Has a celebrity ever convinced you to buy something?
It’s okay if the answer is yes -- we’ve all been there. In fact, just recently, a famous dog helped convince me to purchase a GoPro camera. For a creature who can’t speak, he’s a pretty effective marketer.
Loki the Wolfdog’s Instagram post is a successful example of influencer marketing, which involves developing relationships with influential personalities to promote your brand to the influencer’s audience. Loki the Wolfdog has over 1 million Instagram followers GoPro may not have otherwise been able to reach with posts on its own profile.
A newer concept known as micro-influencer marketing recently joined the social media scene. It’s the same concept as influencer marketing, but on a smaller scale: Brands partner with individuals with smaller followings on social media to promote products with authentic, visual posts instead of sponsored ads.
In this blog post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about micro-influencers, including what brands are using them successfully and how you can connect with these individuals to promote your brand.
What Is a Micro-Influencer?
Micro-influencers are social media users unlike typical celebrities, experts, or public figures. They're individuals who work or specialize in a particular vertical and frequently share social media content about their interests. Unlike traditional "influencers," micro-influencers have a more modest number of followers -- typically in the thousands or tens of thousands -- but they boast hyper-engaged audiences.
For example, a yoga influencer might boast millions of followers and operate several yoga studios. A yoga micro-influencer might have only a few thousand followers and post instructional videos on Instagram for their fans to try at home, but their average post receives a healthy amount of engagement relative to the size of their follower base.
The Value of Micro-Influencers
Using micro-influencers may seem counterintuitive. Why would you seek out someone with a smaller following to promote your brand?
There are several reasons to believe micro-influencers might get better results for your brand.
Micro-influencers have better engagement rates.
Markerly studied Instagram engagement and found a surprising trend: As an influencer's number of followers increases, their number of likes and comments from followers decreases.
Markerly recommends brands pursue micro-influencers with Instagram followings in the 1,000-10,000 range. With micro-influencers, brands can achieve higher engagement rates among a large enough audience. In a recent study, Experticity learned micro-influencers have 22.2X more conversations than the typical Instagram users -- largely because they're passionate and knowledgeable about their particular interest area.
Micro-influencers have more targeted audiences.
Markerly also notes that micro-influencers have more targeted follower bases than influencers with follower numbers in the hundreds of thousands and millions.
Think about it: If a clothing brand partnered with a celebrity with millions of followers on Instagram, the celebrity could reach their huge pool, but a large portion of them might not be interested in fashion. Instead, if the clothing brand connected with 100 fashion bloggers with 1,000 followers apiece, it would be able to connect to a smaller but far more targeted and engaged audience.
Markerly CEO and co-founder Sarah Ware told Digiday that partnering with the Kardashian and Jenner sisters to promote a weight-loss tea on Instagram led to a significant number of conversions. However, Ware also noted that working with 30-40 micro-influencers achieved a higher conversion rate than when the celebrities were promoting the tea. In fact, 82% of customers surveyed by Experticity said they would be very likely to follow a recommendation from a micro-influencer.
Micro-influencers are more affordable.
Micro-influencers are typically more affordable than celebrities or profiles with millions of followers. Celebrities sometimes charge up to $75,00 for a single Instagram post promoting a product. In contrast, 97% of micro-influencers on Instagram charge less than $500 for a promotion post. Granted, brands usually work with more than one micro-influencer to maximize reach, but even 100 micro-influencers would cost less than a single celebrity on Instagram at these rates.
For micro-influencers with smaller followings, brands may even be able to compensate them in the form of free products. According to Digiday, La Croix Sparkling Water (more on them below) sent a micro-influencer vouchers for free products instead.
Micro-influencers are more authentic.
Micro-influencers are real people, so their Instagram content is real, too. Instagram users with a few thousand followers likely post their own content, reply to comments, and behave more authentically than a brand or a celebrity with a social media manager might. If a micro-influencer engages with a promotional post on Instagram, their followers might be more inclined to click to learn more about the brand they're posting about.
It's also worth noting that Instagram recently changed its algorithm to mirror Facebook's. Now, posts from profiles users follow and interact with are shown first in Instagram feeds, and authentic, quality content is prioritized over promoted content from big brands. This might make micro-influencer content more visible than content from celebrities if the algorithm determines users might be more interested in it.
