As the influencer industry undergoes constant construction, it’s hard for marketers to gain solid footing on the ever-evolving landscape. Likewise, when it comes to the reach of social media influencers, the line between high and low-quality influencers is often amiss. That’s due to the lack of industry standards that properly categorize influencers by size, leading to the inability to find the right influencers and unmet expectations on the brand side.
We’ve set out to define an industry-wide Standard Terminology in Influencer Marketing (also known as STIM). STIM breaks down influencers into five main influencer tiers by the number of Instagram followers:
The industry is most familiar with micro- and macro-influencers (and the differences between them), but new levels of influencers have emerged to accommodate the expanding space. You can learn more about the hottest new tier, nano-influencers, but we’d like to turn your attention to the lesser-known albeit powerful group: mid-tier influencers.
A mid-tier influencer is an Instagram influencer with between 50,000 and 500,000 followers. Mid-tier influencers live up to their name—their reach extends to an audience size that’s middle-of-the-road compared to the other four influencer tiers. Mid-tier audiences are mid-sized—not nearly as tiny as nanos and not quite as immense as megas—yet mid-tier influencers still generate high engagement and impactful results.
In fact, a study analyzed the engagement of influencers with differently sized followings and discovered that the mid-level influencers drove higher engagement than micro-influencers (note: Mediakix’s mid-tier range slightly differs from this study’s).
While nano-influencers tend to know their followers personally and micro-influencers cultivate close-knit communities of followers, mid-tier influencers enter the phase of fewer relationship-based followings to capture a wider, more diverse audience.
In the past, micro- and macro-influencers dominated the landscape which created marketer frenzies to partner up with them. In 2018 leading into 2019, nano-influencers have taken the reigns as real game-changers. Through the industry’s growing pains and struggle to understand different influencer levels, the need for more comprehensive organization arose and has given birth to a new class of highly touted influencers—mid-tier creators.
Mid-tier influencers may not be as prominent as they perhaps should be. Many Instagram users follow mid-tier influencers and probably don’t realize it, as these creators have climbed the ranks without followers noticing their movement, or people simply think of them as micros or macros. The mid-tier level is comparable to a transition phase from mild popularity to outright stardom, otherwise known as the sweet spot. Presumably, their status as mid-tier creators may go undetected until they enter the next level—macro-influencers—who boast 500,000 to 1 million Instagram followers. Macros are on the brink of celebrity standing.
Whereas nano-influencers don’t generate a yearly income from their sponsorships, mid-tier influencers have enough clout to secure large brand partnerships and make a living solely through being an influencer. Additionally, nanos and micros sit within the lower rungs of the influencer ladder, reaching more targeted audiences and charging lower rates.
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Above those levels, mid-tier influencers have graduated from cultivating smaller niche audiences to commanding more sizable and varied followings. This means mid-tier influencers are more qualified for medium campaign budgets. Running a campaign with a single mid-tier creator achieves equivalent reach as running multiple nano- or micro-influencer campaigns.
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For example, clothing brand Old Navy worked with mid-tier influencer Matt Crump to promote holiday gift shopping. Matt Crump is a talented photographer whose vibrant and minimalistic style has sparked the #candyminimal movement. He has 242,000 followers and commonly partners with brands, like Under Armour, Uber, and Ocean Spray. In his Old Navy sponsored post, Matt creatively features Old Navy apparel in a stop motion video to express his excitement around their holiday gift collection.
Without knowing how much he was compensated for this sponsored content, we can infer Old Navy’s mid-tier influencer guidelines were the following:
By filtering through the vast network of Instagram user profiles, you can identify mid-tier influencers by the following signs:
Interests & Specialties In Instagram Bio
Lauren Webb presents right away that she’s a mother and wife based out of Northern California and includes links to her LIKEtoKNOW.it and blog so that her audience and brands understand her core interests.
Lauren’s Instagram feed contains visually appealing images featuring her children with the same aesthetic and clean quality throughout. The photos are high-quality—it’s clear that a skilled photographer with editing skills produced the photos on her feed.
Her profile includes descriptive highlight reels demonstrating her personality, content format, and previous brand sponsorships.
She provides her email address for brands to contact her directly for collaboration opportunities.
What makes mid-tier influencers appealing to brands?
Mid-tier influencers are the social media equivalent of being a middle child: somewhere between the established, sought after macro-influencers and fresh, affordable micro-influencers.
Despite this, mid-tier influencers are catching on in the pay-to-play arena. Reasons brands work with mid-level influencers include:
Mid-tier influencers started off as most non-celebrity Instagram users do—fostering a small following that requires patience and constant attention to grow. Mid-tier influencers have developed a vast network building off their initial micro-communities. In other words, mid-tier creators started as “normal” people who catapulted larger ventures.
While their move to full-time social influencing allows them more control over income, they still put their audience first. Otherwise, they risk losing credibility and destroying a strong foundation of micro-networks. Though their signature style of relatability still shines through, a more dominant social presence puts them in a category akin to the refined, unattainable lifestyles of macro- and mega-influencers.
High Engagement Rates
Mid-tier influencers have a mixture of concentrated and wide audiences. While they maintain intimate connections with a number of followers, they also gain a large sum of more distant followers. This increase in reach and lower proportion of highly personal connections does not, however, mean that they generate low engagement rates. Mid-tier influencers still nurture their audience by engaging on a personal level, thus amplifying their reach.
Mid-tier influencers still hold a reputation for giving their audiences sincere word-of-mouth recommendations. This type of endorsement has a strong influence on consumer buying habits, meaning mid-level influencers have the power to drive both awareness and conversions for your brand.
Moderate Price = High Return-On-Investment
Mid-tier influencers may run the gamut of influencer collaboration prices, but brands typically know what they’re going to get. A mid-level influencer that has a proven track record of impactful brand partnerships and a stamp of approval from influencers, followers, and brands alike will likely yield positive return-on-investment.
Easy To Work With
As creators with experience working as micro-influencers, mid-tier influencers have not lost sight of their standards. Thus, they remain collaborative by offering creative insight and expertise with the capacity to provide very individualized attention to brand partners. That said, mid-tier influencers do have more leverage when it comes to their own demands.
Easy To Identify
Mid-tier influencers can be easily identified on Instagram and often list their email address or talent representative contact in their profile. With greater exposure to brand deals, mid-tier influencers have come to expect sponsorship inquiries in their inbox. But as they edge toward the macro-influencer level, influencer outreach may get buried beneath hundreds of similar requests.
The macros and megas of the influencer world are deeply experienced in content creation and brand collaborations. Their ability to rise to the top of a saturated space illustrates the need to constantly adapt to address the needs of those who matter most—their audience.
Mid-tier influencers appear to slip under the radar as the less familiar influencer tier that merely serves as a launchpad into the highly visible macro- territory. Nonetheless, this group is a force to be reckoned with. Brands will continue to navigate different influencer marketing strategies in search of those that produce the highest return. While on that quest, be sure to give those often forgotten mid-tier influencers the chance to help your brand achieve its influencer marketing goals.