Nobody questions the fact that influencer marketing is hot these days. Especially since they help bridge the gap between organic social reach and paid ads, influencers are one of the most effective ways to market goods and services. At the beginning of this trend, only influencers with a large following were used. However, marketers are finding more value by using people who have a smaller number of social media contacts but still a greater number than nano influencers. Known as micro-influencers, these content creators have a relatively high engagement rate and strong niche market.
What is a Micro-Influencer?
Like all influencers, micro-influencers are people who create content on social media, and whose opinion is well-respected. In other words, an influencer is more than just someone who produces great content. People look to them for news, advice, and ideas. Influencers can have a niche that includes just about any interest known to man.
Micro-influencers are a subset of these content creators. While the “number” of followers varies widely in this class, they are typically considered to have anywhere from a minimum of 10,000 to as many as 250,000 followers. This group provides a nice mixture of high engagement rates and follower numbers. Remember, after a certain point the average engagement starts to fall. With a super small following, though, there aren’t many people to reach. Once an influencer has 10,000 followers there is a nice balance.
The Value of Micro-Influencers
As I’ve said before influencer marketing is a modern version of hiring a celebrity to do endorsements. However, the biggest advantage of micro-influencers is that they are everyday people. Celebrities and sometimes even macro influencers have a reputation for “doing anything for money or attention.” They also tend to charge a high price for product endorsements. Since marketers want the best “bang for their buck,” micro-influencers have become very popular. Let’s unpack the advantages of this influencer type.
Large Pool of “Non-Celebrities”
With micro-influencers, you get a rare combination of quality and quantity. While celebrities are few and far between, these people are all over the world of social media. They are businesspeople, college students, stay at home parents, and more. In fact, you can find a micro-influencer in any walk of life or age starting in their teens. Because of this diversity, marketers can find an influencer who fits just about any buyer persona imaginable. And they’ll help sell just about any kind of product.
Better Engagement Rates
One of the biggest challenges in influencer marketing is getting the right influencer. Within this conundrum you can find one of the biggest considerations for marketers: engagement rates. As some people in the business are quick to point out, celebrities on Instagram don’t necessarily have high engagement rates. One reason for this is that people hang out on their social media just because they’re famous and want to hear about the adventures of the rich.
Simply put, while an engagement is not the end all of influencer marketing, if no one is engaging with the posts of the influencer, it raises the prospect that the influencer has many fake followers. Engagements ensure that the content is being absorbed, and it also increases that others will find that post through hashtag search. More engagement doesn’t guarantee more conversion, but it certainly increases the chances that more will convert.
More Niche/Targeted Audiences
Celebrities do one thing really well: get a lot of attention from a huge audience. However, this audience isn’t necessarily high quality for the sake of marketing. Let’s take a look at the average film or TV actor. He is known for doing a good job on film and can typically take on many roles. Unfortunately, none of these roles are the real man. Actors wear masks, both literal and figurative. People appreciate their acting, but not necessarily the same food, travel, beauty routine, fashion, or other interests.
On the other hand, with micro-influencers you have a much narrower focus. One person might be into indie fashion, while another one enjoys driving fast cars (and showcasing their accessories). People who hang out on these social media profiles tend to either have a personal connection to the influencer or enjoy content in that niche. With this improved audience targeting, advertisers can get their brands in front of people who are more likely to buy.
According to most compensation models, most influencers are paid more for having a larger number of followers. This is especially true for the pay-per-follower method, but it also hold true somewhat when paying for impressions. Probably the only one where follower numbers are irrelevant is when affiliate links are placed. With celebrities, you end up paying for lots of followers who aren’t interested in your products and services.
Worse, celebrities often have a pricing policy that is set in stone. For instance, they might have an endorsement fee, appearance fee, or other costs which are independent of follower counts. After all, you’ll have to pay for their “star power” in addition to social pull. Want Beyonce to endorse a brand of hair extensions? That’ll be a million dollars minimum. How quickly are you going to recoup those costs in sales? The ROI is much higher for micro-influencer endorsements.
Let’s take another look at those hair extensions. As a consumer, would you rather wear the extensions that are hawked by a celebrity that has help looking fabulous, or the ones worn by an everyday woman? These everyday women must take care of those extensions themselves, so easy care is a major advantage. If the extensions are harder to take care of than others, then it’s unlikely that a busy office worker with kids is going to endorse them.
What does this come down to? Authenticity. While celebrities will often endorse something because the advertiser is willing to shell out a lot of money, micro-influencers usually only select products that make their lives better. Or for hobbies, something that lets them create and is enjoyable to work with. Audiences respond well to this kind of authenticity, and it makes them more likely to buy on average than they might with a celebrity.
Higher Conversion Rates
Along with high engagement rates comes higher conversion rates. This is especially true when you think about conversion rates in terms of how many people who see the sponsored content buy something. Depending on the agreement you have with micro-influencers there might be a commission. However, short of using promo codes or affiliate links you have to measure conversions another way. Engagement helps, even though it isn’t the only way to measure conversions.
