Influencer marketing is deemed by marketers to be one of the fastest growing and best online customer acquisition channels. On Instagram alone, spending on influencers is projected to reach $1 billion in 2017, a figure that’s slated to double by 2019 or sooner. With the popularity of influencer marketing on Instagram, brands are keen on discovering how and who to partner with for effective campaigns.
One recent trend in the space has been the rise of and interest in “micro-influencers.” Micro-influencers, most commonly categorized by their smaller followings and their presence on Instagram, have initially been pegged to broadly have better campaign engagement (vs. macro-influencers).
To further assess the efficacy of micro vs. macro-influencers, we analyzed over 700 sponsored posts from 16 widely recognized brands that work concurrently with macro and micro-influencers.
We pulled Instagram marketing campaign data from the micro and macro-influencers working with Daniel Wellington to Bumble to Sephora and more. See our finds presented below in the following infographic:
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In this study, we analyzed 742 sponsored posts from 16 top brands that work with macro and micro-influencers concurrently. For the purposes of this study, we defined micro-influencers as influencers with between 10,000 and 100,000 followers and macro-influencers as influencers with greater than 100,000 followers.
For each post, we recorded the number of likes and comments it received as well as the posting influencer’s follower count. To calculate engagement rates, we used the following formula:
Engagement Rate = Total Engagements (Likes + Comments)/Followers.
Total engagement rates for macro-influencers, micro-influencers, and individual brands are weighted according to follower counts.
Of the 742 posts examined, 288 were posted by macro-influencers, 367 were posted by micro-influencers, and 87 were posted by Instagram users that have less than 10,000 followers.
We found that engagement rates of macro-influencers and micro-influencers were 2.65% and 2.75% respectively, differing by only 0.1 percentage points.
If marketers are only looking at top-line engagement rates, then it would seem that engagement favors micro-influencers, if not only microscopically.
However, delving deeper into likes, comments, and followers (the metrics commonly used to calculate engagement rates) tells an entirely different story. In fact, macro-influencers seem to do overwhelmingly better for brands on Instagram in all three metrics that make up engagement rate: likes, comments, and reach.
The total number of likes that the 288 macro-influencers gained reached over 8.8 million while the total number of likes that the 367 micro-influencers received was was less than half a million, at 427,000. This means that the average macro-influencer observed yielded approximately 30,000 more “likes” in a campaign than a micro-influencer.
The total number of comments that observed macro-influencers received reached nearly 385,000. The micro-influencers examined received less than 15,000. Broken down, the average macro-influencer yielded approximately 1,300 more “comments” in a campaign than a micro-influencer.
Most significantly, macro-influencers reach more consumers than micro-influencers. Total reach for macro-influencers stood at nearly 350 million while total reach for micro-influencers stood at less than 16 million. Throughout the study, the total number of followers that macro-influencers reached was 22 times more than the total number that micro-influencers reached.
Though evaluating influencers and influencer campaigns by engagement rates can be useful and even easier for brands, it may also not provide a comprehensive picture.
Because engagement rates are only averages, they do not always give brands the full picture. If marketers are making decisions on influencers based solely on engagement rates, they are reducing the value of the metrics (likes, comments, reach) they seek to increase. What does a high(er) engagement rate actually mean if the metrics that it is made out of are not as equally impressive?
For instance, in an influencer campaign by GILT which utilized macro and micro-influencers, saw engagement rates of 3.7% and 3.5% respectively. On the surface, it seems that macro and micro-influencers are equally as effective. However, these engagement rates broken down show that only 6 macro-influencers and over 25 micro-influencers were used for that campaign.
Total reach for the 6 macro-influencers was 4 million, while total reach for the 27 micro-influencers did not break 1 million. Finally, total likes for the macro-influencers was 148,000, while total likes for micro-influencers measured less than one-third of that. Even though the number of micro-influencers utilized is more than 4 times the number of macro-influencers used, macro-influencers are still easily overshadowing the results from micro-influencers.
Clearly, engagement rates are underestimating the extent to which macro-influencers are providing value and digital equity all the while overestimating/simplifying micro-influencers to a single top line metric. Rather than depending on engagement rate as the single measurement of influencer campaign success, marketers should also always be considering other metrics including reach, shareability, and branding opportunities.
Of the campaigns we studied, we found two exemplary examples that utilized macro-influencers optimally: Sephora and American Rag. Both brands campaigns saw extraordinary engagement rates from macro-influencers, at 5.9% and 8.6% respectively.
Sephora partnered with 21 macro-influencers and 29 micro-influencers. Macro-influencer total reach exceeded 7.7 million and total likes nearly 450,000. In contrast, micro-influencers reached 1.2 million and found only 31,000 likes. Again, even though the number of macro-influencers within a campaign total less than the number of micro-influencers, the relative engagement that macro-influencers contribute to a campaign is greater.
Unlike many brands who conduct a campaign with micro and macro-influencers, the number of macro-influencers in American Rag’s campaign was greater than that of micro-influencers. Totalling 19 macro-influencers and 12 micro-influencers, macro-influencers contributed heavily to the campaign’s success.
The campaign saw high engagement for both macro and micro-influencers, 8.6% and 5.7% respectively. Macro-influencers contributed a reach of 8.6 million followers and 737,000 likes while micro-influencers contributed 0.5 million followers in reach and only 31,000 likes. It is evident that much of the campaign’s success can be attributed to and dependent upon macro-influencers.
Our study shows that macro-influencer and micro-influencer performance is approximately equal when evaluating based solely on an engagement rate. Additionally, we found that macro-influencers win out in terms of total likes, comments, and reach.
Further evidence for success with macro-influencers vs. micro-influencers is provided by the results of Sephora, Gilt, and American Rag’s influencer marketing campaigns. These three brands crafted highly engaging campaigns, and their success was driven by macro-influencers.