Influencer Model – 1:9:90 Rule of Social & Influencer Segmentation

Not all influencers are created equal. Using an influencer model to identify and segment the influencer community is a best practice.

Why this matters:

Influencer marketing is a critical component of your overall marketing strategy. You must do your due diligence before investing your budget into influencer partnerships.

There is only one influencer model I have used in the past that breaks down how influence is measured and segmented–the 1:9:90 model of influence.

The influencer model was first coined in 2006 by Charles Arthur, who said that ten would engage with it for every group of 100 people online that create content, and 90 would view or read it. This influencer framework should not be confused with the McKinsey Influence Model from 2016. That model is based on change management, not influencer marketing.

What is an influencer model?

An influencer model is an influencer segmentation framework built on a specific methodology. It’s an effective way to target influencers with clear messaging and within the channels where they spend the most time. There are many more variables to consider with influencer segmentation and research, which will explore more below. However, the essential thing to consider when discussing any social influence model depends on a particular topic or market.

Many consumer influencer marketing programs are less about topics and more about the channels or influencers spend most of their time. This is why you will hear terms like an Instagram influencer, TikTok influencer, or Snapchat influencer. That type of influencer model is less critical for B2B companies. The enterprise is more about the topics and thought leadership in which the influencers are passionate and have authority.

Part of this influencer model also considers a market. First, a market is an economy. There are hundreds if not thousands of markets and submarkets. For example, some markets target pregnant women on the consumer side. There are markets targeting men who expect their wives to give birth soon. There are diapers, luxury homes, new cars, housing, and thousands of other markets.

The markets for B2B and tech companies are slightly different, which is also where topical-based markets come into play. There is a software market, data science market, and AI market. There’s also the enterprise market and the SMB market.

The influencer model we are discussing today is based on these topics and markets. With that said, in every market (and topic), the top 1% of people in that market are influencers. The 9% of the people in that market are promoters, and the rest, the 90%, are lurkers.

The 1:9:90 influencer model

Influencer Segmentation: The 1:9:90 influencer model

This influence model is broken down into 1%, 9%, and 90%. It should be noted that all individuals in the 1% and the 9% are influential. I would say that most people using social media are influential, but it depends on how you measure social media influence.

The 1%: Influencers

Back in the day, before the Internet, this was the media. And when I say the media, I mean the actual media companies and not necessarily the journalists who write the articles. Over time, journalists gained influence and still represent that top 1%.

But as the Internet has become more democratized and social media has allowed everyone to be a content creator, the top 1% in any market represents just that. Journalists, analysts, and anybody else with a point of view and the following online make up the 1%. Remember, this influencer marketing model is fluid. Just because one person is an influencer around digital transformation doesn’t mean they have the same level of influence on business and innovation.

When these influencers speak, people listen. When they write and publish, people share and engage. One thing to note here is that influencer content will always appear in the Google results, assuming they are influential in the topic or subject matter. Also, several influencer marketing platforms & reporting software tools that can track paid programs when engaging with the 1%.

The 9%: Promoters

The top 9% represented within the social influence model are called promoters. Don’t get me wrong; they are also influential. However, they don’t have as large audiences and are not driving any conversation or thought leadership.

Their behavior is fascinating. This group shares influencer content, but they repackage it differently and provide their context or take on the subject. I don’t negatively mean this. They’re not necessarily taking the credit for the thought leadership of the 1%; they provide their point of view on it.

The 90%: Lurkers

90% of this market are what I call lurkers. These people don’t necessarily participate in any social media conversations or behavior. They aren’t creating any content. They aren’t engaging or sharing content. All they do is scroll through their feeds and read. They use Google for everything, especially when researching a particular topic or subject matter.

Regarding buying behavior or reputation, 90% rely heavily on the point of view of the 1% and the 9%.

Why This Influencer Model Works

For B2B social media marketing programs, influencers will play a critical role in reaching decision-makers within the buyer journey navigating the Internet and researching products and services. In addition, with influencer segmentation, marketers can create custom programming tailored to the 1%, 9%, and 90%.

For example, let’s assume you analyzed and found the top AI influencers. Part of your program will entail collaborating with them and paying them to participate in a campaign. This can include blog posts, interviews with executives, or social media promotion. The goal is to tap into their authority and audience because they are the 1% and typically have a large following.

In that same analysis, you may have identified the 9% as a more significant influencer segment because there are more. In this case, you will listen to their conversations in real-time and create content based on what is trending. You may not reach out to them directly or partner with them for some paid activation, but your organic engagement will be enough.

And then 90% of that audience could be used just for essential social listening or understanding more significant trends in consumption of the 1% in the 9%.

In other words, the way you reach and engage the 90% is not the same way you would reach and engage the 1%. So I think if you target the 1% and the 9% with specific marketing programs, you won’t have to worry about everyone else because the influencers and promoters will do your job for you.

It’s not good practice to manage influencer programs in a silo. It’s better to ensure that your program is fully integrated into your larger B2B social media marketing plan.

Michael Brito

Michael Brito is a Digital OG. He’s been building brands online since Al Gore invented the Internet. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.