When it comes to recommendations, who do you trust more: a friend or Kylie Jenner?
I’m guessing most of you would say a friend. (Apologies to the Kylie fans out there.)
Sure, celebrities get a lot of attention. But when a friend recommends a product or business, I’m more likely to take note—and even invest.
It’s this type of dynamic that’s given rise to an influencer marketing niche—micro-influencers. The exact definitions vary, but micro-influencers generally refer to non-celebrity folks who have small-but-dedicated fan bases (think 10,000 followers or fewer, perhaps even just 1,000).
Micro-influencers are also respected. According to Experticity, these influencers are “not traditional celebrities, but rather individuals who work in their category or are truly knowledgeable, passionate and authentic and are seen as a trusted source when it comes to recommendations for what to buy.”
Given how tough (and expensive) it can be to get a celebrity influencer’s attention, the micro-influencer trend has big potential. Tap the right micro-influencers, the argument goes, and brands get access to a more engaged audience.
The influencer marketing trend is well documented. Noting their effectiveness, brands are spending more time and money to develop influencer strategies. Over 80 percent of marketers say influencer budgets are increasing this year, including 50 percent who say budgets will increase substantially, according to a 2016 Grapevine report.
Research suggests micro-influencers may be the best place to spend those dollars. Experticity found that 82 percent of customers say they are highly likely to follow recommendations made by a micro-influencer. These influencers also tend to be more vocal about giving recommendations than the average consumer, logging up to 22.2 times more “buying conversations” each week including product recommendations.
The micro-influencer proof is very evident on Instagram. On that platform, fewer followers translate to higher engagement rates. Takumi found that Instagram influencers with 1,000 to 1,999 followers fared the best on engagement, as PRWeek reported. Users with a smaller circle of followers generated 5 percent engagement on sponsored posts, versus the measly 0.76 percent generated by users with over 100,000 followers.
The smaller the following, it seems, the more authentic and trusted the influence. The expertise and respect micro-influencers generate around a topic also expands their impact. Compared to an average person, micro-influencers are seen as more credible and believable (94 percent vs. 83 percent), more knowledgeable (94 percent vs. 84 percent) and more adept at explaining how a product works (92 percent vs. 83 percent).
Moreover, brands have more micro-influencers to choose from. On Instagram, users with more than 100,000 followers comprise just 0.1 percent of the platforms users base. But micro-influencers make up 6 percent of Instagram’s users, meaning brands have a larger and more diverse group to tap into, Takumi reports.
The key to an effective influencer marketing campaign is finding the right influencer. Brands need to hone in on influencers already using a product and loving it, or seek out influencers invested in a specific topic closely related to the brand.
For example, natural product maker Tom’s of Maine (a Skyword client) reached out to micro-influencers engaging in conversation about earth-friendly products. The company has a network of micro-influencers that it incentivizes to post about its products through compensation, and the brand is exploring a way for influencers to unlock additional rewards as they complete certain actions that sing the brand’s praises, Ad Age reported.
Brands looking for micro-influencers should start by searching for people already using the product and talking about it. If the product is new and social conversation minimal, consider the audience you want to target, and seek ways to insert yourself in the conversation. In the case of Toms of Maine, maybe that’s finding Instagram users with an interest in earth-friendly products and issues. For a B2B software company, maybe that’s finding Twitter users who influence decision-makers in your industry. Engage in social media conversations and give your potential influencers the chance to get to know your brand and product before asking them to post a positive comment.
Products reviews and online comments might be another micro-influencer hotbed. Someone with a great story about how they’ve used your product might be willing to share it with a wider (and more engaged) audience.
Given all the good news about micro-influencers, will Selena, Bieber, and Taylor soon find themselves without lucrative sponsorship deals? Probably not.
But for brands big and small, micro-influencers offer a marketing sweet spot. If you’re a company looking to dabble in influencers for the first time, micro-influencers offer great bang for your buck. On the other hand, companies with more established influencer campaigns would do well to diversify and incorporate micro-influencers with varying audience sizes, including those with fewer than 2,000 followers. Brands that build a network of these micro-influencers will generate a stronger impact than working with a handful of bigger names.
Micro-influencers may not boast celebrity-level social media followings, but they pack a powerful punch.