The Meaning of Influential : People of Influence vs. What Is an Influencer Explained

Discover the true disparity between people of influence and influencers in this comprehensive article. Understand the defining traits, impact on society, and the role of authenticity. Explore how influence is measured and learn how these influential figures shape opinions and inspire change. Unveil the distinction and gain insights into the world of influence.


Editorial Team

5/29/20237 min read

people of influence vs influencer
people of influence vs influencer

Influence has always played a vital role in society, but with the rise of social media and digital platforms, the concept has taken on new dimensions. People of influence and influencers have emerged as prominent figures who have the power to sway opinions, inspire change, and shape trends. The terms "people of influence" and "influencers" are often used interchangeably. However, there is a significant distinction between the two. While both groups have the ability to shape opinions and drive action, their approaches, characteristics, and impacts differ. In this article, we will delve into the nuances that differentiate people of influence from influencers, exploring their defining traits, impact on society, the role of authenticity, and how influence is measured.

Defining Influence

Before exploring the disparity between people of influence and influencers, let's establish a clear understanding of what influence means. Influence is the ability to affect the beliefs, attitudes, and actions of others. It is a subtle yet powerful force that can drive individuals to make decisions they may not have otherwise made. Influence can stem from various sources, such as expertise, charisma, credibility, or social status.

Characteristics of People of Influence

People of influence are individuals who possess a genuine and long-standing impact on others. Their influence is often built over time through their expertise, achievements, and contributions in a particular field. Here are some key characteristics that define people of influence:

  1. Expertise: People of influence are recognized for their deep knowledge and expertise in their respective domains. For example, renowned physicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is a person of influence in the field of astrophysics due to his extensive knowledge and ability to simplify complex scientific concepts for a wider audience.

  2. Credibility: They have established a reputation for being reliable and trustworthy sources of information. Dr. Jane Goodall, the world-renowned primatologist, has spent decades studying and advocating for the protection of chimpanzees and their habitats, earning her credibility and trust in the field of conservation.

  3. Longevity: Influence is not fleeting for people of influence. They have consistently demonstrated their value over an extended period. An example of a person of influence with longevity is Oprah Winfrey, whose decades-long career as a talk show host, philanthropist, and media mogul has made a profound impact on millions of people worldwide.

  4. Respect: They are respected and admired by their peers and the community at large for their accomplishments and contributions. Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, became a person of influence through her advocacy for girls' education and her resilience in the face of adversity.

Characteristics of Influencers

On the other hand, influencers have emerged as a product of the digital era. They leverage social media platforms to build a dedicated following and engage with their audience. Unlike people of influence, influencers often focus on a specific niche or industry. Let's examine some key characteristics of influencers:

  1. Reach: Influencers have a wide reach, often boasting a large number of followers or subscribers on platforms like Instagram, YouTube, or TikTok. For example, fitness influencer Kayla Itsines has amassed millions of followers on Instagram, where she shares workout routines, healthy recipes, and lifestyle tips.

  2. Engagement: They actively engage with their audience by creating content, responding to comments, and fostering a sense of community. Lifestyle influencer Chiara Ferragni, through her blog and social media channels, engages with her followers by sharing personal experiences, fashion inspiration, and travel adventures.

  3. Authenticity: Influencers strive to present an authentic version of themselves to their audience. They often share personal experiences, insights, and recommendations, creating a sense of relatability. For instance, beauty influencer James Charles gained a massive following by sharing makeup tutorials, product reviews, and showcasing his unique style.

  4. Trendsetting: Influencers have the ability to set trends and influence consumer behavior. Whether it's fashion, beauty, fitness, or travel, they have the power to shape popular culture and inspire their followers to adopt certain trends or purchase specific products. Kylie Jenner, for example, has become a global beauty influencer, launching her own makeup line and popularizing various beauty trends.

    Impact on Society

    One significant distinction between people of influence and influencers lies in the impact they have on society as a whole.

    People of Influence: With their expertise, credibility, and longevity, people of influence often have a broader and more profound impact on society. They have the ability to drive meaningful change, shape industries, and inspire others to pursue excellence. For instance, Elon Musk, the entrepreneur and visionary behind Tesla and SpaceX, has influenced not only the automotive and aerospace industries but also the public perception of sustainable energy and space exploration.

    Influencers: While influencers may have a significant impact on consumer behavior and popular culture, their influence tends to be more immediate and focused on short-term trends. They have the power to shape purchasing decisions, promote products, and create awareness around specific lifestyle choices. However, this influence is often limited to a particular niche or trend.

    Building Relationships

    Another differentiating factor between people of influence and influencers lies in the way they build relationships with their audience.

