The internet and social media are changing how consumers learn about products. Companies are no longer the gatekeepers of knowledge. Instead, there’s an army of reviewers, bloggers, and YouTube personalities all out there, all voicing their opinions on what they sell.
Far from ignoring these individuals, many brands are embracing them. They see them as an opportunity to connect more authentically with their audiences and drive sales.
For years, big brands targeted regular influencers by sending them review products or offering them free trials to share with their audiences. But with some mainstream social media personalities charging six-figure sums for a single product placement, this tactic is out of reach for many firms. Small businesses simply can’t afford it.
Now, they’re turning to micro-influencers: individuals with marketable followings who aren’t Instagram millionaires. Brands are partnering with these individuals to get their products and services in front of relevant, niche audiences, promoting their brands at a lower cost.
What Is A Micro-Influencer?
Right now, there’s no set definition of a micro-influencer. However, most brands are targeting individuals on social media with between 1,000 and 100,000 followers. These are usually just people starting out but who have a large enough audience to make working with them worthwhile. Because they’re beginners, they charge low fees, if any at all.
Critically for brands, micro-influencers have a niche focus. Rather than covering a broad category, such as travel, they go deep, drilling down into the detail – great for any firm looking for a niche audience.
The difference between a regular and a micro-influencer can be blurry at times. But real-world examples can help with the distinction.
Jay Leno, for instance, is a big influencer in the automotive world. Millions of people watch his shows and YouTube videos.
From a marketing perspective, he’s not a micro-influencer. He might be willing to talk to the CEO of a famous car company, but he doesn’t make a habit of going to random dealerships in the north of England. Because of this, he’s out of reach for most car sellers, particularly those outside the U.S. They simply can’t afford what he’d charge.
That’s not true, though, of micro-influencers with more modest followings. These smaller players are often keen to work with companies operating in the niche they serve. They want brands to provide them with the material they can use in their videos. For instance, a car vlogger might work with a local dealership to test drive some second-hand Japanese cars.
Micro-Influencer Vs. Influencer Marketing
These days, influencer marketing is big business. Top players in their category have millions of followers who hang on their every word. Large companies pay significant sums of money to these people to showcase their products and generate sales. Customers are much more likely to buy on the recommendation of an influencer they trust than a brand they don’t.
Charli D’Amelio’s partnership with Dunkin’ Donuts is a good example of influencer marketing in action. In 2020, she teamed up with the brand to post a series of videos of her drinking the firm’s drinks and eating its products. Her campaign led to a 57 per cent increase in Dunkin’s app downloads and the sale of hundreds of thousands of drinks.
Even Google is jumping on the influencer marketing bandwagon. The brand, which has a global captive audience, worked with mega influencer Zach King to promote the search giant’s conferencing tool, “Meet” and password manager. During the promotion, King gives watchers a tour of his studio, showing them rooms that create optical illusions, making people appear smaller and bigger than they actually are. At the end of the video, he promotes Google’s products in a fun and interesting way.
However, for small brands, these influencers are out of reach. Most charge too much and don’t offer discounts unless they have an extremely good reason to do so.
There’s a solution, though: micro-influencer marketing. While their audiences are smaller, influencers in this category tend to have enormous sway over their opinion.
For instance, research shows that micro-influencers boast 60 per cent higher engagement compared to their mainstream counterparts. Rather than viewing them as celebrities, consumers see them as peers and are, therefore, significantly more likely to trust them.
Micro-influencers also generate sales results that firms care about. Figures reveal that their conversion rate is 20 per cent higher than “macro influencers,” despite their small size.
Individual micro-influencers are not miraculous. Their small followings mean that even if they do achieve perfect engagement, total volumes can be low. However, brands usually work with dozens of them to promote their products and services. Networks of influencers help them capture more of their target audience, as you will see in the examples below.
