Why Brands Are Taking a Second Look at Micro-Influencers

Celebrity influencers have enjoyed the attention and budgets of major brands since the inception of social media, which made endorsements quick, and easy to broadcast to online audiences. While the average consumer may view millions of follows on a celebrity Instagram account to be an indicant of trend and popularity, marketers know that paid promotion and product positioning is an important revenue stream for sport, music and entertainment personalities.

Much like finding a good indie band, and signing them before they catapult to become an international sensation, brands are now actively searching micro-influencers. Marketing with smaller niche influencers is not only a matter of affordability, but some research supports that brand conversion and sales are stronger when endorsed by a smaller, more relatable online spokesperson. The next target in the arms race for brand exposure is not a member of the Kardashian family, but the ‘mommy blogger’ or millennial vlogger next door.

Celebrity Influencers Are Costly and In High-Demand

The opportunity to have your product endorsed by a celebrity is exciting, but costly. In recent years, brands have shifted budgets from free products and services for endorsement by thought leaders, to paying for impressions and crowd exposure. The concept is simple; trendsetters can help sell an image that will convert to sales. However, the tactic is so frequently used that many marketers are speculating whether expenditures for celebrity endorsement are worth it.

Consumers can have a negative reaction to brands that are endorsed by multiple celebrities, and question the authenticity of promoted products and services. One good example of this is YouTube advertising.

A search for your favorite music video may feature an advertisement for a brand that seems to align with the persona of the celebrity influencer (that’s your first reaction as a viewer). But by the time you have searched a dozen videos from different artists, which all feature the same commercial, it’s difficult not to feel overwhelmed by the brand’s attempt to be everywhere and “all things” to all consumers. At that point, the audience feels like the brand is being too aggressive, as it is proliferated everywhere they look, and the consumer formulates a negative impression of both the brand, and the influencer.

Loyalty is also a factor to consider for brands, who allocate budget for celebrity endorsement. The demand for advertising through influencers is so great, that they are unlikely to agree to a non-competition clause. They are likely however to endorse competitor products, and accept advertising contracts at the highest bidder. How much validity would your celebrity endorsement have, if the same celebrity supported a competing brand, the same year?

Micro-Influencers Are More Trusted by Millennials

Millennials represent the next large group of consumers that marketers are eager to understand culturally. One of the challenges with the demographic is that they have the highest level of digital marketing fluency out of any previous group of consumers. They have grown-up in the social media era; they are active content producers, and they have a high level of disdain for mass marketing, preferring instead to relate to smaller, more authentic user experiences.

Micro-influencers represent the home-grown and honest content that millennials prefer, and many of the up and coming influencers are millennial bloggers or YouTube personalities, who are developing tailored content that appeals to their peers. As a group, millennials are enamored with self-dependence and self-made entrepreneurs, and some studies have shown that they trust and purchase from brands endorsed by smaller, less known influencers. If consumers aged 25–35 are your target market, micro-influencer marketing has evolved to be a highly effective method of reaching them.

The Advantages of Cultivating Long-Term Relationships with Micro-Influencers

What is more effective in terms of brand penetration, to drive sales; a single, mass broadcast of an advertisement to a large audience, or repeated messaging through multiple channels, over a sustained period of time? The same rules used for effective pay-per-click advertising campaigns hold true for influencer marketing; statistically, there is a better return on multiple message opportunities.

For small and medium sized brands, cost is a significant factor that limits their ability to budget for celebrity endorsement. The expenditure can range from $100,000 to more than $500,000 for multi-channel mentions of a product or service (Adweek mentioned that Selena Gomez receives an estimated half a million dollars for a broadcast on all her social networks). One post, shared on up to four social networks, for an impressive price tag.

Let’s put that advertising strategy into another example for comparison. Would you recommend placing one advertisement in a magazine, and expect it to drive sales growth for the entire year? The Super Bowl is one exception to the rule, where advertisements are often driven by prestige and public relations value, rather than sales conversions; it’s not a good strategy for mere mortal brands.

Micro-influencers are approachable, eager to monetize and derive income from their digital channels, and willing to work with brands for sustainable long-term relationships. These factors allow businesses to develop strategic campaigns that do drive sales conversions, by marketing to smaller, niche audiences. The result is better when the influencer appears to truly endorse the product, through sustained promotional mentions, display advertising on the blog, and other communication channels.

Finding and Evaluating Quality Micro-Influencers for Your Brand

Now that you know why you want to work with them, the next challenge is learning how to find them. Brands need to be aware that the value of a micro-influencer cannot be based solely on the number of blog subscribers they have, or social media followers. Advertisers are infinitely aware how easy it is to purchase artificial followers on social media channels, so a qualitative approach is required to select the best opportunities for online endorsement.

Engagement is the key factor that should help you decide whether to work with a micro-influencer or not. Put simply, if they have a large audience that isn’t paying attention, they can’t provide the conversions that brands need to make the investment worthwhile. Look for active comments, likes, and re-shares of the influencers content. Also, look at other factors that indicate value and appropriateness of the content being created by the influencer; does it align with your brand persona? Is it potentially offensive to mainstream customers or damaging to your image?

Create an offer package that includes benefits for the micro-influencer, compensation, and affiliate marketing opportunities (installation of banners) or other delivery methods that they may consider. Response rates vary, as do interest levels for micro-influencers who may or may not be open to paid endorsement.

Marketing on mass to consumers is becoming less effective, thanks to the proliferation of digital media and sponsored content that they are increasingly exposed to, on a daily basis. Working with micro-influencers is a valuable new approach that should be added to digital marketing strategy for all brands (regardless of size or budget) to organically appeal to consumers at a more intimate level.

About Author —

Pratik Dholakiya is the Co-Founder of E2M, a full-service digital marketing agency and Preceptist, a content marketing agency. Connect with him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.