Another way to think about conversion rates is the overall “impact.” If you work with micro-influencers, and sales numbers increase markedly, you know the campaign was successful. With conversion rates, it’s easy to see how good of a value you’re getting for the money.
Sample Micro-Influencer Marketing Campaigns
Want to see how micro-influencers have connected brands with their audiences? There are several excellent case studies out there which have proven the value of this type of marketing. For many of them, reaching out to the younger generations is a goal. In other cases, the goal is to dispel myths about their brand or increase awareness. Here are some great examples.
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One of the big trends in beverages these days is minimal additives. Towards that end, a lot of people drink bottled water, both with and without carbonation. La Croix is a brand of seltzer water, with and without flavors. As such, it is a contender in this particular niche. However, it isn’t one of the most popular brands, in part because bigger companies like Coke and Pepsi have their own versions.
To try and increase both brand awareness and market share, La Croix decided to work with micro-influencers. Chosen influencers work in the “lifestyle” niche, which includes a wide variety of buyer personas and ages. They also opted for micro-influencers with follower numbers at the low end of the range.
Collaborations featured a wide variety of uses for La Croix. For instance, one of them is into yoga and used a carton of La Croix as a prop. She mentioned the hydrating properties of La Croix, which is little more than water. Another collaboration used La Croix as a cocktail mixer. One featured use was mixing it with white wine to lighten it up and add bubbles. You can easily see this as refreshing on a summer day.
As a result of these collaborations, the La Croix brand has taken off. Sales are way up, and it has gone from being an obscure brand to something Millennials everywhere find fashionable. It’s finally competitive with other brands from major beverage companies. The best part? Most of the collabs were paid in free product, which is super cheap.
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For plus sized women, finding the right clothes can be a challenge. At Stitch Fix, a personal shopping website, help is available. They help people of all shapes and sizes, including the plus-sized woman. To increase brand awareness, they decided to team up with micro-influencers.
Using a branded hashtag #MyBodyMyStyle, one influencer talked about how she sees fashion as part of confidence. In other words, you can wear any style you’d like as long as you feel confident in it. Part of her pitch is that Stitch Fix helps you dress well for your body type, regardless of dress size. Instagram posts encouraged people to check out a blog post on their website. This collab increased site visits and orders effectively.
Hawaii Department of Tourism
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Hawaii has a particular reputation when it comes to tourism: it’s both glamorous and expensive. When most people think about going to Hawaii, they think about how expensive a plane ticket is. Not to mention the hotels and restaurants. People go to Hawaii for unique, once in a lifetime experience. Unfortunately, this also makes people think that they can’t afford to go, which discourages tourism.
To leverage the power of micro-influencers, the Hawaiian tourism board chose people who are native Hawaiians or travel bloggers. This means that they would either have a travel audience or be showing off their state. They used a hashtag #LetHawaiiHappen to encourage sharing.
Results were stunning. According to their study, 65% of people who interacted with the content wanted to visit Hawaii. Obviously not everyone will find a way over there. But being on someone’s “dream vacation” list sure increases the odds of getting visited. Needless to say, the sponsor got a great bang for their buck.
How to Find the Right Micro-Influencer for Your Brand?
There is little question that using micro-influencers for ad campaigns is advantageous. However, like all types of influencer marketing this presents the challenge of finding the right person. In short, you’re looking for someone who appeals to your buyer persona. Then you want someone who has a great engagement rate, and who matches the style and values for your brand. Let’s take a look at some influencer discovery techniques.
Know your goal
Before searching for micro-influencers, it’s important to know what you have in mind. There are a lot of influencers out there, but they aren’t all good at the same kind of content. Furthermore, you might have a certain style or demographic in mind. So, before narrowing down your options, know what you want. This will help you find the kind of person who is likely to be successful at different campaign types.
Look in your backyard
You never know what influencers are already fired up about your brand until you look. These can be employees or other stakeholders, influencers within your industry, and people who simply enjoy your products. Go through your social media profile, and those of your competitors. As you flip through followers, you will probably find some influencers. Always consider the micro-influencers who are already interested in you and like, know, and trust your brand.
Check influencer marketplaces
Another way to find micro-influencers is through an influencer marketplace. These online forums have the advantage of helping you find people who have already identified themselves as influencers. Depending on the marketplace, they may help you manage engagements with chosen influencers, as well.
Use a discovery tool
Finally, try out a few influencer discovery tools. There’s a wide variety of these available, from using social listening tools yourself to employing the help of agencies. Each of these allows for a different amount of customization and campaign management. Costs also vary widely. Just be sure to choose the right tool or set of tools. Remember, you can use many of the same tools to find micro-influencers as you use to find macro-influencers. For most of them, the difference is a few settings on the search function.
As the discipline of influencer marketing has matured, so has the use of micro-influencers. Once an ignored section of social media, marketers everywhere have found value in their services. In fact, we are increasingly finding them to be some of the most effective options out there. As people move away from traditional media, we can only expect this type of marketing to become more common.
Hero photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash