Influencer Advertising and Micro Influencers - Does Follower Count Matter?

Influencer Advertising and Micro Influencers - Does Follower Count Matter?
Haley Omick


Haley Omick

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The influencer marketing industry is expected to be worth $15 billion by 2022. When you consider the reach potential and authenticity of influencer campaigns; it’s no surprise that brands have redirected their marketing strategy from traditional advertising into this social media strategy. The success of influencer marketing has fueled the rapid expansion of the creator economy and as a result, there are many categories of social media influencers growing into the space. Those categories are simply defined as macro, micro, and nano influencers. 

When categorizing influencers, celebrities or accounts with +100,000 followers on a social media platform comes to mind for most people. Those are macro-influencers, and they launched the influencer space as we know it. But what about creators with fewer than 100,000 followers? These are micro-influencers, and they have recently become a staple for influencer marketing campaigns. Although micro-influencer campaigns are on the rise, they’re not always utilized correctly. So, when is it appropriate to use them, and how do they help drive return on investment? In this piece, we’ll discuss the assets micro-influencers can bring to your digital marketing campaigns, risks of using them, and how you can use them to drive success.

What Defines a Micro-Influencer on Social Media?

Micro-influencers look like “ordinary” people (i.e. that local blogger you follow). A micro-influencer is someone who sits at a follower count between 1,000 and 100,000. Most often, they have a niche that helps differentiate them from other content creators. Micro-influencers are able to develop personal relationships with their followers due to their more manageable follower count, and those followers display a sincere interest in their social media posts. Through this, the influencer has the ability to build trust with their audience and impact the purchasing decisions of their followers.

Advice for Working with Micro-Influencers

As alluded above, micro-influencers typically have higher engagement rates when compared to celebrity influencers. These niche influencers allow brands to target consumers with relevant content that really speaks to that particular audience. Part of this is because it's nearly impossible for macro-influencers to interact with their vast number of followers. Another huge benefit of working with micro-influencers is they require a smaller budget and often work in a  gifting partnership, which gives brands of all sizes the opportunity to join the playing field. In fact, according to our survey done with Collectively, 90% of influencer respondents said they have participated in collaborations involving no cash payments. Gaining advertising access (whitelisting) in order to run dark posts typically costs much less with micro-influencers. This is because it's a win-win, as influencers get the benefits of gaining exposure and followers. Macro-influencers are often paid more for endorsements. Due to their proven track record, high demand and potential reach, they’re able to charge a pretty penny. Partnerships with micro-influencers often provide you with a variety of content, leading to many possible ad variations. More content = more ads = higher ad frequency (and variety in the content itself). Macro-influencer partnerships, in contrast, generally provide you with much less content, and little variant in it. It can be difficult to boost their content, or tweak the same ad to speak to different target audiences. With that being said, they can hit reach out of the park with one instagram post due to their extensive following.

What this boils down to is that micro-influencer campaigns can be extremely successful. However, there are some risks. Below are the top 5 items to watch for when working with micro-influencers. When these risks are addressed properly, your brand will actualize the potential of micro-influencers.

Beware of fake followers of social media accounts

For one, fake followers can be a top concern on social media. If you happen to partner with an influencer who uses fake followers, you’re campaign is likely to fall flat. Additionally, micro-influencer campaigns have a lower organic reach, making them a questionable fit for brand awareness campaigns. It is worth noting that micro-influencers technically have HIGHER engagement rates than macro-influencers, but their content is seen by a much smaller following. Thirdly, successful campaigns will often need to involve multiple influencers in order to gather substantial audience data. This management responsibility can get messy and time-consuming, but will also provide you with plenty of influencer content to boost and measure. The final risks to working with micro-influencers have to do with the influencer’s account type and access. 

Instagram Accounts Must be Set Up to run Influencer Advertising

In order to run influencer advertising (paid media) it is critical that you ask micro-influencers to set their Instagram account to 1 of 2 types: Creator or Business. Although it makes intuitive sense for the influencer to have a creator account, this limits advertising access for partner brands. Instagram Business Accounts are a brand’s best option for two reasons. For one, custom audience targeting. Business Accounts give you access to influencer audiences, allowing you to build custom and lookalike audiences. Second, Business Accounts integrate with third party apps, while Creator Accounts do not (goodbye, Hootsuite!). Although not as problematic as the above issues, most micro-influencers are not considered ‘eligible’ to use the Branded Content Tool. This is a barrier to gaining advertising permissions. However, there are tools, such as Lumanu's technology, that allows you to whitelist the influencer without BCT access.

Although micro-influencers come with their own challenges, in most cases the benefits of working with them far outweigh the cons. For a side by side comparison of micro- and macro- influencers, see the infographic below. 

So, should I be using micro- or macro-?

Though there’s no wrong answer for which social influencer type to choose, there are questions you can ask yourself to point your brand in the right direction. The first being: what’s the goal of our campaign? If your goal is awareness, macro-influencer is the way to go (if marketing budget allows). If you are looking for authentic engagement with your item and an increase in sales, micro-influencers are your best bet. And if room for spend is there, a great marketing tactic is using both. Take it from our friends at Rent the Runway, who have found extreme success in using both Joelle Fletcher (macro-influencer with 2 MM+ followers) and micro-influencers (all the way down to gifting free products only) to bring both attention and conversions to their campaign. 

Here are a couple of other questions to consider:

  • What is the campaign budget?
  • Who is the audience we are trying to reach?

Each campaign is unique; while one campaign might thrive from a whole horde of micro-influencers, another campaign might be a dud with that approach. It’s a similar case with macro- influencer campaigns. And, just to make it a bit more confusing, a brand might need a healthy mix of influencer types to truly drive success. For these reasons, a great influencer marketing strategy could be working with a variety of influencers to allow you to measure which ones are successful and why. This gives you the ability to refine your campaigns until you find what’s working well for your brand. Although it takes a bit of trial and error, there’s no question that the right influencer for your brand will deliver great results.  

Haley Omick

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