Over the last few years words like ‘likes’, ‘followers’, and ‘to google’ have become a part of our everyday vocabulary. For those working in marketing, these terms have become a new type of virtual currency, and they are minted, traded, and evaluated on the world’s largest social media platform, Facebook. But there’s more to success in Facebook advertising than merely collecting fans and likes.
Classic online advertising methods like banners or pop-ups are being increasingly ignored or even hidden by ad blockers. This makes it very difficult for marketers to bring attention to their products and/or services. As a consequence, there is now demand for new methods, creative campaigns, and communication strategies. Currently one of the most discussed and most important disciplines in the world of online marketing is the so-called influencer marketing – the identification and recruiting of important brand ambassadors online.
For a long time, there was a large amount of effort and focus given to celebrities with large online followings. But new statistics have shown that so-called micro influencers, with much fewer followers, can achieve a larger engagement rate than these celebrities. Anyone who up until now has not been very active in influencer marketing is probably now asking the following questions: What is a micro influencer? Why can they exert more influence on their followers than celebrities? What are the advantages of collaborating with micro influencers for marketing, and how does one even go about finding the right micro influencer? All these questions will hopefully be answered below.
What is a micro influencer?
Compared to big influencers and celebrities with several hundred thousand or even millions of followers, micro influencers are opinion leaders that have a much smaller base of followers but still manage to relate to these followers to a much greater extent. Whilst celebrities may have a wider reach, these micro influencers have the advantage of authenticity and closeness because they engage in regular and lively discussion with their communities and followers. The target audiences of such opinion leaders is quite specific, which means that their followers are much more likely to have a genuine interest in the issues and topics that the micro influencer engages with. Their posts come across as much more authentic, more direct, and the micro influencer’s opinion will be valued a lot higher by like-minded followers. Often, they are seen as experts in a specific area, e.g. fashion, technology, cosmetics, etc. This means that their recommendations are much more trustworthy than those of famous celebrities spotted on large billboards.
Micro influencers are defined by the amount of followers that they have. If you have a look online for concrete figures, you will find a range of follower data. And the strategies of agents and businesses can also be very different: While some will opt for influencers with 100,000-200,000 followers, there are companies, such as the social ad platform Gnack, which go after those with less than 10,000 followers. There is also more than one definition of a ‘micro-influencer’. Mavrck define it as ‘everyday consumers who have 500-5,000 highly engaged followers around relevant topics’.
Accounts with 100,000-200,000 followers cannot really be classified as ‘micro’ and it must also be noted that the users with less than 10,000 followers rarely have a noteworthy reach or influence. But if you find an account that is roughly between these two sets of figures, you should then have what you would call a micro influencer, i.e. an account with between 10,000 and 100,000 followers.
Are collaborations with micro influencers actually worth it?
What is decisive for the success of a marketing strategy is the return on investment, i.e. the profit compared with the capital invested. In order to establish the worth of a social media collaboration, it’s necessary to have access to reliable figures on why a cooperation with a micro influencer might be worth the investment. At the end of the day, they will only reach a fraction of the people compared, for example, with a Kardashian. It was exactly this question that a study by Markerly tried to get to the bottom of – a company that brings social media opinion leaders and brands together.
This study looked at how high the engagement rate is (comprised of likes and comments) in proportion to the number of followers of a particular Instagram account. Researchers looked at more than 800,000 accounts and their respective engagement rates as a percentage of their total followers. The result was quite surprising: the higher the number of followers, the lower the engagement rate percentage was. The highest engagement rate was found among the group of Instagram users with less than 1,000 followers. Here, the average ‘like’ rate was approximately 8 percent. In comparison, while users with more than 10 million followers only reach an average ‘like’ rate of 1.6 percent.
As a result, this means that the like rate for posts made by celebrities (when viewed as a percentage) is quite low. And even rarer is the percentage that comment on a celebrity’s post – according to Markerly, this figure lies at about 0.05 percent for accounts with millions of followers. Accounts with fewer than 1000 followers in this case have a 0.56 percentage rate. If you consider how much it would cost to pay a social media superstar like Kim Kardashian to post a photo with a certain product, then the ROI would be worryingly low.
Multiple micro influencers are better than one expensive celeb
The art of successful micro influencer marketing lies in finding a middle ground that still manages to yield a profit. Celebrities with a large reach are too expensive and will only very rarely address the right target audience for a particular product. Celebrities like the Kardashians have millions of fans and followers, all of whom have very different interests when it comes to products and topics. On the other hand, users with less than a thousand followers have, in many cases, too small a reach and not worth the expense of collaboration. But if a marketing strategy focuses on those micro influencers with a reach of between 10,000 and 100,000 followers, then you should be able to achieve a fairly solid engagement rate and reach. In this case, the like rate usually lies around 2.4 percent and the comment rate at 0.17 percent of users.
