Influencer marketing surpassed the $1 billion mark on Instagram in mid-2017, and it shows no signs of slowing anytime soon.
While it’s most prevalent on Instagram, influencer marketing, or the process of engaging influential users to share a brand’s message with their audience, is used across the social media scene and beyond – even through other channels and mediums like television shows, YouTube videos, blogs, and magazines.
Influencer marketing has roots in tried-and-true tactics such as brand spokespersons (who were traditionally well-known celebrities), celebrity endorsements, and testimonials, which are still used to provide a measure of social proof (and, of course, influence). The digital world enables anyone to build a massive following and gain trust, negating the need for celebrity status to influence audiences. Thus, influencer marketing was born, and as the trend proliferated across social media, a new buzzword emerged: the micro-influencer.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Whether you’re just getting started and want to understand micro-influencers and how they can benefit your brand, or you’ve been using influencer marketing successfully and want to take your strategy to the next level with micro-influencers, this guide will get you up to speed on the latest influencer marketing trend.
According to Gerardo A. Dada in an article for Forbes, a successful influencer has a few things going for them:
- Reach: They have the ability to reach a large number of people with their message.
- Credibility: They have established credibility (trust), which gives them authority with their audience based on the audience’s perception of the influencer’s expertise on a particular topic.
- Persuasion: Influencers are effective communicators who can persuade others to embrace their point of view.
It’s the second point that really matters. There’s a common misconception that influencers have to be social media influencers – simply people with a massive social media following (or blog readership, subscriber count, etc.). Think about it this way: If you’re considering buying a new pair of running shoes, would you be more likely to trust a recommendation from a world-famous photographer or an Olympic athlete? On the other hand, you’d probably turn to said photographer when you’re in search of the perfect digital camera.
Just because an influencer is credible on one subject and has a large following doesn’t mean that their opinion about everything matters. While a large audience certainly helps, the key is having influence – the ability to change people’s perception of a brand or elicit a desired response, such as buying behavior. And that’s where micro-influencers come in. Put simply:
A micro-influencer is a person with a smaller following, but with a high level of trust and authority with a highly engaged, niche audience. You’ll find a few different micro-influencer definitions in terms of specific follower counts – figures range between 1,000 and 10,000 or 1,000 and 50,000 followers, while others simply define a micro-influencer as someone with less than 100,000 followers. The bottom line is that a micro-influencer hasn’t amassed hundreds of thousands (or millions) of social media followers, yet they have immense credibility with their audience.
Micro-influencers are ordinary, everyday people like you and me. They might be experts in a particular topic or have a strong interest in a subject, and therefore engage in frequent communication about that subject. They’re credible and believable, which fosters a sense of trust among their followers. Unlike traditional influencers, most micro-influencers don’t rely on influencer marketing as the sole source of their income, meaning they’re less likely to have a social media feed packed with sponsored posts, with the occasional authentic post mixed in. Instead, their posts are most often genuine, and even many of their past posts about brands or products were authentic – not paid for.
Some of these characteristics are difficult for traditional influencers to maintain as they amass millions of followers and participate in more influencer marketing campaigns. As sponsored posts start to drown out the authentic posts in an influencer’s feed, their audience’s trust may begin to fade.
Still not sure what a micro-influencer looks like? Here are a few examples of influencers who (at least for now) meet the micro-influencer definition. These examples are from Instagram (as it’s one of the most common platforms for influencer marketing), but remember, micro-influencers can engage audiences through a variety of channels.
Image via Instagram by @jessedriftwood
Photographer and filmmaker Jesse Driftwood has 120,000 Instagram followers and has engaged in influencer marketing campaigns with Audible, Volvo, Porte Play, and other brands.
Image via Instagram by @jera.bean
Jera Foster-Fell is a NYC creator and Adidas ambassador who has posted sponsored content for ONE Brands, the European Wax Center, and more.
