UPDATE April 8, 2019 — Micro-influencers are creators on social media platforms who have between 10,000 and 50,000 followers. These creators typically build followings around niches like travel, fashion, beauty, and photography, and cultivate communities surrounding their content. Many micro-influencers interact with fans regularly and, as a result, they often generate high engagement and active audiences.
By now, most people on social media are familiar with high-profile influencers posting sponsored content in partnership with major brands. But there’s also an opportunity in marketing with smaller influencer tiers, too—namely, micro-influencers. While initial studies have demonstrated higher engagement with micro-influencers, these aren’t the only metrics relevant to marketers.
As the influencer marketing industry continues to grow, marketers must learn the micro-influencer definition, the role micro-influencers play in the industry, the pros and cons of working with micro-influencers, and important factors to consider before partnering with them.
Micro-influencers exist on a number of different platforms, but Instagram is the primary hub for micro-influencer social media activity. Instagram is conducive to building and sustaining followings around specific interests due to its content-centric format and influencer discovery tools.
On the other side of the influencer spectrum are macro-influencers—with anywhere between 500,000 and 1 million followers. What they lack in one-on-one engagement they make up for in larger reach and brand lift. Micro-influencers work well for small campaigns that are simple and straightforward, whereas macro-influencers are often a part of massive advertising and branding efforts.
In our own analysis of more than 700 micro-influencer sponsored Instagram posts, the difference in engagement rate was negligible. Micro- and macro-influencers may generate similar engagement rates, but macros reach more consumers on the whole.
Marketing with micro-influencers gives brands an opportunity to reach small, active audiences with tailored messaging. Whereas macro-influencers have the potential to reach millions with a single post, micro-influencers reach smaller-scale followings.
Micro-influencers are generally more relatable than macro-influencers, leading to higher follower engagement. Micro-influencers also have a proportionately lower price tag, allowing brands to work with them at much lower budgets.
That said, a micro-influencer’s smaller following means less potential for broad reach. In order to reach wider audiences, brands need to work with multiple micro-influencers. But more influencers mean more work and a higher chance of influencer marketing mishaps. Influencer marketing campaigns are complex and nuanced which makes them challenging to scale, so multiplying the work may not be the right solution.
What’s more, as fake followers plague influencer marketing, brands must take the time to review the authenticity of micro-influencers to avoid overpaying for underperforming campaigns.
Micro-influencers succeed by finding a specific niche and using their personalities to cultivate audiences. Most micro-influencers include glimpses of their lives on social channels, but their content is typically focused on a particular topic and recognizable aesthetic.
Micro-influencers also have the opportunity to build relationships with their followers through direct engagement. Those who do may find that their followers are more loyal, more active, and more invested in their content. These examples below illustrate quintessential micro-influencer content:
Chelsea Owens is a Florida-based style blogger who defines her fashion account by specializing in Boho style and beach shots with seasonal color schemes. Owens highlights her signature personal style and provides links and information where her more than 34,000 followers can find featured pieces (and for how much).
Josh Johnson is a Lousiville life and style micro-influencer with a loyal following of 32,000 followers on Instagram. Johnson’s content blends his way of life and fashion style with sponsored campaigns seamlessly, often highlighting personal relationships with brands.
Natalie Jayne engages her more than 23,000 fans on Instagram by chatting with them on both sponsored and organic posts. This direct communication allows her to build genuine connections with her fans.
Grace Mattei shares dispatches from her daily life with more than 16,000 followers, featuring weekend getaways and adventures in hues of pink. Though the content is varied, it all has a unifying aesthetic that makes Mattei’s content feel singular and consistent.
While not always the case, micro-influencers can achieve high engagement on Instagram posts due to their smaller—but relatively more active and engaged—communities. Brands may find that sponsored content with influencers sees a higher percentage of likes, but fewer overall comments and shares than larger influencers.
Micro-influencers don’t have the high price tags associated with larger macro- or mega-influencers. Depending on an influencer’s reach, engagement, and experience, brands may be able to partner with dozens of micro-influencers for the same price as partnering with a single macro-influencer.
Micro-influencers cultivate niche communities around their content. In posting personalized and curated content, micro-influencers tap into audiences who likely share common interests and characteristics.
While they may sometimes tout higher engagement, micro-influencers still reach fewer people. With smaller audiences comes less exposure, and it could take a large number of micro-influencers to reach and impact the same number of people who might be exposed to a post from a macro-influencer. This results in lower KPIs like impressions and social reach.
Less Brand Lift
Micro-influencers don’t generate the same magnitude of brand awareness as larger influencers. Partnering with macro-influencers often comes with a boost in acclaim and recognition because they’re tastemakers at scale. Macro-influencers oftentimes drive consumer action faster and further than most traditional celebs.
Less Real Engagement
A micro-influencer’s niche community doesn’t always mean higher engagement. Fostering a community that’s participatory takes a lot of work and a special blend of compelling content and personality. Some micro-influencers also buy fake followers and engagement, falsely inflating their engagement metrics and value.
More Work To Reach Consumers
Working with micro-influencers can create a heftier workload because of the increased manpower needed to coordinate campaign details, draft contracts, send product samples, and approve content. The complexity of micro-influencer activations easily results in a ton of back-and-forth between brands and influencers. Influencer marketing campaigns are effective, so long as all variables are taken into account. Adding dozens of micro-influencers to the mix means there’s a greater potential for oversight.
Influencer vetting is a vital part of any influencer marketing campaign, but there are certain factors marketers should assess when deciding which micro-influencers to work with.
Brands and marketers should be especially mindful of a micro-influencer’s history in terms of content and worldviews. Influencer scandals are often covered by news outlets, so marketers should research creators’ past work for controversial remarks, FTC compliance, work with competing brands, or any content that isn’t brand safe.
2. Consistency & Legitimacy
It’s in a brand’s best interest to work with influencers who have built their followings organically with consistently high-quality content. Fake followers and fake engagement are major problems on Instagram. To ensure they’re paying for legitimate results, marketers should look carefully at an influencer’s following and past performance.
Brands need 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. The more professional the micro-influencer, the more likely the efficacy of a campaign.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to influencer marketing as different campaign goals lend themselves to different niches and tiers of influencers. The quality of an influencer depends on much more than follower count, so brands should aim to work with influencers who are creating authentic, high-quality, and brand-safe work that inspires action from their followings.
If you’ve determined micro-influencers are the best influencer marketing option for your campaign, consider the following before partnering up:
Micro-influencers may be one of the biggest buzzwords in influencer marketing right now, but they’re far from a perfect solution to every brand’s campaign needs. Understanding the unique pros and cons of micro-influencers, as well as other important factors to consider before partnering with them is key to successful micro-influencer campaigns.