There are concrete examples out there that demonstrate the success of such a strategy with micro influencer marketing. In an interview with Digiday, Sarah Ware, CEO of Markerly, explained how her company began an influencer campaign with the Kardashians. This particular campaign revolved around promoting a new tea product to customers. In theory the campaign proved to be quite successful, and thanks to the enormous reach, also managed to achieve several hundred conversions. But it was only through the recruiting of between 30-40 micro influencers that the project really managed to take off. It is smaller brands that cater to niche markets where, in certain circumstances, micro influencer marketing can open up unexpected opportunities – provided that one finds the right influencer.
Another example of a campaign that managed to attract large amounts of attention and went through the media was carried out by the American clothing brand Lord & Taylor. In 2015, the company collaborated with approximately 50 Instagrammers, who were told to wear a certain dress and then post a photo of it. These micro influencers were given the freedom of choosing what they combined the dress with. In exchange, they received a fee of between 1,000 and 4,000 dollars. Within two days the posts managed to reach an unbelievable 11.4 million Instagram users. In just a short space of time, many received over 1,000 likes and some even managed to get over 10,000. The brand itself racked up over 328,000 engagements on their Instagram account. Naturally, the dress sold out straight away as well.
Here’s how to find the right micro influencer for your brand
The biggest obstacle for brands is finding the right micro influencer for their product. And it has been and still is the case that cooperating with celebrities and big influencers is the path of least resistance – potential candidates can be quickly identified and contacted, and on top of that, these people also have a good image and a large reach. But if you are in fact looking to get the maximum out of your marketing efforts, then unfortunately it is not that easy.
Anyone looking to be more target group-orientated by working with multiple micro influencers will have to invest more time and effort. A poorly placed product comes across as unnatural and in the worst case may lead to negative headlines and an unintended comedic effect. To give an example: Many followers will undoubtedly be bemused if a picture of sports equipment suddenly appears in the middle of an account’s long stream of architecture photos. As a result, this could lead to the image and reputation of both the micro influencer and the company involved being harmed. There is also the danger that inadequately characterised sponsored posts bring about negative attention.
Above all, micro influencer marketing has to be sustainable. Anyone who carefully and deliberately chooses their micro influencer or influencers can benefit long-term from such a collaboration. How do you even go about linking with the right contacts these days in the jungle that is the social media in Web 2.0? Admittedly, the search for celebrities and big influencers, who can be identified through their number of followers, through their ‘influencer score’ (how authoritative their online presence is), or with the help of other online tools, is altogether a lot easier than trying to find micro influencers. But luckily there are several promising possibilities for doing this – and they are definitely worth the effort in the long run.
1. Look for potential micro influencers among your own followers and then contact any eligible individuals. Ideally you will find someone who is already familiar with your brand, knows the product, and has maybe even posted something to do with your brand in the past.
2. Use hashtags in ways that are effective and relevant. Useful hashtags have two decisive advantages when it comes to micro influencer marketing. Firstly, they act as a way of keyword indexing consumers, allowing for a comprehensive analysis of target groups. The second advantage is that it’s very easy to identify the interest in particular hashtags, their reach, and finally the respective individual who sees themselves as a micro influencer. These factors make hashtags an effective research instrument.
3. Use the filter options of research tools. These are especially useful if your account happens to have a lot of followers, making a manual search almost impossible. Many tools also offer a lot more than just the possibility of finding and identifying the users with the largest reach. For example, the tool Brandwatch Audiences gives detailed information regarding influencers and audiences. More information on social media monitoring tools can be found in our digital guide.
4. Specialised micro influencer agencies also provide further opportunities in this area, as they bring micro influencers and brands together. Both profit from this relationship: the influencers can remain active and focus on themselves; the agencies can focus on making connections with brands and potential collaborators. This in turn means that a high level of thematic relevance can be achieved, i.e. brands can find users that are genuinely interested in their products, so that these users only receive suggestions for campaigns that are actually relevant to them.
How does communication with a micro influencer work?
If you notice that a micro influencer has an interest in your brand and happens to have a large enough reach, then the first step is already done. Next it is important to carefully build up a partnership with them. Bring attention to yourself by liking and commenting on the micro influencer’s posts. Once the initial contact has been made and a mutual respect has developed, more often than not it is the micro influencer who will enquire about a possible collaboration. Naturally, there have to be incentives offered, as the individuals are usually very aware of their own market value. For them, the collaboration has to be worth their while. Depending on the available budget, your next move should be to offer a VIP bonus as an incentive; it is often the case that reviewers, bloggers, and YouTubers are very happy to receive free testers, which they can also keep. In certain circumstances, Instagrammers will post photos for free if they are particularly fond of the product in question. Invitations to events are also often very welcome. Methods like these are quite cheap from your point of view, but can still have a very desirable effect, especially if enough micro influencers take up your offer.
Micro influencer marketing gives you the opportunity to make your products and brand better known across social media. You can greatly profit from target group-orientated communication and the expert status of the respective micro influencers. Compared to running an individual campaign with famous brand ambassadors, this approach will save you a lot when it comes to your budget.