Mr. Boba Bear
Image via Instagram by @mrbobabear
Even dogs can be micro-influencers! Mr. Boba Bear has engaged in influencer marketing campaigns with brands such as Kibbles ‘n Bits and Mirum Agency (promoting Pet Armor Plus), among others, all perfectly in-tune with the adorable pup’s niche audience.
Los Angeles Foodie Girl
Image via Instagram by @lafoodiegirl
Los Angeles Foodie Girl makes her niche in the great eats and travel spaces, sharing sponsored posts with her 31,600 followers from brands like United, Celebrity Cruises, and Have an Olive Day.
Image via Instagram by @smashwitmer
Ashley Witmer has 11,500 followers and shares sponsored posts from MONQ, Green Earth Botanicals, Craize Arepa Crisps, and other health and beauty brands.
Micro-influencers can be a valuable asset in any brand marketing strategy, but why? As mentioned, micro-influencers have fewer followers compared to traditional influencers. But because they often have very dedicated, niche audiences, their followers are often more engaged. In fact, a survey conducted by the influencer marketing platform, Markerly, found that of two million social media influencers, Instagram influencers with fewer than 1,000 followers have a like rate of approximately 8% for unpaid posts. That like rate drops by half – to just 4% – among Instagram influencers with 1,000 to 10,000 followers, according to Yuyu Chen in an article for Digiday.
As the number of followers increases, the like rate continues to decrease:
- 10,000 to 100,000 followers: 2.4% like rate
- 1 million to 10 million followers: 1.7% like rate
It’s not just the like rate that correlates with follower base; comment rate followed a similar pattern in the same survey, and the pattern holds true for sponsored posts, as well. The findings, according to Chen, suggest a sweet spot: influencers with between 10,000 and 100,000 followers offer the biggest impact – micro-influencers.
Why do micro-influencers have higher engagement?
There are a few factors likely contributing to this effect. First, it’s unlikely that millions of followers are going to be highly engaged on one particular social media platform at any given time. An influencer with millions of followers most likely has at least a few thousand followers who are relatively inactive on the platform.
Second, there are typically sub-groups of followers who follow that influencer for different reasons. A portion of Kim Kardashian’s followers probably follow her to keep up with the latest fashions, while others want a glimpse into the Kardashian celebrity lifestyle (the exotic vacations, etc.). Others may be fans of the family’s reality show, but have little interest in hair, makeup, or fashion. So, if Kim posts about her favorite new mascara, that particular group of followers won’t have much interest and therefore won’t engage with the post. But a preview of an upcoming episode? An outtake of Kim chatting with her sisters about the latest family drama? Count them in!
Finally, micro-influencers – those with fewer followers – are more likely to have only followers with a genuine interest in the influencer’s area of expertise (or, at the very least, the topics they post about most often). An up-and-coming chef may have a few thousand followers who have heard about his amazing dishes, and they all follow him for his cooking tips and recipes.
So, if our up-and-coming chef posts about his favorite jeans? Meh. That’s not why they’re there. But when he recommends his favorite cookware or the latest kitchen gadget he can’t live without, you better believe those few thousand followers are paying attention.
And that’s precisely the magic of micro-influencer marketing. You could pay top dollar for a world-recognized celebrity to post about your brand, but 95% of their followers might not match your target audience. If they have no interest in your niche, it’s not worth reaching them. Select a micro-influencer with a niche audience in line with your own to reach an audience that:
- Has a genuine interest in your niche
- Has a high level of trust for the influencer
- Is more likely to engage with the content
Micro-influencers foster brand awareness and loyalty – at a lower cost
Because micro-influencers are usually working on growing their audience, they’re typically very conscientious about what they post. They know their audience well and won’t post content they know won’t resonate with their followers. Micro-influencers can increase brand awareness by introducing your brand to their audience, which can help you grow your following on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms. They can also help to foster brand loyalty by bolstering their audience’s perception of your brand (“If my favorite athlete says these shoes are the best, they must be the best!”). And, micro-influencers can directly impact conversions by bringing their audience’s attention to a deal or offer they can’t refuse.
