From mass to mini: Harnessing the power of the micro influencer

Kim Kardashian West might get $500,000 per Instagram post, but what if acquiring meaningful, lasting influence could cost you a teeny-tiny fraction of that price and it was guaranteed to reach the right people?

For years, marketers have been preoccupied with getting celebrities and major opinion makers on-side in order to spread the gospel of their products and, while it may have taken them a hot minute, consumers have started to cotton on. Few things prompt an Instagram user to scroll faster on a feed than a post featuring forced product placement of an incongruous item with the sneaky hashtag #spon or #ad.

That’s not to say mass marketing via super-influencers is dead, it’s just no longer the only way. And thank God, because very few of us have the kind of budget that could entice Kimmy K.

Word-of-mouth marketing consistently comes out on top as the most trusted form of marketing – more than 80 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations above all other types of advertising, according to Nielsen.

Given brands can’t exactly get in the ear of every Aunty Sue or Grandpa John, the next best thing is people other people feel like they know, even if they haven’t met. Maybe it’s that successful travel writer whose career you’ve followed from publication to publication, or that rising sports star who used to play for your local team and now gives super-popular online workout tutorials, or perhaps that talented photographer who shares the most incredible snaps of meals from your local brunch spots.

There’s a word for these kinds of people: Micro-influencers. According to Impact, a micro-influencer is someone who has “between 1,000 to 1,000,000 followers/audience members and are considered experts in their respective niche”. If you’re sitting there thinking “Hey, one million people isn’t all that micro!” – trust us, we hear you. But when you consider that most of America’s top bloggers boast at least 10 million followers each, you can understand the word usage.

What is micro about micro-influencers is their laser-focussed area of interest, whether that be fitness, Australian travel, woodworking or baked goods. And the more micro the influencer, the greater their engagement - a key stat for people looking to lure new consumers.

According to US digital marketing consultant Shane Barker: “influencers with less than 35K followers have the highest engagement rate (5.3%). As the number of followers increases to between 35K and 50K, the engagement drops by more than 50% to 2.5%”.

The logic is simple: The less well-known they are, the most relatable and trustworthy they seem. Their opinion hasn’t yet been tainted by big business (or at least, that’s how consumers see it).

So how do you find a micro-influencer of your own to be your next brand champion? For starters, Forbes advises looking through your company’s existing following on social media to locate people who are already fans of the brand. Utilising specific hashtags is also a great way to find talent. Then approach them organically - follow them back and get to know their work before you reach out to them.

And when you do reach out, be prepared to relinquish control and trust in their vision. They might style, photograph or showcase it in a way you hadn’t anticipated, but it’s likely a way they know will resonate with their following.

The Startup also advises running an ongoing campaign, rather than just a one-off, to really generate interest and loyalty.

Astrid Pascoe is a micro-influencer from Sydney, Australia, who boasts over 11,000 followers, but she’s incredibly choosy about the content she shares with her moderately small, but engaged, fanbase.

“I started my instagram ‘aesthetic’ in 2013, back when it wasn’t such a saturated space,” she told Jac + Bean.

“A few years in, at the start of 2015, I started getting attention from companies because I think they knew I wouldn’t be as expensive to promote their products as the bigger influencers. Also tagging companies in posts when you’re wearing their clothes gets their attention (spending money to make money…),” she explained.

But Pascoe said the ways brands approach her is integral in whether she agrees to partner up or not.

“Almost every time I’m approached is through Instagram DMs and I rarely get emails although my email is there. When the companies talk to you on a personal level and not just copy and paste a generic message definitely influences whether I’ll respond,” she said.

“I only promote what I will actually use, things that are within my ‘brand” and will fit on my feed. I also feel the pressure when the photo is being paid for and that turns it from being a creative outlet to being just a commercialised, scripted photo,” she admitted.

On that note, know that working with micro-influencers may take a bit more time and effort. They’re not like to just take the money and do what you ask - they’ll have questions, what creative control and want to do justice to both your product and their loyal fanbase.

“Micro-influencers are not the end of traditional ads: They’re a personal, authentic-feeling complement to traditional ads,” micro-influencer Lana Olmer told Bstro.

“Now, that’s not to say that people don’t know that micro-influencer posts are advertising. Everyone knows. FCC guidelines and mandatory #sp or #ad hashtags make it clear that a person is being compensated for their work, if they are. But it’s a subtle game.

“At the end of the day, you’re still receiving a product recommendation from a person you know and/or trust. And that carries a lot of weight, even if you know they’re being paid for it.”

Georgia Tyndale