In influencer marketing, the focus is less on the product and more on the people who use it.
It’s a way of leveraging social proof, by showing influential people using the product and recommending it to an audience. Influencer marketing has traditionally been left to big brands who can afford to hire major celebrities to endorse a product, but in recent years there has been a shift towards influencer marketing on a much smaller level.
How influencer marketing started
In the early days of online influencer marketing, the most popular influencers were mostly celebrities: stars who endorsed products such as makeup, fashion, and beverages. And the marketing campaigns were confined mostly to TV and magazine campaigns—think former basketballer Michael Jordon for Nike, or supermodel Elizabeth Hurley for Estee Lauder. Both have been spokespeople for their respective brands for decades, demonstrating the long-term power of large-scale influencer marketing. Of course, this kind of influencer marketing is mainly the domain of big-budget marketing campaigns for global brands with lots of money to spend. For small to medium businesses, influencer marketing is trending towards a more authentic strategy, where the influencers are bloggers, YouTube stars, or industry experts, rather than major celebrities.
This new trend is called micro-influencing, and it’s focused on social media stars with small-to-medium followings. Forget the celebrities and stars with tens of millions of followers. The new influencers are people with much smaller followings: think 1,000 to 100,000. Still a fairly high number, but nowhere near true celebrity status.
The New Influencers offer a Targeted Sphere of Influence
Micro-influencing is about targeting niche demographics that are often hard to focus on with big-budget marketing campaigns. This is particularly beneficial for small businesses, as well as businesses that sell products to very specific markets and demographics. For instance, micro-influencers are becoming popular with businesses targeting millennial customers, as this demographic is less impressed by celebrity influencers.
The new breed of influencers are more likely to be social media stars rather than big names in film, music, or sports. Micro-influencers may not have the reach of their celebrity counterparts but in the right situations they’re just as effective. And in fact, the particular qualities of micro-influencers make them just as much, or even more, effective at doing their job than the celebrity influencers are with theirs.
What Makes Micro-Influencers so Successful In Marketing?
The most important feature of micro-influencers is one that might seem counter-intuitive, if you’re thinking in terms relative to most successful marketing campaigns. In most forms of advertising, the more people you can reach, the better, but with micro-influencing, less is more—a lot more.
This is the case for one simple reason: engagement. Influencers with smaller followings tend to engage on a one-on-one level much more often than influencers with large numbers of followings. How often does a Kardashian interact with their Instagram followers? Not very often, if at all. They don’t need to, because the power of their name is sufficient to retain their high follower numbers. Those micro-influencers, on the other hand, know that they need to engage their audience with regular interactions, because their name alone doesn’t keep people following. That higher level of interaction and engagement is what makes micro-influencers so effective in smaller markets.
Simply put, there’s a big difference in engagement level between influencers with small and large social media followings. On Instagram, for example, for unpaid posts the highest engagement rate is seen with influencers who have under 1,000 followers, with a rate of 8%—and the engagement level trends steadily downwards the larger the follower numbers get. This high level of engagement is why it all works: micro-influencers feel more like friends than celebrities. When they review a new product, it’s like chatting with a friend, so of course it’s more influential than an untouchable, unreachable celebrity with whom you share nothing in common.
Another facet of this is simply that consumer trust in advertising has plummeted over the last decade or two. There has been a massive shift in favour of advertising that’s more sincere, more authentic, and more personal. This isn’t true only in the millennial generation; overall, people are less likely to be influenced by the hard sell, especially from traditional media sources such as TV and magazines. The numbers bear this out: 92% of consumers say they trust influencers more than they trust celebrity endorsements and traditional advertising.
For businesses and brands, what does this mean, exactly? Simply that it’s more effective to reach out to a number of micro-influencers than it is to buy a celebrity endorsement. The micro-influencer’s audience has a bigger proportion of people who are likely to be interested in your product, and their higher engagement level means they have a higher level of trust with their audience.
Who are the New Influencers?
The new influencers are people with a genuine interest in and appreciation for the products they review. They’re fashion bloggers who wear the items they talk about, or home DIYers who use the tools they review. For instance:
Eltoria, who transformed a love of makeup into a successful lifestyle blog and social media following. With a YouTube following of just over 100,000 she’s already scooped several UK Blog Awards, among others. She has a refreshingly honest approach and is more authentic than big celebrities who are less trusted.
Grace Victory, a plus-size fashion blogger, vlogger, and presenter. Grace Victory, with 200,000 followers, is more of a “medium” than a micro-influencer, but the plus-size market is woefully under-represented, both in high street stores and in terms of influencer endorsement. That makes even medium influencers in this area particularly powerful.
Travel Dave, a UK travel blogger turned man of the world, who documents his adventures to a following of around 55,000 across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. At 28, Travel Dave has already visited over 80 countries on a limited backpacker’s budget.
The nature of blogging and influencing means there are micro-influencers out there in just about any niche market you can think of. Regardless of what business you’re in, there’s almost certainly at least a small crop of influencers out there who are just right!