Although the concept of word-of-mouth advertising may seem antiquated these days, it’s still incredibly potent, especially when done on a large scale. Even though modern marketing strategies have become increasingly complex and sophisticated, the majority of consumers still trust personal recommendations from individuals even if they don’t know them personally.
One way brands are expanding their reach and building credibility these days is through influencer marketing where a thought leader essentially gives a nod of approval to their audience on a product/service. In fact, “81 percent of marketers who have used influencer marketing judged it to be effective,” and “59 percent of marketers will increase their influencer marketing budgets in 2016.”
The only problem is that influencer marketing in the conventional sense can be quite costly and isn’t always financially feasible for many small business owners.
What if you simply can’t afford to target someone like Taylor Swift or Kanye West?
It’s simple. Go after micro-influencers.
Let’s now dive into the concept of influencer marketing, discuss the differences between macro and micro-influencers and see how connecting with the latter can be a viable way to gain exposure and increase your brand equity.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Moz defines this term as “the name we give to the process of developing relationships with influential people that can lead to their assisting you in creating visibility for your product or service.”
At its core, influencer marketing is when a well-known individual with mass appeal recommends a product/service to their audience. This might include an influencer tweeting about brand on Twitter, posing with a product on Instagram, mentioning a brand in a blog post, talking about it during an interview and so on.
Macro-Influencers vs. Micro-Influencers
Although the specific amount of sway that an individual holds can vary significantly, you can break influencers down into two primary categories – macro and micro.
As the name implies, macro describes an influencer with a large following. For example, Taylor Swift with her more than 78 million Twitter followers would be considered a macro-influencer. Whenever she says anything, it can instantly reach millions upon millions of people.
On the other hand, micro-influencers have considerably smaller followings (typically 10,000 or less followers). Despite the fact that these individuals may only be able to reach a fraction of the people that a macro-influencer can, they can still be tremendous assets to your brand.
The Benefits of Brand Mentions from Micro-Influencers
While at first glance, it would probably seem that macro-influencers would be your best bet simply because of their ability to reach a widespread audience, opting for micro-influencers may in fact be your best option.
Why? First of all, this approach tends to be much more economical. Rather than shelling out tens or hundreds of thousands for a brand mention from someone with millions of followers, you can often strike a deal with a micro-influencer for little to no investment. If you’re able to establish a relationship and they genuinely value your product/service, many of these individuals will be happy to put in a good word for your brand for absolutely nothing.
Another thing you need to consider is just how loyal the average audience of a micro-influencer is. Although the audience may only be pint-sized in comparison with someone the caliber of Taylor Swift or Katy Perry, audience members tend to be fiercely loyal and hang on to every word of a micro-influencer. Because of the inherent level of trust, authority and respect they have, their opinion is as good as gold.
There’s also the issue of engagement. In fact, a study by Markerly took an in depth look at Instagram influencer followership and engagement and came up with some highly interesting findings that suggest that the more followers a person has, the lower their audience engagement becomes.
Here are some specific data points to put things into perspective:
- Those with less than 1,000 followers generally received likes on their posts 8 percent of the time.
- Those with 1,000 to 10,000 followers have a like rate of 4 percent.
- Users with 10,000 to 100,000 followers have a like rate of 2.37 percent.
- Users with 10 million followers only received like 1.6 percent of the time.
You can clearly see that the higher a person’s following becomes, the less engagement there is.
What Does This All Mean?
This data goes to show that bigger isn’t always better, and there’s a proven correlation between smaller audience size and more engagement. Even though a mega-celebrity may have a lot of glitz and glam, this doesn’t necessarily translate into trust. Often they lack relatability, and their audience may not always take their recommendations seriously.
You also have to take into account the fact that a macro-influencer’s audience will often have diverse interests, and not everyone will be interested in a particular product/service. When this is the case, a macro-influencer marketing campaign is likely to have only limited effectiveness.
On the other hand, micro-influencers are inherently more relatable, and their audience will often be compelled to try a product or service they recommend. Because these individuals are often experts in their industries, there’s a good chance that a substantial percentage of their followers will have a legitimate interest in the product/service a micro-influencer recommends.
In this case, reaching for the low hanging fruit actually makes more sense and can yield bigger results.
Creating Leverage Through Key Relationships
Let’s recap. Micro-influencers have significantly smaller audiences than their macro counterparts. That’s true.
However, their opinions and recommendations usually carry more weight pound for pound. Most have already established a large amount of trust and are thought leaders in their industries. This means that their audience usually takes them seriously, and a sizable portion will at least look into the product/service they suggest.
By getting them to promote your brand, you can tap into their built in network and expedite the growth of your business. Rather than arduously building brand equity from scratch, you can quickly gain momentum and add credibility to your brand without having to do a lot of heavy lifting.
Connecting with Micro-Influencers
So we’ve established that micro-influencer marketing often makes more sense than going through macro-influencers. But how exactly do you go about reaching out to micro-influencers and getting them to promote your brand?
One way to start is to simply browse through your current followers and see if there’s anyone who has a sizable following and is relevant to your industry. Going this route is ideal because a current follower must appreciate your brand to at least some extent, and they’re likely to be receptive to your proposition. If you haven’t done so already, go ahead and initiate contact to get the ball rolling.
You can also see what’s being said about your brand by utilizing a tool like Social Mention. All you have to do is enter the name of your brand in the search box, and you’ll see where you’re being talked about and exactly what’s being said along with top users, keywords and overall sentiment.
Another option involves looking for micro-influencers on social media. Look for individuals who are relevant to your industry and who have highly engaged audiences. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram tend to be some of the best networks for this.
Generally speaking, it’s important to first work on building a relationship with a person before asking for any big favors. You don’t want to approach someone out of the blue and immediately ask them to promote your brand. This is simply bad etiquette and won’t get you very far.
You can start building rapport by following them on social media, sharing some of the content they post, subscribing to their blog, leaving comments, etc. It’s important that a micro-influencer views you as someone who’s legitimately interested in their content and not merely as some charlatan looking to further your own agenda.
Once you’ve got your foot in the door and have developed some semblance of a relationship, you can make a request to mention your brand and give it their nod of approval. With any luck, you can bring immediate attention to your brand, and some of the trust that a micro-influencer possesses will transfer to you.
You may also want to sweeten the deal by offering something in return. For instance, you could promote their brand as well or offer a free sample.
A Numbers Game
Let’s be honest. Not every single thought leader you approach is going to convert. Maybe they’re just not interested in your brand, or maybe they feel uncomfortable with the idea of blatantly promoting a product/service to their audience.
The bottom line is that you can’t expect to have an immense amount of success by only targeting a single influencer. It’s a numbers game, so you’ll want to cast as wide a net as possible. In some cases, you may need to approach 10 or more individuals before finding someone who’s on board.
With 92 percent of people saying they trust word-of-mouth recommendations over ads, it’s easy to see why micro-influencer marketing can be so powerful. The great thing about the Internet and social media in particular is that they provide a platform for word-of-mouth advertising on the grand scale. Micro-influencer marketing relies on the simple yet effective concept of one person recommending a product/service to another but tailors it to reach 21st consumers.