When Influencer Marketing first took off, it was seen as a numbers game. The more followers the better, the more likes the better and the more comments, the better. And, the more followers, the more the influencer could charge.
But with such a focus on numbers, came influencer fraud and the purchasing of fake followers and fake engagements. You’d think I’d be sick to the teeth of talking about influencer fraud since it’s my dissertation topic, but I find it incredibly interesting, especially when it’s such a hot topic right now and after a lot of the research I conducted, it only made me more interested.
From gathering a lot of thoughts and opinions, there does seem to be a shift in influencer marketing steering away from working with the big names and aiming their strategy towards smaller influencers – what we like to call ‘micro-influencers’. There is no one definition for a micro-influencer but for me, I’d say it is someone with between 10,000-80,000 followers and an expert in a particular niche.
I’ll give you some examples that I follow – @bethsandland who has 52,000 followers is currently travelling around Australia and Asia and sharing the travel tips and advice, and always partners with brands that suits her audience. @sineadheg who has 64,000 followers is currently in Thailand and as well as being a fitness influencer, is great at motivational speaking and recommending books to help better yourself.
Both girls have extremely engaged followers as can be seen through their polls, recommendations they ask for and responses they receive. Even with only 64,000 followers, Sinead posted an affiliate link for the book, The Power of Now and the website got in touch with her to tell her that it had become the best selling book on their site, all thanks to her link.
For the big influencers, has it all just become a money game? Have their followers and consumers become uninterested and unengaged due to the frequent posting of ads? Understandably for some, it is a full-time job and their only income, but how long will this last? And how long will they last?
Micro-influencers are looking to be the way forward, and here are some reasons why.
1. More engagement
The micro-influencers that I follow have one thing in common – they all speak to their camera in their Instagram stories. Every day I find myself checking their stories because I know they’ll have something on there and will be talking about their day. I think this creates more of a connection between you and the influencer, making you feel like you are part of their life journey and when good things happen or they hit certain milestones or achievements, you feel like celebrating with them.
Because there seems to be that personal level of communication, you feel more inclined to reply to their stories, to message them like you’re a friend rather than just another follower. You’ll comment on their posts because they’re likely to reply, you’ll like their images because they also like yours and you’ll vote in their polls because you’re genuinely interested in them.
With a more interested and active audience, you’ll receive more engagement. As the micro-bloggers are usually in a niche area, this will also enhance how engaged the audience are. With 10,000 followers, an influencer can post ‘swipe-up’ links directly to your site or where you would like them to be directed. Micro-bloggers and influencers regularly seem to receive more engagement and interest rates than their larger competitors.
2. They can be cheaper
This is especially beneficial if a company looking to work with influencers is small or has a limited PR/Influencer budget to spend. Even though engagement rates may be high, most pricing is based on follower numbers and the level and amount of content required.
Due to not having a follower number in the hundreds of thousands or millions, they aren’t able to charge thousands of pounds per post on Instagram. For a lot of micro-bloggers, social media and blogging/vlogging isn’t their full-time job and is only a hobby or ‘side-hustle’ as some like to call it. In terms of payment, a brand partnership is a bonus and something they can add to their portfolio.
I have a lot of thoughts and opinions when it comes to the payment of influencers because, who set the standard? Where do the figures come from? How are they calculated? What are they based on? Why do Z-List celebs get paid thousands to post a selfie of themselves with a meal replacement supplement? And who’s monitoring the amount they get paid? Oh and, do they pay tax?
So many questions, so little answers. Even from a personal point of view, I had to Google what the average rate of pay was for a blog post because I was asked how much I charged. I hadn’t a clue and just had to go off what Google was telling me, and I think a lot of bloggers/influencers do the same.
It’s also known that a lot of the influencers talk to each other and when approached by the same brand for the same partnership, they all talk about how much they’re being paid so that one isn’t undercharging or losing out.
Micro-influencers may be cheaper than the Sarah Ashcrofts and Zoellas of the influencer world, but they also don’t just do it for the money like some would.
3. More impact
As I mentioned with Sinead Hegarty above, even with only 64,000 followers, she managed to make a book the number one seller on a website that she posted the affiliate link to. Her followers listen to her and act upon what she says and recommends, that much is clear. And so, with a brand that she likes or is relevant to her audience, the return on investment can be huge if it is a correct fit.
Doesn’t it make more sense for a brand to receive 10,000 sales from an influencer who has 64,000 followers than 1,000 sales from an influencer with 462,000 followers? Yes you can say that the influencer with 462,000 had a reach of that amount with their post compared to a reach of 64,000 from the first influencer – but what is more important, reach or sales?
From a lot of my dissertation research, I actually found out that most influencer marketing strategies are not to do with sales but more to do with brand awareness. This is where I’m guessing the importance on reach comes from. A higher viewing number means a greater reach which means a high number of people have seen your brand.
But what is a brand without sales? Personally, I would much rather run a campaign focused on working with a lot of micro-influencers that could garner sales but also create awareness for the brand. I would much rather go back to a client and say ‘We had a reach of 160,000 and made 20,000 sales through the influencers’ affiliate links’ rather than ‘We had a reach of 800,000 through one influencer and 50 sales – but what a great reach!’
4. More authentic and personal
Micro-influencers can be quite careful and apprehensive about the brands that they choose to work for. As they have a more engaged audience, they wouldn’t want to lose them by selling out to random brands just for the money.
This is why a lot of micro-bloggers will only promote brands they would recommend or buy from themselves. It makes it more of an authentic partnership and usually there can be a personal touch added to it as to why they decided to collaborate.
For some micro-influencers, they aren’t just doing it for the pay check at the end so to meet the bills and pay their rent (or for a new Dior handbag). For them, they love the brand or believe in what they do and want to do their bit to help and get excited by the opportunity to work with them.
You can believe a micro-influencer when they say that they use the product or really recommend it, rather than bigger influencers recommending products that you know they would never use in a million years and ends up in a give-away the very next month.
And because micro-influencers aren’t pushing out ads left, right and centre, they have more time to work on their partnerships and usually, their work is of very high quality. These partnerships can help lead to more partnerships if done right. It’s important for a micro-blogger to put time and effort into their paid work and this can help them maintain a relationship with the brand and hopefully secure work in the future.
5. Targeting a niche audience
The more niche you can go, the better. I mean, imagine a blogger that specifies in nail art and only nail art. If you were a nail polish brand, you’d make much more of an impact working with that blogger than you would with a large beauty influencer as the smaller blogger’s audience is following them solely because of nail polish. You get me?
This is why the gaming influencer market is so huge and one of the most expensive. Their audience, whilst large, is extremely engaged because they’re interested in gaming and the only thing they talk about, is gaming. It may be a big market, but it’s still incredibly niche online.
For some brands, they may ask for incredibly specific influencers that are within different niches. For example, during my placement year, one of my tasks was to find influencers that were interested in beauty and grooming but also travel and photography. Most of the time, those are quite common for one influencer to have as their interests, but once I found influencers that posted about all three, I then had to decide whether they were a fit for the brand.
The more niche your chosen influencer is, the more engaged their audience is going to be with your brand or product.