    People of Influence: People of influence prioritize building meaningful and long-lasting relationships with their audience or community. They engage in deep conversations, share valuable insights, and foster connections based on trust and mutual respect. These relationships are built on a foundation of authenticity and a genuine interest in the well-being of others. Examples include renowned motivational speaker Tony Robbins, who has inspired millions through his seminars, books, and personal development programs.

    Influencers: While influencers may have a large following, their relationships with their audience are often more transactional. The focus is on creating engaging content that generates likes, comments, and shares, rather than establishing deep personal connections. The emphasis is on maintaining popularity and visibility in the digital realm.


    Authenticity plays a crucial role in differentiating people of influence from influencers.

    People of Influence: People of influence are driven by their genuine passion for their field of expertise or cause. They are guided by principles and values, and their actions align with their beliefs. This authenticity resonates with their audience, fostering trust and admiration. One example is environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who gained worldwide recognition for her authentic advocacy for climate action.

    Influencers: While many influencers strive to be genuine, the curated nature of social media can sometimes create a perception of inauthenticity. The pressure to maintain a particular image or meet the expectations of brands and sponsors can compromise authenticity. Striking a balance between personal expression and brand partnerships becomes a challenge.

    Measurement of Influence

    Measuring influence is a complex task, as it encompasses both qualitative and quantitative aspects.

    People of Influence: When assessing the influence of people of influence, factors such as their impact on industries, thought leadership and the respect they command within their field are considered. These measures often transcend mere metrics and focus on the lasting impact they have on society. For example, Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, continues to be considered a person of influence even after his passing, due to his revolutionary impact on the technology and design industries.

    Influencers: Influencers are often evaluated based on quantitative metrics such as follower count, engagement rates, and reach. These numbers provide insights into their immediate impact and popularity within their niche. Brands and marketers often collaborate with influencers based on these metrics to reach a specific target audience. However, it's important to note that influence cannot be solely determined by numbers. The quality of engagement, authenticity, and the ability to drive action are equally crucial aspects of measuring an influencer's impact.

    Transitioning from Influencer to Person of Influence

    It is possible for influencers to transition into becoming people of influence. Through consistent dedication, expanding their expertise, and making meaningful contributions, influencers can broaden their influence beyond social media platforms and gain recognition in their respective fields. This transition requires a focus on building credibility, establishing thought leadership, and actively contributing to their industry or cause. By doing so, influencers can leverage their existing platform and audience to create a more profound and lasting impact.

    Leveraging Influence for Positive Change

    Both people of influence and influencers have the power to drive positive change in society. By leveraging their platforms responsibly, advocating for important causes, and promoting ethical practices, they can inspire others and create a ripple effect of positive impact. People of influence can use their expertise and credibility to shape policies, raise awareness, and make systemic changes. Influencers, with their wide reach and engaged audience, can amplify social issues, promote inclusivity, and encourage their followers to take action.

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    In conclusion, understanding the difference between people of influence and influencers is essential in navigating the landscape of modern influence. People of influence are recognized for their deep expertise, credibility, and lasting contributions to their field. They have a broader impact on society and are respected for their influence beyond social media. On the other hand, influencers leverage their digital platforms, often within a specific niche, to engage with a large audience and shape trends. While both groups hold influence, their approaches, relationships with their audience, and measurement criteria differ.

    By recognizing and nurturing authentic influence, we can harness its power to create a world where positive change, meaningful connections, and lasting impact thrive.

    FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

    1. Can influencers become people of influence? Yes, influencers can transition into becoming people of influence by expanding their expertise, making meaningful contributions, and establishing themselves as thought leaders in their field.

    2. Is the number of followers the sole measure of influence? No, the number of followers is one aspect of measuring influence, but it does not solely determine the impact and credibility of an individual. Quality engagement, authenticity, and the ability to drive action are equally important.

    3. How can influencers maintain authenticity while collaborating with brands? Influencers can maintain authenticity by partnering with brands whose values align with their own, being transparent with their audience about sponsored content, and staying true to their personal expression and beliefs.

    4. Can people of influence have a significant impact beyond social media? Yes, people of influence often have a broader impact beyond social media. They can shape industries, drive policy changes, and inspire others through their expertise, achievements, and contributions.

    5. What role does authenticity play in influence? Authenticity is crucial in both people of influence and influencers. It builds trust, fosters connections with the audience, and enhances the impact of their message and actions.

    Remember, influence comes in various forms, and recognizing and appreciating the different ways individuals can shape opinions, drive change, and inspire others is vital in our interconnected world.

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