The Advantages Of Using Micro-Influencer Marketing
We’ve touched on some of the benefits of using micro-influencer marketing above, but it’s worth spelling them out in more detail. This way, you can get an understanding of why the technique is becoming so popular, and why your brand should use it.
Target Niche Markets
Macro-influencers tend to be generalists by definition. It’s hard, for instance, for a travel vlogger to get millions of views by only making videos about trips to Poland. However, micro-influencers see no problem with this approach. They drill down into a topic or and milk it for all its worth. In their eyes, a Poland-only YouTube channel is perfectly viable.
Knowing this, you can see how different companies in the travel industry might respond. Package holiday brands that offer deals all over the world might not find a Poland-only influencer particularly appealing. But a Poland-only tour operator would probably jump at the chance to work with such a person. A vlogger in this niche would provide the firm with a curated community it could tap into immediately.
Marketing agency, Markerly provides insight into the effectiveness of using micro-influencers versus regular influencers. A company approached it to market its weight-loss tea on social media. First, Markerly’s CEO and founder Sarah Ware approached the Kardashians and Jenner sisters to promote the firm’s product on Instagram. This strategy led to more conversions. However, when Markerly built relationships with a few dozen micro-influencers, conversion rates for the green tea brand were even higher. Consumers appeared to take recommendations more seriously.
Reduce Advertising Costs
The cost of hiring top macro-influencers is considerable. Macro influencers on Instagram, for instance, charge anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 per post, with some so-called “mega influencers” asking for more than $10,000 per post.
TikTok influencer pricing is a little different but still high. The average cost for a sponsored TikTok is $3,514 with macro influencers asking for more than $5,000 per post, and mega influencers more than $7,000.
On YouTube, costs are even higher. Sponsored videos cost an average of $4,491 each (partly because producing content takes so much longer).
As you might expect, though, prices for micro-influencers are significantly cheaper. For micro-influencers with 10,000 to 50,000 followers, businesses might only pay $100 to $500 per post. For so-called nano-influencers – people with between 100 and 1,000 followers – fees are even less, perhaps as little as $10.
As a general rule of thumb, expect to pay around $100 per 10,000 followers. An influencer with more than a million followers will probably charge around $10,000.
The rate you pay, of course, will depend on the platform you choose. TikTok is the newest of the bunch, so its rates tend to be quite varied. YouTube is much older, so pricing here is more settled and predictable.
Rates also depend on the nature of the deal you strike with the micro-influencer. For instance, you’ll pay more if:
- You want usage rights over any content the influencer users so you can repurpose it at a later date
- You want an exclusivity clause that prevents your influencer from working with competitors
- You need to pay agency fees to the influencer’s manager or support team
- You want to run a longer campaign, instead of a regular series of videos
- You want to get content out quickly, within a couple of days, before you miss an opportunity
- You want to include links to your socials, brand website or bio
- You want the influencer to post brand-related content on multiple platforms at the same time
Get Higher Engagement
We mentioned earlier that micro-influencers get higher engagement than regular influencers. But how much higher?
Markerly did a study to investigate just this. They found that as the number of Instagram followers went up, the number of likes and comments decreased proportionally.
For instance, Instagram users with less than 1,000 followers generated likes and comments 8 per cent of the time. Those with between 10,000 and 1,000 did so 4 per cent of the time, and for those with 10,000 to 100,000 followers, the rate was just 2.4 per cent. Mega influencers with more than a million followers only managed to generate engagement 1.7 per cent of the time.
These facts suggest that micro-influencers with smaller followings are the sweet spot for brands. They charge low fees but have the highest engagement rates among all audiences. They have the potential to convert users at more than 20 times the conventional rate.
Build More Authentic Relationships
Internet users are sceptical of polished, highly-branded macro-influencers. Everything they do is so slick, so it’s hard to take their product recommendations seriously.
