The Rise of the Long-Tail Influencer

The Rise of the Long-Tail Influencer
August 8, 2016 Nikhil Dominic

At HYPR, we believe in the power of long-tail influencers. If you’ve heard of them before, you probably agree with us. If not, we’re here to help you learn – since understanding what long-tail influencers are and how they work is one of the most important keys to maximizing your influencer marketing return.

The long-tail theory

In general, a “long tail” refers to any number distribution where a large number of data points sit far away from the most common result (the “mode”). Graphs of such data sets look like the one below, with a thick central “head” representing the mode and a long skinny “tail” representing the data that deviates from the norm:


The application of this idea to business started in 2004, when Chris Anderson penned the article “The Long Tail” for Wired Magazine (this article was later expanded into a book and Anderson appointed Wired’s Editor-in-Chief). The theory he proposed was that modern consumption habits are “increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail.”

The new marketplace - Head & Long tail

The long-tail theory holds that as rising incomes, better technology and the corresponding proliferation of goods allow people to be more discriminating with their purchasing choices, consumption as a whole will start to shift away from general consumer goods towards highly individualized products. Instead of a world where many companies produce one or two kinds of products, we will move inexorably towards the long tail: a future where each company produces a huge variety of different products to appeal to a highly granular consumer base. In many markets this shift has already happened.

The long-tail theory in practice

The long-tail theory has been applied to a huge variety of industries, including current-day Internet consumption habits. As time goes on Internet use becomes less and less centralized on a small number of big websites and starts to reach out into more individualized spaces. Late adoption fills out the Internet, expanding the small number of chat boards, social networks and content sharing sites into a huge number of online communities catering to increasingly niche interests.

The model as represented in the graphs above may not fit the history of the Internet exactly – anyone old enough to remember AOL or Alta Vista knows that it began as a wild, lawless frontier before coalescing into the Google-and-Facebook-ruled paradigm of today. That said, the explosive growth of YouTubers, podcasters, fashion bloggers and more indicate just how much attention is being paid to niche interests on the Internet today, something that was far less true several years ago.

That’s what we mean when we talk about “long-tail influencers.” We mean those influencers who appeal to a very specific audience – influencers who have a niche yet loyal following, as opposed to traditional celebrities who appeal to the lowest common denominator. Long-tail influencers are the mommy bloggers or yoga gurus or snarky foodies. More often than not they start off as dilettantes or hobbyists in their field (rather than coming from the cultural elite or having some prior fame) and manage to gain a following through their personality, passion and insight.  

The content produced by these influencers is authentic and much more directly connected to their audiences (who are definitionally niche). In that, the engagement a long-tail influencer gets will always far outstrip that of a traditional celebrity profile. By working with long-tail influencers a campaign can leverage the power of a relationship between content creator and audience based on real personality, genuine admiration and mutual respect. A recommendation from a long-tail influencer is like one from a friend you particularly look up to; that’s far more powerful than a recommendation from a random celeb will ever be.

That’s why we believe in the power of long-tail influencers at HYPR. If you still don’t believe us, consider signing up for a demo so we can show you our power!