Influencer marketing—the process of leveraging influential people on social media to promote a brand—is on the rise. A 2016 study by Linqia, found that 94% of marketers found this strategy to be effective. Other studies back this up, with one from eMarketer finding that 84% planned to launch at least one influencer campaign in 2017.
However, consumer preferences can be capricious. In an increasingly content inundated digital world, brands need to step up their game to stand out.
But how can brands and businesses compete against the likes of Kim Kardashian and her 109 million followers?
According to the traditional marketing funnel model, you need to generate as much brand awareness as you can at the top of the funnel, work your way down by applying marketing strategies to those that represent strong prospects (middle of the funnel) before turning them into customers with more direct marketing and advertising (bottom of the funnel).
This is why a lot of successful brands tap into celebrities with millions of followers. They’re targeting the top of the funnel by leveraging these followings to generate huge brand awareness.
Or are they?
Studies have shown that top influencers like Kim Kardashian have engagement rates as low as 1.72% per post. That number will continue to drop the more followers they gain. In other words, the bigger the following, the less the engagement.
Keep in mind that in marketing, likes and followers are just vanity metrics. These do not necessarily translate to engagement and sales.
The fact is, consumers can smell promotions a mile away. They know that endorsements from big celebrities are most likely paid sponsorships, thereby gaining the least amount of trust from consumers.
Research from Google shows that YouTube stars have more influence than traditional celebrities because they engage with their fans and followers. This relationship is more fruitful for both parties.
Micro-influencers—those with followers between 5,000 and 25,000—flip the traditional marketing funnel. Instead of starting big, you start small.
These celebrities with relatively smaller followings have a targeted and highly-engaged following (top of the funnel). This makes it easy for their followers to trust their endorsements (middle of the funnel), which then increases the likelihood of purchase (bottom of the funnel).
In fact, micro-influencers have 60% higher engagement rates than their top influencer counterparts. Moreover, 82% of consumers feel more inclined to purchase a product when recommended by a micro-influencer.
When it comes to influencer marketing, micro-influencers prove that bigger is not always better:
Micro-influencers have better engagement rates, thanks to how targeted their followers are. Large accounts with a lot of followers can get you more eyeballs, but they may not care about your brand. In fact, a study by Markerly has found that micro-influencers receive likes 8% of the time compared to 1.6% of those with 10 million followers.
According to Influence.co, an Instagram account with 2,000 to 100,000 followers can charge you an average of £98.35 to £185.21 per post. Once they go beyond their 100,000 follower mark, that rate goes up to an average £287.14 per post. This is, however, a lot more cost effective than shelling out anywhere between £107,676.06 and £179,459.63 for celebrities with huge followings.
In fact, with a budget of a little over £7,000 invested in micro-influencers, you can reach 315,000 Twitter followers, 200,000 people on Instagram, and 125,000 people on Facebook.
Micro-influencers cater to a niche demographic, as opposed to huge accounts that post more about their lifestyles than improving the lives of their followers.
By posting content that is relevant to the micro-influencer’s niche (often in the form of how-to’s), they tend to accumulate followings composed of people who are truly interested in what they do. So when they do endorse a product, it appears to be more authentic.
Ready to get started? Here’s what you need to do to start leveraging the power of micro-influencer marketing:
Lay the foundation of your campaign by establishing the following:
You can find the right influencer to work with by:
It is industry standard to give the influencer your product, so they can test them before recommending it. This is what helps make their endorsements more authentic and believable.
To get the ball rolling, you can send them an email (usually available on their profile bio or website), a direct message, or leave a comment on their post.
Do keep in mind that different influencers may need different types of incentives. Food bloggers, for example, might prefer to be invited to restaurants rather than sent a product. Beauty bloggers will want samples of new releases. Travel influencers would like to write about your place by actually being there.
Successful campaigns provide influencers an entire experience that they can share to their followers. Instead of just telling them how good your product or service is, let them experience what you are selling and allow them to provide a genuine review.
Communicate with your influencers what kind of content you would like to be associated with your brand. Here are a few ideas:
Instead of just mentioning your brand, ask your influencers to tell a story about your product or service. While a mention can put you on consumers’ radar for a while, a story can help your product resonate better with your target market, thereby increasing awareness.
For instance, Emily of @myhealthyishlife worked with Adidas and Fit2Run Tampa to promote the Adidas Ultra Boost. Instead of just a brand mention, Emily told a brief story of her using the shoes and being pleasantly surprised with the results.
Did you know that 93% of consumers find user-generated content helpful when they purchase? This is exactly what Hawaii leveraged with the #LetHawaiiHappen campaign on Instagram.
By working with and asking micro-influencers to post their own content about Hawaii, 100,000 images were generated in a year and the campaign reached 54% of US travellers. 65% of those who saw the campaign said they wanted to visit Hawaii in the next two years.
The more authentic content your influencer publishes, the more trust they gain from their followers. That said, let your influencers get creative with their promotions. While you may have a set of guidelines, make sure that it does not restrict them, as that would remove the authenticity in their posts.
E.l.f. Cosmetics successfully utilised this strategy. By bringing 50 beauty bloggers—all with an average of 1,500 followers—to San Francisco and allowing them to post photos of their new looks using their chosen products, the brand gained 25% increase in social media following across all platforms.
Once the campaign has run its course, you need to assess how effective it was.
Go back to your metrics and see if anything improved. Which of your micro-influencers gave you the best engagement? What about the most sales?
You should also take an objective look at each step of the campaign and see if you can do anything better next time. Don’t forget to thank your influencers and share your results (if possible). That way, you’re keeping communication lines open and the possibility of another collaboration in the future.
Take note that this campaign requires more work and resources. If you want better exposure, you need to work with multiple influencers. You also need to have detailed metrics to track your KPIs.
That said, influencer marketing is the future of advertising, and micro-influencers will help amplify your brand’s reach. If you don’t get on this train, your competitors might just steal all the best influencers away.
Steve Hill is the Director of Bag Workshop, a leading UK supplier in promotional bags and custom branded bags. Having worked in marketing for over a decade, Steve stepped aside to found three separate companies supplying bespoke marketing products under the Wurlin Promo umbrella. You can connect with Bag Workshop on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.