Research from Morning Consult found that 88 per cent of people want influencers to be authentic. Social media followers are looking for individuals who seem genuinely interested in their subject area and want to probe matters deeply on their audience’s behalf. Savvy users know that authentic influencers only partner with brands they believe in or use, not just those that pay them the most money.
Many micro-influencers build intimate groups of “friends,” not followers. Creators lead a community that forms closer relationships both on and off social media. This level of connectedness simply isn’t available to firms that work with celebrity media personalities.
Reach Out On Multiple Platforms
To drive engagement, most influencers reach out to their audiences on multiple platforms. They have accounts on YouTube, Locals, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. But even if they don’t, that’s not a problem for brands. That’s because micro-influencers are so affordable. Firms can build relationships with individuals on different platforms, expanding their reach without worrying so much about the cost. They can also pick and choose influencers based on race, gender and sexual orientation, selecting a mixture that helps them reach all audience segments.
Conventional influencers have to produce mainstream content. They can’t do anything that’s too “out there,” just in case they alienate their audiences.
Micro-influencers, though, don’t operate under the same constraints. They’re allowed to follow their creativity wherever it takes them.
For instance, some micro-influencers now post ASMR videos popping pimples on YouTube on behalf of skin care clinics. For mainstream audiences, these videos are gross and unappealing. But micro-influencers with their game hats on can use these videos to attract hundreds of thousands of views. Users who find pimple-popping therapeutic can calm themselves down on these videos and then click links to skincare clinics at the end.
Types Of Relationships You Can Form With Micro-Influencers
This section outlines the types of relationships you can form with micro-influencers. Most have a “press kit” that sets out what they can do, what they expect of you, their rates, and the types of partnerships available, but some don’t.
When choosing a partnership type, select the one that is the best fit for your brand. Your outreach methods should complement your firm’s wider strategic goals. Ask what your company is trying to achieve long-term.
Here are some micro-influencer marketing methods you can choose from, and what they mean for your brand.
Platform takeovers are one of the most exciting forms of influencer marketing. Instead of approaching a YouTuber and asking them to feature your products and services on their channel, you get them to take over yours for a set period.
Takeovers are popular on Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok. Popular influencers spend a few weeks creating content to expand your audience and boost your account. They can either create content freestyle or you can pass them various briefs to fulfil.
Just be warned: this approach can be expensive. You’ll need to pay the micro-influencer an hourly rate plus compensation for the time they could have spent building their own channels.
You’ll also need to set tangible targets. For instance, you might tell the influencer that you want them to double your followers from 20,000 to 40,000 over ten weeks.
Giveaways are another popular strategy for working with influencers and are great for the brand awareness stage. Usually, they involve multiple influencers, but you can target just one or two if that’s appropriate for your audience.
Just like any other marketing technique, you want to make sure that the return on investment (ROI) is greater than the upfront cost. That is, the money you get from extra sales should be higher than the prize and influencer budget combined.
If you aren’t sure whether a campaign will generate a positive return, take a look at the number of followers, comments, and engagements the influencer has. The more active their community is, the more likely they are to drive sales.
Gifting is a less direct approach but it can still work well. The idea is pretty simple: you send the micro-influencer a “gift” to their address with a cover letter explaining it and then wait for them to discuss it on their channel. Nine times out of ten, they will use whatever items you send them to create new content.
This tactic, though, rarely works on bigger influencers. They don’t shout out since so many other firms are trying the same tactic.
Sponsored content is where you pay the influencer a fee for covering a topic relating to your products or services. In most cases, influencers are free to create whatever they want, but they must mention your product under the terms of the agreement you have with them. They may also create content that exclusively relates to what you sell, though this is rarer.
If you want a long-term relationship with a micro-influencer, you might want to ask them to become a brand ambassador. Under this setup, the influencer plugs your brand in every video or aligns themselves closely with it.
There are some good examples of brand ambassador micro-influencer marketing operating in the wild right now. Bikepacking legend and YouTube creator, Ryan Van Duzer, for instance, partners with various companies in the bike industry to promote their products. He swears by the benefits of a Pinion gearbox (as an alternative to conventional external gears) and Gates belt drives (instead of a regular chain). At the end of most videos (which involve cycling hundreds or thousands of miles), he shows how these components survived and thrived during the journey.
Lastly, some micro-influencers use an affiliate marketing sales model. Here, you pay the influencer to promote your products and services in exchange for a commission every time a referral converts.
Small businesses love affiliate marketing because there are no upfront costs. And micro-influencers are also keen on it because the amount they can earn is unlimited.
How To Use Micro-Influencers To Grow Your Business
As we have seen, working with micro-influencers offers a host of benefits. But how do you get started? Here’s what to do:
Step 1: Write Down Your Goals
Before you send any emails or pick up the phone, write down the goals for your micro-influencer marketing campaign. Figure out what you need to measure to determine success. Brainstorm metrics, such as:
- Promo code usage
- Total value per sale
- Increased website traffic
- Number of downloads
When outlining your goals, ensure that they are specific, measurable and something that you can achieve within a reasonable time frame. Also, make them realistic – something you could achieve with regular partnerships.
Step 2: Set Your Budget
As we have seen, the cost of hiring influencers varies greatly. Brands can spend upwards of £100,000 working with famous celebrities and YouTube sensations.
Therefore, you’ll want to set your budget first so you know precisely what you can afford. Don’t go into a deal until you’re sure about your finances.
Step 3: Seek Micro-Influencers In Your Niche
The next step is to hunt for micro-influencers that align with your brand and target audience. The partnership should feel natural.
To find quality influencers in your niche, open all your social media apps and type in keywords associated with your brand. Then hunt down the list for suitable micro-influencers with between 1,000 and 100,000 followers.
When searching, pay close attention to user engagement markers. High post frequency, a distinct personality or voice, and plenty of comments, likes and shares are all good signs.
Step 4: Discuss Fees
Usually, you have to pay influencers to promote your brand. They won’t do it for free (unless they use your products and services personally).
First, ask the influencer if they have a media kit. If they’ve worked with companies before, they should be able to produce a document for reference. However, brand-new influencers won’t have anything, so you may need to help them with this part.
Next, you’ll want to negotiate the fee based on your deliverables. Tell the influencer what you think is fair, given what you are asking for.
Before you go into the negotiation, you’ll need to consider:
- The requirements for either party terminating the agreement (sometimes called a cancellation clause).
- How they will disclose your paid partnership.
- Whether you want them to work with other brands in your industry or not.
- Whether you can use the content they produce for promotional purposes on other platforms.
- How long you want the partnership contract to last.
- What feedback you will give, and how much oversight you want over the final production of content.
- The date the influencer needs to deliver content.
- The details of the content you want them to deliver (such as the format or platform).
- How many pieces of content they should produce relating to your brand, and how often.
Don’t be acrimonious in your negotiations. Remember, you’re trying to build a cordial relationship with the influencer. Haggling like you’re at a Turkish market isn’t a good idea.
Step 5: Track The Results
Once you sign an agreement with the micro-influencer, track the results. Doing this shows you whether your content performed and if you should continue your present strategy or try a new one.
There are two main ways to track results: in-app tools or sharing trackable links.
Instagram, for instance, offers a host of branded content tools that make it easier for influencers and brands to work together transparently. You can set up posts to display the “paid partnership” label on the influencer’s feed, helping to build audience trust.
You can also see the reach and engagement of your Facebook page via Insights. Viewing content performance is easy with this method.
Trackable links are a little more technical. Automated services like Bit.ly exist that make it simple to keep track of clicks and engagements.
If you use Urchin Tracking Modules (UTMs) at the end of your URLs, you’ll need the help of Google Analytics. This tool lets you track the micro-influencers specific contribution to site traffic and sales. You can also see individual post performance, shedding insight into the types of content that work, and those that don’t.
