Everything You Need to Know About Micro Influencers

[Originally published on the Dash Hudson blog.]

If your brand is using social influencers as a part of its marketing efforts, you’ve probably heard about the micro trend more times than you can count. And like most people, you’re probably still trying to wrap your head around why that is.

What is a micro influencer? Why is it that marketers can’t stop uttering that term? How come they seem to have become such a ubiquitous part of the social advertising vernacular as of late?

We’re going to be answering some of those questions below.

Influencer marketing continues to reach unprecedented heights, and the practice is proving to be one of the most viable forms of promotion of our times. While brands have spent the last couple of years going after the most popular Instagrammers to engage in undisclosed paid social media advertising (RIP), there are new kids on the block who have been gaining serious momentum.

Instagram influencers du jour have gone micro, and this fresh crop is being hailed as the most (cost) effective category of tastemakers to tap for branded promos on social.

Rise Up

It’s interesting to think about how this phenomenon started taking shape. Top influencers have risen to near celebrity status thanks to their professional quality content and Instagram’s ever growing pool of followers. It’s not uncommon to see audiences of millions nowadays, whereas these types of numbers were once reserved for the Kardashians and Swifts of the world.

Mounting audiences meant that the bloggers in business were able to build massive fan bases solely from Instagram activity. And it also gave rise to the little engines that could — micro influencers. The little guy now had a shot to rack up the double-taps and witness climbing follower counts as well. These are the users who aren’t earning a living from their personal brands, but who still put in a ton of creative effort into building them because they’ve managed to foster highly engaged communities around their (very often) niche content.

While power influencers attract brands that are marketing with Instagram thanks to their hundreds of thousands of followers, a big fraction of those fans tends to be passive. The micro influencer numbers pale in comparison, but these users are cultivating genuine connections with a few thousand über engaged peers.

As the social media marketing ecosystem matured, businesses on the ‘Gram became wise to this phenomenon. Especially those deeply involved in trying to find Instagram influencers to push product on their behalf. However, with this new crop of influential users gaining momentum comes a whole new set of rules. Whereas career influencers operate their brand dealings like a real business through professional representation commanding stratospheric fees, these smaller accounts treat their content as a hobby.

There are pros and cons to both sides, and today we’re here to define what are micro influencers, what they bring to the table, why you should work with them if it aligns with your goals, as well as what to look out for.

Who Is the Micro Influencer?

We noticed the rapidly growing awareness for micro influencers and partnered with Clique Media Group to conduct a study that would enable us to pinpoint exactly who falls into this category. While we focused on the ladies, the basic numbers can be applied to all genders.

The folks over at AdWeek designed a lovely infographic to illustrate all the findings, which is a good place to start to round up all the important stats:

Source: AdWeek

Why Should You Use Micro Influencers?

The segment’s name reveals its audience’s diminutive nature relative to the influencer marketing scale. So why on earth would a brand decide to bank on an ad vehicle with small numbers, translating to less reach? For one, according to our findings, the quality of that reach is much greater than that of big name Insta stars. When influential users achieve a certain status, they begin to experience a rise in followers that aren’t necessarily there to be active in the community. A hefty portion of the power influencer’s audience is only following along because of that account’s popularity, rather than feeling truly compelled by them.

That is also why engagement rates tend to decline as accounts increase their following. Users who foster small communities of four or five figures actually have a lot of authority over their specialty niche. Unlike their peers with an established status, micro influencers are deemed a smarter investment for many reasons that tug upon the millennial’s heartstrings. Here are a few:

  • They have genuine interactions with their followers.
  • They make their community feel valued.
  • They’ve built authentic relationships with their audience members.
  • They’re deemed trustworthy by their community.

Emotional connections plus earnestness? Those are attributes every marketer dreams of.

Cash Incentive

There is also a much more practical reason for why the micro influencer segment has climbed the ranks of social marketing: their price point. Brands don’t have to break the bank when dealing with Insta hobbyists who get the job done just as well as the pros. Tastemakers with smaller audiences will often post solely in exchange for free product, or a smaller sum than commanded by those who negotiate via agents. By a very, very long shot.

While a business dealing with a professional blogger will no doubt get you more impressions, it will also leave a bigger hole in your budget. But arguably the worst devalue of all: the execution will feel very transactional. Power bloggers will post only the specific required amount of times they are being paid for, and likely never speak of your product again if they don’t have to. Spoiler alert: audiences are wise to that disingenuousness.

Micro influencers don’t depend on those promotions to earn a living, making them more prone to pushing what they’re truly fond of because they’re interested in sharing their favorite things with their community. They will not limit themselves to a contracted amount of posts, making their content come off as sincere. Cha-ching, amiright?

Lauren Caruso, micro influential prodigy.

What to Look Out For

Always go about sourcing influencers for brand collaborations according to their content first. Make sure you work with people that align with your brand image and whose audience is prime to convert. That said, there are a lot of unsavory practices on the ‘Gram these days, and the micro influencer set is not immune to it. In fact, some of the smaller guys can be desperate for growth and resort to unkosher customs to keep themselves on an uphill path.

Usually the desperation will be obvious, but if you’re perplexed about the integrity of someone you’re interested in partnering with, here is what you should be looking out for:

  • Fake followers. Micro influencers are known to have really high engagement. If you’re noticing that their number of likes on posts are disproportionate to their audience size, there is something shady going on.
  • Fake engagement. Sorry to break it to you, but not only can you buy followers these days, but you can purchase engagement as well. This means that people can have faux likes on all of their posts. And since it’s pretty affordable, it’s a sustainable practice for the hopeless.
  • If the likes-to-follower ratio makes sense but they have little to no comments on posts, those users are not only up to no good, but they also have zero audience members to be proud of.
  • Instagram pods. This one’s a whole new ball game, and it’s tricked engagement in the form of comment pods. In short, it’s when a group of instagrammers come together, promising to like and comment on each other’s posts the second they are published in an effort to hack the algorithm, which takes into account post activity to surface content in user feeds.
  • These pods are controversial for good reason: they don’t actually give posts equal opportunity and are attempting to cheat the system. Not something a brand wants to hear about someone they’re looking to hire.
  • Bot users. We’re all very much aware of how difficult it is to grow on Instagram these days. And those who are especially frustrated or impatient will often revert to Instagram bots, aka an automated system that surveys the ‘Gram to like posts and leave comments on their behalf. The idea behind this process is to gain new followers at a rapid pace — a common practice nowadays, but that doesn’t make it ok.
  • It means that those users are not actually connecting with anyone else — i.e. the point of Instagram — and their community is not being built authentically, the results of which are low engagement and dwarfed authority. Not exactly pillars you want to build your influencer relationships on.
Small audiece, mighty influence.

Observing the evolution of the Instagram marketing landscape never fails to fascinate. While social media’s gotten a bad rap over the years for ironically making people anti-social, one thing keeps prevailing: the user desire to connect with like-minded people. That explains the rise of micro influencers and the reason for why they’ve become a reference in their respective circles. Folks would much rather interact with relatable peers who reciprocate than with those on a pedestal who appear untouchable.

Go ahead and give the micros a try and see just how effective their partnerships can be, especially for brand equity.

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