or lifestyle video and often annoying the people around them. 

For this reason, some influencers prefer to be called creators (especially if they curate their own content) or brand partners. 

Still, the term "influencer" survives the occasional mockery and represents a growing, legitimate profession driving the creator economy. Many influencers embrace the term while maintaining authenticity at the highest level.

What is Community Influence Marketing?

Community Influence Marketing (CIM) equips influential voices within a brand's community to become brand community leaders.


A subset of influencer marketing is community influence marketing. This creator group doesn't just grow their online brand, they leverage their content to attract like-minded people and nurture a sense of belonging for members of their audience.

At the risk of stating the obvious, influential people within your community are also leaders of influencer communities. Not every creator or influencer has the ability to build this level of connectedness with and among their followers.

If your goal is to embrace Community Commerce, influential community members are key to attracting the perfect consumers to your brand. These people won't just buy your products, they quickly become active evangelists, and these influential community members are the perfect individuals to lead them.

You may also recognize we use the term community influence marketing, without the 'r.' The reason is that when you start with community to drive influence you actually focus on the act of influencing rather than the person or personality you engage to do so. 

Are Influential Community Members Always Micro Influencers?

While it's true that most influential community members have smaller audiences than their macro and celebrity influencer counterparts, some community-driven creators manage to drive online connectedness well despite having hundreds of thousands of followers.

micro influencers UCGImage Source: Business2Community.com

In every case, understanding the difference between regular influencers and influential community memebers comes down to the quality (instead of quantity) of follower interactions. Thousands of followers, likes, and comments don't make a community influencer - honest, thoughtful, and relevant engagements do.

By and large, influencers with smaller audiences build stronger online communities. You can see this connectedness in the creator's engagement rate, as well as in the kind of conversations that take place under the creator's post caption. 

4 Reasons Why Influencer Marketing and Community Influence Marketing are NOT the Same Thing

1. Influential Community Members Nearly Always Nurture Smaller Audiences.

Should you disregard an influencer with more than 500,000 followers and assume that they don't have a vibrant community? No, you shouldn't, because some macro influencers do a great job as community influencers (see the section above).

That said, your best community creators tend to nurture audiences of less than 100,000 followers. After verifying that their followers are real people, you'll find that these influencer communities are extremely engaged and on the edge of their seat to take action on any recommendations that influencer makes.

Julie Gaylor photography community influencers nurture smaller audiences different from influencer marketingImage Source: Instagram, @juliegayler

For non-community influencers with more than 500,000 followers, you're bound to generate some attention, but you're less likely to drive conversions for your brand. That's because larger audiences tend to feel less connected to the influencers they follow. 

2. Influential Community Members Attract Niche Interest Groups.

Social media has done wonders to help people with common hobbies, values, and goals find each other, no matter how unique (or even strange) those interest might be. Out of each niche group, a leader - or a group of leaders - emerge.

In many cases, these group leaders function as influencers within a community. They either administrate groups and discussion board channels, or they create content that brings everyone to their page.

When brands partner with influential community members, they are often most successful when they identify these niche groups as active audience segments, deliver products that meet those peoples' needs in a unique way, and employ group leaders as ambassadors.

3. Influential Community Members Encourage Discussion and Connection Between Followers.

Perhaps the most significant difference between influencers and community influencers is that influential community members successfully nurture relationships with and among their followers. In other words, followers make friends with each other as a result of following the creator.

engaged discord community engagement among fans community influencers different from regular influencersImage Source: chameleon / collective

That's why an increasing number of influential community members don't just post on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, they also manage Patreon accounts, Discord groups, and other private messaging channels.

4. Influential Community Members Are Far More Interested in Authenticity Over Lucrative Brand Deals.

Influential community members are happy to promote the products they love. Many of them go out of their way to show support their favorite brands, with or without that brand asking them to do so.

However, these creators won't just promote any brand that comes along. They will happily turn away (or ignore altogether) collab offers from brands that don't appeal to them.

Community influencers are most interested in authenticity and delivering value to their audience. It's critical that brands understand these creators' personal brand and audience before recruiting them for a sponsored campaign.

Are Influential Community Members Better Than Regular Influencers?

The big question at the end of the day is which influencer type is better - the regular influencer or the influential community member?

In nearly every case, influential community members are the most likely to deliver the best ROI. Why? Because their audience is dedicated, enthusiastic, and trusts that creator completely.

That said, seasoned influencer marketing brands work hard to include macro and mega influencers in their greater marketing mix. But even these brands are going to build a solid foundation of smaller community influencers before venturing into more expensive high-profile campaigns with large influencers and celebrities.

Final Thoughts

Influencers aren't just another billboard or paid ad opportunity. Creators who treat their brand and audience that way always deliver mediocre results compared to their community influencer counterparts.

Understanding the difference between regular influencers and influential community members saves you money and drastically improves your influencer program performance.

Recommended for You