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Think Micro if You Want to Do Influencer Marketing Right

Stop dreaming big when it comes to your influencer marketing program. You don’t have to be able to afford to work with Kylie Jenner to reach her 110 million Instagram followers ($1 million per post) or Martha Stewart with 1.8 million followers ($2,500 per post).

Instead, design your influencer marketing around microinfluencers.

More than 75% of Instagram influencers are microinfluencers – defined as between 1,000 and 10,000 followers – according to recent research from Socialbakers. (People vary in their definitions of microinfluencers, from as few as a 1,000 to over 500,000 followers.)

The Must-Know Influencer Marketing Trends study looked at 12 million Instagram influencers from 2018 through the first quarter of 2019. Among the findings:

  • Brand-sponsored influencer posts increased 150%.
  • Use of #ad more than doubled (133%).
  • Engagement didn’t drop that much if the content was sponsored (415 media interactions with #ad posts vs. 442 median interactions without #ad).

“For small and mid-size brands, the economics of microinfluencers work best,” says Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CEO of Socialbakers, a social media marketing platform. “Our data shows that these influencers, for this scale of brands, can amplify the message by eight times at a very low cost compared to the brand posting content themselves.”

Microinfluencers yield macro results

“We’re all about microinfluencers because they tend to give us the best deal for the money invested,” says Raj Vardhman of online marketing agency 99Firms. “They don’t charge as much as mega- or macroinfluencers and people who follow them are genuinely interested in what they have to say.”

Usually focused in one area, microinfluencers are experts in their niche. “They are known to have stronger bonds with their audience and come as more genuine than macro or mega celebrity influencers,” Raj says.

Another benefit of using microinfluencers is that they typically engage with the audience more often than macroinfluencers who don’t have time to respond to every comment (or sometimes any comment).

Microinfluencers work to nurture relationships with their followers rather than simply posting a picture or video with a strong caption. “We can see dialogue between followers and influencers with a smaller amount of followers,” Raj says.

Socialbakers sees similar results. Its research that found three-fourths of influencers are microinfluencers also found that paid influencer posts work just as well as organic posts. “This is achieved due to the authentic relationship between the influencer and the followers,” Yuval says.

Jessica Butner, senior manager of influencer marketing at Go Fish Digital, defines microinfluencers as accounts with between 10,000 and 500,000 followers. Influencers in this range, she says, have more business acumen and more experience working with brands than those accounts with fewer than 10,000 followers.

“Typically, microinfluencers are the most authentic content creators to work with. This is because they have enough experience and opportunity to be able to opt to work with brands who they truly believe in and they aren’t overly saturated with sponsored content,” Jessica says. “Since authenticity is the key to influencer success, nano and microinfluencers will generate higher engagement rates.”

Emma Hull, digital PR executive, Liberty Marketing, works with specialty influencers daily for her clients. For example, for an interior design client, she finds accounts focused on a certain style – hygge, modern, vintage – rather than a large interior decorating account.

“The followers clearly see that account as being individual, unique, and have a genuine interest in that sort of style,” she says. “A larger interior account can be hit and miss because everyone has different tastes – the followers won’t always love what the larger influencer posts.”

Allison Schmidt, marketing manager of Get Online NOLA, categorizes microinfluencers as any profile with less than 10,000 followers. She says they don’t charge or charge less to do sponsored content.

For example, her firm did a New Orleans restaurant campaign and many of the locally based microinfluencers would post on social in exchange for a free meal, which was disclosed in the post. “How you work with influencers is dependent on your goals. In this case our goal was to increase reach, name recognition, and Instagram followers, and we succeeded,” Allison says.

How to find microinfluencers and manage relationships

Get Online NOLA found its dining influencers by searching on Instagram. They reached out to prospects by email, which worked well because microinfluencers usually aren’t inundated with thousands of emails and don’t have a management team like macroinfluencers do, Allison says.

Among the recommendations shared by Raj on how to find influencers:

  • Use word of mouth.
  • Contract with an agency to use its influencer database.
  • Get suggestions from existing groups and associations.
  • Scroll through macroinfluencers’ posts to find potential microinfluencers who frequently comment.

A data-based selection process is critical. “Brands must look at current and past performance of the influencer as well as content guidelines and mentions of competing brands,” Yuval says.

Don’t limit yourself to the follower count as the qualifier. “Followers really aren’t everything,” Emma says. “Check how many comments and “likes” (the profile) gets per photo.”

Formal agreements ensure that both the brand and influencer are on the same page and legally protected. Jessica says typical categories to cover in the agreement include:

  • Type of content expected from the influencer.
  • Compensation expected from the brand.
  • Campaign dates.
  • Any required approval processes.
  • Content usage rights for the brand.
  • Exclusivity (when necessary).
  • FTC guidelines to follow.

Don’t micromanage

Content creation should be left to the microinfluencer, these experts advise. “As a brand, it can be tempting to try and control everything that is said about you, especially when you’re paying for the content,” Jessica says.

Influencer marketing works because influencers have created a bond with their followers, which allows their messages to get around ad blockers, Jessica says. Content out of character for the influencer – too formal or cheesy, for example – will be ignored by followers.

But influencers do need some guidance. Develop a campaign brief to ensure that the influencer shares the right information. Provide key points about your content, brand, product, and/or the service. “This way, you’re providing all the necessary information, but the influencer can share the details in their own words,” Jessica says.

Look at me

Microinfluencers tackle their social media in a multitude of ways. Some always post on brand. Others are a mix of personal and obviously paid posts. While some can be verbose with text and hashtags, others get to the point immediately. These three microinfluencers demonstrate that diversity in posting.

Jmanley_fitness87 has over 7,000 followers on Instagram. While this post isn’t grammatically perfect, it clearly illustrates that his fitness focus is strong. He communicates his message then includes a brief ad mention from Vitamin Shoppe. He also includes the sponsor’s preferred hashtag #VSBestSelf.

Eastcoastcontessa has over 46,000 followers on Instagram. Her profile clearly shows that she uses her account to influence her audience on travel, food, and product review niches.

This post discloses the sponsored content relationship with a fun hashtag #blowprogiftedme:

Nicole Desantis-Robins takes a more low-key approach in her Instagram profile, simply describing herself as “Mama Bird first and foremost.”

With more than 10,000 followers, this microinfluencer is attractive to B2C brands targeting moms, including Walmart and American Greetings:

Don’t wait to analyze

Finally, don’t let measurement wait until the end of the campaign. Regularly monitor the influencer’s activity and check content performance against the overall business goal of a campaign. Adjust as necessary.


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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute