Read a few articles on influencer marketing today, and you will undoubtedly stumble-upon the term ‘micro-influencers’. As more marketers include influencer marketing as part of their digital strategy, the use of micro-influencers is on the rise.
What is a micro-influencer?
Everyone is talking about micro-influencers, though no standard definition exists yet for exactly what a micro-influencer is. While there is some consensus putting the upper bound of micro-influencer at around 10,000 followers:
- CNBC: “Macro-influencers are defined as social-media users with 10,000 or more followers on their accounts, while micro-influencers are the rest of us.”
- Adweek: “Some in the industry attribute the title to influencers with under 10,000 followers. Others say between 500 and 5,000.”
- Forbes: “More and more, brands are turning to people with far less numbers of followers—sometimes even as low as 8,000—to help them share their messages.”
There is considerably more confusion as to whether or not there is a lower bound to a micro-influencer.
Our take? Don’t impose arbitrary minimums on micro-influencers. If an influencer’s audience data suggests they reach the consumers you are targeting, and that influencer has the expertise to deliver your message authentically, they might be a great fit. Chances are, if you found them, others will, too.
These Top 5 Influencer Marketing Tips serve as a great reminder not to confuse celebrity with influence and that micro-influencers can be any “experts whose voices are heard and heeded, regardless of the size of their audience. Even with smaller audiences, the message appears to be more relatable and authentic.”
What’s driving the trend towards micro-influencers?
Multiple factors are converging to bring micro-influencers into the spotlight:
- Authenticity – Influencer marketing outperforms traditional digital advertising by 11X because consumers would rather hear from real people than brands. As influencer marketing becomes increasingly prevalent, and consumers continue to crave a connection to more authentic experiences that these influencers can deliver.
- Millenials – By 2020, millenials will total more than 1.4 Trillion in spending power. The millenial buyer is digital first, socially savvy and seeking content personalized to their age, location and cultural interests.
- Supply – Even if celebrities and macro-influencers with massive followings were able to provide the intimacy that the close-knit communities of micro-influencers can, there simply aren’t enough of them. Micro-influencers are the biggest influencer category that and cover millions of blogs, and YouTube has become saturated with popular vloggers making influencer marketing accessible to the masses.
Why do they work?
The effectiveness of micro-influencers comes down to engagement and value. Micro-influencers often have niche interests and narrower focus, making their insights and expertise more relevant to their followers. They are also much more active than their peers—compared to average consumers, micro-influencers hold 22.2 times more conversations per week.
“Most people are only known for, and knowledgeable in, one thing. They are often individuals who work in their area of expertise. Alternatively, they are truly knowledgeable, passionate and authentic and are seen as a trusted source when it comes to recommendations…This relevance leads to more engagement…Increased relevance, engagement, and authenticity mean that micro-influencers give you more bang for your buck. Smaller scale influencers are unlikely to expect thousands of dollars for their participation” – Brandwatch
Instagram data supports the increased engagement of micro-influencers:
- “Instagram followers with under 1,000 followers have a like rate of about 8 percent. Those with 1,000 to 10,000 have a rate around 4 percent. As the follower rate grows, engagement drops even further.”
- “Posts from micro-influencers could well become more visible than posts from celebrities that have millions of followers…Instagram prioritizes posts from family and friends over posts from companies or big name celebrities.”
Engagement is key to monitor, as it is a precursor to conversion. While celebrity influencers command huge followings, weighing their cost against what they actually produce in engagement and, ultimately, sales—one brand who paid Kim Kardashian to tweet saw her 15 million followers drive 1,200 website visits and only 30 orders averaging $30 each—means that their Cost Per Engagement (CPE) is often much higher.
How can I use micro-influencers?
The most successful influencer marketing campaigns take advantage of all of the data that is available—influencer profiles, audience data and influencer performance data—and marry that to your larger marketing strategy and goals.
Here are some things to keep in mind, as you get started with micro-influencers:
- Engage 10 highly focused influencers, each with 10,000 followers, rather than a single influencer, with a diluted, varied audience of 100,000
- Use celebrity influencers strategically, for example working with celebrities to generate awareness and activate micro-influencers
- Take advantage of white space in your sector; influencers are currently underused currently by luxury brands, although their audiences take their “words as gospel, and this can translate directly to substantial profit for the luxury sector”
- Remember to look at CPE when evaluating value; micro-influencers will not always have lower rates than macro-influencers, however, they bring something different to the table
In short, be wary of people and platforms who guide you to focus only on micro-influencers. A robust influencer marketing strategy will, over time, likely require that your definition, use of and access to influencers be broad enough to include macro-influencers, “power middle” influencers, micro-influencers, brand ambassadors, brand advocates, employees, and, yes, even celebrities, as needed. True optimization means you can understand and optimize the performance of the right group of influencers, at the right time, to meet your goals.
Laura Smous is a versatile brand strategist and marketing leader, merging strategic, creative and technical skills toward developing brands and products that provide novel solutions to business problems. She is the Director of Product Marketing at TapInfluence. Follow her on Twitter @laurasmous.