The influencer marketing landscape has undergone dramatic changes in the last few years. Most of the world’s top brands use some form of influencer marketing, and their influencer marketing tactics have permanently changed the industry. Some brands are now working with micro-influencers instead of or in addition to the biggest influencers on social media.
Micro-influencers are known for being less expensive and having higher engagement on their social media channels, but marketers aren’t always seeing the returns they expect from their micro-influencer efforts. It’s left many skeptical about the efficacy of micro-influencers, even as the industry continues to grow. This is what marketers need to know about micro-influencers.
Though the early days of influencer marketing saw brands partnering with just a few top influencers, growth in social media and the influencer landscape gave way to influencers with smaller followings with more focused audiences. Communities sprang up around specific interests and creators, and many influencers found niche audiences who were invested in their content. Marketing with these micro-influencers sometimes allowed brands to tailor their efforts to more specific audiences and reach consumers on a perceived personal level.
Micro-influencers can’t demand the sky-high rates of many top influencers, which may make them an initially attractive pick for marketers with smaller budgets or looking to stretch their budgets further. Instead of spending a lot on posts from just a few top influencers, marketers can spend on posts from a large number of micro-influencers and potentially reach an engaged audience. In some cases, engagement on micro-influencer posts may be higher than it is on posts from larger, “macro-influencers.”
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Working with micro-influencers has its own pitfalls, though.
Brands and marketers may be able to work with more influencers for a smaller chunk of change, but with more influencers comes more work. Communications, contracts, post reviewing, and monitoring all compound when brands work with more influencers. If teams aren’t equipped to handle the demand, campaigns can get ugly and cumbersome very quickly.
More influencers might also mean less control, less consistency, and a risk of lower quality posts. When brands fragment their efforts among dozens or even hundreds of micro-influencers, it becomes more difficult to vet and research those influencers. The overall cost may be lower in micro-influencer campaigns, but that doesn’t mean that properly assessing influencers for authentic fit and brand safety becomes less important.
Finally, there’s the issue of reach.
Partnering with a large number of micro-influencers might enable brands to tap into specific niche audiences, but marketers may have a difficult time achieving the reach they’d see from macro-influencer campaigns. Reach will be more fragmented, and though engagement percentages may be better on micro-influencer posts, overall reach and engagement may still be lower than it might’ve been through a macro-influencer’s account.
Whether or not micro-influencer campaigns are successful depends on a host of variables that change with every campaign and influencer. Vetting is a vital part of any influencer marketing campaign, but there certain factors that marketers should assess when deciding which micro-influencers to work with.
Brands and marketers will want to be especially mindful of a micro-influencer’s history in content and style. Missteps and controversies by major influencers are often covered by news outlets and talked about at length on social media, but the same isn’t true of controversial content from micro-influencers. Marketers will want to research creators’ past work for controversial remarks, FTC compliance, work with competing brands, or any content that isn’t brand safe.
Consistency and legitimacy are critical factors, too. It’s in brands’ best interest to work with influencers who have built their followings organically with content that’s consistently high quality. Fake followers and fake engagement are major problems on Instagram, and they can be used as a unique kind of ad fraud on the platform. In order to make sure that they’re paying for legitimate reach and engagement, marketers should look carefully at an influencer’s following and past performance.
It’s imperative that brands also look for professionalism and efficacy in micro-influencers. Though micro-influencers are often touted for having higher engagement rates, that’s not always the case. It’s important to look further than follower count to see how a micro-influencer conducts themselves with regards to branded content and how their audience responds to their posts.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to influencer marketing and different campaign goals lend themselves to different types of influencers. The quality of an influencer depends on much more than a follower count, and whether an influencer has 50,000 followers or 5 million, brands should always aim to work with influencers who are creating quality, brand safe work that inspires action from fans.