One note: If you were wondering why we’re only mentioning Instagram in this blog post, it's because micro-influencers as a marketing strategy has taken off primarily on that platform. Because Instagram is so visual, it's easy for micro-influencers to post photos of products and brand experiences instead of writing a promotional tweet or Facebook post. That's not to say that micro-influencer marketing can't be done on other social media platforms, but Instagram's Explore tab helps users find and interact with micro-influencer content easily.
You'll see what we mean when we dive into different micro-influencer strategies brands are using successfully below.
La Croix identifies micro-influencers on Instagram and asks them to share product awareness posts on Instagram. It finds micro-influencers by searching branded hashtags, such as #LiveLaCroix, and when users tag the brand on Instagram. It specifically targets profiles with lower follower counts to maintain a feeling of authentic "realness" that appeals to millennial Instagram users. Then, La Croix reaches out to them with product vouchers or other offers to post pictures with the sparkling water.
If you check out La Croix's Instagram page, you'll see it features a lot of content posted by micro-influencers, such as this photo below:
A photo posted by LaCroix Sparkling Water (@lacroixwater) on
By tapping into smaller, more targeted networks of micro-influencers, La Croix cultivates a social media presence that's authentic and fun, and ensures its product is in front of the eyes of similar users. If you have a physical product that looks great on camera (like an eye-popping can of La Croix), try engaging with micro-influencers by sending free product for Instagram promotions.
2) Kimpton Hotels
Boutique hotel chain Kimpton uses Instagram takeovers to connect with micro-influencers. These consist of micro-influencers creating original content for the brand's Instagram and posting the content as themselves. Takeovers connect new audiences with the brand and help generate new followers, more engagement, and eventually, new potential guests at Kimpton Hotels.
Curalate Marketing Director Brendan Lowry wrote about taking over some of Kimpton's Instagram accounts and posting photos of his own, like this one:
The caption links easily to his personal Instagram, which links back to the Kimpton account, helping his more than 27,000 followers find and interact with the hotel's content.
Try an Instagram takeover by a micro-influencer to provide behind-the-scenes or unique looks at a brand or product. It's more creative to feature photos taken by different people, and it directs Instagram traffic between the brand's and the photographer's accounts for mutually beneficial results -- namely, more engagement and more followers.
3) Stitch Fix
Personal shopping website Stitch Fix invites micro-influencers to contribute content that the brand then promotes on Instagram.
In the post below, Stitch Fix's Instagram bio linked to a post featuring a Q&A with a fashion blogger micro-influencer about how she dresses for her body type:
This micro-influencer strategy works because it drives traffic to a brand's blog and Instagram profile. Try reaching out to micro-influencers and offer to publish their content and cross-promote it on social media to generate engagement from their followers and readers.
4) Hawaiian Department of Tourism
Hawaii's Department of Tourism tapped into the power of micro-influencers for its #LetHawaiiHappen Instagram campaign. It partnered with Instagram users who are travel bloggers or Hawaiian natives to share content promoting events and destinations so visitors and Hawaiians would be interested in traveling to check them out.
After the campaign, 65% of people who saw the posts said they wanted to visit Hawaii (talk about effective). If you want to attract new followers and Instagram engagement, try reaching out to micro-influencers to promote an event or a location that their followers might want to check out.
Are you on board with micro-influencers? Before you answer, consider the following.
There are a few downsides to this strategy. Notably, micro-influence works well on Instagram with visual products, such as a bright can of sparkling water or an eye-catching outfit. This might not be the best strategy for promoting complicated software or other technology. But remember, you can be creative. As long as you can find a micro-influencer to share an Instagram post that's compelling, you might be able to generate much more engagement.
Additionally, it's a lot of work to work with several micro-influencers. Brands have to reach out to them on Instagram and manage several different relationships. However, we think the payoff is worth it for authentic and engaging Instagram posts.
Keep an eye on Instagram users tagging your brand or using a branded hashtag -- they might just be your next biggest promoter. And if you want to learn more about influencer marketing or Instagram content promotion, read our guides on these topics next.
Have you ever tried influencer or micro-influencer marketing? Share with us in the comments below.
Originally published Mar 7, 2017 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017