influencer marketing techniques

Influencer Marketing, When Bigger Isn’t Always Better

See why brands are turning to micro-influencer marketing campaigns over macro-influencers and discover the challenges and controversies they may face.

How easily do you think you are influenced? When it comes to the products we buy, brands we love, and companies we trust, many of our first conversions were likely persuaded by some type of influence. You can be influenced by anyone – from your peers, to a blogger, to a celebrity – and while no two carry the same weight, recent research shows that social media influencers may have just as much clout as your friends. In fact, 40% of respondents purchased an item online after seeing it used by an influencer on Instagram, Twitter, Vine, or YouTube.

Brands have been testing out the best ways to capitalize on influencers for decades, as celebrity endorsements were the original form of influencer marketing. However, in the rise of the digital era, ordinary people have become a type of online “celebrity” with substantial followings, often targeting niche market segments. These endorsements pose an incredible opportunity for brands as they are able to deliver their messages in a more natural and uninterrupted way, especially in a time where users are actively blocking out ads.

But this doesn’t come without its challenges. There is uncertainty on how to identify the right influencers, the appropriate worth of their content, advertising disclosure regulations, and the possibility of negative association. Yet, many brands are learning important lessons and establishing best practices that maximize their efforts and help generate a surprising amount of ROI.

Brands Realize Micro-Influencers Can Be Big

Influencers come in all shapes and sizes, with differing content, and speaking to various audiences. Macro-influencers reach audiences in the millions with everything they post, but bigger does not necessarily mean better.

The problem for some brands is that as macro-influencers grow their audience, they can attract people who may not relate with the type of content they post. A classic “famous for being famous” problem emerges, leading to a documented decrease in engagement among followers.

Research shows that mass audiences of 1 million-plus followers have a slim 1.7% “like” rate, while those with 10,000 followers or less get “likes” from about 4% of their audience. This lower level of engagement shows the broadness of a macro-influencer’s audience and their potential to “see through” an advertisement, whereas those who follow micro-influencers tend to fall into narrow, more segmented audiences and are more likely to perceive the endorsement as genuine.

Since the aim of many influencer campaigns is to generate engagement and brand visibility in a way that feels authentic, going with a few micro-influencers can help brands achieve better results and better ROI than working with one macro-influencer and their broad audience.

Micro-Influencer Marketing Proves No Small Feat

Brands can face trade-offs when working with influencers that stem from the fact that they often generate their own content. Micro-influencers in particular can pose difficulty in identifying how many to work with and which will have the strongest resonance with a target audience. On top of that, there isn’t much precedent set on what the appropriate compensation is. Navigating these unknowns requires diligent research.

Even with this research in hand, brands can get caught off guard when the actions of an influencer surprise them, leading to controversy. When this happens, distancing themselves from the influencer may help deal with the aftermath of the fallout, but they still risk alienating the influencer’s most loyal audience members.

One of the more recent concerns is around non-disclosure, as a study revealed only 11% of marketers are aware of or have an understanding of the FTC guidelines. Both marketers and influencers must stay on top of the necessary transparency for sponsored posts.

Between measuring and researching multiple audiences, monitoring for potentially damaging press, and following increasing guidelines, brands that work with groups of micro-influencers still have their work cut out for them.

Yet, in the end, the benefits of communicating with niche audiences through a person they trust versus advertising directly to them make micro-influencer marketing campaigns an increasingly viable option for brands.

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