Examples Of Micro-Influencer Campaigns That Worked
This section introduces several micro-influencer campaigns that worked. Check them out below.
DoNotAge.org And Dr Brad Stanfield
Dr Brad Stanfield is a micro-influencer who discusses ageing and longevity issues on YouTube. The purpose of his videos is to provide instructional and educational content to users who want to live longer and healthier lives.
In 2020, longevity supplements research company DoNotAge.org approached him and asked whether he would be willing to recommend their products in his videos. Because of the quality of the company’s supplements and their third-party testing policy on all their ingredients, he agreed. He began offering users a discount code, giving them money off their Do Not Age purchases, and encouraging traffic to the new brand’s site with a kickback going to Dr Stanfield on every sale.
Hawaii’s Department Of Tourism And Rick Poon
Hawaii relies on a constant influx of tourists to keep the economy healthy. To this end, it recently launched its #LetHawaiiHappen campaign on Instagram.
Instead of going to the big travel bloggers, it reached out to smaller accounts instead, asking them to share content promoting the destination. Eventually, it partnered with a little-known micro-influencer and photographer, Rick Poon, to showcase his visit to Hawaii and get his audience to visit the island chain.
Sephora And The Sephora Squad
Sephora is a global cosmetics brand with a cult following all over the world. In 2019, the brand launched a micro-influencer campaign involving twenty-four beauty influencers later dubbed #SephoraSquad. It is now the cornerstone of the brand’s marketing efforts.
In a one-year deal, Sephora paid influencers to give their honest, unvarnished opinion about its products in their posts. The idea was to give people greater insight into how real users fared with its products, and build trust.
Between May 2020 and February 2021, Sephora Squad members increased their Instagram followers by 18 per cent, Youtube followers by 15 per cent and TikTok followers by comparatively more, growing their combined follower count by more than 93 per cent.
Venus Razors And “Influensters”
Gillette, the owner of Venus Razors, has a lot of millennial, gen X and boomer customers due to relentless advertising over the last forty years. However, it’s less well-known to gen Z and younger.
As such, the brand recently took the initiative to launch its “Influensters” campaign. It sent out a box containing its Venus products to female influencers on Instagram, (including nano-influencers with less than 1,000 followers) and asked them to record themselves using its products in everyday life. Rather than presenting itself in lavish celebrity bathrooms or on film sets, the series depicted ordinary people using its products for the first time.
Following the campaign, influencers gathered nearly half a million new followers and bumped up their engagement rate to 2.2 per cent from less than 1,000 Instagram posts.
Park Tools And GMBN
Lastly, we have the relationship between Park Tools and GMBN – the Global Mountain Bike Network. Park Tools is a manufacturer of high-end bicycle tools, like spanners, wheel truing sets, and headset presses. GMBN, on the other hand, is a resource for cycling enthusiasts that covers the latest biking technologies, destinations, setups, equipment, and techniques.
Park Tools adopted a brand ambassador approach to its partnership with GMBN. The show’s presenters stand in front of a wall of Park Tools’s products (giving the studio a workshop feel), reminding viewers that it offers the best tools in the industry. It is the only brand to appear in every video.
Are you considering teaming up with micro-influencers in your niche? If so, you’ll need to do your homework.
Remember, while micro-influencer marketing works well for consumer-facing physical products, it doesn’t work for all businesses. State-of-the-art accounting software firms are unlikely to make a big splash on TikTok.
You’ll also want to prepare yourself for the amount of work involved in building relationships with potentially dozens of influencers. Big companies, like Coca-Cola and Sephora, have in-house marketing teams to take care of all the administration, but smaller firms don’t.
Ultimately, though, if you can pull off a micro-influencer strategy, you’ll earn higher engagement and better returns. Users will show more an interest in your brand and your conversion should increase if the figures presented here are anything to go by.