The Archetypes of Influence

There was a time when the trickiest part of creating an influencer marketing campaign was amassing that sparse group of bloggers and Twitterati considered to be “influential.” 

Today the challenges are different. The last five years have produced a bounty of these folks, some of whom are choosing from ten or more opportunities per week to be brand ambassadors, reviewers and spokespeople. With the field having grown far sturdier and more robust, the challenge has become more about taking a closer look at behaviours, what they publish or share, their motivations, and affiliations -- and using that to cherry pick the right mix of people. In other words, looking way beyond audience size (presumably big) and reputation (as influential).

This diagram shows four proposed quadrants of influence-type, and the motivating forces that they represent  (from art to commerce, and facts to experiences). Descriptions of each of these archetypes, their likely outputs, and their typical M.O. are included below.  

influence archetypes



It’s not uncommon to see trained, trusted journalists (and aspiring ones) as influencers in the online and social space. Their investigative drives remain the same regardless of medium: to find the truth, tell the story, and do it in an ethically guided way. This would be the group most likely to be trusted for their objectivity. 

How to recognize them: 

  • Breaking news curation
  • Fact-based and timely articles
  • Photo/video Essay 


Motivated by teaching others, the expert might be putting together tutorials, white-papers or thought leadership articles, all with an eye to sharing knowledge. Experts tend to have a professional area of expertise that they are passionate about and eager to share with others. They are most likely to be trusted for their opinions and guidance in a niche subject area. 

How to recognize them: 

  • Educational video, writing, infographics or photos 
  • Thought leadership articles 
  • Reactions to news    


Defined by craftiness and creativity, the influencers in this camp might range from skateboarder to photographer to talented DIYers, with unique output as the hallmark. Marketers draw upon this type of Influence when they want affiliation with creativity (sometimes discovering under the radar talent or avant-garde trend setters). They are most likely to be trusted for their authenticity as talented artists and craftspeople. 

How to recognize them:

  • Photo or video depictions of creativity in action  
  • Creative recommendations to others
  • Showcasing of own projects 


Reviewing, posting, recording, trying, tasting, commenting and attending – the tastemaker is defined by their willingness and ability to occupy centre stage, highlight current trends, and partake in events. They are most trusted for having their finger on the pulse of what's hot now and what's about to be. 

How to recognize them:

  • Reviews of products, restaurants, places, and trends 
  • Testimonials 
  • Opinions about value and performance 



These archetypes are ultimately about moving past stereotypes and reputations and being able to really connect and engage with the right storytellers. 

Looking at the platforms influencers choose, the information they share, and the content they create or share reveals a lot. What's key is lining this up against what we really want an influencer to catalyze. 

Getting a new product on the public radar might be a task for one set of influencers, but helping potential customers choose one product over another might fall to a different group. Influencer campaigns can systematically incorporate this whole range of activity, and it can be done with an eye to moving the needle on awareness, engagement, opportunity, and advocacy. 

On the other side of that coin, keeping an influencer's motivational currency in mind is the best way to engage with them in an authentic way. 




Justine CowellComment