Consumers continue to trust online opinions and other personal recommendations more than they do most forms of marketing. As a result, “influencers” have quickly become a powerful channel for targeted marketing.
A recent article on VentureBeat explained: “While influencer marketing is on the rise, activity has primarily centered on larger influencers, also referred to as ‘macro-influencers.’ These influencers typically have millions of followers. Working with macro-influencers like these comes with significant costs ... up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single post.” (Although be wary of the risks, as with the recent Fyre Festival.)
But there’s a new kid on the influencer block: micro-influencers. While the definition is still emerging and varies, you might think of them as “digital influencers with a total audience size of between 1,000 and 100,000 followers.”
The question then becomes: Are these smaller influencers too small to be of use to major brands?
No, according to a report issued last month by micro-influencer marketing platform #HASHOFF. The report, based on a survey of hundreds of vetted influencers to understand what lies behind their passion and creativity, found that micro-influencers are emerging as a critical marketing channel for brands, large and small, enabling them to grow awareness and drive sales. Said the company: “Brands are increasingly relying on micro-influencers to share their brand messages, since these influencers have higher engagement rates and are perceived by as more passionate, creative, and authentic by audiences.”
This got us wondering about the topic, specifically: Is the use of micro-influencers by brands a strategic trend that is likely to be nurtured to grow, or is it a fad—something that works only for certain kinds of brands, and if so, which ones?
Answers from some savvy digital thinkers follow.
Shane Barker, Digital Marketing Consultant:
The use of micro-influencers is no fad. With good, strategic planning, they can be an effective marketing channel for brands of any size, in any industry. Brands have started to realize that it’s important to make authentic connections with their target audiences, and micro-influencers are a powerful way for them to make those connections.
Consumers trust their peers more than brands and celebrity endorsements. One of the main reasons using micro-influencers works so well is that they are, for the most part, everyday consumers. Their content comes across as more authentic and trustworthy than that of mega influencers.
And because they have stronger, more personal relationships with their followers, micro-influencers also have higher engagement rates than do larger influencers. What’s more, since micro-influencers are more affordable than celebrities and top-tier influencers, even small businesses and startups with limited budgets can work with them. Big brands, of course, can build large networks of hundreds--or even thousands--of micro-influencers to create and/or distribute content.
Todd Cameron, Vice President Of Marketing And Demand Generation, Automox:
Micro-influencers will always have an impact on purchase decisions. What has proved difficult is the ability for brands to harness this authenticity in a formalized, measurable way. To become a strategic channel, brands need to relinquish messaging control and technology must evolve to capture third-party content data, leading to predictable ROI. Until then, influence as a marketing channel will continue its struggle to earn a place in the overall mix.
Joel Wright, President And Co-Founder, #HASHOFF:
Micro-influencers not only represent a strategic trend but are, in large part, replacing brand-generated content marketing. In lieu of creating their own content, brands are looking to leverage the highly creative and authentic voices of influencers. Now, marketers’ greatest challenge is to combine authenticity with scale, and most channels are forcing them to choose between the two.
Audiences today are made up of consumers who are oversaturated with programmatic ads--leading to many internet users installing ad blockers. Classic channels are failing to engage their target audiences and are increasingly perceived as inorganic and even deceitful. Micro-influencers turn this paradigm on its head organically and authentically, incorporating brands into their content that reaches a dedicated community of followers.
Across all generations, the most trusted source for recommendations is--not surprisingly--friends! This highly targeted and relevant content results in higher engagement rates and more valuable ROI for brands. The ability to fuse the brand value of influencers with the data-driven insights necessary in today’s marketing landscape is what makes micro-influencers a key marketing trend.
Steven Ziff, Vice President Of Marketing And Digital Media, Jacksonville Jaguars
Micro-influencing is, currently, an absolute trend, and will be so into the future. Consumers seek relevant and credible people that they know and whose recommendations they can trust. Brands traditionally do not fall into these categories, and consumer trust in advertising has continued to erode for years. The power of social media, which is a personally curated universe, has never been more apparent, and brands are learning to find authentic and trusted endorsers to take their message to targeted communities in these highly inclusive and more affordable ways.
Rani Mani, Head Of Social Influencer Enablement, Adobe
The use of micro-influencers is, indeed, a real strategic play for brands that is sure to stand the test of time. These relationships should be actively pursued and nurtured by all brands in an ongoing and regular way.
I coach people to think about it as dating, with an eye toward long-term commitment. What distinguishes micro-influencers goes beyond the popular definition of people with smaller, niche audiences with higher engagement. The more critical concept to understand is that the best micro-influencers are practitioners who have influence in their fields because of the expertise they have demonstrated in tangible, grassroots ways.
Consumers are less apt to be swayed by influencers who are “selling” them from the bleachers versus those who are getting their butts kicked in the actual arena, as they breathe life into their passions.
Peter Horst, Global CMO, Innovation Leader
I think the use of micro-influencers will continue to grow in importance for virtually all brands for several reasons. Trust in corporations, media, and other institutions is at an all-time low and not likely to rebound quickly. The highly charged, emotionally polarized climate makes it difficult to create mass messages that meaningfully resonate without offending some or many. The future of marketing will be more and more about finding, creating, and nurturing communities, and micro-influencers are a way in. Finally, a sense of discovery fosters a feeling of ownership among consumers, and engaging with a micro-influencer inspires that pride of pioneering discovery.