You’ll pay less for micro-influencers, too – often much less. The average cost per branded Instagram post is about $250 with a micro-influencer, compared to thousands of dollars per post with traditional influencers. A single post by a well-known celebrity can easily exceed $25,000. A video sponsorship on a YouTube channel with 7 million subscribers or more, will have you shelling out a cool $300,000.
Related: How Much Do YouTubers Make? And How You Can Make It, Too!
For brands, choosing to engage micro-influencers instead of traditional influencers means they can test out a few dozen micro-influencers instead of risking it all on a hit-or-miss – at the same or even a lower overall campaign cost. After a test run, allocate more funding to the micro-influencers who produce the most engagement and conversions for your brand and drop those who are least-effective. To get started, you first have to identify micro-influencers with the right audience.
How do you find a few dozen micro-influencers with a relevant, niche audience? First, you have to know your audience. Not just your audience’s demographics, but their social media habits and buying behavior. Where do they spend most of their time on social media? You’ll want to seek out micro-influencers with a relevant audience on those platforms. Are they more likely to trust an unboxing video on YouTube or an Instagram post endorsing a product? Are they more likely to trust a recommendation from a like-minded peer or a more experienced authority on the subject?
Finding micro-influencers manually
One of the simplest ways to find micro-influencers is among your brand’s own followers. Look at follower counts, or better yet, tap into your social media analytics to find out who is engaging most with your posts. Bonus: If they’re already a fan of your brand, they’ll be more willing to engage with you, and their posts will be more authentic. Plus, the relationship is already warm so there’s no cold-prospecting involved. You can also search through your competitors’ followers to find micro-influencers with a relevant audience, although without the benefit of a prior relationship or established brand recognition.
Engage in social listening
Engage in social listening to uncover online conversations about your business, your brand, products or services, or niche brand-relevant topics. Don’t just monitor keywords, but hashtags, too. Once you’ve identified micro-influencer prospects, the next step is determining their suitability for your brand and your audience:
- Are there individuals who are leading those conversations and consistently driving engagement?
- Do they have a social media presence on the platforms where your target audience spends the most time?
- Do they post contextually relevant content regularly?
- Do they fit the profile of someone your target audience would trust?
As with traditional influencer marketing, you’ll also want to evaluate their character to rule out any past history or statements that are in conflict with your brand values.
Finding micro-influencers at scale: leveraging influencer marketing tools
If you want to do micro-influencer marketing on a large scale, however, manual processes aren’t the most practical. Fortunately, there are many influencer marketing software that can also help you prospect for and engage micro-influencers, as well. Tools like BuzzSumo and Mention, for example, can help you identify the individuals who are driving conversations around your brand, products, or services.
CreatorIQ can help you overcome the shortcomings of traditional bio and vanity metrics searches when it comes to assessing micro-influencers, such as vanity metrics skewed by engagement from friends and family. Traackr, another highly-rated influencer marketing tool, offers a variety of search capabilities to help you identify and qualify influencers based on reach, resonance, and relevance.
(G2 Crowd does not endorse any products listed in our content. Rather, we strive to use our real-time data to bring you transparent insights. The aforementioned products have been highly ranked by real users.)
In short, you can leverage the same tools that power your traditional influencer marketing campaign to find, engage, and manage micro-influencers – you’re just looking for influencers with fewer, but more relevant, highly engaged audiences.
Influencer marketing emerged from the need to bypass traditional advertising channels and reach audiences with brand messages from people they trust. But as influencer marketing has taken the world by storm, a single post by a well-known celebrity is often well beyond the average brand’s budget.
Micro-influencers put influencer marketing within reach for many brands and offer an intimate, trusted connection with their audience that traditional influencers often can’t match. As you’re refining your marketing roadmap for 2019, don’t overlook micro-influencer marketing. It’s an effective and affordable solution to help you grow your followers, build brand awareness, and foster brand loyalty.